#AskHerMore at Toronto International Film Fest

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Sarah G. Schmidt's home

September is fashion frenzy. Every year I get to savour fashion weeks and film festivals in equal measure. I’ve already shared my thoughts on New York Fashion Week so it’s time for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). As I leafed through the coverage, I was drawn to one topic. Have you heard about #AskHerMore?

#AskHerMore is a rally cry - and nifty hashtag - from the group The Representation Project to ask women about anything other than beauty centric questions on the red carpet. The group was launched by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. You may know her from her film Miss Representation. The film explored the role of the media as both the medium and the message and how women tend to be misrepresented. What a clever title, right? 

Actors such as Connie Britton, Reese Witherspoon and, most recently at TIFF, Natalie Portman, have exclaimed the phrase #AskHerMore. Regardless of my personal opinions about some of those women’s boring style, I can totally get behind this. While some celebrities have been criticized for their brash, in-you-face dismissal of any fashion related question, wanting to talk about more is understandable.

Red carpet celebrities are provided with many opportunities. One such opportunity is media training. With media training one can learn how to redirect media interview questions into topics that you want to talk about. I personally think that taking the time to prepare and train for working that red carpet should be a priority. And if everything else fails, uttering a movement’s phrase or tagline can’t hurt either.

Some may say, “dress down to be taken seriously.” I believe that’s too shortsighted. And drab. Celebrities have learned that style can play a huge roll on and off the screen. When promoting a project, many work with a stylist to put a cohesive look together throughout a tour. Remember, too, that celebrities have a say in what, and who, they wear. They do this because they want to be photographed, published online, in our grocery stores, and ultimately talked about. What a celebrity wears can help a campaign get traction with our attention. The #AskHerMore campaign suggests fashion, while important, is not all women want to talk about. No shit.

What you wear can give hints or insights into who you are as a person. It can help tell the story of what you believe in and fight for. When used effectively, style can be a deliberate sneak peek into your personality.

I have heard clients tell me that they don’t want their clothes to distract. They also tell me that they want to be taken seriously. On their own, they tend to be more subdued in an effort to appear smart. I suggest that their personality should be included, too. I think women believe that they are too-often asked to choose between fashion and intelligence. The choice is an either-or type of situation. I got to thinking: why?

Amal Clooney is fashionable and brilliant. So too is Tilda Swinton. Mindy Kaling is a fashion darling and beloved writer and entertainer. In these women’s cases, the personal style and fashion they wear amplifies who they are. It does not distract. They can have their cake and eat it too.

Fashion catches the eye. It can help you “show up” in a certain way. Fortunately (or unfortunately) then it’s up to the woman to navigate the conversation not only to what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside.