Why Fashion Isn’t Frivolous.

Gender Politics.

There’s a phrase to send casual readers looking for pictures of pretty frocks running for the hills.

I actually started thinking about this while watching The Apprentice the other night. It was the Fashion episode. The teams were asked to select and sell fashion labels from a pop up shop in Manchester.

Unsurprisingly they were pretty bad at it, but that’s not what struck me. What struck me was the speed with which the male candidates fought to distance themselves from anything so frivolous as “Fashion”. Remember, these are candidates who a week earlier were falling over themselves to prove how good they were at selling bread, roll up towels and spades, but put a pretty frock in the mix and desperate protestations of ignorance abound.

We can’t deny that the largest market for fashion and clothes shopping is Women, but why is it viewed as such a frivolity in the way that more male dominate shopping experiences aren’t? There seems to be a perception that Women shop as a hobby, that this is a shallow and worthless pastime from a gender obsessed with appearance and unable to worry their pretty little heads about anything bigger.

Men, of course, buy important things. They don’t shop, they invest. They research the latest consumer gadgets and spend wisely. Electrical goods, cars and power tools, these are the things marketed at men. Even computer games, though with a slightly geeky undertone, come with a veneer of respectability and IMPORTANCE.

Why is it less crazy to queue all night for an Apple iPad than it is to queue all night for the Harrods sale?

Aesthetics aren’t an irrelevant consideration, you might enjoy the purchase of an iPad or a copy of COD Black Ops as well, but those purchases aren’t more important or more valid than a new handbag.

I steer away here slightly from a discussion of the craziness of disposable fashion and obsession with “must have” pieces that everyone else will also have. Though in reality that’s surely just the fashion version of the “collectors mentality” that is so often viewed as a particularly male preserve.

Presenting women’s clothing purchases as frivolous and wasteful means it’s no real surprise that many women confess to feelings of guilt after spending. It must also be part of the reason behind those cliche stories of women hiding purchases, removing price tags, and that scary slippery slope to secrecy, addiction and bankruptcy.

You already know my views on dressing up and self respect. So isn’t it about time that we acknowledged that whether we’re shopping for vintage, from tiny independent designers and boutiques, or the latest must have designer collaboration from the High Street it’s nothing to be ashamed of?

Fashion is a multi billion pound business that helps keep the economy afloat and provides employment for millions of people. Yes, that’s right. Those shoes you really want because you don’t have the exact right heel height to go with the length of your new skirt. They’re an important economic purchase. Go get them.

So be proud of your desire to be well dressed. Flaunt your Fashion sense and stick a perfectly manicured middle finger up at anyone who tells you it’s a waste of money.

Disclaimer: Please don’t buy things you can’t actually afford. That’s just stupid. Food comes first, and heating bills. There’s a difference between spending your spare cash on things you find pretty and a shopping addiction!

Want some further reading?

Dramatis Personae : Finance & The Fashion Blogger: Happiness Is…

Already Pretty : Women & Money

Debutante Clothing: Is Fashion Frivolous?

Evening Standard : Don’t you dare call it frivolous, now we need fashion more than ever.

Softpedia: Women Feel Guilty For Shopping But Can’t Stop

photo By anyjazz65 and LIFE via Bryan Boy