In The Community
The way we live today, with all its consumerism and social norms, can be traced back to the industrial revolution. This period of rapid change led to the rise of capitalism, a system that emphasizes profit and the production of goods on a massive scale.
As capitalism took hold, it brought with it a culture of greed and a constant need to sell and produce more. This drive for profit also led to the birth of many of the social norms and stereotypes we still see today.
For instance, did you know that the color pink was assigned to girls and blue to boys during this time? This was done so that companies could better market their products to specific genders. And it's not just colors. Many of the societal pressures that women face today, such as the expectation to shave their legs and armpits, can also be traced back to the depilatory industry's desire to make women believe that buying their products was a necessity, not just a preference.
Vintage ad for a hair removal product describing having body hair as "embarassing."Wikimedia Commons
Think about it: Why is it considered "unsanitary" for women to have body hair, but not for men? It's because the depilatory industry, driven by capitalism, wanted to create a market for their products. They convinced women that removing body hair was not just a matter of personal preference but a societal expectation.
The term “Plus Size,” which is generally categorized as size 14 and up, has its origins in the early 20th century and was popularized by the women's clothing retailer, Lane Bryant. The company's founder, Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin, was a trailblazer in the fashion industry. She created the first commercially successful maternity dress and was one of the first retailers to offer all-size-inclusive clothing.
However, the term "plus size" soon began to contribute to the labeling of bodies. As the term gained popularity, more retailers started using it to market clothing to larger-sized women. Instead of labeling the clothing, they labeled the women as "plus size" instead. The plus-size section became a secluded category in most retailers, and the term gained even more popularity as it was used to commercialize products.
A vintage Lane Bryant ad advertising "chubby-sized" clothes.Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately, this labeling has also cemented ideas in women's minds that they should aspire to be a smaller size and avoid shopping in the plus-size section. It's a vicious cycle that reinforces harmful body ideals and leads to discrimination against larger-bodied individuals.
It's difficult to say exactly when and why segregated areas for larger clothing sizes came about instead of including clothing in larger sizes with the rest of the fashion. However, one possible explanation is that larger-sized clothing has often been seen as less fashionable, leading to the stereotype that it must be more "modest" and cannot be form-fitting or structured. This bias against bigger bodies may have also led to sheer designer laziness, resulting in clothing that resembles tarps with buttons.
Not much has changed since the ’50s. While many brands are now trying to be size-inclusive, significant work remains to achieve actual size parity. A quick scroll through social media demonstrates the continued fight for size inclusion and the rejection of body shaming.
Models such as Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser have made waves in the fashion industry, and they have continuously been labeled as plus-size models when they are both US size 16. Seeing models bigger than a size 6 in fashion shows is still a rare occurrence.
After model Stefania Ferrario was featured in an advertisement where she was described as a plus-size model, she took to Instagram to ask her followers: Why is the label necessary? In her own words, “I am a model FULL STOP…This is NOT empowering.” She explained that she is proud of her body but didn’t understand why she had to be differentiated from her peers by being labeled plus-sized rather than a model like the rest. On the other hand, some activists believe the term is necessary until all retailers cater to all sizes.
Stefania Ferrario called out the fashion industry for labeling her a "plus-size" model.Source: Stefania Ferrario
Movie Star, Melissa McCarthy has also called for the term to be discontinued. As she successfully launched her own line back in 2015, she challenged the industry by criticizing the use of the term, the segregation of plus size clothing into a separate category, and calling for its ban.
In an interview, McCarthy explained that her vision for her own line was to, “Run the sizes as I make them and let friends go shopping with their friends. Stop segregating women.” she went on, “Women come in all sizes. Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that’s technically ‘plus-size,’ so you’re taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’ I find that very strange,” She ended the interview by stating that designers are over-complicating things by creating different categories.
Clothing companies are taking steps to become more inclusive towards bigger sizes, and one way they are doing this is by changing the terminology from "plus-size" to "extended sizes" or "size-inclusive." This small but significant change is meant to remove the stigma associated with the term and create a more welcoming environment for all customers.
But it's not just about the terminology. Many clothing companies are also expanding their size ranges to include larger sizes, offering a wider range of clothing options to more people. This is a big win for those who have felt excluded from the fashion industry.
