We’re two days into Women’s History Month and six days shy of the centenary of International Women’s Day. The newly-formed FFB (Feminist Fashion Bloggers), of which I am a member, has decided to honour the occasion with a series of posts and roundtable discussions every Wednesday this month.
Today we’ve decided to begin by honouring a fashionable woman of influence of our individual choosing. Up until yesterday I hadn’t decided upon whom I would focus today’s post. I did spend the entire day in somewhat dour reflection over John Galliano’s hateful and inexcusable tirade and then the fashion community’s lukewarm response.
Leah Chernikoff at Fashionista.com took a stand on the issue and so do I. Designers who make excuses for Galliano’s behaviour are examples of the mindset that made it possible for Hitler to perpetrate his crimes. When powerful people are more interested in self-protection and avoidance than they are in standing up for what is right, evil is allowed to flourish.
Rather than counter-spewing vitriol at Galliano, I’ve decided to focus on a Jewish fashionista. So many to choose from…I settled on a woman who is an innovator, a princess, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
Diane Von Furstenberg
DVF was born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin in Brussels, Belgium, in 1946 after her mother survived the Holocaust. When Diane wed Prince Egon of Furstenberg in 1969 the groom’s family disapproved of the marriage because of the bride’s Jewish heritage. Nevertheless she became Princess Diane of Furstenberg but a royal title wasn’t enough for this dynamic woman:
“The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts.”
Almost immeditately following her marriage DVF began designing womenswear and in 1972 innovated the modern and practical jersey wrap dress for which she has become famous. So influential was the design that it earned pride of place in the collection of the esteemed Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and landed her on the cover of Newsweek magazine in November of 1976. By that time, she had sold five million of her revolutionary garments.
Possibly the only womenswear designer to rival Coco Chanel in terms of a liberating design which spoke to the evolving status of women in society, the humble fashion maven’s motto was simply:
“Feel like a woman. Wear a dress.”
Fashion writer Gill Hart described the appeal of the wrap dress thusly:
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