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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Fashion and Academia.

'I'm a perfectly bright and hard-working woman: I've got a degree and I've read proper books: I also feel a surge of excitement from taking the lid off a pot of creamy new moisturiser or tearing the tissue from a great new dress that's just arrived in the post, and it really pisses me off if anyone thinks this dilutes my intellect.' This is the comment that really spoke to me in Victoria Coren Mitchell's monthly column for ELLE Magazine.

The time I went a bit crazy in NYC.

Growing up, I was very much a fashion and beauty kind of girl. Testing beauty products and bulk-buying clothes made me feel confident at a time when most young girls feel incredibly insecure. It was at this age when my love affair with perfume, nail varnish, and luxurious moisturisers began. At the same time, I wasn't at all confident in my academic ability. All my friends seemed to be perfect academic all-rounders while I exceeded solely in the humanities: English in particular. At times, my obsession with beauty products made me feel even more inferior and less intellectual. As Coren Mitchell discusses in her thought-provoking article, women in our society are thrown into two distinct categories- the shallow 'fashion' girls and the frumpy academics. Yet this inherent prejudice isn't true in the slightest. To even suggest that fashionable women are intellectually inferior for being so is incredibly narrow-minded and insulting. Without a shadow of a doubt, we still function in a patriarchal society where women have to fight much much harder for recognition and are labelled 'bitches' for doing so. We're also expected to conform to some distorted ideal of beauty and our bodies are also subjected to relentless catcalling and unwanted attention. Yet when a woman takes pride in her appearance and makes an effort to look stylish, she's labelled superficial and vain for taking an interest in what she's wearing. It all seems like a effort to put women down no matter what we do. We're dowdy or superficial, bossy or overlooked. It's an impossible situation.
                  In which case, fashion and beauty then becomes a suit of armour. The way we present ourselves in our everyday and work lives is how we want the world to see us. I think I'm like a lot of women when I say that I acknowledge the season's trends but fail to stick to them religiously. I wear what I want because it makes me feel confident - and as we live in a society that tears women's appearances apart, confidence really is key. There's nothing wrong with enjoying fashion. Hands down, I'm a consumer - I'm always after some new garment or must-have beauty product. But that doesn't make me stupid. It doesn't even mean that I've been conditioned to want these things - like so many women, I like the luxury of it all. Buying a new nail polish or a sought-after skirt is a little treat. An indulgence. In the same way that a stereotypical guy might buy a pair of football shoes or some gimmicky gadget. I enjoy being girly. I love going shopping with friends and buying something really great. And I'm usually a good judge of what I'll get plenty of use out of in comparison to the fad trendy piece. My boyfriend teases me to death about this, but I love coming home with plenty of shopping bags - hopefully arriving guilt-free too. I find it so satisfying knowing that I found pieces that will really benefit my fashion and beauty regimes. 
Yet my love for fashion has never had any relation to my academic ability. I achieved straight As at A-Level which was pretty damn hard and I shopped the whole year long. If anything, I found it therapeutic. After a long day of studying, it was uplifting to home to a Topshop parcel. Obviously, I didn't go too crazy on the shopping front - I simply didn't have the funds! But a quick glance at the ASOS website was always enough to lift my spirits. I love the way new clothes or a new beauty product make me feel - confident and refreshed. Like you're ready to take on the world in your fabulous new skirt and lipstick. I'm aware of how ridiculous this may sound to some, but if fashion is what gives me confidence in myself - both physically and mentally - then that's not something I'm ashamed of. In order to survive in this day and age, women need to be confident in their abilities. Buying clothes that boost my self-esteem at a critical point or just make me feel better about things in general is my secret weapon. My love for fashion is just part of who I am and certainly doesn't affect my intellectual capability.
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