When Fashion Uses People of Colour as Props

Fashion ads and editorials in magazines have a long, sordid history of using people of colour as props (sometimes literally). Elle Canada‘s June issue is the latest publication to make this tasteless misstep.


The editorial, “Heat Wave” (pictured above and throughout) was styled by Juliana Schiavinatto, with photography by Max Abadian and Art Direction by Brittany Ecles. It starred model Pamela Bernier as the happy imperialist.

ElleCanada_June2016_racistspread 2

The silly thing (aside from you know, the racism), was that Bernier looked great on her own, as you can see above. With the addition of the other folks in the pictures, she looks like the white person we all know who would describe herself as “worldly,” and enthuse about the delicious “other” cuisine she got turned onto thanks to “the locals.”

ElleCanada_June2016_racistspread 1

Shamefully, Elle Canada does not name the other folks in the pictures. There is a small note at the end of the editorial thanking “Meliá Braco Village and the Jamaica Tourist Board,” but that, I’m afraid, is it.


Don’t believe that using POCs as props is a thing? Check out the list below.

W Continues Fashion’s Tradition of Using ‘Exotic’ People As Props

Fashion Discussion: Black Men as Props

One Of The Most Blatant Racist Photo Shoots We’ve Ever Seen


“You Haven’t Changed At All”-An Ode to Women who Always Wear the Same Thing

In yesterday’s Editor’s Roundtable on Body Image + Beauty Standards, Megan Ryland and Laura Fukumoto spoke about the idea that women are expected to regularly change up their look, and to have more styles and outfits than men. Ryland noted that the fashion industry is largely not hoping to make us feel content about what we have and wear, preferring instead to make us feel perpetually unsatisfied with our wardrobe, since such dissatisfaction can drive their profits.

Image above found here.

While women are always encouraged (by fashion books, magazines, style guides, etc) to stock up on classic basics like a white button-down shirt and the perfect boots, they are also encouraged to engage in following fashion trends and styles. Additionally, as style changes with the seasons, women are largely expected to vary their wardrobe appropriately, adding or shedding layers, switching shoe styles, etc.

The idea that women are supposed to have a natural flair for fashion trends (thus being able to change up their look with ease) is a belief that’s been around for a long time, but arguably perfected during the Victorian era, suggests Ellen Dayuk Rosenman, a professor at the University of Kentucky. She notes in her essay, “Fear of Fashion: Or, How the Coquette got her Bad Name,” that,

Victorian culture perfected a fashion double bind that is still with us today: women are required to invest themselves deeply in their appearance and then derided for this obsession. On the one hand, dressing well was declared to be women’s ‘duty,’ their contribution to the pleasures of society.

– from “Fear of Fashion: Or, How the Coquette got her Bad Name” by Ellen Dayuk Rosenman in Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion eds. Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan

A good example of women and the expectation of style changes are celebrity style evolutions which regularly appear in magazines and on many fashion websites (see links below). This practice tends to not exist as much for their male counterparts. It’s a double standard, based on expectations of what a woman “should” be and look like.

Examples of Celebrity Style Evolutions

Glamour: Katie Holmes

Elle Canada: Beyoncé

Elle Canada: Jennifer Aniston

Chron: Victoria Beckham

While we love a great style chameleon, this post is all about women (specifically, celebrities) whose style never seems to change much. It could be considered a ‘signature look’ or sartorial preference as much as it could be considered an act of defiance. Now, we can never really know what the following women think about their look, but we’ll go ahead and recognize them as rebels at any rate.

Sophia Coppola

Coppola is a BA enough, being one of the few recognizably famous female directors in Hollywood, a huge accomplishment in and of itself. As for her style, it’s a lot of black, white, cream, and grey, with fairly consistent silhouettes and accessories. Her hair pretty much always looks the same, and she’s infamous for wearing flats on the red carpet.

Ellen Degeneres 

Degeneres is amazing, and she always wears suits or similar silhouettes. This tendency is often to the dismay of fashion critics, but we like that she continues to wear what she likes, and what she likes is suits!

Vera Wang


Yes, yes, we know about her wedding dresses, but Wang is pretty great on her own. She used to work for Vogue, then decided to do her own thing, enjoying success ever since. Wang has never been one to steal the spotlight style-wise; she wears a lot of black and neutral colours, flowing layers, and is famous for always wearing black leggings. Her hair never really changes either-always long, straight, and black.


To Top it All Off– A Few Thoughts on Wearing Hats


Images above and throughout: from Buro 24/7

Hats, hats, hats. They are always a bold sartorial choice and turn heads, and yet so many people fear wearing them. Here’s a list of things to get you thinking when it comes to les chapeaux.

