September marks a full year of #fashiontruth, ModCloth’s campaign to promote truthful representation of women in fashion. We started with a pledge to never abuse PhotoShop, then hit New York Fashion Week ‘14 to bring our message to the people… and the people were ready to hear it! Since its inception, we’ve had 11,000 uses of the hashtag. We’ve held meme contests, filmed videos, and even given our employees a little modeling experience. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve been lucky to be there pretty much since the beginning.
I’m Sarah, btw, a Social Media Specialist here at ModCloth. During #fashiontruth, I had the best, and perhaps the hardest job: to comb through the thousands of entries and help determine our monthly blog features. I saw #fashiontruth photos ranging from the hilarious (a hedgehog in a headband? Sure.) to the awe-inspiring. Our community is vibrant, diverse, and honest, but most of all, it is full of passionate people who crave a change. No hashtag campaign can completely overturn injustice, or repair long-standing ills, but it can raise awareness, promote discourse, and perhaps most importantly, let people know they’re not alone.
I could write volumes about the nine exceptional women who became our #fashiontruth monthly features. Some have amazing energy that seems to leap off the screen, like Emily, a photographer and our first #fashiontruth feature, or Brittney, an art director with a serious love for glitter and a heart of gold. Other features, like eco-fashion blogger and mom Jennae, and nature conservancy advocate Amy, remind us that style and substance aren’t mutually exclusive. And still others have powerful life stories, like former nun and current burlesque dancer Amala, or Adisa, a fashion blogger and Bosnian refugee whose past struggles inform her present optimistic outlook.
Do you feel my predicament? Picking just a few #fashiontruth features to talk about in detail is like picking individual friends from a crew chock-full of the brightest and best. I can’t play favorites, because they’re ALL my favorites, but I am going to highlight three women whose stories truly touched me.
We all know a person like Rachel. A nurse and mom, Rachel is vivacious, hilarious… as I said in my blog post, the kind of lady you want to get a margarita with. But beneath her joie de vivre is an unconquerable spirit that can survive life-changing circumstances. About a year ago, Rachel was involved in a car accident that fractured her spine and severely damaged her intestines. She woke up to find she had an ileostomy bag; her doctors had disconnected her colon and made a hole in her abdominal wall, pushing her small intestine through it to create an outlet for waste.
What gets me about Rachel is this quote, which I think sums her up perfectly: “I have no shame, and after healing, I was on the beach four weeks later! I’ve shared my party trick with just about everyone.” And why should she, or anyone, feel shame about our bodies, which are so often out of our control? With her nurse’s sense of curiosity and her own unflappable outlook, Rachel has made it her mission to educate people about ostomies of all kinds, even going so far as to give an “ostomy score” to the products she reviews on ModCloth! As I was preparing her blog post for publication, Rachel mentioned she’d like to include a picture of her ileostomy bag, saying, “I figure that’s one helluva #fashiontruth!” And man, was she right. The picture she provided us shows so much truth: her vulnerability, the trauma of her accident, but above all that, her beauty and her strength.
Rye has been on my radar since I began working at ModCloth on our community team, where we review submissions to our Style Gallery. I’m proud to work at ModCloth for a number of reasons, but our ethos of acceptance and inclusivity is top of list. So when Rye submitted a picture to the #fashiontruth contest with the caption, “5 years ago today, I came out of the closet. Today, these are the clothes that came out of my closet,” I knew it was time to give our Style Gallery star the spotlight.
Of course, I was apprehensive. The world can be a cruel place to anyone who finds peace outside the norm, and I hated the thought that we might open Rye up to so much negativity. But I realized in working with Rye (though she never mentioned it), that this negativity is nothing new to her — that waking up every day and just trying to be the best version of herself is a struggle that I, as a cis-gendered person, will never quite grasp, though I am deeply sympathetic. As Rye said, “People need to let go of the idea that they have to fully understand trans identities in order to have support and compassion.” Plus, Rye’s a stand up comedian, and if anyone can handle attention, it’s a lady who climbs up on stage and dares to tells the truth, for laughs (her first album Intimate Apparel is fantastic, and available on iTunes).
I was floored by the responses we received when Rye’s feature went live. I had braced myself for the negative comments, but what I hadn’t fully considered was the outpouring of support and delight we got from community members and those new to ModCloth. I am so thankful to Rye for having the courage to stand up and educate the world about trans issues, and I’m glad I got to play a small part in that ongoing struggle.
Abby is a bright and eloquent anglophile with a whimsical sense of style (her pattern mixing is pro-level, as far as I’m concerned). Born in the states, Abby moved from Portland to Moscow to Berlin and back, loving her life abroad but also feeling the isolation that accompanies an international lifestyle, and a chronic health condition. In her words, “I’ve never been a particularly healthy kid, but going on two years ago… I started to become really ill and doctors diagnosed me with a severe neurological-autoimmune condition… I’m essentially home- and wheelchair-bound — I rely on my mom for just about everything.” Knowing this, Abby’s #fashiontruth really strikes deep: “You are the only reason you need to get dressed up.” Abby said there are times when no one sees her except her parents and nurses, and self-care can seem pretty futile. But she takes comfort in her clothing: “[Clothes] make me feel more confident and more like myself. I think a lot of people who are seriously ill have a hard time holding onto that sense of self, and if getting into a skirt makes me feel the tiniest bit more like maybe I am still Abby… well, it’s worth it.”
I’ve been fortunate in my life to meet many kindred spirits, and Abby has a high place among them. Though we have a lot of the same interests and hobbies, we also have some Big Important Things in common too, despite our different backgrounds. Abby described a moment in her life that perfectly echoed my own experience in self-discovery: “When I was younger, I had a growth disorder… which basically meant that when I was 14 or 15, my bones said I was 11. I definitely didn’t look like the rest of my peers, which was an utter disaster to an extremely socially anxious introvert in a foreign country who already felt isolated. The last thing I wanted was to stand out. In exposure therapy, you repeatedly do things that you fear, until you reach the point at which they cause less anxiety. My clothes became a kind of exposure for me. I remember wearing these cropped pinstripe pants and patterned knee-highs. It was incredibly stressful, but liberating choosing not to fit in for once.” I had that moment in high school too. I’ve struggled (as so many have) with perceptions of my body, feeling marked, isolated, and othered because of it. And one day, fed up with trying to crack the code of what everyone else wanted, I asked myself, ‘what do I want?’ and began to dress how I liked, act how I felt, and be who I was, inside and out.
With #fashiontruth, we wanted to throw the doors to the fashion world as wide open as they could go, and celebrate all the amazing women who express their best and truest selves through their own unique style. Though we’re retiring #fashiontruth as a campaign, we maintain the spirit of it in all that we do. Oh, and my #Fashiontruth? Fashion should be a place where all are welcome.
+ #Fashiontruth might have come to an end, but we still want to hear from you! You can always share your thoughts, feels, and signature style with #ModCloth here, and on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.