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About Those Vagina Costumes

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Why Protesters Love costumes
Foxie Cosmetics

There’s nothing like walking in downtown Los Angeles and seeing a group of people dressed up as vaginas, posing for photos with a group dressed as Wonder Woman, all for a protest march.

Activists have been coordinating clothing since as long as protest has taken to the streets. Suffragettes utilized colors such as green and purple, while the LGBTQ+ movement uses the colors of the rainbow. However, the past century has seen a rise in not just uniforms or matching outfits, but in the use of costumes. Whether it’s replicating pop culture or anthropomorphizing vaginas (which is more common than you’d think), dressing up is on the rise.

The red cloaks and white bonnets from The Handmaid’s Tale are now popular at demonstrations, like a march in March of 2017 at the Texas State Capitol, to address the state’s anti-abortion measures. Whether we realize it or not, we continue to go back to costumes during our protests, sometimes creating new symbols, not simply because it’s fun or creative, but because it works. Costumes are a vital part of social movements, impacting our thinking in subtle but powerful ways. They create images that become lasting impressions of a movement and evoke an emotional response. A picture says a thousand words, after all.

See the clever ways protesters in 2018 are harnessing clothing >>
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Is Fashion All The Same Now?
Outdoor Voices

It’s become increasingly clear that we’re in the middle of a great aesthetic flattening. No matter where you shop for clothing, everything looks the same.

Thanks to the stranglehold that Instagram, that beautiful black hole, has on the creation and consumption of images, trends blossom simultaneously and spread rapidly, one on top of another. The idea of certain styles being “in” or “out” was never particularly helpful, and now it’s practically obsolete. Chokers and deconstructed shirts erupt across fast-fashion sites almost as soon as you’ve registered their existence. Lifestyle startups are nearing a branding singularity. Kinfolk’s minimalist vision of bougie living is everywhere you turn.

The high-fashion circuit is no different.

On Thursday this week, Burberry announced it hired a new creative lead: Riccardo Tisci, former designer of Givenchy and friend of the Kardashian-Wests. For the last 17 years, Burberry has entrusted its creative direction to Christopher Bailey, who took a stagnant British heritage brand known for its khaki trench coats and check scarves and turned it into a symbol of everything cool and tasteful and English. Tisci’s work has been described as “dark, sensual and subversive” — essentially the opposite of a Burberry collection — and in the 12 years he spent at Givenchy, he created haunting embroidered gowns and vicious-looking Rottweiler sweatshirts.

It should seem like an odd pairing, but in light of recent changes in the fashion business, it’s really not. Luxury brands have been swapping designers incessantly over the last few years, and Burberry is just the latest company to install a big name at its helm, irrespective of his synergy with the house’s signature aesthetic.

In January, Céline hired former Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane to replace its outgoing creative lead, Phoebe Philo, a beloved figure for her subtle, elegant, and wearable clothing for adult women. A rock ’n’ roll devotee, Slimane is known for making babydoll dresses (late-Gossip Girl Jenny Humphrey would love them) and skinny, skinny suiting. He also made a ton of money for Kering, Saint Laurent’s parent company. At Céline, he’s already working on adding fragrances and menswear.

Meanwhile, Burberry has been struggling to entice shoppers lately, thanks to a downturn in luxury spending overall and reduced tourist spending. Bailey won the loyalty of British celebrities like Cara Delevingne and Alexa Chung, but Tisci has Kanye and Kim, who chose Givenchy Haute Couture for her wedding dress. Beyoncé wore Tisci’s designs to five straight Met Galas.

Tisci may very well do great things at Burberry, and post-Brexit, an Italian designer with a French professional pedigree is an intriguing choice for a quintessentially British fashion house. Creatives generally tailor their personal preferences to their employer’s history and prevailing look, but brands also hire big-name designers for their signature style. As aesthetics mix and remix, driven by a high churn rate among fashion executives, you have to wonder whether the clothes will head toward some kind of middle ground.

It’s safe to assume that as soon as Tisci unveils his first creations for Burberry, Kim Kardashian will be beaming it across the internet to her millions of followers. That’s why it matters what he does when he arrives there. For the time being, we just have to wait and see. A fresh perspective can jolt the entire fashion industry, as when a virtual nobody named Alessandro Michele became the lead designer of Gucci in 2015 and made the whole world a little more embellished, glittering, and weird. (You can find the influence of Michele’s floral suits and satin bomber jackets at brands like Zara and Forever 21.) Clare Waight Keller’s early work as Tisci’s replacement at Givenchy made critics look at her in a totally different, and positive, light.

Change is good. But the sameness that could come with it would be a bummer.

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From the editor
Warby Parker sunglasses

On Wednesday, Racked editor-in-chief Britt Aboutaleb posted a farewell note to readers: 

Since I started working at age 14, I’ve had at least 17 different jobs, so I can confidently proclaim this one, Racked’s editor-in-chief, a dream. It gave me my first full-fledged panic attack and actually got me to read hardcover books on management, but it was my dream job, and today is my last day doing it.

Lucky for you — and also for me, a loyal reader long before I worked here — Julia Rubin, an extraordinary editor, will be leading a stellar team of editors and reporters into Racked’s next phase. (Stay tuned for details.)

It was a privilege to work with this* brilliant group of women and men who burst with bright ideas, sharp observations, and searing wit (even when the world is falling apart). They didn’t just grow Racked’s audience by 42 percent over the past year, they successfully convinced that audience that there is real substance to the topic of self-presentation, that scripted satire belongs on Facebook, that investigative style journalism must exist, and that adult women getting their news on the internet want to know about the hot new face mask one minute and the Trump administration’s effect on border taxes the next. Radical!

It’s been so great, in fact, that I’m going to take a break from editorial and head behind the scenes here at Vox Media after some time off. It’s kind of like when you take the perfect last bite — dessert is still left on the plate but you relinquish the spoon because you’ve been sated. Team Racked’s work over the past two years has dazzled me, and my heart overflows with gratitude for each and every one of them as it does for you, our loyal readers. Thanks for sticking around while we tried some weird stuff; it’s meant the world.

*Anywhere I refer to our “team,” I mean the entire staff prior to last week’s layoffs and even those who came and went before them. My gratitude extends to everyone who contributed to Racked over the past two years, and those who launched and built it into what it was before me.

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