Freedom of choice.
For some, the decision to choose how you what to express yourself is not accessible. Many of us experience this at least once. It might be stringent work dress codes, school uniforms, or that black tie event you just don’t know how to work around. In some cases, failure to meet these dress requirements can result in bodily harm or death. As extreme as it sounds, in some parts of the world cultural norms mean that Fashion can really be something ‘to die for’.
Tala Raassi memoir ‘fashionista is freedom’ was- in some ways- deeply personal to me. My dear friend who encouraged me to start this blog was, like Raassi, from Terharn Iran. She, a powerful and fiercely independent scientific type, spent her time here in Australia dealing with her own fashion freedoms. Her battles enabled me to draw parallels between what I was reading and what I experienced through my hijab wearing friends time here on the Sunshine Coast.
Fashion is more than fabric.
Raassi is an Iranaian who serendipitously was born in the USA but grew up mostly in Terharn Iran. A bit of a boundary pusher, she deeply loved her country, family, friends, and fashion. Her teenage experimentation, under strict Iranian laws, often meant Raassi was teetering on the edge of trouble. However, one evening her decision to wear a short skirt and attended an illegal co-ed party resulted in serious consequences.
Running from police in heels, Raassi was detained for five days in prison for her outfit, and the decision to party with members of the opposite sex. It doesn’t seem like much, but reading Raassi story of normal teenage experimentation, and empathetically putting yourself in her runaway heels, makes this part of the book a chilling read. It could be any one of us in this situation, locked up for the sake of a fashionable skirt and a night out with out friends.
Raassi drama didn’t end with an easy prison release. Her, and her friends, we’re lashed, forty times. On bloodied prison sheets by a female guard who promised to do it gently.
From that point on Raassi life was changed. Her mother moved her to America where she deeply missed her Iran. While freedom of expression she discovered in USA was something she desired, leaving her cultural heartland was a difficult adjustment. She found herself through a love of fashion and followed a tumultuous path to chase her dreams of being a designer.
She fearlessly shared her story of her detainment and lashing in the western media with hopes it would help women find freedom through fashion.
Unfortunately she found herself in the centre of a political and religion based debate despite her desire to avoid such attention (she admits these are not strong points for her knowledge). Her mission as a designer and an Iranian woman is to highlight that women should be free to to choose their own clothing, whether it’s a burka or a bikini. As a prominent swimwear designer Raassi has copped some flak about her revealing designs.
My fascination with this read was the cultural norms and what they mean for the way we express ourselves.
The beautiful Iranian scientist I know actually faced some pretty serious and scary moments of her own here in Australia for being too covered up. Her decision to wear religious coverings in a very Western and beachy place didn’t result in a physical lashing, but there were unkind words directed at her. We even experienced physical abuse when I was out with her one evening.
While I can’t really speak directly on behalf of my friend, or Raassi, there is no denying that culture and social norms can be stifling and sometimes dangerous (whether it’s persecution for wearing too much or too little or even loosing your job for dressing inappropriately).
Raassi struggle and bull-dog like persistence to pursue her dreams hit home for me. As someone who passionately persists (around the clock) to make her sustainability education fashion related dream a reality, I could see my own successes and failures in her tales.
I highly recommend this book as a read for those who are convinced (or need convincing) that fashion is a powerful method of communication. It’s likely that post read you will want to don your Sunday best and face the world like the fearless, stylish, and brilliant human that you are.