Get Ready

An Intersectional  Feminist’s Guide to More Inclusive Dressing

by Jessa Chargois

For the third year in a row, hundreds of thousands of protestors and activists will take to the streets. In a time where our government is failing us, divided by ideals and politics, the participants of the Women’s March must come together to unite as one, setting an example for those elected to power. Regardless of one’s religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political party, race, socio-economic status, appearance, or ethnic background, there is a spot in the Women’s March for you, and no one should make you feel as if this is not true.

By harnessing the political and social power of diversity, the Women’s March intends to foster intersectional discussions on issues, creating entry points for grassroots activism, and the organization of community training, outreach, and education programs. Dedicated to dismantling female oppression through non-violent resistance and respect, all attendees of the Women’s March all across the United States have the obligation to consider the impacts of their choices on Saturday. From the signs they create, the words they shout, to the message they broadcast with their apparel, your decisions will have an impact.

You may be wondering to yourself… Gosh, I’m not sure if I belong at the march.” I’m not sure I identify as a feminist.I’m not as intense as those left leaning liberals” And that is perfectly okay! You still have a place at the Women’s March. The feminist movement can be defined in so many different ways, and it is alright to have a different definition. To me, the feminist movement is about equality between all people, regardless of your identified gender, race, ethnic background, socio-economic status, religion, able bodiedness, or politics. While the Women’s March is far from perfect, and could benefit from a more diverse participant group, inclusion and diversity is essential within these movements. In the past, some women have avoided the marches because they felt they were too focused on electing Democrats and liberal politicians. This often was at the expense of other issues, alentiating those that may identify as conservative or Republican. Ideally this year, all activists and allies can come together to create a united force, inclusive of racial diversity and marginalized groups.

In the past, a symbol of the Women’s March were homemade pink pussyhats. However, over the past couple years, critics and activists alike have began to disaffiliate with the homemade emblem. Fear of excluding transgender women and gender nonbinary people, pussyhats may offend those who do not have typical female genitalia, as well as to women with racial backgrounds that may lead to their genital more brown than pink.

While even I am left to wonder how I may feel as an intersectional feminist regarding the Pussyhat Project, the idea that something I wear could offend or ostracize even one ally within the Women’s March,will deter me from wearing one. The same can be said for the oversaturated market of trendy feminist apparel. While my intentions may be pure and full of vigor regarding dismantling the oppressive institutions, shirts such as “girl power” or “the future is female”  have the potential to alienate those who do not feel as though they are embraced as a female within our society. While these are conversations we should all be having as activists, feminists, and allies, avoiding pronouns on your Women’s March apparel could be a proactive decision that could help make Saturday a day for everyone.

Through conscious consuming, we as activists have the ability to demand real change within the capitalist, fashion, and apparel sector. By supporting small businesses and women-led companies, rather than big box fast fashion retailers, our consumer power can support local organizations and nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and End the Backlog. As a self-proclaimed intersectional feminist who works within the apparel market, I pride myself on discovering and supporting local businesses. I am often asked to compile a list on businesses that support the causes they intend to represent through their fashion, and I am proud to stand by the following brands this Women’s March.

Everlane

Everlane  has revolutionized the gold standard for sustainable production within the fashion industry. Founded on the principle of “radical transparency, the slow fashion brand produces in ethical factories that support fair wages, safe working environments and reasonable hours.” The brand aims to also be transparent on their pricing, listing the costs along the supply chain, such as transport, labor, materials, and duties.

In addition to being one of the most transparent brands of the moment, they are also leading the pack when it comes to diversity in advertising. By utilizing diverse models with unique stories, the apparel brand aims to be approachable to all consumers. While their prices may be higher than consumers are used to, Everlane is altering the discourse surrounding pricing and the true cost of ethical fashion. Fast fashion companies can produce garments that retail for less than $20.00 when they sacrifice the quality of the fabric, construction, labor, and environmental sustainability. While these goods may be affordable, the women that work in unsafe factories, with unlivable wages, may not feel so affectionate about the product. It seems to me that it is all too ironic to purchase an “empowering” feminist shirt from a fast fashion company that is directly oppressing women.

