The Closet Feminist is the newest addition to rabble.ca’s blogging network. TCF focuses on the intersections (or lack thereof) between fashion, style, dressing-up and feminism. We hope you like this smartly dressed and smartly written blog that examines the connections between what we wear and what we mean.

Elle Canada recently caught our eye with their June issue. While the editorials were uninspiring and lacking diversity, we were majorly impressed by their two (!!!) articles on racism, cultural appropriation, and fashion. The first is called “Undressing the Dragon Lady” by Jennifer Lee, questioning the Orientalism and appropriation we’ve seen in many 2013 collections from various designers.

But considering it was mostly Caucasian designers presenting those Far East looks on white models (for example, only 10 percent of models on runways at fall/winter 2013/2014 New York Fashion Week were of Asian descent), where is the line between inspiration and appropriation?

— Jennifer Lee

The second article (incidentally right next to the first in the print issue) by Kelly Anderson called “Idle No More,” did a quick review of recent examples of cultural appropriation of Native American traditions — unfortunately, she had her pick from a plethora of highly offensive examples we’ve seen in the past year alone (including the notorious magazine cover featuring Michelle Williams that AnOther Magazine put out recently). Anderson goes on to remind us why exactly fashion’s appropriation of Native American motifs is problematic, since so many in the fashion world just don’t seem to get it.

It’s disheartening that so few people are aware that headdresses, bonnets and totem poles are still spiritually relevant to vibrant Native cultures. To glamorize-or make light of- the misuse of dated and cartoonish images is to support a legacy of genocide and racism.

— Kelly Anderson

These progressive, thoughtful, and appropriately critical articles show that Elle Canada isn’t afraid of discussing a taboo topic in fashion; it’s important for those with power in mainstream media to be discussing these issues.

It’s also a step forward for Elle Canada itself. Only last month the magazine published a very Orientalist fashion spread, echoing the exact same mistake made earlier this year by Flare magazine in their March 2013 issue. So here’s hoping that they will keep these two amazing articles in mind when planning future issues — the articles by Lee and Anderson are really, really good pieces, and we hope to see more steps forward in other Canadian fashion magazines to come.


This article was originally published on The Closet Feminist earlier this month.