"Quick," writes Jessa Crispin on TheSmartSet.com. "How do you tell if a woman in a movie is supposed to be intelligent? First off, she'd probably be brunette, but past that. Glasses, yes. Little to no makeup. Her hair is probably in a ponytail. Clothes she probably bought at the Gap in a size too big. You know she's the smart one because she thinks about more important things than her appearance." We live in a world where "trendy" girls with "it" bags are often vapid, shallow beings bereft of a brain. The fashion magazine industry often makes things worse: "Elle talks to Ashlee Simpson. And writes down what she says. To be recorded for all time," Crispin notes. And "there is a huge disconnect between the fantasy world of Vogue — where women spend their days romping in fields wearing $1,500 sequined leggings — and reality." And yet there are women who are smart and care about fashion. Right? Right?
Hadley Freeman thinks so. She's the author of The Meaning Of Sunglasses. And, according to Crispin, she "namedrops Andrea Dworkin and poet Joseph Parisi as often as she does Anna Wintour. She's the one you want on the other side of the changing room... If you came out looking cheap, she would grab you by the shoulders, turn you around, and demand you change immediately. As she writes in the section labeled 'Cleavage, and the plumbing of depths,' 'Show me a woman with a good three inches of cleavage on display, and I'll show you a woman who, rightly or wrongly, has little faith in her powers of conversation.'"
Here's the thing: If you're smart enough to realize that fashion is a cultural construct rooted in sexist ideals and designed to divide women from their dollars, are you not allowed to admit that you sorta like a Gucci purse? If you have the intellectual capacity to understand that if all mankind wore some kind of uniform, like monks' robes, the globe would be alleviated of many problems — from sweatshops to bullying — should you feel guilty about liking the Jovovich-Hawk collection for Target?
"Freeman wrote a book for women who actually exist," Crispin writes. "Women who have to wait for buses in the middle of winter. Women who like to dance at parties, and do not want to have to sit in the corner because their feet are bleeding." Fashion is not just for Vogue and Karl Lagerfeld. It's self-expression, it's loving to get dressed, to get dressed up; it's realizing that your clothes can reflect your thoughts, your mood, your passions. And if someone's passionate about clothes, isn't labeling them shallow sort of superficial?