Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

By August 11, 2017Fashion

Written By: Helena Wares

Recently, Black appropriation has been hitting headlines, but in the fashion industry should there be lines drawn and “rules” that limit what a person wears based on their cultural roots? Trends are constantly changing with what is old becoming new and things that weren’t acceptable to wear in the past becoming the norm.

For example, ripped jeans used to show someone only had worn out work clothes to wear, but now this item is considered stylish?

What about corsets, an undergarment redesigned over the centuries for functional use? Now it’s just a statement accessory that serves no purpose at all.

As the fashion industry developed into what it is today, it was constantly fluctuating between functionality and art. In our time now, it’s fair to say the balance is heavily weighted in favor of fashion without practicality. Unspoken rules that once defined the industry, such as catering to the dominant race back when white people reigned the modern societies and modesty. Now fashion makes anyone within reach its target market and being covered isn’t relevant.

With that summarized introduction, the point I’m getting to is that fashion is so fluid, constantly changing, but always reintroducing old things in a new light. That’s part of the art of it, reinventing an idea that had so many stigmas and stereotypes attached to it and taking it as inspiration. People that truly appreciate fashion applaud the integration of culture into modern wear. Especially in America, a country almost entirely populated by immigrants since its discovery.

In a New York Times article, it was phrased like this:

“Appropriation suggests theft, and a process analogous to the seizure of land or artifacts. In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction… Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.”

The real problem with appropriation is not accrediting styles to their culture, it’s like taking someone else’s essay and handing it in as your own. The essay is just as good a read either way, but if you didn’t write it then you’re just showcasing it. Taking credit for it is theft, referencing it is showing admiration. If you can imagine that in terms of fashion, then you can see when labeling trends as appropriation does and doesn’t apply.

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