"An intense interest in fashion and one's appearance is, contrary to the common view that it arises from vanity, as likely to be a form of compensation, the result of shyness and self-doubt, for fashionable dress or a striking appearance provides an armour against the world." -Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams
Elizabeth Wilson's statement that having an intense interest in one's appearance is the result of shyness and self-doubt is certainly quite true in my own case. I first became interested in it when I started a public high school in a place where I didn't know anyone and ever since then that interest has grown into a life consuming obsession. As a child I was always known as being shy but with age I have grown out of that and now have no issues approaching people or starting conversations. Nonetheless I definitely still feel like I use clothing as a way to armour myself against the world. It gives me a barrier, a personality of the day I can fulfill that isn't necessarily my own thus allowing me to detach myself from the people around me. It also allows me to live in a mini-fantasy that can either be completely morphed with my surroundings or living in a world far from the one I am apart of in reality.
"Deep personal concern about the details of one's own clothes may still be supposed to indicate a shallow heart and a limited mind; but serious thinkers, faced with the obvious power of dress even over very profound spirits, have been lead to treat clothes as if they were metaphors and illustrations. To be objectively serious about clothing has usually come to mean explaining what they express about something else. But, just as with art, it is in their specific aspect that clothes have their power." - Anne Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes
As I have been continuing my thesis research and my studies in school the concept of identity and what it actually is has been perplexing me for quite some time now. Through this blog I am trying to create a multi-sensory experience through text and photos that play into the expression of identity (or so I have stated in my current artist statement) yet at the same time I am recognizing that my identity is changing every day. The idea of trying to explain my style in a quick statement terrifies me but I am willing to say that my style expresses who I am while simultaneously allowing me to discover and create who I am.
“One might say that individual appearances in clothes are not ‘statements,’ as they are often called, but more like public readings of literary works in different genres on which the rules are generally understood. A genre naturally develops as groups and indiviuals modify it, but always in terms of previous examples within it and rules that define it. Thus Western clothing is not a sequence of direct social and aesthetic messages cast in a language of fabric but, rather, a form of self-perpetuating visual fiction, like figurative art itself.” - Anne Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes
As Anne Hollander states there are many genre's in fashion that have emerged as clothing has become more accessible to the public through ready-to-wear and at times my outfit for the day is strongly influenced by these genre's. For example there is grunge, skin-heads, punks, skaters, beatniks, hippies, rockers, and of course many many more. Khadijat Yussuff from the blog Youth Savage made the statement "Originality in art and fashion is very difficult to achieve, so instead we strive for original presentation." For you artists out there this is a great break down of the statement drained into our heads by our professors, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."
If nothing can be original because everything has already been done then take what you know and make it your own. This is obviously much easier said than done and there is no guide book you can go to to find techniques and tips to make things "your own", that would pretty much defeat the point. This is where the hard and innovative work comes in and why not everyone has style.
So if not everyone has style yet style is an expression of the self but style is not a set thing then is there even such thing as fixed identity anymore? In my art history courses we study the identities of groups such as the Spartans or the Greeks or the Chinese but it wasn't until really the 20th century that the idea of self-identity even emerged. Before that clothing, society, politics and religion all determined the groups identity and there was little to no room for individual self-expression. Now our lives are dominated by the idea of self-identity and letting everyone we can know about it. But as Hollander stated, "...Western clothing is not a sequence of direct social and aesthetic messages cast in a language of fabric, but rather, a form of self-perpetuating visual fiction...". Is what we're wearing really an expression of ourselves and how we feel or rather how we wish we we're and how we wish we felt?
“Marketing strategy has taken over our personalities and I hate it. Today everyone is in the business of branding themselves, accentuating their most easily grasped and deeply appealing traits. We all have to sell ourselves just to have the right to occupy space in our private and public lives. I am not who I am wearing. I am wearing Me: a bunch of complex and contradictory traits lined up in a body that will age. I am not a brand. I am a multiple of all the Mes inside me. Not memes. Mes. And that goes for you, us, and all of us. It is the return of complex individuality.”
–Dasha Zhukova, editor-in-chief of Garage Magazine
This quote is from the current issue of Garage magazine and was made by the editor-in-chief explaining why they put famous self-portrait artist Cindy Sherman on the cover of the issue and entitled it Vanity. I am very concerned that through this exercise of taking and posting photos of myself all the time and through the marketing efforts that I put into promoting my blog and work that I have fallen victim (or very soon will) to extreme vanity because our society is in the business of branding our-selves today. That not only concerns me on a moral level but also on the level of how it affects what I choose to wear or post on the blog. Are these things that I would wear if I weren't involved with the blog or as involved with the fashion industry as I am? Is this really an expression of me or is it a recycled version of someone or something else that I hope other people will like? At the end of the day I like to think that all the things I am doing, wearing and thinking are things I would do whether I lived in today's world in the culture I am apart of or if I lived 60 years ago on the other side of the world, but of course we'll never know.
"...dress (and in western societies dress is fashionable dress--a continually changing phantasmagoria of styles - ) is socially central, a symbolic system of crucial importance; and that garments as objects, so close to our bodies, also articulate the soul." - Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams
It is true that the clothing offered in our societies is socially central as how people react to it, positive or negative, is the major influence of merchandiser's and advertiser's decisions. It is also why people will often remark that fashion is the reflection of culture at that time period; that is where fashion and style depart ways. With fashion there is the concern of sales, inventory, mass-production and income. With style there is none of these concerns, only those of the individual's desire of self-expression whether that be through clothing dating back to 30 years ago or something straight off the runway, possibly a mixture of both. So can style be original today? Yes. Does style offer us a way to determine our identity? Yes but with mixed meanings. Is there such thing as fixed identity today? I'm really not sure about that one, it's a decision that can only be tackled by the individual in my opinion. Do you think style gives you a way to express your identity or explore other ones?