Shauna Miller, the blogger behind Penny Chic, has been racking up accolades for her frugal fashion brain child. It’s not surprising: Miller’s ensembles are attractive, trendy, and hilariously inexpensive. Instead of mining Fashion week collections for pricey pairings, Miller composes her outfits exclusively out of Walmart clothing.
With post-Recession graduates still struggling to find employment, the lofty fashion visions offered by popular style bloggers feel not only out of reach, but also deeply out of touch. Appealing to an age where interview upon interview is the norm, and new jobs don’t neccesarily come with a new influx of cash, it’s no accident that Miller gives her outfits job-related titles. It’s a smart reflection of a reality faced by many at the cusp of their careers: Young adulthood is sartorially demanding, and student-loan drained paychecks don’t always offer much space to meet those demands.
Miller’s goal is to be a “stylist for the people.” She describes her mission for the blog in a recent Daily Beast article: ”Penny Chic is about the democratization of fashion,” she says. “Nobody’s too good for Walmart. I feel really strongly that it’s not about catering to one audience over another—it’s about speaking to everybody on the same level.”
But mega-corporation Walmart isn’t just a possible fashion hotspot for “the people”; for so many people, it’s also their employer. It’s interesting timing that this blog is blowing up since Walmart is facing a blow-up of their own, one that also pertains to women.
Walmart is the nation’s largest employer, and for the past ten years, Betty Dukes and her colleagues, known as the Women of Walmart, have been fighting discrimination, pay inequity, and promotion inequity faced by female employees at Walmart. According to the National Womens Law Center: “…Wal-Mart’s corporate policies and practices allowed for sex-stereotyping to operate as the driving principle in the pay and promotion decisions for its women employees…. The harmful gender stereotype that women workers are fundamentally inferior to male workers was widely held at Wal-Mart and deeply ingrained in the corporate culture, according to the plaintiffs’ evidence.” (If you have a minute, I seriously recommend clicking the NWLC link above and taking a look at the quotes from the Women of Walmart.)
I want to like Penny Chic. But I have a problem with a blog that is clearly aimed at young women only using clothing from a retailer that is misogynistic and punitive to these same women in the workplace. I take issue with looks titled “Social Worker Chic” and “Architect Chic” that are composed of clothing from a company that says “all women should be ‘at home with a bun in the oven” and tells female employees “You don’t have the right equipment…you aren’t male, so you can’t expect to be paid the same.” (Seriously. Visit NWLC’s Walmart v. Dukes page.) I like, and frankly require, cheap clothing as much as the next girl. But I can’t stand up for purchasing clothing from a retailer who offered this bit of a fashion wisdom to a female employee: “If you would wear lower cut shirts, you would probably get more pay.”
What I can stand up for is the Women of Walmart. Tomorrow, arguments begin for the Dukes vs. Walmart case in the Supreme Court to determine whether female employees at Walmart stores across the country can join together in a class action suit. Designer duds may damage our bank accounts, but the biggest damage by far comes from a pay gap that Walmart is complicit in continuing. So while fashion splurges may not be wise, or realistic, think twice before following Miller’s advice: The anti-woman work of corporations like Walmart costs you far more than you’ll save by picking up one of Miller’s chic Walmart creations.
(DC Feministing folks: Check out this rally to stand with the Women of Walmart, tomorrow! https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=202779026406722)
(Originally posted on asoundthatquakes.tumblr.com)