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Fashion Icon Diane von Fürstenberg

We talk remarkable women and remarkable fashion with fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg.

Diane von Furstenberg is greeted with applause after showing her fall 2010 collection, Feb. 14, 2010, during Fashion Week in New York. (AP)

Diane von Furstenberg was one of the most successful fashion designers of the 20th century. Now, in the 21st, she still at it. Right out front. And with a new emphasis: not just dressing women, but speaking out for women’s voices, women’s empowerment.

Her own story is of empowerment. Born to a holocaust survivor just eighteen months out of the camps. Married to a German prince. Sold five million of her famous “wrap” dresses by the time she was 27. On the cover of Newsweek at 29. And right out front in 2011.

This hour, On Point: a conversation with Diane von Furstenberg.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Diane von Fürstenberg, world-famous fashion designer. She’s creator of the iconic wrap dress. She serves as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and sits on the board of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international non-profit that works to identify and empower emerging women leaders across the globe.  Her “People’s Voice Award” will be given out March 11. You can see the nominees and vote online here.

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  • g

    Buffalo, NY

    Should be a fascinating show! Kudos on supporting and promoting women!

    I think a lot of women who came from nothing and achieved success try to give back to the society and promote women, because they remember how hard it was for them, so they empathize with other women who are also striving for greatness and trying to make this world a better place to live.

    How DID she come up with the wrap dress? :)

    I am always fascinated to learn about how someone got started on the path to living their dream, how they overcame obstacles and didn’t give up, believing in themselves, sometimes when no one else did.

    Has she ever questioned her choice to become a fashion designer? Or has she doubted her ability to become great in such a competitive field? What were her plans at the beginning of her career, did she dream of becoming famous?

    Fear of not succeeding sometimes prevents a lot of people from following their dreams. Did she have a clear path when she embarked on this ambitious journey?

    Thank you

  • Nick

    Give me a break!

    w/all that is occurring presently in Egypt + Tunisia, On Point schedules a show re. fashion!

  • John

    She is fashionably late.

  • Caleb from Somerville, MA

    I would really like Diane von Furstenburg to address something which her website doesn’t: the working conditions of the armies of women who have to sew her clothes. She said “my goal in life is to empower women.” The most fundamental human rights concern facing women today is exploited, ill-compensated labor – much of it driven by western corporations and the governments that are run by them. Please see Charles Kernaghan’s work at the National Labor Committee to expose the terrible working and living conditions of the women and children in garment sweatshops in China, Bangladesh, India, Honduras, Jordan, etc. for multinational corporations. Please address this urgent reality and explain how your clothing brand empowers rather than destroys women’s lves.

  • Isabel

    Wow. How entitled must she feel to show up late for an interview with her. Anyone that rude is not worth listening to.

  • John

    Can she discuss design more and less about empowerment?

  • David in Wellesley, Mass.

    The wrap dress is simply the sexiest gift-wrap ever invented. What lover of women hasn’t dreamed of pulling the string on that bow and unwrapping his (or her) present?

  • Barbra Gabriel Elkton VA

    DVF was one of my Mother’s heroes. She was of the WWII generation, and DVF let my Mom rediscover her power and reenter the work world. She became very successful. Cheers to Ms. Von Furstenburg!

  • http://fromNashville sohaila (so-hey-lah)

    I am not a particularly “feminine’” lady. But when a friend talked me into buying a vintage wrap dress from a second hand store…I had never felt so beautiful, womanly and yes, empowered! The dress fit PERFECT. I am a curvacious (not rubenesque)woman and it was made for me. Dionne Von Furstenburg became my personal fashoin designer in my mind. I later bought another dress by DVF, same material, same era, though this had buttons down the front, still as beautiful as the first. Thank You for existing!

  • Kirstin

    The wrap dress, the holy grail of timeless elegance and simplicity. What I find compelling about the wrap dress, besides the way it flatters women from the INSIDE out, is how its success is a direct reflection of our inate need for simplicity and predictability in such uncertain and complicated times.

  • Janice

    Of course Ms von Furstenberg is great for the womens’ movement. Having a woman leader in any industry is good for women. I’d hate to go back to the 1970s or 80s when women were fashion assimilationists in a predominately male workforce. Those Glenn plaid skirt suits were ugly, drab, masculine and very uncomfortable! What’s wrong with looking like a woman?

  • Peggy Hogan

    If you watch the British tv comedy show Doc Martin, you will notice the female lead( a primary school head teacher) wearing DVF wrap dresses. They look feminine, professional and great for moving around. She wears a camisole so the neckline doesn’t look to sexy for school.

    From experience, women know these dresses flatter all kinds of figures.

    Brookline, Ma 02446

  • at

    One’s relationship to one’s self? You mean self-delusion?

    This person is an idiot. Why question her about philosophy? What a waste of an hour.

  • http://www.mcrwhips.com Meredith C Russo

    Back in 1976, I bought a Diane von Furstenberg dress which, when I tried it on, stunned me to see how good it looked. It was a jersey wrap around white with navy print flowers and it was truly so comfortable and practicle while still feminine. Now, I no longer have it but my fashion major daughter would like to strangle me for having lost track of it! She is a Diane fan and I would like to know from Diane, what aspect of the fashion industry she thinks a new graduate should look for a career with jobs so difficult to find!

  • at

    Fashion is for sheep, and egocentric nullities who fill the meaninglessness of their inner lives with superficiality.

  • Julia Dubus

    I think the wrap dress is a worthy classic, but I don’t see much AFFORDABLE out there these days that is quality, sane, well-cut, and in beautiful and FLATTERING shades of color. I’m 65, still in shape, but uninterested in the ridiculous ruffles, pencil skirts, baby-doll (and other ugly styles),stilettos and garish colors. How about encouraging designers/manufacturers to produce and market better styles for us baby-boomers?

  • John

    Patsy Stone would have been a more interesting guest.

  • Debra Banach

    I noticed that Ms. Von Furstenberg spoke English confidently until asked about her purported “sweat shop labor practices” in her factories. She reverted to sounding like a new immigrant searching for the most simplest of words. She stammered and plodded through her response clumsily. I lost respect for her there.

  • John

    I thought it was odd that as a supposed advocate for empowering women she started the interview with a joke about looking like a battered woman.

  • at

    You people do realize that fashion was an invention of the French aristocracy whose intent was to keep the nobles in debt and neutered. Before that fashions (if it could be called that) lasted for decades and changed organically over hundreds of years. Fashion is for people on the short bus, no matter their apparent success in life or wealth. What a bunch of sheep.

  • Caleb from Somerville, MA

    Thank you for taking my call, Tom (and staff)! I will be digging up what research is available to see if Ms. Furstenburg’s claims about her contracted garment factories are actually true. Given that a 5 or even a 6 day week in 3rd world garment factories – especially Bangladesh and China – let alone an 8 hour day are about as rare as the bank balance of those whose wealth is created “by technology,” as Diane claims, I am QUITE skeptical that slaves do not churn her looms. If she takes “a great deal of care” to make sure that her workers are treated justly, she should list out in the open the names and addresses of the factories that sew her clothes ON HER WEBSITE and show the world openly what exactly their working conditions are like. Fat chance of that – with her emphasis on high profits and “affordable” prices.

    H&M is one of the worst abusers of sweatshop labor in the world. Their lines, along with those of Wal-mart, formed a substantial part of the Dhaka garment market share and the conditions at their factories specifically were instrumental in the massive workers strikes that occurred last year which resulted in a doubling of the minimum garment workers wage – all of the major organizers were imprisoned. Does Diane even KNOW about these strikes? If Ms. Furstenburg has contracted with H&M, she has undoubtedly participated in their horrendous abuses: think 90-110 hour weeks, 30 days of work per month, girls as young as 10 working the machines, derelict dormitories and bathrooms, locked factory doors, beatings for falling asleep at stand-up workstations, 90-100 degree (F) temperatures with no ventilation and dangerous cotton fibers being breathed, pittance pay and refusal to pay overtime.

    Her factory visits were likely primed, prepped and bribed by those who scheduled them. See the article “Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector” by T.A. Frank in the Washington Monthly from April 2008. I also highly urge listeners to view the work of the following watchdog and advocacy organizations:

    * National Labor Committee (nclnet.org)
    A national leader in the fight against sweatshops. Also see their sponsored legislation, supported by politicians as diverse as Bryan Dogan and Lindsay Graham: “The Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act”
    * War On Want – Fashion Victims series I and II
    * China Labor Watch
    * Chinese Working Women Network
    * Labour Behind the Label
    * Asia Monitor Resource Center
    * Asia Floor Wage
    * Students Against Corporate Misbehavior (HK group)
    * United Students Against Sweatshops
    * China Blue by Teddy Bear Films
    * Clean Clothes Campaign
    * Maquila Solidarity Network
    * Workers Rights Consortium

    Wake up and stop funding the toil of slaves and their children in conditions worse than those we thought were liberated 150 years ago in this country!

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    3 quotes from above:

    1) Fashion is for sheep, and egocentric nullities who fill the meaninglessness of their inner lives with superficiality.
    Posted by at, on January 31st, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    2) The wrap dress is simply the sexiest gift-wrap ever invented. What lover of women hasn’t dreamed of pulling the string on that bow and unwrapping his (or her) present?
    Posted by David in Wellesley, Mass., on January 31st, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    3) I had never felt so beautiful, womanly and yes, empowered! The dress fit PERFECT. I am a curvacious (not rubenesque)woman and it was made for me.
    Posted by sohaila (so-hey-lah), on January 31st, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Not all body types are “fit for fashion”, I would say. To be “fit for fashion” I think your body needs to be pretty thin, so that the clothes hang without any reference to who YOU are. Therein can lie the trap, of the clothes being more important than the individual, especially if your “fashion fit” body type allows you to change, change, change what you wear, as fashion changes. However, some people who have this kind of body type are ALSO interested in design. And change and design CAN BE intellectual activities. Sometimes people engaged in fashion are following their own talent more than they are sheep, no matter HOW it may look to the rest of us.

    If you check out Ms. VF’s website, under “Collections”, you will see patterns and colors and patterns ON patterns that are GORGEOUS! Aesthetically, they are just so beautiful and pleasing. I love art, and used to think that fashion was “superficial”, but a very talented graduate assistant in our sophomore drawing class, who wound up to be on of America’s premier chefs & restauranteurs set me to thinking otherwise. He said “design is design”. Look at EVERYTHING! So, from a purely design-oriented perspective, DVF’s Collections are beautiful to MY eye (and I see some of the pieces “in movement” thru my mind’s eye — colorful, patterned shapes moving in the world!). Plus, they are colors & patterns that many women COULD wear, altho she does NOT employ a very rich range of models of different skin colors.

    That said, for those of us who do NOT have bodies “fit for fashion”, it is still necessary for many of us to feel good about ourselves. I grew up in that same time period that one of the first callers did: the girdle, useless thin, leather-soled shoes that did NOT make it in the rain and which caused you the s l i d e by mistake when you ran to catch the subway. Yes! And Katy Gibbs secretarial school required that you wore shoes like that, and they said that they had spies that would randomly follow different students ON the subway to make SURE that they (we) didn’t change into sneakers!!! I kid you NOT!!!

    Anyway, athletic as I was, & I loved the fun of activity, a brief diet in the 8th grade caused by metabolism to go “off” and for how active I was, I put on weight. Depression era parents insisted that we be members of the “clean plate club”, and my mom insisted that I wear a girdle!!! The hippie days came along on the heels of all that stuff, and peer “fashion” required we wear Frye books and jeans. I couldn’t get either one of them over my legs!!! I was in tears in a dressing room after trying on 40!!! pairs of jeans, to no avail. I wasn’t even “fat”, just “chunky”, just size 12 or max 14. Size 16 would have allowed another person to fit into my clothes with me. But Size 12 or 14 was TROUBLE. Name calling, Dissing, Sarcasm, REbuffs, Jokes said within my earshot, Rejections by boys who were looking for someone who’d look good on the back of their motorcycle. ALL I WANTED WERE CLOTHES THAT WOULD SHOW OFF MY VERY SMALL WAIST, AGREE TO FIT OVER MY HIPS, AND SHOW OFF MY LOVELINESS FROM MY LONG NECK DOWN TO MY SMALL WAIST WHICH WAS RATHER “PERFECT” (along with my thin ankles, my torso was my source of personal pride), AND LOOK GOOD WITH MY STRONG, LARGE, SHORT LEGS. ALL I WANTED were clothes that looked GOOD ON AN HOUR-GLASS FIGURE!!!

    Even today, on that beautiful DVF website, clicking on EVERY piece in every collection, there are ONLY about 4 pieces that would look good on an hourglass shape, and, in this work, sadly, so sadly, because the pieces are so beautiful colorifically, NONE of those pieces would look good with BIG LEGS. THIS IS also TRUE in almost every store that I go to! The buyers’ fantasies suggest to them that all women must have long, long lithe legs, and NO hips — boys with breasts, often!

    Now, there ARE so many advantages to Title IX (9?) — the federal act that let girls get coaching for sports, let them have sports teams, etc. You can SEE the change in girls’ body types from sports involvement, plus better maternal nutrition on the part of their moms while they were in utero, better dental care & more fluoride. The young girls are gorgeous! But, there are flocks and flocks of older women who STILL need to get dressed every morning, and who would LOVE to LOOK and FEEL great in their clothes. I can tell you, it IS TRUE: your self-esteem PLUMMETS when you are forced to wear (because of a work uniform or because you can’t find anything else) clothes that fight your body type! I have NOT worn pants in decades, and when I could find skirts that went in at the waist, and way out, saucer style, at the hem, with a short, fitted top to show off my torso, I felt wonderful! You can do ALL the physical things in that kind of skirt that you can in jeans, and more, if the jeans are tight. With sneakers and anklets on my feet! I was finally wearing what allowed true (not forced) self esteem, and what took AWAY my self-consciousness, and allowed me full, physical freedom!!

    Put me in pants, and I cannot stop thinking about myself. Partly because I feel horrible, but also because it triggers memories of people saying nasty things. In a hourglass-shaped outfit, I’m happy, spirited, and aware of the world around me. Also, the stores could HAVE MY MONEY, if I could buy clothes that “fit” me.

    I KNOW I am NOT the only person with an Hourglass Shaped Body Type. IF I weren’t ill, I would create a company called “Hourglass” and our clothes would ONLY design for that body type, including awareness of the fact that many times Hourglasses have chunky legs (NOT long, lithe ones!!!). THEN, I’d be LUCKY if I had the GORGEOUS SENSE OF COLOR AND PATTERN THAT DVF HAS IN HER COLLECTION!

    Is fashion superficial? I don’t really CARE about that question. But we DO get dressed every day, and clothes that don’t suit you CAN really, really make you feel bad. In a pair of jeans, I feel like two, gigantic thighs are walking just ahead of me, and that they “greet” anyone I might meet before I do!! Put me in a “saucer” skirt (NOT a “cup” skirt), and I’m looking ahead, at the world and the people around me!

    Sell all of us who are Hourglasses the clothes we CRAVE but CANNOT FIND, and we could IMPROVE OUR ECONOMY!!! The cash registers wouldn’t stop ringing! And, I don’t mean just for one fashion “season”. WHY don’t companies (some, anyway) devote themselves COMPLETELY to thorough, customer-tested Body-Type Design? The variety would come NOT in shape, but in color, pattern, fabric, so that season and whim would change THOSE factors, but that skin color would ALSO be considered ALWAYS, so that each season ANY Hourglass could FIND what looked good on her shape-wise, and skin-tone -wise first, and then, within those parameters, there would be different colors & patterns and fabrics for variety! If I weren’t ill, I’d do it myself. I’m sending out a BUSINESS PLAN for the takers! Please! Somebody! Run with my Idea! (THANKS!)

    In case I AM speaking with someone who might run with my idea, one more thing: lately Lycra, or a similar fabric is getting woven into everything! Yes, it makes for a very sexy look, but with cancer spread to my bones, now, lycra can cause my body to flex in on itself, very painfully. Please, designers, a person can have done all the right things to stay “fit” and yet fall into a disease. That’s WHEN they want EASE in shopping. Cancer hospitals devote whole “spa” days to the concept of Looking Good with Cancer, (let’s say cancer). My quibble with fashion is NOT that it is superficial, but that it does NOT give itself enough DESIGN CHALLENGES! Design for the Real World, and creativity WILL flow, but SO will the dollars! People need to get dressed!

    Being on chemotherapy makes this even more important for me. I WANT to feel my best, and my old clothes that filled the bill are getting thread-bare!

    Thanks!

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    P.S. I KNOW that that last piece of mine might have been “too much information”, but HOW are you going to Change the World if you’re not explicit???!!!

    Thanks!

  • Zeno

    Fashion is the outward representation of narcissism…so it does serve a purpose in identifying the feeble minded.

  • at

    sort of @Ann

    I stand by my statement. I say the second two of your quotes are examples that only go to prove the truth of the first. This is proven time and time again in all human history. The greek aristocracy used to forbid their women to go about in public, mainly because the “fashion sense” of their young women would have so enraged the public that they feared for their lives should it become known how they adorned themselves.

    When the inner lives of people become so vacuous, they seek relief ANYWHERE. Quite simply because they cannot bear to be alone with their own minds (the entire entertainment industry is proof of this). But the superficiality of their inner reality is reflected in the superficiality of their outer concerns. If you want to make the world more beautiful wake up. And fashion is just one small dream from which you need to awaken to see the real beauty. This is not negotiable. For anyone. You can take the entire fashion industry, including their design elements, and I guarantee you that anyone who displays the effete aesthetic snobbery that is so proudly affected by some in that industry, is totally asleep and nothing but a conditioned automaton.

    Anybody with half a brain can draw a pretty pattern.

  • sheep on a short bus

    You people do realize that fashion was an invention of the French aristocracy whose intent was to keep the nobles in debt and neutered. Before that fashions (if it could be called that) lasted for decades and changed organically over hundreds of years. Fashion is for people on the short bus, no matter their apparent success in life or wealth. What a bunch of sheep.

    Posted by at, on January 31st, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    This is proven time and time again in all human history. The greek aristocracy used to forbid their women to go about in public, mainly because the “fashion sense” of their young women would have so enraged the public that they feared for their lives should it become known how they adorned themselves.

    Posted by at, on January 31st, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    – How is this possible as fashion wasn’t invented yet according to your earlier post.

  • at, from the land were old vw busses go to live forever,Santa Cruz

    In one I said “fashion sense” in the other fashion. “Fashion sense” (read natural impulse for inner vacuity to adorn itself to cover up its true significance) does not equal fashion as it has come to be — an industry that has enthroned one of mans most ignoble impulses as some kind of virtue. I note the fashion sense of Einstein as contrasted with that of the pope. One all substance, one all hot air. Who wears the sparkly little slippers?

  • John

    Dorothy

  • ToTheBone

    The maquilladoras of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras in Central America, the garment workers and stitchers of the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, etc.–all of the women exploited for their cheap labor and fear of losing their only means of support–to make clothing for Liz Claiborne, GAP, DVF, etc., etc., so the fashionistas can look good. It’s a swell life.

    See Global Exchanage:
    http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/sweatshops/sweatshopsfaq.html

    The old ILGWU days are gone here, folks:

    “Look for the union label
    when you are buying a coat, dress, or blouse.
    Remember somewhere our union’s sewing
    our wages going to feed the kids and run the house,
    We work hard but who’s complaining.
    Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way.
    So, always look for the union label,
    it says we’re able
    to make it in the U.S.A.”

    NOT

  • joan

    zeno
    what a boring person you must be . If it was up to you, we would all be wearing potato sacks .live a little, give a little .you only live once

  • me

    A 4 minute Neda Ulabey fluff piece would have been too much coverage for this sweat-shop Impresario. Instead, you give her an hour of free unchallenged promotion time on NPR. What on earth are you people thinking? And BTW, can you say boring? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Betsy

    Loved listening to your interview with my 8 year old daughter who aspires to be a fashion designer!

  • Charlie

    Who would have thought Tom would be so hostile throughout the interview. Was it because she was late or because it was a planned attack interview? Either way, it was a surprising expose of Tom not the designer. Not the usual tough but well informed interviewer this time. I wonder if he would have been so tough on another type of creative type, say a painter who sells their paintings for $$$ or an architect that builds houses for the rich or buildings for business or a writer who’s books go on to make millions in movies, etc. I predict he would have shown his usual fascination with creative people and not been so critical … even about her social projects. Rather disappointing.

  • http://whilewestillhavetime.blogspot.com John Hamilton

    I don’t have any interest in fashion, but am listening to this interview because what other people do with their lives informs mine. Diane von Fürstenberg played the hand she was dealt, and with great success. She has done a worthy thing with her empowerment project.

    What I found annoying about this interview was Tom Ashbrook’s patronizing, toungue-in-cheek attitude, as if the subject matter and the subject are somehow beneath his dignity. Maybe it’s par for the course for interviewers to interrupt guests, but his interruptions were intrusive, breaking in when she was saying something pertinent. His questions, by contrast, were condescending and not-so-pertinent, more about him and his ego than moving the subject along.

    Before listening to this program I tuned in to Terry Gross’s interview with an “alternative” rock band, the Black Keys. She treated them with respect, and had fun with them. Their music was not the kind I enjoy, but they proved to be smart, funny, talented, and genuine. I wonder how well this would be revealed in an interview with Tom Ashbrook. Of course, they are male, so maybe he would do better than on tonight’s offering. Maybe they are even bigger than he is.

    Spare me.

  • http://iheartsecretsociety.blogspot.com Faith Cummings, Brooklyn NY

    Of course fashion empowers woman. Fashion is a way for a woman to choose how to express themselves. When you choose what to wear you decide what you want to say to the world. Each time a woman makes this choice she is empowered.

  • http://iheartsecretsociety.blogspot.com Faith Cummings, Brooklyn NY

    p.s. And for the record…I did find it patronizing for him to ask a fashion designer if she was empowering woman solely through the clothes she creates. The nature of the question felt like he was thinking “As if that could be possible.” Of course she thinks she empowers women–she’s woman’s a fashion designer, why else would she do it?!

  • JaMu, San Jose

    Not nearly as empowered as she would be if she was aware enough to see through the whole farce.

  • http://www.bookofzo.blogspot.com Joshua Hendrickson, Talent OR

    If you put one electron microscope inside another electron microscope, you still couldn’t detect my interest in fashion.

    You could, however, detect my interest in self-serving upper class narcissists.

    So this turned out to be an interesting show anyway.

  • JaMu

    joan wrote: zeno
    what a boring person you must be . If it was up to you, we would all be wearing potato sacks .live a little, give a little .you only live once

    I personally find zeno’s posts consistently to be of the highest calibre. They are amusing and indicative of a more complex and enlightened view without being overbearing like some people at this spot (the emphasis on at). Ok I admit it I sort of like him too. Anyhow I consider Zeno a colorful, and delightful poster here, and I always benefit at least in humor, but usually from the depth of thought in his posts.

    Sorry but I think it is people who have to dress up in a certain way who be the boring ones. I am especially amused by the teenagers who all dress alike to revolt.

  • Caitlin, Cambridge, MA

    If fashion has the power to objectify women, then of course it has the ability to empower them as well! Smart, strong women are constantly walking a fine (and confusing) line between wanting to be taken seriously, and wanting to feel beautiful. The DVF wrap dress is the only garment I’ve ever worn that makes me feel like I can be both at the same time, without diluting the power of either trait, or feeling like those two traits get in the way of each other. I don’t feel like a sex object in my DVF wrap dress – I feel like a better, more confident, more complete version of my true self. The dress shows your shape – without showing OFF your shape. It’s a dress that YOU wear – not a dress that wears you. That seems to be the difference between feeling objectified, and feeling empowered.

    I agree with the poster who noted that Tom seemed to approach Ms. von Furstenberg in way that isn’t his style with other artists who have had commercial success. With most creative types, he doesn’t ask them to justify the prices they charge for their art. I have noticed this before – fashion, which in the case of Diane von Furstenberg especially, is art, is categorized as meaningless non-art that excites silly women. They are made to feel ashamed for spending money on things that make them feel confident, powerful, and beautiful. Spending $300 on a dress is no more shameful than spending $300 on anything else that could conceivably be considered a non-essential item.

  • JaMu

    Want a better shape? Take that three hundred dollars and buy a gym membership. Get in good physical condition and all of a sudden it doesn’t matter so much what you wear. You are empowered by something real, your physical condition.

  • JaMu

    Caitlin wrote: Spending $300 on a dress is no more shameful than spending $300 on anything else that could conceivably be considered a non-essential item.

    I think what some have been trying to express here (wish they were still around) is that the impulse to adorn oneself itself is shameful if you have a certain view. Of course for someone who does not have access to this view the whole idea of shame is just an archaic emotion. Were as for someone who is attempting to evolve an enhanced level of intelligence, this impulse is a sign of a low level of consciousness. So obviously anyone not privy to such a level cannot see why the whole sphere of fashion is not only irrelevant but psychologically distorting. It is not that beauty or creative design is wrong or bad, but that the mind set that is spawned buy the fashion industry is the opposite of conducive to the perception of reality. At least that is my guess as to what they were referring to.

  • JaMu

    Were do your feelings about fashion come from?
    Find out. View Century of the Self.

    http://freedocumentaries.org/int.php?filmID=140

  • at

    Actually you will have to watch it on youtube and choose the episodes yourself if you want to see the whole documentary and not just the preview like at the address above.

