Fashion Police

The politics that surround clothing choices and styles are incredibly complex.  As we discussed in class, people are limited by their gender, race, sexuality, and class in terms of what is deemed “acceptable” by society.  It is important to realize, however, that there are certain exceptions to these societal rules. Certain gender presentations, sexualities, racial identities, and socioeconomic statuses get privileges that allow for greater freedom for what is deemed acceptable fashion.  These exceptions are really important to take note of, and the policing of these fashion ideas are incredibly interesting. When deciding what it and what is not acceptable to wear in our everyday fashions, it is important to understand how our society determines which groups are allowed to wear certain fashions.

In class, we discussed the idea of how gendered fashion is policed differently depending on other factors, such as class and race.  Generally, we find that people of higher socioeconomic status tend to “get away” with more boundary crossing. This increase in fashion freedom is seen in cases such as the celebrities Dennis Rodman, Derek J, and Teyana Taylor, who are “allowed” to cross gender barriers in fashion because of their high status in our society.  Even if these high status people are viewed as odd or eccentric by our society because of the way that they dress, they do not suffer the same kind of gender policing that other people in our society face.

In class, we also explored the makeover and what impact and influence it has on society. Society has set boundaries and gender roles for what a girl should look like and what a guy should look like. Going back to Derek J and Teyana Taylor examples, these both break the boundaries that society has place, even though Teyana Taylor would be more accepted than Derek J. Why is it that, when someone looks different, there is a need to make them over. Why can’t a woman have masculinity and a man have femininity and it just be accepted? If we are supposed to find someone to love us for whom we really are, then why do we feel the need to change ourselves for someone to love us? Do we as women feel we need to accentuate certain aspects of our body type to been seen as a “girly girl” and wear revealing clothing to get attention? Are men only seen as “real men” when they have large muscles and body types? These are all questions that we as individuals can answer to ourselves, but will our answers be acceptable to societal expectations?


14 thoughts on “Fashion Police

  1. Unfortunately, I think that most human beings naturally want to fit in to the groups that they have been raised to believe they are meant to be a part of. We have been raised as individuals to think that we are part of certain groups, and are meant to act accordingly. To be different, is usually to considered to be lesser in our society. Through multiple layers and numerous different directions, we are told that being considered an “other” is not a good thing. Whether it be our parents dressing us like the other kids in school-even if that is not what the child wants to wear- or it be an extreme version of your family handing you over to a make-over show on TV, we are constantly being told by society and therefore, by those around us, that we should want to fit in. This can be most clearly represented in terms of gender. Depending on your situation, in order to achieve upward mobility you need to emphasize certain certain aspects of your gender and hide other aspects of it. For example, in the scene of the “Man Men” episode that we watched this week in class, the character Peggy utilizes her almost A-sexuality complex to move ahead (because she is not threatening to female customers) and the character Joan is over-sexualized in order to maintain control of the men in the office (like her boss). This represents how our society controls how much of our femininity/masculinity we are allowed to embrace or denounce, based on our individual goals. We are policed from every direction that in order to get what we want, we need to present ourselves in certain ways.

    In terms of the celebrities being able to get away with stepping outside of the boundaries of what we are allowed to wear, I think that it is really interesting that that somehow doesn’t leak down to the rest of the population. In a lot of ways celebrities are trendsetters, and inspire the rest of the world-especially in terms of clothing. It is both intriguing and unfortunate that celebrities gender-crossing in style doesn’t allow us to do the same without being criticized or pushed into the “other category”. I would be curious to explore more into why that is.

  2. In response to the previous comment, I agree that celebrities are trendsetters, and for some reason, they can ‘break rules’ and ‘get away with it’. However they are still ridiculed by fashion police shows like the one run by Joan Rivers, but as a group in general, they are more ‘immune’ to following conventional standards of society. This is also interesting to think about from a money=power perspective, since the people who are not criticized for cross dressing are generally the ones in society given some ‘immunity’ due to their popularity and well off socio-economic situation. However, those who do not posess this ‘immunity’, do end up being ridiculed and examined by others for their fashion choices of cross dressing or creating a unique style. I think that this is caused because we as humans are highly critical of ourselves, and when we see someone or something that does not match up to our standards of ‘normality’, we pass judgment on that person based on idealizing our own standards as the ‘correct’ way to be.

