Ask Allie: Feminism and Fashion

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I don’t like wearing pants but as a feminist I feel I should embrace them. I want to be respected for my thoughts and not seen first as a woman but it’s hard to do so in a dress. Any tips on how to incorporate pants into the wardrobe of a petite plus sized apple shaped woman?


feminism radical notion

Feminism, according to Merriam-Webster is, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Nowhere in that definition does it state a woman has to look or dress in a certain manner to achieve that. You can be a feminist and shave your legs, wear false eyelashes, sky-high heels, and skirts and dresses of any length that you like. Feminism has no dress code.

If you want a pair of pants because YOU want them to make YOU happy, then consider:

  • Wide waistbands (they give a smoother look, be your top tucked in or not). A tab-style waistband gives the cleanest look and you don’t have to worry about whether or not a belt is needed.
  • The smaller and fewer the pockets, the better. Pockets add bulk and gape especially on apple figures. If the pants have front pockets, they should be small and not the type that slash open on or near the side seam of the pants. Steer clear of back pockets with flaps and other obvious details.
  • Choose a style without cuffs at the hem. Not only does a cuff shorten your figure, but it’s a detail that can look dated in a couple seasons’ time.
  • If in doubt, choose the size up and then have them altered to fit; tailors can narrow pants at the hips and thigh to better fit your apple figure.
  • Same with length; better to go too long and have a tailor (or even your local drycleaner) hem them to the right length to work with your favorite shoes.

Clothing is only one part of a person’s image and persona. A woman can be powerful, intelligent, a leader, a badass in most anything if she wears it with confidence.

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  1. Great post, Allie. I’m a strong feminist (heck, I even have the woman symbol tattooed on my foot!), and I used to really struggle with balancing my identity as a woman/feminist and my love of fashion/style. I love what you wrote and what Taylor (below) wrote about how to navigate the world of personal style as a feminist. I used to feel awkward about how much I loved wearing dresses or that I liked having pierced ears and wearing makeup, but now I just own it. I wear what I like and what flatters and feels comfortable on my body…and I love it! 🙂

  2. Retailers have tons of pants in different cuts for different bodies. As a curvy girl I highly recommend Nordstom’s “Taylor” style. They have Allison’s suggestions – wide waistband (this year’s style also has belt loops!), no pockets, and are constructed for easy alterations – plus they weigh in at less than $100.

  3. Yes! Thank you for this, Allie! And might I add that you are certainly some kind of Wonder Woman this week posting while you are recovering from your injury. 🙂

  4. Femininity is not at odds with feminism. As a femme lesbian and a staunch feminist, I really hate seeing this notion that the two are not compatible, and I think it is rooted in misogyny and disrespect/scorn for what is coded as female (ie. skirts, makeup).

    To me, it is only “unfeminist” to wear skirts etc if one is wearing them because that is the only option they feel is available to them, and that they must choose so because they are a woman. But to choose to be feminine because it makes you feel good (truly good, not good in a “yes I am conforming because it makes life easier” kind of way), to choose a feminine gender presentation despite all of the shit and scorn that can accompany it…that to me is feminism in action.

    I dressed much more masculine when I first came out, and over time realized that my reasons for doing so were not valid and were misogynistic. I now deliberately choose femme – I feel more myself with a femme gender presentation, and I also like that I show that femme(inine) != straight, that femme is not for the male gaze. Gender presentation is just that – it is not a comment on one’s sexual orientation, competence, strength, feminist views, intelligence, etc.

    I like to expand the definition of femininity – to not equate it with passivity or weakness, but with strength and agency. To me it is a big fuck you to the status quo 🙂

    This is a topic close to home for me, and I hope the person who submitted this question is able to do what works best for her. This is unsolicited advice, but I would suggest she take some time to think about why she prefers wearing skirts/dresses. Because society tells her it’s the right way to be a woman? Or because she genuinely feels like a truer version of herself in them? She will be the best feminist she can be by being the best and most powerful version of herself.

  5. I wear pants more often than dresses and skirts simply because I don’t feel as if I have the kind of legs that look good with the shorter length skirts of today. But, once in a while, I’ll take a chance and wear them with a jacket or special blouse and the DKNY opaque tights you’ve recommended. On the note of tailored pants and with the winter fashion season winding down, I picked up some really nice dress pants at Ann Taylor Loft yesterday for $12.88 each in fabrics that can be worn year-round.

  6. I think the source of this concern is problematic, because this woman seems to feel that what she should do based on others judgments is more important than her own inclinations for fashion. There’s nothing wrong with being a bombshell at all, and nobody should be telling her that there is. Is there a time and place for that? Of course. Is she likely to be taken less seriously at the office if she’s wearing provocative clothes? Perhaps. But those issues are for her to work out, not for anyone else to tell her what she should do in order to be a “good” feminist.

  7. I bet you could also recommend dresses and skirt looks that would not result in her being seen as a woman first, but respected for her thoughts! 🙂
    The days of dressing just like a man are decades behind us, fortunately! I had suits made exactly like a man’s but with a skirt, worn with a button front shirt and bow tie back in the early 80s. Plenty of formidable female thinkers wear more feminine clothing. I think bombshell looks are best avoided, but tailored should be fine!

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