  • JaMu

    No you just have to hit the red play film button. The whole thing will play.

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    “Want a better shape? Take that three hundred dollars and buy a gym membership. Get in good physical condition and all of a sudden it doesn’t matter so much what you wear. You are empowered by something real, your physical condition.”
    Posted by JaMu, on January 31st, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    JaMu, I apologize that my piece was WAY too long (Jan. 31, 1:11 p.m.)! When I’m rushing out, I write but don’t have time to go back and radically edit — as I absolutely SHOULD! However, somewhere within all that verbiage of mine was the statement that I was “fit”, extremely fit thru ACTIVE use of a gym membership along with other activities, many days per week for decades. Yet, my BODY TYPE rarely “fits” into the clothing SHAPES that are made available to women thru the fashion houses, and then thru the stores. Not only does this make me feel bad about myself, but OTHER PEOPLE, for some reason or other, thruout many decades of my life, felt compelled to make nasty remarks about my physical appearance whenever I just dressed in the clothes that were “as close as I could get” to “right for me”, or when I was compelled to dress in certain types of clothing for work or school (ex., pants for clinicals).

    You don’t feel good when people make fun of you, and I never learned to sass back! There WAS a short-lived “fashion” period when the clothing “fit” my body type. Being alert to learning, I saw the difference & have tried to find clothing that would achieve that same “fit” ever since, but it is too RIDICULOUSLY hard, especially since I actually get dressed all seven days of the week! I cannot be alone in this! That is why I propose the idea of Body-Type Clothing Design.

    I DO love art, design, history, and ALL of those areas show women (AND men!) adorning themselves & looking wonderful & happy! It seems to be part of the human cognitive and symbolic systems: design, adornment — they are US!

    Yes! There certainly ARE more important considerations in this world; and usually, I write here about discrimination, inequality, lack of access to good education, etc.; yet it IS possible to CARE about two or more things at once. I DO think the most significant consideration about the fashion world IS exploitation of the workers. But, the same can be said to be true about electrical outlet extenders (just look at the label; where & by whom were they made?!). But the fashion world ALSO sends out messages, as does the media, and many of them are harmful psychologically/emotionally.

    At least two women, above, said what I was partly trying to say, but both said it so much better than I did: Faith Cummings and Caitlin in Cambridge! Thank you to BOTH!

    I’d just add this to their POVs: designers love to work with all the design elements except that they do NOT seem to challenge themselves enough when it comes to the design elements “use” and “user”. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were a few separate clothing lines that each designed around a PARTICULAR body type. I mentioned the Hourglass body type. (That’s the idea & company name I’m willing to give away RIGHT HERE to the ambitious designer who would like to actually SELL clothes & help grow our economy!) I might also mention, for males & females of all ages, the Quadriplegia-Challenged Body Type (my brother’s accident made me extremely aware of this!); the Paraplegia-Challenged Body Type; the Arthritis-Challenged Body Type, etc.

    Here are the parts of Faith’s and Caitlin’s pieces that I resonated with:

    Of course fashion empowers woman. Fashion is a way for a woman to choose how to express themselves. When you choose what to wear you decide what you want to say to the world. Each time a woman makes this choice she is empowered.
    Posted by Faith Cummings, Brooklyn NY, on January 31st, 2011 at 9:37 PM
    (I’ll add: when you cannot FIND what you’d choose, you don’t really HAVE a choice!!!)

    If fashion has the power to objectify women, then of course it has the ability to empower them as well! Smart, strong women are constantly walking a fine (and confusing) line between wanting to be taken seriously, and wanting to feel beautiful. The DVF wrap dress is the only garment I’ve ever worn that makes me feel like I can be both at the same time, without diluting the power of either trait, or feeling like those two traits get in the way of each other. I don’t feel like a sex object in my DVF wrap dress – I feel like a better, more confident, more complete version of my true self. The dress shows your shape – without showing OFF your shape. It’s a dress that YOU wear – not a dress that wears you. That seems to be the difference between feeling objectified, and feeling empowered.
    Posted by Caitlin, Cambridge, MA, on January 31st, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    Yes, if I took sewing lessons & learned how to sew well enough, maybe my issues could be solved. Maybe I could make my own dresses in the time it takes me to write my pieces for this site that are way too long!!!