Not sure how to wear hats? 

Head over to Making Nice in the Midwest and read Mandi’s guide to wearing hats with confidence.

Once you’re done that, be sure to follow her DIY tutorial on how to make a hat stand!

Who wears hats?

For fun, look up images of famous hat-wearing ladies including Isabella Blow, Anna Piaggi, Lady Gaga, and of course the Royal Family. Now that’s wearing hats with confidence!

Bloggers who are Millinery-Minded

For hat-wearing inspiration that is a little more accessible than Lady G, definitely check out any of the bloggers below-they often wear hats and always look great.

Lady Moriarty

Another Day to Dress Up


Stella’s Wardrobe

Hats in Canada Then

Did you know that Canada actually has quite the history in connection to hats and hat-making. Christina Bates’ essay “Shop and Factory: The Ontario Millinery Trade in Transition, 1870-1930,” found in Fashion: A Canadian Perspective edited by Alexandra Palmer, gives us a glimpse of how important millinery (hat-making) was to Canadian women noting, “by the late nineteenth century, millinery had become a very desirable trade for young women, providing one of the few opportunities for women to participate in the commercial sphere […] millinery shops were the most common of businesses managed by women,” (117).

Hats in Canada Now

Canada is lucky enough to have many talented milliners to this day. Our favourites include Vancouver-based Hive Mind Millinery and Lakrause, which is based out of Toronto!


I know about hats, but what about hat hair?

Ready to wear a hat, but not sure what to do with your hair? Refinery29 did a slideshow of three easy hairstyles you can wear with hats.

Also, check out these street style snaps of 12 stylish ladies wearing awesome hats.

Funny funny

Lastly, just for fun, here is a clip from Community sure to make you laugh. Two words: hat club.

Quick Quote: Thoughts on Identity + Dress

One of the inherent contradictions of fashion, in general, is its ability to both reveal and conceal the identity of the wearer. The dualism inherent in this relationship between artifice and deception on the one hand, and the revelation of the self through dress on the other, ultimately points to the romantic concern with an inner essence and sense of authenticity […] Utilized to search for a romantic ideal within oneself, Aesthetic dress proclaimed one’s unique artistic sensibility, yet also functioned as an emblem of commonality- a sign that one was part of a larger group of individuals with advanced cultural knowledge.

-from “A Domesticated Exoticism: Fashioning Gender in Nineteenth-Century British Tea Gowns” by Kimberly Wahl in Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion ed. Ilya Parkins and Elizabeth M. Sheehan (2011).

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best/Worst Friend?

Okay so with Valentine’s Day just around the corner people tend to get worked up about jewelry: getting it, giving it, wearing it, wanting it, buying it for yourself, etc. Keeping in the spirit of things, we’ve done a round-up of the most interesting information/facts/whatever we can find for all of you with magpie tendencies.

1. Top 10 Most Notorious Cursed Diamonds

We found the image above here.

Diamonds are a girl’s worst friend. Seriously. Talk about a doomed relationship/cursed love!

2. Speaking of notorious, what’s the deal with conflict/blood diamonds?

If all you know about this issue is what you gleaned from this movie, then take 10 minutes of your day to learn about the violence and environmental degradation caused by this trade over at Brilliant Earth.

3. Accessories: what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger?

While there may be some cursed diamonds and gems, many suggest that many gems and crystals have healing properties. Just do a quick search of “healing properties of gems and crystals” and see what comes up. Here’s one example.

4. Got the mean reds?

Check out Hepburn checking out jewelry at Tiffany & Co. in this Oscar-winning performance ’cause Breakfast at Tiffany’s might just be one of the movies to watch if you identify as being a woman in your twenties.

5. Coco Chanel, Diamonds & Feminism

We tweeted about this video last week, but if you haven’t watched it yet, take the three-and-a-half minutes to learn about how the one and only Chanel transformed diamonds into a whole new statement. It’s not your typical documentary clip, it’s very artsy and stylish–sure to satisfy the fussiest fashionist@s.

6. This is what I really think of this ring…

Need a laugh? Take a quick peek at this amusing list of things over at xojane.com that may go through your head with a ring on your finger.

7. Jewelry-phobia: who knew?

In BUST magazine’s Dec/Jan 2013 issue, there was a really interesting article by Raquel D’Apice about her phobia…of jewelry. We can’t seem to find it anywhere online, so borrow the issue from a pal or buy the back issue here.

8. The Canadian Women behind the diamond  industry

Mining and business still have the reputation (very often deserved) of being an old boys club, which is why is is particularly interesting and awesome that Canada’s relatively new diamond industry was really started by a handful of women! Read more here.

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