This book addresses the evidence for the widespread belief that enjoyment of fashion is necessarily inconsistent with feminist values, from a feminist (as opposed to a post-feminist) point of view. It begins by establishing that many feminists in fact hold this belief and argues that disagreeing does not mean claiming that feminism was unnecessary or that it is now rendered redundant by changing social mores. The author describes the historical background as applied to both mens and womens clothing in various cultures, including close reading of the function of clothes in the novels of the Bronte sisters, Thackeray and Dickens, through to the use of fashion as a call to arms for the early feminists, as well as later theorists like Susan Sontag and Naomi Wolf. Issues of personal freedom and political correctness, the claims that fashion makes women sex objects for men, and the charge that the subject is too trivial to merit serious discussion, are all challenged. Allegations of links between fashion and pornography are explored, and the disagreements between feminists on this topic set out.
Finally, the issue of dressing for special occasions and whether this practice has a place in the modern world is addressed with candour. Is Fashion a Womans Right? re-establishes the relationship between fashion and feminist values.
Carolyn Beckingham received her masters in French and Italian from the University of Oxford. She currently works as a freelance researcher and legal interpreter (French). She has contributed articles to Everywoman, and has translated several works for Oxfam (to and from French) and SOAS (from French).