    By the way, Simone deBeauvoir’s Second Sex has a chapter on Narcissism. If I remember back to 1969, in that chapter, she says what Faith & Caitlin say. IF you can’t/don’t present yourself in what is your proper “fit” (in clothing, in work, in joke telling, etc.), you will be “outside yourself”; this being outside yourself will cause you to be separate from both yourself & the world, causing you to be so self-conscious that psychologically you are in the stance of narcissism. When you can find the “fit” that IS you (and a “you” that can grow, not a “you” that is snug too tight!), you will be able to bound out into the world reciprocally, NON-narcissistically. This is ALL paraphrased from 40 years+ memory, but it DOES describe why “fashion” can’t just be dismissed; rather, it should be understood as it pertains to the individual. This understanding, as I see it, is NOT the same thing as just “going along with fashion”.

  • JaMu

    I find the whole idea of choosing clothes as empowering as about as lost in illusion as one can possibly get. It’s like saying that what music I choose to listen to is empowering. It is empowering to the people who sold me the music, but there is nothing empowering about it to me. If you were forced to wear a bee keeper suit and all of a sudden you had the ability to chose what you wanted to wear, that ability to choose would be empowering, however your choices would not be empowering. The whole concept is nonsense. This can only be the result of subconscious conditioning about expressing your real self. You do not have a real self. That is why all this commercial manipulation of unconscious motives and desires is ultimately futile and cannot lead to anything real. You think you are expressing yourself through your purchases. This is what you have been programmed to believe. Watch the documentary, or watch it again. See if you recognize the rationalizations you are espousing in the techniques that were developed to sell you stuff you don’t need or wouldn’t even want if you hadn’t been convinced that you could empower yourself with consumer products. It is exactly the goal of this marketing manipulation to convince you that choosing a type of dress is empowering. While the truth is closer to the opposite.

  • JaMu

    What is the most empowering fashion statement for a woman? Smoking cigarettes. At least that’s what it was in the forties.

  • msreason

    I went to her website, then to her spring 2011 “collection,” but found the photos so depressing I could only stay a few seconds. Every single model there looked so emaciated I wanted to wrap them all in warm blankets and serve them hot soup (although their haughty expressions and surgically altered lips to the point of ridiculousness reminded me that they all probably earn about 100 times more than I ever will).

    I just don’t get the reason for insisting that displaying women’s clothes can only be done on bulimic, unsmiling young snobs. I understand that my viewpoint is tempered by my location (where I live, in rural Wisconsin, you won’t find success in clothing retail unless you devote a large portion of your space – men’s and women’s – to plus sizes, and this is not a good thing either).

    But, in the end, serving up as role models skinny, bitchy-looking women those thighs a child could encircle with one hand can not be healthy for our society.

  • Sandy OHare

    Tom, your questions and general attitude on the show seemed snarky and somewhat dismissive. Do you not wear outfits that make you feel confident or attractive when you go out? I’ll bet you do. Don’t most of us in the western world use material possessions to prop us up: our ipad, our Mercedes, our designer dress or suit. I challange you to think about this before you judge so harshly.

  • http://iheartsecretsociety.blogspot.com Faith Cummings, Brooklyn NY

    Much of the anti-fashion rhetoric on here feels extremely judgmental and angry. Ironically, I’d venture to say any of the anti-fashion posters could site those same reasons for being so anti-fashion in the first place. Everyone gets dressed each day, so unless you are a nudist you participate in fashion, like it or not.

    Personally, I embrace fashion as an opportunity to tell people a story about who I am, but if you don’t, so be it. Fashion is how you express yourself through what you wear, plain and simple. There are many ways to do this with the clothes you have already.

    As humans we all compete between more base and our higher level desires. I’ll admit here that the desire to adorn myself may not be my most lofty. Still, that being said: I am an intelligent person and don’t know why I should be subjected to exile on the fashion-short. After all, like fashion or not, I am still a human. And I guess I don’t like being judged anymore than anyone else :)

  • kevin

    Obviously many of you are not aware that well fitted clothes with quality fabric affects how one feels while wearing them for 8-10 a day.

    Fashion and style is created around fit and comfort , if you cannot afford fine fitting clothes many can be found in vintage clothing stores for pennies on the dollar.

    Americans overeat (one meal enough for 3 people), sit on their ass in front of the TV shoving carbs and are sedentary.

    think about it……

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