An alternative option to the “girl gang” hoodies that will predictably fill the streets on Saturday, is the Everlane 100% Human Fleece Hoodie.  The ethically sourced and produced sweatshirt supports the ACLU and for every 100% Human product sold, Everlane will donate $5.00 towards the ACLU. The 100% Human collection aims to remind everyone that we are more similar than different, and that protecting human rights is protecting your own rights.


The Phulid Project

The Phulid Project is New York City’s first gender neutral retail space, offering a prudent shopping experience for consumers that identify as gender nonconforming or gender fluid. The Phulid Project exists to empower individuals to unapologetically be themselves. They aim to help everyone express their inner feelings openly, without judgement or fear.

While the concept of gender neutral fashion as been around for several years, seen in the work of Jeremy Scott, Rick Owens, and Burberry, consumers have not been granted accessible access to these garments until recently. The Phulid Project has created an inclusive shopping experience for those who felt excluded from fashion previously, all the while supporting brands that donate a portion of their proceeds to nonprofits, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. By breaking the binary, founder Rob Smith aims to provide a community that he wishes he had access to growing up as a cis gay man. Providing online resources, hiring diversity and inclusion coordinators, and working with ethically sourced food vendors, the Phulid Project is the future of non binary fashion, leading the conversation on fluid gender.

While they sell well known brands such as Champion, WESC, Doc Martens and Superga, the brand also has their own private label. Their collection of graphic t-shirts are emblazoned with simple, yet impactful statements such as “believe womenor trans lives matter.  Prices are roughly $35.00 and under for slogan shirts, as the Phulid Project aims to be price sensitive and inclusive as well. Rather than purchasing similar screen printed shirts from big box retailers, we can all be better conscious consumers by supporting organization such as the Phulid Project that are providing inclusive apparel for marginalized minorities.


I Feel Like Hillz

The 2016 election was a source of inspiration for politically charged collections from high fashion to streetwear alike. Molly Smith and Brandon Litman, a couple based in Williamsburg, New York, were so inspired by the democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, they decided to create a streetwear brand. Smith felt that Clinton was the victim of unjust criticism and backlash during the campaign due to her gender, and wanted to create merchandise for supporters that felt similarly. She stated ‘I wish she could just own it like Kanye.’ I wanted her to say, ‘I’m the one who’s making shit happen and I’m a boss — I’m a boss woman.’”  Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ artwork served as the last piece of inspiration for the couple, creating the initial collection with the same aesthetic as the successful rapper’s album. I Feel Like Hillz produces and sells an affordable line of propaganda buttons, shirts, hats and sweatshirts, granting young activists the accessibility to wear their opinion and dissatisfaction with the political climate on their sleeve.

Emulating their sense of humor and satirical wit as a brand, I Feel Like Hillz’s latest creation is a long sleeve t-shirt with a screen grab from the New York Times op-ed Maybe They’re Just Bad People”. The controversial op-ed discussed the liberal belief that not all of Trump’s supporters are ideological. For $29.00, customers have the ability to comment on the political climate without directly using pronouns, or pointing fingers at any direct supporter.


Wildfang

Every so often, a celebrity wears something in such poor taste, it is engrained in the memories of the public. In June 2018, Melania Trump wore a Zara jacket that stated “I Really Don’t Care, DO U?” to visit an immigrant children’s shelter on the Southern border. While I, and many feminists will argue that the press often focuses on the appearance and wardrobe of influential women too often, this was too blatant to ignore.

Founded in 2010 by Julia Parsley and Emma Mcilroy, Wildfang produces and sells an alternative image of femininity. Tomboyish in its demanur, the U.S. based apparel company aims to provide menswear inspired pieces for anyone who feels that they struggle to find a proper fitting garment with the look they desire. In lieu of the offensive and ignorant placement of the infamous Zara jacket, Wildfang created their own randiton, a perfect option to sport in the expected cool temperatures at Saturday’s march. The Wildfang bomber jacket states “I Really DO CARE”, and retails for $98.00. While this is a little bit pricer than some alternative fast fashion bomber jackets, Wildfang will be donating 100% of the proceeds from this product to RAICES. RAICES is a nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and Southern Texas.


