The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

Beyond the Chignon: The Ethics and Expression of Fashion

Woodside students express their ethical and personal views on fashion

Even though New York Fashion Week ended its strut on the runway last Wednesday, the couture craze is still all over the corridors at Woodside High School.  Fashion has proven to be more than an external means of self-expression, as students and staff at Woodside have also formed opinions on the moral codes of the industry.

According to multiple Woodside students, fashion extends far beyond chignon scarves and pixie pants.  The ethical issues of the industry, such as sweatshop labor and diversity among those representing the students’ favorite brands, were also on their minds. 

Julie Marten, an art and world studies teacher at Woodside, says, “…all players in the fashion industry have a role in breaking (the negative impact of the fashion industry on body image)…to break out of the mold…and to not perpetuate a notion of beauty that’s attached to slenderness.”  Along with the ethics of body image, she also claims that repurposing clothes is “environmentally friendly [and] doesn’t rely on sweatshop labor…”

While disheartening, eating disorders are a prominent part of the fashion industry and have a direct affect on young women.

Marten worked as a model for seven years and claims she “did not know a single female model that hadn’t had an eating disorder,” including herself, admitting, “You more or less did not have any other option.”   

However, while society cannot stop being influenced by the pictures it sees in the latest issues of their favorite magazines, they can change who is put on those pages.  By altering these publications, the way our world views the bodies of women and men alike will improve.  The paragons of perfection and the “model demographic” will be able to accommodate everyone by accepting the real, physical states of others.

“That takes vision and guts for our young designers!” Marten insisted.  Artists and business people in the fashion industry must take risks, both artistic and professional.     

“I think that body and ethnic diversity is a really good thing because now everyone doesn’t have to look at this perfect, blonde, skinny model and go like ‘Oh, I’m supposed to look like that.’  Now, you can find people that look like you,” Nora Elhams, a freshman at Woodside, argues as well.  

A lack of ethnic diversity is also evident in the fashion industry, despite the fact that, as an article by Vocative puts it, designers are more racially diverse than their runway models.  This issue is recognized throughout the student body.   

Alice Demers, a junior at Woodside and member of the FIDM (Fashion Industry of Design and Merchandising) club, addresses the issue of diversity as well: “I’d like to see more people represented in models.  Most people nowadays- they’re just white, straight stick figures and having a lot more diversity in race and religion and also body size [would be very impactful], because I know that’s a huge issue nowadays.”  

What is in vogue is constantly evolving, as wells as the “ideal” body image, as various social, economic, and technical factors have changed the ideas of of style over the years.  

Marten explains, “Fashion has always been closely related to what is going on with their (women’s) social position and a lot of that has to do with how constricting the clothing and how revealing it is. It might feel like girls are dressing too provocatively, [but]… I think there’s a lot to be said also for the ways that girls and women are claiming the right to dress as they please and that they should be safe either way.”  

In addition, individuality remains a constant aspect of fashion that is sought after.  

Marten expresses, “I don’t like it when everyone wears the same thing, because I find it homogenous and boring, and much prefer quirkiness and individuality. When everybody starts to wear the same thing, that to me makes the world a little bit more gray and boring.”  

An  example is Elhams’ drastic change in style.  

She states, “When I used to be really girly. I would wear all pink.  I was really monochrome.  Afterwards, I started wearing more ‘tomboyish’ clothes, I guess.  Then, I got into a really emo phase, so I dressed in all black. Now I go off being comfortable.”  

In contrast, Marten describes  her fashion journey as one that has remained steady along the path of modern punk style, or “mods.”  

She comments, “Since the time I was a teenager, I started liking vintage clothes…still today, I get most of my clothes from thrift and antique stores. Modern punk style influenced me a lot as a teenager, and I still find that [it] influences me a lot now.”  

Furthermore, when being asked about the importance of style in adolescents, the concepts of self-expression and distinctiveness were a common theme within responses.  

Demers believes that “Certain styles can show off your personality… You can show off who you are without really having to meet people or say anything.”  

However, according to Marten, teenagers defining themselves in their time of youth can also go amiss.  

When given the choice of identifying themselves with clothing, teenagers can “get stuck…where they want to change, but they feel, if they change, that will be embarrassing.”  

She also says that imitating the style of those they want to impress may also be an issue.   

However embarrassing people may think their style may be, Demers affirms, “I think all fashion rules should be broken. I don’t think you necessarily need to follow any fashion rules; just be nice to other people’s fashion.”  

Marten asserts, “Art is a very basic thing to humans, it’s one of our basic elements.  I think that fashion and style are really just an expression of that art. But, the same way that we might aestheticize our environment…we aestheticize ourselves.”

More to Discover