Another positive change is the increase in diverse models featured in advertising campaigns and on websites. Seeing models of different sizes, races, ages, and body types is a refreshing change from the narrow beauty standards that have dominated the industry for too long. By promoting body positivity and inclusivity, fashion companies are sending a message that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of representation.
The fashion industry seems to be moving in the right direction toward creating a more inclusive and accommodating environment for people of all sizes. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all bodies are celebrated and represented in the industry.
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Dressed to the nines, defying norms, dancing to the rhythm of jazz, and shaping a revolutionary subculture in the mid-20th century - this was the world of the Pachucas. Not merely fashion enthusiasts, but active proponents of change, these Mexican women boldly stepped onto the stage of cultural history. Let's take a time machine back to the 1940s to the birth of this iconic movement, and explore the legacy of the Pachucas.
The Birth of a Cultural Icon
The term 'Pachuca' is synonymous with young Mexican-American women who belonged to the Pachuco subculture, predominantly seen in the 1940s and 1950s. Pachucas were characterized by their distinctive style of dress and their defiance of conventional societal norms.
A man arrested during the Zoot Suit Riots models a zoot suit and pancake hat in a Los Angeles County jail on June 9, 1943.Original source: Los Angeles Daily News negatives, UCLA Library Department of Special Collections
The Pachuca story begins against the backdrop of World War II, with the "Zoot Suit" riots in Los Angeles. The Zoot Suit, with its high waist, wide legs, and long coat, was the uniform of the Pachuco subculture. The suit was a rebellion against wartime fabric rationing, becoming a symbol of non-conformity and resistance.
The Pachucas adopted this style, adding their own feminine twist with pencil skirts, fishnet stockings, and platform heels. Although in many instances, they opted for wearing the same outfits as the men and wore their hair in high pompadours or styled in a "Victory Roll," further defying societal expectations of a woman's appearance at that time.
Three women, Dora Barrios, Frances Silva, and Lorena Encinas, standing together in a posed group portrait.Image by Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Pachucas didn't just push boundaries with their style; they did so with their dance as well. They embraced dances such as the jitterbug and swing, which originated in African American culture. This was a significant stand against racial segregation and discrimination prevalent in the 1940s.
Pachucas danced with confidence and control, often leading their partners, a role traditionally reserved for men. This direct challenge to the gender norms of the time further established the Pachuca as a symbol of rebellion.
1944 black and white photograph of Ramona Fonseca, a young Mexican-American woman, posing confidently in a stylish zoot suit, representing the fashion and women of that era.Portrait of Ramona" by Shades of L.A. Collection, Los Angeles Public Library, 1944.
The Pachuca movement was more than just about fashion and dance; it was a fight for identity. As Mexican-Americans, the Pachucas found themselves in a liminal space, caught between two cultures. They faced racial discrimination and were often ostracized for not fitting into the traditional Mexican or American female roles.
By embracing the Pachuca lifestyle, these women carved out a unique cultural space for themselves. They refused to be pigeonholed, instead creating a hybrid identity that celebrated both their Mexican heritage and American influence.
The Legacy of the Pachucas
The Pachuca movement left a lasting impression on the world. They were pioneers of their time, making waves in a society that often sought to keep them in their place. Their impact continues to resonate vividly within our modern society. In some cities, such as Los Angeles and Ciudad Juárez, this subculture is not just a page from a history book, but a living, breathing entity, proudly flaunting its continued vitality and strength.
The heart of this culture can be found in areas where Mexican-American populations are substantial, notably in the southwestern United States, such as California and Texas, and in parts of Mexico like Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua.
Pachucos dancing in downtown Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.www.youtube.com
Los Angeles remains a bastion of Pachuco culture, evident in its enduring influence on the city's music, fashion, and art scenes. Events like the
El Pachuco Zoot Suits fashion show or the annual Zoot Suit festival celebrate this distinct style and its cultural impact.
The resurgence of interest in vintage fashion and classic styles in recent years has also led to a renewed appreciation for the Pachuco and Pachuca aesthetic. Their style, a meld of Mexican and American influences, continues to inspire fashion designers today, echoing in the glamor of high fashion runways and the edge of street style.
The Pachucas also contributed significantly to the feminist and Chicano movements, demonstrating the intersectionality of race, gender, and class struggles. By rebelling against traditional gender norms and racial expectations, they paved the way for future activists. Their story has become a rallying cry for those who continue to fight for equality and representation; a powerful reminder of the power of resilience and resistance.