  3. As a first generation immigrant, I’ve understood that when I was settled into the U.S., I’d have to change negotiate my identity as a person of color, and so did my mother. When we went out to shops and restaurants, my mother would take extra time and effort into her outfits and make-up because then we’d be treated as serious customers. My mother is a great beauty, most of her features fit with certain aspects of the West’s perception of beauty, and she was rewarded every time she went somewhere public in her dresses – she was admired by men, salesladies at the make-up stores treated her as a valued customer.
    So while I do think gender norms are very much still a part of U.S. culture (and won’t go away anytime soon), it works as a roadmap for some women who look a certain way to navigate themselves through society. The problem with that is that women who don’t fit the West’s perception of beauty aren’t as valued as the “beautiful girls.” And I think we have to be critical of that and take certain steps to ease that burden on women to look beautiful all the time.

  4. I definitely agree that celebrities have the ability to become trendsetters in fashion. However, I believe that people with wealth or substantial influence can be trendsetters as well, not just celebrities. They seem to have the “freedom” to take more risks when it comes to fashion and their choices are more accepted on the grounds that they are wearing expensive designer pieces. A regular Jane like myself would never be classified as a trendsetter because I am not of an upper class nor am I extremely popular, so taking risks in fashion wouldn’t be wise (that is if I really cared about other people’s perception of me and what I choose to wear). If I were wore a purple dinosaur jacket it would be seen as foolish rather than fashionable due to my social and economic status. These celebrities and the wealthy get ridiculed still but they are held to a higher standard than those of lower status. It’s an unfortunate reality that those of a lower socioeconomic status face the same criticism and it seems as though they have it worse than those of higher status because they are made to feel inferior to those above them based on the standards set by society.

    It’s also unfortunate that the degrees of masculinity and femininity have to be so segregated. We live in an antiquated society here in the USA so anything outside of what is considered traditional or “normal” is subject to critique and strong opposition. At the end of the day, it really shouldn’t matter how a woman or a man chooses to dress. This whole “men should dress like men and women should dress like women” mindset is the product of this socially constructed definition of what gender is. It’s a sickening and disappointing misconception that needs to be abandoned altogether.

  5. For the most part, wealth is the desire that most people work hard to obtain and therefore because of the attraction to wealth most people formulate their ideas and action around that desire and I would go as far as to stay this indicates the “trendsetting” effect as well. Those who have obtained that level of prestige and wealth are looked unto highly and are often upheld at a elevated pedestal that causes certain individuals to excuse them of certain ills, such as fashion faux pas.
    I think its rather unfortunate that this is the scenario and certain trends that have been perpetuated by those of wealth and power are to me, unappealing, yet it is what it is. There are of course shows that highlight these faux pas and point out the flaws in the dressing of celebrities and those of prestige but those shows are not helping create a positive stylistic environment , they are simply there to bash and analyze the “haves” and publicize this mentality to the “have-nots”.
    I often wondered about two universes, one in which everyone was stylish and upheld a presentation that was reflective of their expression and also appropriate and admirably. Then I imagine a universe where everyone dressed how they please irregardless of trends, celebrity, the power of trend-setting, and solely in whatever made them comfortable and happy. I believe the latter describes our society but there are individuals who want recreate the first society. While, as an admirer of style and love the presentable and creative looks that people produce, i hate that what is acceptable for one person is not acceptable for another, and the many rules that people fabricate about fashion. Also, I really dislike that there are people who aim so much to create an aura of excellent style that they do not rely on their own expression but rather mimic the trends of their favorite celebrities. But i cannot let my dislike blind me to realize that to a certain extent, I probably do the same thing.
    I feel that all the questions posed at the end of the post speak to the fact that we as a society have allowed all these tenets: wealth, power, beauty, and celebritydom , to overtake our sensibilities to a certain extent and restrict our personal expressions and therefore we always strive for new ways to recreate ourselves and place ourselves into categories. May we cease to do so.

  6. Many of the concepts that this group discussed in their presentation as well as their posted on the blog concerning fashion policing brings me back to one of the first blogs in this class about baby clothes. It strikes me as interesting that fashion policing starts from the moment of birth, because at most hospitals in America, the nurses immediately put that little pink hat on baby girls and little blue hat on baby boys. Something as simple as a specifically designated a colored hat to a baby boy or girl immediately denotes a certain gender and connotation upon a human being, who has been alive from only a short period of time. This whole concept makes me question, why do parents put their daughters in pink or sons in blue? It seems that the parents are conforming to societal standards, which are in turn requiring that children from an early age understand the gender norms and appropriate behavior like wearing clothes that are “normal” for your gender. Society does not seem to like ambiguity, especially, in regards to sexuality, and sexuality can be blurred or made fuzzy by fashion. Therefore, fashion policing is a way for society to dictate and control those outside the appropriate normal behavior.

  7. There is a lot to think about when it comes to this idea of dressing as a certain gender and how society deems what is acceptable.

    I truly do not understand why women are criticized more than men when they dress as a male rather than when males dress like women. I like to play with the idea that maybe it is more playful when a male dresses like a women. Is that because men are seen as being more amusing than woman in society? I’m note quite sure but I feel that is part of the reason. Most comedians are male and a lot of the time they dress up as women in skits. IT’s more rare to find a women dressing as a male and people finding it funny. And I think when people see a male they just laugh.

    I feel like there are a few who are brave and wear their clothes as they wish without judgement. And many times they are lucky to find someone who loves them. I think people who can’t be themselves are not happy or secure enough to be themselves and therefore those are the people who change for relationships. A great example of someone who was loved no matter what is Chaz Bono. He was with a woman when he was a woman but took the brave step from dressing as a male to actually become one. I feel like in a few years he’ll be a great inspiration to many who struggle with identity crisis being a certain sex and wanting to be another.

    Many women seem to be revealing but I feel like they do that out of their own securities of how the media portrays women rather than how the media portrays how women dress in the media. As a woman I dress for makes me feel good. I am not what the media portrays and I accept that. A few years ago it was not as easy to accept but all of a sudden as the years passed my friends started saying “No mary we wish we had smaller boobs like you. You can wear what you want and look more presentable than like a slut” With that kind of approval I started to feel great about my body and what I could and couldn’t wear. Luckily I’ve had a best friend who taught me early on size is a number, get the one that actually fits your body and makes you look good. It’s unfortunate many can’t get past the number or media but I guess I do believe women dress a certain way.

  8. I think that though society is not perfect in their acceptance of males dressing “feminine” or women dressing “masculine” I do think that the lines are being blurred a little nowadays and the new terminology to go along with it ; metrosexual for males and androgynous for females. I think that there are things though that cross the line though for men, I’m not really sure for women, but heels are a part of fashion that has just been designated for females. Though I think that fashion is becoming more fluid between genders, I think there is major policing for minorities. I remember when I was younger my mom taught me that I always had to look neat, and that if anything I needed to dress better than all the other ladies in order to be taken seriously. I was scolded when I tried to leave the house wearing baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Oh and to leave the house without wearing earrings was like a crime, so I can definitely see restrictions in the subcultures in our society.

  9. I too thought of our first class discussions on how certain colors represent gender in our society. Celebrities do, however, get criticized everyday about their “look” but it does somewhat play into the concept of money equaling power. This concept: once you are wealthy, you have acquired power and once power is had, critiques don’t matter. Television shows like Fashion Police, blogs like Fashion Bomb Daily and social media sites like Twitter can be clear examples of how celebrity fashion get ridiculed on the daily.

    Also, to address some of the questions revolving around whether or not girls should be a “girly-girl” and guys be manly and muscular, I have to mention my latest viewing of the television show, “Why Am I Single?” In this particular episode, the women that were matchmaking made a statement that expressed the fact that the female client and the male client should have switched personalities because the female was extremely bold while the man was very passive and shy. When they out the two on a blind date with each other, the first comment that was immediately made was about the woman’s wardrobe. According to them, the red dress and red lip she was wearing was “too much” for a first date. The matchmaker then takes her to get a makeover in which she has to soften her look to come off as being more submissive. She is told to hold her tongue because men like to feel like they are “the man.” They of course, gave a makeover to the male as well making him more sophisticated looking versus the “nerdy” look that he did have. I find this very interesting that our society works in a manner that it does. The fact that we have a general standard in which a man or woman needs to dress and behave is ridiculous. To answer the above question, there should be no criteria to be considered a man or a woman.

  10. After thinking some more about this topic, I feel that ‘fashion police’ is not just an American phenomenon, and that people’s bodies are policed around the world to certain cultural standards. I am from Russia, a country associated both with the west and Asia, and my parents like to have Russian satellite tv on at our house at all times of the day. There is this show on channel one that my mom and grandma especially like to watch, and in direct translation it means ‘fashion judgement’. Since the show is run in Moscow, a city known for being very expensive and with a large fashion industry, usually the people who are judged on this show are from rural areas who come to the city in hopes of making it big. However, they are criticized on their lack of fashion sense, and not dressing ‘city-savvy’. At the end of the show, they are of course transformed into a typical Moscow resident decked out in high stilletos and business attire. This makes me wonder, why is the standard so high and unrealistic? The cost of living in a city like Moscow, New York, London etc is so high, how do people who work average jobs (not CEO’s of some company) can afford to dress to the standards?

