4 Times Fashion Proved It Can Actually Be Forward


Nadia Aboulhosn on the cover of Women’s Running (Image courtesy of Women’s Running)

THE OTHER DAY, I was perusing the kids’ section of Ross. You know, as one does when one needs a white tee and would rather squeeze into cotton cut for a husky 9-year-old boy than brave Banana Republic prices or that one super-aggressive song that loops at Forever 21 about being “worth it.”  And as I tried to be cool and blend in with the natives, slouching and brainstorming fart jokes in case I was called upon to prove my mettle, I overheard one little dude lamenting to his mom: “But pink is my favorite and nothing here is pink.” In response she looked pained — which, to be fair, is the only sane way to look when shopping with a 9 year old boy — but I think I detected something a little deeper than that. Her son was feeling alienated, or at the very least disappointed, and in that moment there was nothing she could do about it. OK, not nothing. She could go across the street to Old Navy, or head home and place an online order, or launch into a heated diatribe about gender politics and consumerism based on conservative ideals, but come on. He wouldn’t have been able to sit still through that. It’s hard to orate convincingly when your lone audience member is wearing a SpongeBob snapback intent on flipping his eyelids inside out.

The Pink Shirts Incident bugged me. It still bugs me. Sometimes fashion — a generous term, I realize when applied to Ross, but hey, I’m a thrifter; any store that doesn’t sell clothes by the pound is downright luxe! —  does in general. For such a so-called “forward” industry, it sure can have an archaic way of pushing things back. Here are a few rare, recent times when it doesn’t, quite. Hey, baby steps.

Zara’s Recent Androgynous Line

European import boutique Zara definitely has a knack for making you feel like a pasty, uncultured slob. With the launch of Ungendered, their new androgynous line, you can now feel like a pasty, uncultured, cisnormative slob. Responses haven’t all been positive — critics are calling out the franchise for stocking the line with mostly nondescript baggy workout and lounge clothes. While, yes, it might seem a little eye roll-inducing to drop your hard-earned cash on pieces you could probably just pilfer from your dad’s closet, here’s hoping that the ‘normcore’ advent of Ungendered is simply a jumping-off point, paving the way for kilts and floral tuxes and all kinds of other things I’m nowhere near cool enough to pull off.

Madeline Stuart’s Groundbreaking Bridal Shoot

Madeline Stuart is the first-ever supermodel with Down syndrome to star in the first-ever wedding shoot that didn’t make me feel like vomming and recommitting to a lifetime of cats. Homegirl is blazing trails left and right. While any other spread portraying an 18-year-old promising her life to someone before she’s even able to legally contemplate this decision over a vodka soda (or six) would slam the snooze button on my biological clock, what can I say? I’m a sucker for Madeline’s ear-to-ear grin (check out her co-stars — can you blame her?!). I also respect her belief that “through modelling [she] can change societies view of people with disabilities… exposure is creating awareness, acceptance and inclusion.”

Nadia Aboulhosn Women’s Running Debut

 All bathing caps off to plus-size models Robyn Lawley and Ashley Graham for serving some serious face on Sports Illustrated notorious swimsuit issue, but I think Nadia Aboulhosn’s recent cover on Women’s Running is extra cool. Rather than posing provocatively in  bikinis — admittedly hella cute bikinis — and at least partially catering to the male gaze, Aboulhosn is shot decked out in the kind of ultra-comfy leggings we all w̶a̶t̶c̶h̶ ̶Th̶e̶ ̶W̶a̶l̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶D̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶ ̶D̶i̶g̶i̶o̶r̶n̶o̶’̶s̶ ̶ jog in, blithely putting in work for her health and wellness. Aspirational, if not quite relatable, because tbh I’m approximately as likely to work out with a smile on my face as I am to writhe around on the beach in lip gloss and heels. But still, get it, girl.

New Branding for Plus Size Guys

Speaking of smoking hot plus-size models, why should the ladies get to corner the market? All whiny mansplaining overtones of the previous sentence aside, check it: The quietly growing plus-size male model contingency has coined a new term in conjunction with the recent rise of IGM model, husky-hunk Zach Miko’s star. “Brawn” is the male equivalent of‘ “curvy” — the latest industry buzzword in a proud tradition of monikers meant to accommodate and celebrate a wider variety of body types while inevitably stirring controversy as well. Which is always a little mind-boggling. What kind of weirdo actually sits down at their keyboard to debate what constitutes “voluptuous” versus “fat”?

(Then again, what kind of weirdo surreptitiously moves a stack of pink tees from the girls’ section to the boys’ at Ross? We all have our quirks!)