Wednesday, February 26, 2014

J. Crew Critical Claim Paper

So I'm in a Communications class about writing rhetoric and critical papers on various topic or something like that. I don't actually know what the name of the class is. But we read a lot of Plato & Aristotle. Oh well.

Anyway. A critical claim (brief definition) is just like a contestable statement about a text (book, essay, speech, commercial, advertisement, etc.). For our paper, we had to select an "unconventional text" to make an argument about. Obviously, I picked J. Crew's Spring 2014 line. Below is my essay, in case any of you were curious about how I managed to write 1,000 words on this topic. Which I know you all were.

J. Crew has long been known for its mix of classic style combined with fun trends. They are a more expensive brand, but more affordable than most designers. For this reason, J. Crew appeals to the upper-middle class work force. It is evident by their collections that this is exactly the audience they are catering to. They design casual pieces but also focus on dressier clothes that are easily worn by people who are in the workforce. Their most recent line, released in January, demonstrates a notion that is very interesting to examine in this day and age. J. Crew’s Spring 2014 line of clothing for women suggests that women who are in the workforce should try to imitate the way men dress by incorporating masculine characteristics into their outfits.  
For the purposes of this paper, I will be reading this “text” in a number of different ways. I will be examining the colors used in the clothing, how the items fit, what is noticeably absent from the outfits, and where the pieces are likely to be worn. I will also be examining the look of the models such as the style of their hair and make-up.
One way in which J. Crew demonstrates masculinity in their Spring line is through the look of their models. The selected models do not display physical characteristics usually associated with femininity. They do not have curvaceous hips nor do they have large busts. While they are by no means masculine, because they don’t have bulky muscles or anything of the sort, they do not fit the stereotype of women being curvy, soft, and voluptuous. The models’ hairstyles also lack femininity. They are either pulled back in a loose ponytail or worn down with very little styling making them look more like young men. Their makeup is minimal and not even noticeable in the pictures on the J. Crew website, which also draws away from their feminine qualities. J. Crew is therefore implying that this line of clothing looks best on women whose bodies and styles mimic men’s.
Another aspect that is important to note is that none of the outfits feature any jewelry. J. Crew is well known for creating statement pieces that stand out when worn. However, this trademark look is noticeably absent in their line. It is common for women to wear jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, and bracelets when dressing for the office. Men, however, obviously do not wear jewelry other than watches and rings because of jewelry’s associations with femininity. We would normally expect jewelry to be featured in a J. Crew women’s collection, but it is not present in this particular one. Therefore, we can assume that J. Crew is further demonstrating the idea that women should dress more like men in the workforce. 
Moreover, the actual items of clothing that the designers have chosen for this line are pieces that were originally intended for only men to wear. They feature baseball caps, blazers, collared shirts, tennis shoes, and denim pants. These items are not typically associated with femininity. When these items initially came out, they were marketed as menswear. They symbolized the idea that men should be the ones out in the field working all day doing physical labor or in the office making money for the family. Women were supposed to remain in the house cooking, cleaning, raising children, all while wearing a dress or skirt. Women had no need to wear baseball hats or sturdy denim nor did they need to have professional looking clothing because they didn’t work outside the home. J. Crew is suggesting now, through the use of these pieces in the women’s wardrobe collection, that it’s time women in the workforce break traditional gender norms and wear these pieces that were originally intended for only men to wear.  
            Another way J. Crew demonstrates this attitude is by the way the actual items of clothing fit the models. As I mentioned earlier, the models do not have curves like most women so the clothing hangs on them rather than hugging their hips and waist. The clothing fits away from the body giving a more columnar shape rather than highlighting their curves. Most of the pieces are loose-fitting and give the illusion that the women are flat-chested. There is no cleavage whatsoever even though some of the collared shirts are unbuttoned at the top. The jeans they feature are even called “the boyfriend style” because they are made to look just like men’s denim pants. The clothes in no way make the models look more feminine by accentuating the traditional stereotype that women’s bodies should resemble hourglasses. The fit of these pieces once again suggests that women should dress down their femininity when out in the workforce.
            Of the twelve outfits featured in their 2014 spring line, every single outfit contains colors that are typically associated with masculinity. Colors that are typically associated with femininity such as pinks and purples are noticeably absent from this collection. The colors in this collection are muted and contain shades of blue, black, navy, and taupe. The different colors featured in this collection help the models to resemble men more because they use a color palette that is typically used with men’s suits. The use of these colors once again implies that women should shy away from their femininity in the workforce and conform to norms that are usually associated with men.
As I mentioned earlier, the style of most of these outfits is business attire and imply that they should be worn in an office setting. Through their use of masculine pieces, colors, fits, as well as the models hair, body shape, make-up, and lack of jewelry, J. Crew is implying that women should abandon traditional gender norms when dressing for the office. J. Crew is suggesting that women should not wear clothes that are more feminine in color or that highlight their curves nor should they wear noticeable make-up or style their hair in an elaborate fashion. By designing more masculine appearing clothes for women that are meant for the workforce, it is clear that J. Crew believes that when women are in the workforce, they should dress like men and downplay their femininity.

Hey you read all the way to the end!! That's impressive. I'm not even sure I read the whole thing in its entirety before turning it in. Just kidding I did. Here's a little treat to reward you for reading my paper:

This is Maru the cat. He has stolen my heart. Go look him up on Youtube. The Japanese to English translations are almost as funny as the cat himself. 

Excited That: The items I have ordered should be arriving soon....
Obviously: "No Shop February" was a fail for me. 
Should Be: Practicing my monologue. But I'm not. As my voice teacher put it, I'm a singer who   acts, not an actor who sings.
Planning: A trip to Bloomington to look at their MBA program. But I think I'll wait until it's warm out.
Watching: The Bachelor. Oh my gosh. I can't even sum up my feelings in one sentence, I may need to devote a whole blog post to this. 
Days Until Christmas: 301


  1. Hi! I like your blog! This article was a really good read. I have also noticed Jcrew's more menswear influenced looks. I'm thinking the creative director Jenna Lyons, could be the main inspiration behind that. Not just bc she has creative control, but bc she dresses VERY similar to what you described, a lot of loose tops, with a blazer and straight pant, maybe a pump. Intresting article!

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you like it :) I think you're exactly right about Jenna Lyons influencing this look. I've noticed her more masculine style as well and I'm sure she has a lot to do with it. Good point!


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