Fiercely

“Feminism is “cool” now. You can find trendy feminist shirts at every big box store but….where were they made? Was your feminist shirt made by underpaid workers in a developing country?”

Fiercely is a t-shirt shop that believes in feminism, women’s rights, and in well-designed shirts that are ethically sourced. Valery Brennan, the creator of the intersectional feminist store aims to empower all women through a platform by offering a wide array of products and sizes, ranging from S-4XL. While one shirt purchase may not change the dialogue surrounding feminism, Brennan is doing her best to do her part.

Fiercely currently works with five different organizations that aim to empower all women, regardless of their past, present or future. As a customer reaches the checkout prompt, they can select the organization of their choosing to receive a percentage of the profits from their purchase. Big box stores such as Forever 21 and H&M manufacture “Girl Power” t-shirts in unfathomable working conditions, claiming to be “sustainable” with little to no proof, only to then sell the product for less than $10.00. Fiercely is challenging that status quo, directly showing you the impact of your choices to shop small. Currently, customers can choose between a number of organizations such as End the BacklogSex Workers Outreach Project, Women’s Prison Association, or Planned Parenthood.

While many big box stores are selling “the future is female” apparel, Fiercely is selling $25.00 shirts that state the future is…indigenous women, disabled women, trans women, fat women, queer women, asexual women, poor women, femmes, non binary women, women of color, ALL WOMEN”. This is not to say that anyone wearing a “the future is female” shirt is a worse feminist than someone who purchases a product through Fiercely, but rather, this comparison is meant to encourage you, the consumer, to think twice about your purchases. By wielding the buying power we have as consumers, we can support organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Prison Association, making a real difference in the causes we keep close to, or on, our chests.


Chillhouse

Last on this list, but certainly not least, is our very own Chillhouse, which as developed as a safe space where anyone can find a moment to relax affordably regardless of their age, gender, or race.  With skilled technical professionals offering specialized massages, manicures and aromatherapy, the cafe-spa spot easily wins over any Millennial inspired by airy spaces and self wellness. The cafe is stocked full of an array of drink specials, from beer and wine, to health drinks packed full of vitamins and spices, to beautifully concocted lattes. Chillhouse carries an array of products and merchandise, from collaborations with female designers such as Lisa Says Gah, custom skin products, unique home accessories, to their own line of Chill Merch.

While undoubtedly, any feminist has needed to chill out during the recent tumultuous political and social climate, it’s their turn to tell the critics of the feminist agenda to relax with Chillhouse’s Don’t Tell Me to Relax” shirt. For $35.00, you can support a female-led brand that focuses on empowering young people through self wellness.

In a time that is turbulent with political uncertainty, unrest within our society, and a split country, it is more important than ever to speak your truth and stand up against hate. By utilizing your privilege and your education, no matter what they may be, we can unite to represent and defend marginalized groups. This article was not meant to shame anyone who has not thought of this before. This article was not meant to offend anyone who works for big box retailers or who has purchased a trendy feminist leaning graphic t-shirt before. This article was not meant to worry anyone attending the Women’s March on Saturday. This article was meant as a mere option and a chance to provide some insight on how we as feminists, could improve. Even I, have purchased a “screw sexists” shirt for an affordable $10.00. I wear the shirt with pride, because at the end of the day, I am still standing for something I believe in. We can all improve, and these are just a few of the stores that are leading the way to a more equal future. Through the use of thoughtful and conscious consuming, small businesses and individual consumers can make monumental changes within impactful organizations. Despite our differences, whether that be race, religion, gender, sexuality, politics, socio-economic status, or ethnic background, we can demand equality and change together.


Feature image via Emma Craft

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