Blake Lively's Goop knockoff, Preserve, is celebrating Columbus Day by romanticizing a period in our nation's history marked by the trafficking, exploitation, rape and murder of Africans. The lifestyle newsletter's fall issue is cluelessly titled: "Allure of the Antebellum." The feature is an ode to the days when black people were considered property, but oh, weren't the clothes beautiful?
Writes the pour soul in charge of pumping out copy for Preserve,
The term "Southern Belle" came to fruition during the Antebellum period (prior to the Civil War), acknowledging women with an inherent social distinction who set the standards for style and appearance. These women epitomized Southern hospitality with a cultivation of beauty and grace, but even more with a captivating and magnetic sensibility. While at times depicted as coy, these belles of the ball, in actuality could command attention with the ease of a hummingbird relishing a pastoral bloom.
Hmm, let's see. Prior to the civil war? Women of inherent social distinction—AKA, rich? Soooo, slave owners then? Like, you're definitely talking about people who owned slaves. Or perhaps, more accurately, the wives of slave owners who greatly benefited from and helped uphold the institution. Right.
Anyone who romanticizes our nation's Antebellum period as some sort of marker of style and taste is definitely white and probably an asshole. But you know what? You have a right to be both of those things. My issue is with completely erasing any mention of the system that defined this era.
Would bringing up slavery have been totally out of place in this spread? Probably. But maybe that's a clue that you shouldn't have done it in the first damn place.
I don't know how you could possibly think about the Antebellum Era without first and foremost acknowledging slavery. Whenever I hear the word "Antebellum" I think: oh yeah, that time when my ancestors were treated like property. Forgive me if the regal grace of the hoop skirt comes second.
The spread shows a well-dress young white lady posing on a beautiful columned porch. Call me crazy, but when I think of grand homes in the south, I think of plantations because, no shit. Preserve, rather smartly, doesn't use the word "plantation," but that's obviously what they're alluding to.
Plantations are not to be romanticized. The fact that they stand as anything other museums or monuments to the slaves who built them is a stain on our nation and we should all be ashamed.
Plantations are not unique venues for your wedding or 40th birthday party. They are the sites of unparalleled human suffering and death that was sanctioned by our government. They are living monuments to the atrocity of slavery and the unmarked burial grounds for thousands of slaves. People have no more business having weddings on plantations than they do in a gas chambers.
Keep that in mind the next time you attend an event on a plantation—the bodies of slaves are probably definitely buried under where you're putting that gazebo or chocolate fountain and we know for a fact that rape and torture of Africans occurred on the patio where you're holding your fucking cocktail hour.
To make matters even more bizarre, the styles showcased in Preserve's "Antebellum" column aren't, you know, Antebellum.
Like the debutantes of yesteryear, the authenticity and allure still ring true today. Hoop skirts are replaced by flared and pleated A-lines; oversized straw toppers are transformed into wide-brimmed floppy hats and wool fedoras.
The models are dressed just like high society women of the pre-Civil War South — if you replaced every one of their items of clothing with a different item of clothing.
I'm sure it's very possible that there were some women of style and distinction during this time in the South whose wealth didn't come from slavery. However, slavery was the basis of the southern economy during the Antebellum period, so any wealth or funding of this so-called style was likely done on the backs of slaves.
The irony of Preserve releasing this spread on Columbus Day is not lost. On a day when we are supposed to celebrate perhaps the most abject mass murder in history, they release this reminder that no atrocity performed against people of color is above being whitewashed to sell overpriced clothing. In the name of Blake Lively.
Images via Preserve.