The Pachuca legacy continues to dance through the annals of history serving as a timeless reminder of the power of defiance, the beauty of individuality, and the enduring strength of cultural identity.
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Maybe you’ve come across some of the latest fashion trends that resemble your mom’s closet scrolling through TikTok or at New York Fashion Week and the VMA’s, or even your favorite tia’s yearbook photos or your older cousins' outfits from back in the day. It’s not surprising that many of today’s trends are inspired by different generations of Latinas from different neighborhoods and regions. In reality, some of these fashion looks are actually cultural statements, and for many Latinas, it's an expression of identity and a merging of their multicultural lifestyle.
For most of us, it is a visible validation of self-acceptance and a symbol of rebelling against what is deemed as “trendy” or “acceptable” in the mainstream world.
Intentionally, many Latina-owned brands and designers are curating collections and pieces that not only fit their personal aesthetics but also represent our cultura and the trends they saw their own families and Latina idols wearing growing up. For many of us, it’s more than just a superficial form of expression; it's our legacy and history in a world where some of us are still struggling with identity issues due to colonization, displacement, and erasure.
While the mainstream fashion world may not always give the BIPOC community the proper credit for their contributions to the industry, many emerging designers of color are breaking this status quo and celebrating their own identity regardless if it’s on trend or not. They are doing this while also creating their own opportunities to showcase their art through photoshoots, marketing campaigns, fashion shows, and collaborating with real people from the community to express themselves.
The reality is that Latinas have always been fashion trendsetters and fashion is embedded in our cultura just like our food, music, and customs. Fashion starlets like Rita Moreno, Maria Felix, Bianca Jagger, and Celia Cruz were all trailblazers in an era where most Latinas were not seen as fashion icons. However, these stylish pioneers set the tone for others to follow in their footsteps. Fast forward to the ’90s and 2000’s, fashion icons like Thalia, Paulina Rubio, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Selena, Tatiana Ali, Jennifer Lopez, and Salma Hayek are all responsible for many trends still happening today.
Even though our cultura goes beyond the clothes we wear and what we buy, it's important to validate and express our individuality. Fashion is a form of radical self-acceptance because whether we are on trend or not, we aren’t going anywhere.
Check out these rising fashion brands making their own mark on the fashion world and representing our cultura from head to toe.
This Latina-owned shop is one of the only shops dedicated to curating Latina fashion trends and brands located in the heart of Los Angeles Mid-City. Most recently, they had a pop-up shop during New York Fashion Week, merging the eclectic fashion scene of the two coasts under one roof. A true celebration of what Los Angeles has to offer.
Pauchains is a NYC-based fashion label founded and designed by Paulina "Pauu" Montie. Its unique designs range from sustainably sourced jeans to one-of-a-kind jackets. Their recently archived collection THE MUÑECA COLLECTION brought a taste of Chicana culture to the NYC fashion world. The label is evolving and has plans to curate more bicoastal collections in the near future.
Designed and made proudly in New Mexico, this rising fashion brand creates its own tendencies and fashionably takes nostalgic trends to extraordinary heights. The brand has already garnered attention from many influencers and creatives.
Equihua, pronounced "e-KEE-wah," has taken up space in the fashion industry, and rightfully so. Their eclectic designs like their iconic cobija coats have not only set in motion a groundbreaking trend but have created a definitive cultural statement. Designer, Brenda Equihua created “Portalwear,” which is more than street fashion, it’s a lifestyle. Equihua has opened the doors and given permission to other rising Latine designers and brands to cultivate their own aesthetics and create their own trends. You know an Equihua design when you see it and it’s gained high-fashion recognition as seen on celebrities such as Bad Bunny, Young Thug, Princess Nokia, Yara Shahidi, and more.
The Los Angeles-based brand is designed ethically and from sustainably sourced materials while committing to zero waste. Although fashion is a valid form of artistic expression it is also considered one of the most harmful industries to our environment. Brands like Selva Negra, however, are ensuring they are leading by example and creating products that are carefully curated with the health of the environment and Mother Nature in mind, while also representing our colorful cultura. This size-inclusive brand has been seen all over red carpets and events this past summer.