In honor of the holiday season and the upcoming opportunity to make good in the New Year, I wanted to share a few ideas for how to perform femininity and defy consumerism in one fell swoop — and to invite you to post some your own.
Make it yourself. Consumerism depresses creativity. We have thousands upon thousands of options, but product has been dissociated from process. I invite you, dear readers, to exercise your creative capacities. What would you be wearing right now if you let your imagination replace the images advertising has fed you? What colors and textures and shapes would you use? What could you communicate about who you are, how you feel, what’s important to you?
Whatever your skill level, it’s worth trying your hand at sewing clothing, making jewelry, knitting & crocheting, even mixing makeup from scratch. You’re capable of more than you think. Instructables and wikihow are terrific resources to get the creative juices flowing. And if you really prefer to leave the seam stitching to someone else, consider arranging a trade with a friend in need of your particular skills. Homemade dress for tax completion, anyone?
Recycle. I’m big on donating used clothing to thrift shops (especially for a good cause, like Housing Works here in New York), but I also love me a good clothing swap party. So get together some friends and let the fashion remix begin. I’m also known for slicing and splicing old dresses and tying tees into tube tops, although I have to admit the results vary (sadly my local library doesn’t carry this book). An awesome project (and present-making goldmine) is silk screening onto old skirts, skirts, and choice undergarments. Check out this great tutorial (sorry, no undergarments pictured, folks).
Invent and innovate. Got flowers (real or faux)? Wear ‘em on the lapel of your pea coat or pin those babies in your lovely locks. And, ooo honey, that scarf over there was meant to be a wrap-around skirt. There are most likely things all over your house that could be transformed into femme fashion. A friend of mine recently told me that she’s planning to make a dress from some old curtains (see dramatic pre-enactment). For my part, I have some orphaned earrings that could come together as a fabulous charm bracelet.
Mix and match. I know you haven’t worn that gray dress in ages, but what if you paired it with this red patent belt? The billowing silk blouse in the back of the closet is dying to meet your hot pink pencil skirt. And have you tried your sensible black slacks with that abandoned pair of periwinkle stilettos? My point is, you handpicked every garment that’s hanging in your closet right now. Isn’t taking a new look at your fabulous finds of yesterday a better bet than picking your way through the clothing racks downtown?
Hope these ideas are helpful. It’s an ongoing, yet welcome, challenge for me to think about consumerism through the lens of high femme, and vice versa. I’d love to hear your thoughts and share strategies on how to ensure we can play with gender without playing into the very systems we hope to question. I welcome anyone with self-fashioned items to show and tell — I’ll gladly post your inspirational examples.