By Karen Rempel | Fashion Editor
You might wonder how a simple dress relates to women’s empowerment. This month’s photo series is an all-woman effort, featuring this stunningly simple bespoke dress by Engineered by Andrea T, photography by Tess Malone, and the bronze sculpture Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal. With the controversy over the current US government refusing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment earlier this year, it’s especially important to celebrate women’s equality and successes.
Let’s start with the dress! My friend Andrea Thurlow is an amazing designer and tailor. She was born in Finland, and honed her fashion chops in Stockholm, followed by over a decade in London working for top designers. Now she has her own couture collection and elite clientele. I was thrilled about commissioning the dress from Andrea. It was my first experience of having a custom-made dress since my mom sewed my clothes when I was a young girl. Andrea did a muslin fitting (a “first draft” of the dress in muslin fabric, to test the construction and fit before cutting the final, more expensive, fabric). This fitting was a fun moment in Andrea’s studio, accompanied by a glass of white wine. She made some adjustments using pins and markers on the muslin. At this same meeting, she showed me fabric swatches and we talked about the merits of each. I chose the navy waffle fabric, for its interesting texture and gorgeous deep blue color.
A few days later, I went back for a second fitting with the dress now sewn in the gorgeous cotton piqué fabric. She gave me more white wine while making additional tucks and holding them in place with pins. Unlike my mother, Andrea did not prick me once! 😉 She made the fitting so exact that it hugged my curves in the most flattering way. Even my gay friends couldn’t help but check me out, and said they couldn’t stop looking at my bosom! She also adjusted the length of the hem so that it landed just so on the curve of my leg, to show my calves to best advantage as well. Andrea really knows how to make a woman look and feel beautiful.
A day or two later, I went back to try on the finished dress. Sheer perfection! She lined the dress with skin-caressing silk charmeuse, which whispered along my body as I slipped the dress over my head. So lovely! And the dress itself was sublime, with Andrea’s signature pockets for those moments when I don’t know what to do with my hands. I twirled and the skirt lifted beautifully like Marilyn Monroe’s classic white subway grate dress! Very light and cool for summer, but with a cardigan or jacket this navy dress can easily take me through fall and spring as well. Amazeballs!
Andrea made me a matching mask, with a new twist—a bowtie! So cute! We knew we were going to do a photo shoot with Tess Malone, featuring Fearless Girl, so naturally Andrea made a mask for Fearless Girl as well.
Fearless Girl has had quite an eventful life for a 3-year old. Tess captured us together at our girl’s new location, staring down the imposing façade of the New York Stock Exchange. But she was conceived as an answer to the Charging Bull statue by Arturo Di Modica, at nearby Bowling Green. Fearless Girl was commissioned to advertise for an index fund (State Street Global Advisers, or SSGA) that comprises gender-diverse companies that have a relatively high percentage of women among their senior leadership. The four-foot-tall girl was installed on March 7, 2017, the day before International Women’s Day. She was meant to face down the famous 11-foot-high, massive bronze bull statue near the NYSE, to show that women are taking their place in the highly competitive, masculine-dominated world of high finance. Still, sculptor Visbal commented, “I made sure to keep her features soft; she’s not defiant, she’s brave, proud, and strong, not belligerent.”
Originally intended as a temporary installation, petitioners asked the City of New York to make Fearless Girl permanent. However, the bull’s sculptor, Arturo Di Modica, who installed Charging Bull in 1989, asked that the statue of the girl be removed, arguing that the piece exploited his work for commercial purposes and altered the perception of the bull. Fearless Girl was moved to her new location and unveiled on December 10, 2018. There she delights tourists and passersby, who frequently stop to pose with our darling.
While some feminists criticized the statue as “corporate feminism” for profit, Fearless Girl won three Grand Prix at the 2017 Cannes Lions festival, an international festival of creativity for the marketing community. Bloomberg News reported that the statue resulted in an estimated $7.4 million in free publicity for SSGA. That’s success!
The Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed in the U.S. Senate in 1972 and should have been ratified in January 2020 when the state of Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment. I was a young girl in 1972, but I remember the excitement I felt that the Equal Rights Amendment was going to become law soon. I didn’t understand politics, and I didn’t know that even though the Senate had passed the amendment, it still needed to be ratified by three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures. It just seemed a no-brainer to me that women deserve equal rights. I witnessed the struggle between my own parents as this tidal shift was seizing the collective consciousness. My father was traditional, from “the old country,” and he wanted his wife to stay at home. My mom was a decade younger, and had grown up in Vancouver, a very liberal, forward-thinking city. She wanted to work and have her own life outside the home—she wanted to be her own person. They did their best to reconcile their opposing wishes, but it was a bumpy time.
Over the next five years, 35 states ratified the ERA. But some states mounted lawsuits against the ERA, and five states rescinded. Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative Republican activist from Illinois, organized opposition to the ERA in the late 70s, on the grounds that it would invalidate protective laws such as alimony and tendency for mothers to obtain custody. She also argued that the ERA would lead to women being drafted in the military. I was crushed when the ERA failed to pass. I couldn’t believe it!
Ironically, thinking has changed in the past 40 years, and women have fought for the right to serve in the military. The draft is gone. Alimony and custody laws have changed, to be fairer to people of any gender. But women’s income still lags behind that of men, by a whopping 20%. And you can thank Phyllis Schlafly for that. Her opposition to the ERA set back our financial equality and independence, and I for one think it’s a load of bronze bull caca.
But the fight is not over! In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. The House of Representatives passed a resolution to eliminate the deadline for ratification. I believe this resolution is now stalled in the Senate, and with COVID-19 overtaking the Unites States in March, it might be a while before the ERA gains momentum again.
However, with Kamala Harris making a run for Vice President, it’s an exciting time for women and equal rights for all people. We will get there eventually!
More Deets on the Equal Rights Amendment
The ERA is a very simple amendment putting protection for women and other marginalized genders directly into the United States Constitution. The entire text of the proposed amendment is:
- Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
- Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
- Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
It’s that simple.
For more stunning Tess Malone photos of Fearless Girl and me, see karensquirkystyle.com.
Navy waffle cotton piqué A-line dress and matching mask with bow. Engineered by Andrea T. 147 West 35th Street (by appointment only).
UNOde50 amethyst, leather, and silver bead bracelet. The Oculus at World Trade Center. 185 Greenwich Street.
Karen Rempel has been contributing to WestView News since 2017. She is a photojournalist, technical writer, model, and artist. Her words and pictures have appeared in the literary journal Room, TV Week Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and many other pubs. Her artwork has exhibited at New York’s Salmagundi Club and Revelation Gallery. Visit her blog at loveaffair.nyc and her YouTube channel.