When Rihanna accepted her 'style icon' gong at the CFDA awards night earlier this week - in a dress, we must add that nobody is going to forget in a hurry - she said what a lot of us might secretly think, that fashion was our secret weapon against the world.
Not just that clothes can be a kind of armour as another style icon, Daphne Guinness, once said of her haute couture and decidedly painful looking outfits, and a way of protecting yourself from the world, but also in the 'my outfit is way more fierce than yours' kind of way.
As RiRi said in her speech,
"But as far as I could remember, fashion has always been my defense mechanism. Even as a child I remember thinking, She can beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit."
It's this fashion as weapon mentality that could be a root cause of the following common and potentially soul crushing fashion experiences: the slow full body look up and down, the dismissive side eye, the stage left mean aside and the full-blown fashion wobbly.
Indeed it's fair to say that fashion harbours more nastiness than other industries (generalising of course, but stereotypes exist for a reason, yes?). It kind of revels in it, look at any of Karl Lagerfeld's zingers about, say, women who wear sweatpants and have therefore obviously given up on life, or any one of fashion's infamous catfights. And definitely read the comments underneath any 'who wore it best' type photo of a celebrity on the internet (don't really do that, hara kiri would be more pleasurable)
And it makes sense - in an industry that is all about appearance and aesthetic, where your worth can be judged by how you dress and who you know - that people will cling tight to any kind of self-esteem bolstering trick at their disposal. Among fields of insecurity, bitchiness does indeed bloom. So those with slippery holds on power and a spot on a best-dressed list might indulge in a little dismissive commenting, or a light brand audit of their competition's outfit, perhaps chuck a terrific tantrum if they're seated in the second row at a fashion show.
So it was refreshing for Rihanna to own up to this fairly unflattering thought - fashion can and is used as a power play.
As Isabel Wilkinson wrote on the Cut,
"Women compare themselves to each other constantly in different arenas, and style is a big one. What Rihanna touches upon is the unfortunate reality that women are not only dressing for one another, but also to win some subtle war against each other."
It's a war that Vogue's newest International contributor, Suzy Menkes (The former style editor of The International New York Times), has had enough of. In her debut column for the magazine this week she denounced fashion's "b*tch brigade".
"I have a very different perception of being a fashion critic. And in my new position as international Vogue editor, here is my mantra: no bitching," writes Menkes, while also managing to repeat every nasty thing that has been said about every celebrity mentioned in her column (don't shoot the messenger I guess?)
Menkes' anti-bitchiness stand is commendable, especially in the way that she is standing up against the currency of snide, and the speed in which it is dealt.
"My personal take on fashion criticism is that I am so happy to see a great collection and give credit where it is due. And if the show is a flop? I try to offer constructive - not hateful - comments. It is about thoughtfulness as opposed to meanness and analysis rather than knee-jerk reaction," writes Menkes.
And you know, the rise of the nice fashionista - officially condoned by Vogue- this season would truly be a wonderful thing.
Because if you feel OK about your outfit, and indeed your own life choices, you have less need to criticise or be cruel about other peoples. Which means that you have more time to focus on being creative, and honing your own unique identity through what you wear and admiring the way others find theirs.
Besides, the camaraderie that comes along with a shredding someone doesn't really last that long, the adrenaline rush of a truly great burn fades pretty quickly. And being mean on the internet is, well, that's very last season.
- DAILY LIFE
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