Fashion has never had what you would call a “tight-knit relationship” with feminism. The associations are seemingly irreconcilable. Feminists traditionally don’t stand for materialism; the fashion industry doesn’t stand for frumpiness. Yet it’s hard to argue that fashion isn’t a very real form of self-expression. What we purchase, and how we put those pieces together, is a very tangible statement about who we are and how we want others to see us. Fashion is a way to communicate your identity, whether you’re a feminist or not.

Allison Farrand/Daily
School of Art & Design senior Melissa Weisberg, left, lightens up ankle boots and a vest with printed scarf.
Allison Farrand/Daily
LSA junior Alexis Miedema, right, mixes preppy basics with brown lace-up boots.

What we’re seeing, on the runway as well as on the streets of Ann Arbor, are women dressed in military inspired clothing, from lace-up boots to brass-buttoned jackets. On the runway for the Fall 2013 season, Michael Kors showed women dressed in camouflage mink coats and goggles. Charlotte Ronson, Rachel Roy and Rebecca Minkoff all were inspired by military style. Prabal Gurung perhaps took the trend most literally, limiting his entire collection to army green as the primary color. According to Fashionista.com, Gurung drew his inspiration from the measures the U.S. military has taken to adapt their uniforms to the growing number of female troops. Other articles, however, say that Gurung was inspired by an all-female conclave in the Carpathian Mountains where “women are supposedly trained in the martial arts to build self-confidence and are generally empowered to combat a culture of gender inequality and sexual trafficking.” While the article notes that this conclave’s existence is questionable, it’s certainly a statement regardless. Male and female designers both created clothing for the powerful women they were inspired by.

But this trend is hardly new. In World War I, British soldiers needed coats to keep them warm in the trenches, and Thomas Burberry is credited for designing the first ever trench coat. By the 1940s, the trench coat was deemed a stylish piece. Since then, military-inspired styles have been seen on the runway, from U.S. army jackets in the 1970s to combat boots in the 1990s.

Military style today has been stripped of any meaning in support of the military (if anything, it’s most likely ironic); instead, military-inspired clothing makes a very specific feminist statement when it comes to fashion. Trench coats and camouflage pants don’t exactly scream sex, and women are literally buttoned-up or laced into their clothing. It’s utilitarian and, furthermore, it’s definitely not a style that’s worn for the attention of a man. This is women dressing for women at its finest. This type of clothing, in its androgyny, effectively obstructs the male gaze.

Women have been dressing like this for hundreds of years, wearing clothes that have no explicit sex appeal and that make references to women in heroic roles. This is nothing new, yet the fashion industry and feminists are still not on the same page. It’s interesting that college women are overwhelmingly adopting this trend and communicating a very specific identity. It’s by no means overkill; one small piece, from leather shoulder panels on a military green jacket to brown lace-up boots, delivers the message. I think we’re finally seeing the start of not just the military trend coming back into style once again, but also the eventual unification of fashion and feminism.

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