  11. Before going any further than this first sentence, I’d like to say that there are some truly powerful commentaries made on this post and it’s exciting to see how our minds work. Moving forward, I feel that while we are being adhered into what is ‘normal’, we’re all queer at the end of the day; queer in a non sexual-orientation way, but in the matter of us having differences outside the Caucasian family with 2.5 kids, a dog, a house and a white picket fence. When people are policing other’s fashions, it is a bit backwards because they, themselves, are not in accordance to somebody else’s fashion rules. There is such pressure to look a certain way to be successful in the area you choose and a majority of the judgment is placed on clothing before their credentials. Has clothing become the silent credential?

    I do feel that people dress in order to tell a story; whether that story is “I wish I never got out of bed today” to “I cannot wait to work in a corporate world” is their agenda. It may conscious or subconscious, but we all choose our garments to show a little something about ourselves. Unfortunately, there are restrictions placed on what is “okay” and what isn’t, so we are restrained into these policing forces. So, when all is said and done, we are abiding by a limiting external factor, and that thought alone depresses me.

  12. While I find fashion policing shows such as “What Not to Wear” and “Fashion Police” quite entertaining, they don’t encourage individuality and originality. People who go on the show “What Not to Wear” tend to receive the same or a very similar makeover to every other person. They are all encouraged to buy similar clothing, wear their hair similarly, and learn the same methods of how to put on makeup. And as far as “Fashion Police” is concerned, several times throughout each show I’ll like an outfit they label a “fashion fail”. So again, while I find these shows entertaining, I do understand the argument of who’s to say how someone can dress themselves and decide what’s wrong and what’s right. BUT on the other hand in a perfect world everyone would receive the same treatment and respect regardless of how they dress and wear their hair and bodies. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. And people’s first impressions of you are very important. And people treat you many times based on the way you look. And while you sometimes wish you could go bra-less, wear big t-shirts, basketball shorts, and uncombed hair outside of your house, you wouldn’t receive the same treatment as those people who look more polished. So in that respect, it is a harsh reality that everyday treatment can come from the way you look and in a way Stacey and Clinton can serve as a way to empower women to change up their style to begin getting the respect they want and deserve.

  13. As many of the commenters have already stated, I definitely can see the problems with “make over” shows like What Not To Wear. I’ve never enjoyed those types of shows because I just find them to be extremely basic, very Fashion 101. I like to be inspired when I involve myself in the discourse of fashion and I personally don’t get inspired when looking at that particular show. I feel like everyone that’s made over is stripped of their individuality and each make over ends up looking the same, for both males and females. If a person is seeking help with what not to wear I feel like WNTW would not be completely beneficial. The stylists have their own ideas of what works and what does not, what they like and what they don’t like, and they don’t recommend anything outside of what they themselves would wear (that’s just my opinion though). So it bores me to see the same make over, give or take a few variations with hair styles or make-up, on a different person every single episode.

    Why can’t a woman have masculinity and a man have femininity and it just be accepted?

    To answer this, I feel as though gendered policing is something that just naturally occurs and it’s not much to be done that could ever change that, however, I do agree that it’s problematic. At the end of the day, a persons attire does not, and should not, totally define who they are and it does not reveal what they have to offer.

  14. It is a disheartening that our society is all about first assessments. They say that within the first five seconds of meeting someone you have already made up your mind about what that person is like and how well you will get along with them. These snap judgments are made subconsciously to determine gender, sexuality, class, and personality factors. I believe it is these first impressions that drive people to dress the way they do to portray the best image of themselves to society. In order to accomplish this people use signifiers that are easily recognizable to society to get across their message which often is initially their gender or sexuality. As much as many people try to break fashion stereotypes (such as the gendered colors blue and pink or that women wear dresses and men wear pants,) it is these labels that individuals use to their advantage when trying to show themselves as very feminine or masculine.
    In the class discussion someone mentioned the fad and slogan that went around saying that “real men wear pink”. I found this to be very ironic and contradictory because the picture as well as many others show these men who wear pink to be very masculinized with their physical features and posture. This is reiterating to the audience that the only men who can pull off wearing pink are those who can overly compensate for this through their masculinity. Would society view a small scrawny man in pink differently? I unfortunately believe so. This also shows that men seem to have a much smaller range in crossing gender barriers in our society while women are able to move much more freely across this spectrum. In my own personal fashion I enjoy wearing dresses just as much as I do sweatpants and t-shirts and both seem to be accepted in society whereas men do not have this luxury. It is a pity that these initial stereotypes about gender are dictated so much through fashion choices in our society.

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