Fashion: Liberation or Suffocation?

Hollywood Fashion finds its way onto southern France’s dusty side streets.

What is a tiger without his coat? What is a rhinoceros without her fine hide? Stripped of their outerwear and faced with the organic ugliness of their own exposed form, perhaps they too would run in shameful despair as man has done since the dawn of his own fur-less existence. The bringer of warmth and beauty – from vibrant early Indian silk Saris, Babylonian tunics and Elizabethan corsets to leg warmers and leggings – for man, the wonders of dress have never ceased. Catching a glimpse of the enviable warmth of those curious animals that surrounded them, it was the Neanderthal who first stole the cow’s winter jacket and the Eskimo who first snatched the coat from the caribou, yet so too began the endless search for the self through clothing, for as much as we may have profited from pilfering their warmth & camouflage, internally we still remain neither caribou nor cow.

As creatures unable to outwardly exhibit the true organic nature of our being, it seems that we are in constant conflict with the clothes that we wear. Clothing has become a medium for exploration of the self and one’s own identity, but unlike the carefree cat who dozes at our feet in his irreplaceable feline coat that at once reflects his individuality & his parentage, rather than being free to leave the house in our birthday suit, we humans must conceal ourselves behind cloth, toiling and troubling each morning over our own identity and how our appearance may best reflect who we are both as individuals and members of society.

Fashion across the globe

The Maasai tribe in Kenya are threading the last stone gems of their alluring beaded costumes, at the same time, Lady Gaga is bravely sheltering her nipples with a slab of beef to complete her famous butcher’s chic for the 2010 MTV video music awards; back in 2001, Alexander McQueen is apprehensively putting the final creative couture touches to his VOSS fantasy vision where moths and chaise longues will meet with the stylistic precision that only a true needle-worker can procure, while across the ocean in 50’s Paris, Coco Chanel is finishing the draping of exquisite pearls and the hemming of lace skirts to complete a collection that would soon epitomise the understated elegance of Parisian style before the monumental opening of her new post-war fashion house. So fashion remains central to social structures, it is at the forefront of every nation, perhaps even every civilization and in the eyes of many, is an art form that -like any other- is an embodiment of society as much as it is of the artist and the self.

Does fashion feed vanity or does it feed the soul? Does it reveal as much as it conceals? In an effort to conform to the communities in which we are immersed and to society as a whole, through clothing & appearance are we stifling our own inner identity? Or rather, is fashion a liberator, enabling us to reach new levels of freedom, creativity & avant-garde self-expression through dress?

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Colour splashes theatrically from designer make-up palettes as oriental & western fashions fuse.

‘Fashion should be a form of Escapism, not a form of imprisonment’ – Alexander McQueen

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Hoodies, shimmer dust & kaleidoscopic colour mix surprisingly to bring a new edge to gangster chic.

‘What fun is it being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero?’ ― Bill Watterson

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Changing perspectives- fashion photography seeks to question perceptions on the ordinary.

Fashion & Identity

 

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Iridescent shades work their psychedelic charms in the avant-garde wardrobes of haute couture‘s crème de la crème. 

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‘The boor covers himself, the rich man or the fool adorns himself, and the elegant man gets dressed.’ – Honoré de Balzac

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Garlands & glitter dance among the crowds as Boho-chic seeps its chilled hippie hands into European summer festival trends.

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Polka dots & bonnets propel 1960’s summer style into the 21st century.

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Buttercup-yellow flowers, extravagant hats, multicoloured scarves & golden bracelets – accessories become any fashionista’s voguish indulgence of choice. 

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‘There is one other reason for dressing well, namely that dogs respect it, and will not attack you in good clothes.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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From rock style with a floral twist, Lolita fashion & Cosplay to lace stockings & mini skirts- the Japanese continue to further their innovative ways in the fashion world, dominating the streets of Asia with contemporary kimono-chic & school girl glam.

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Imperial Chinese (Qing Dyasty) taste returns as Qipaos make their glitzy retro reappearance on the catwalk.

Exploring inner & outer reflection of the self through fashion & design.

Exploring inner & outer reflection of the self through fashion & design.

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Prada power reaches its well manicured ruby claws all the way from Milan across to Shanghai’s illuminated fashion conscious courtyards.

Photograph for Prada by Stephen Meisel

Photograph for Prada by Stephen Meisel

Visit Stairway to HeavenPetra Colins’ blog if the realm of fashion photography intrigues you.

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22 thoughts on “Fashion: Liberation or Suffocation?

  1. Love this page, it has a very high and positive frequency to it. Hi I’m Shawn, you started following my WordPress page, sorry there’s not much to it. I actually signed up while checking out my son’s 10th grade English teacher’s website. He is awakening just like you and I. I’m very glad to know that your are on the path to enlightenment or at least double chocolate cake ;0).
    My journey seems to keep returning to the exploration of opening my chakras and eventually the third eye as well as topics like Horace (Thoth) and the Emerald tablets, the Atlaneans, the Tree of life and the flower of life. I left my email address for you if you feel we can share our findings in this strange thing called life. I thank you for your interest in me and would love to continue communicating with you :0) Good’ay -Shawn
    P.S. did I mention yet that your page here is very uplifting? Oh, I did. Well it’s worth mentioning twice…heh heh

  2. First of all, you are a phenomenal writer! I am sure you know that, but I had to tell you anyway! 🙂 I really enjoyed this post. So many people believe that the fashion industry, as a whole, is the culprit behind women and teens’ self-esteem issues. I, however, don’t believe in the “blame game”. I think that you need to learn how to love what you see in the mirror and that starts with presenting your best self to the world, whatever that may be. Embracing your own personal style, is key…whether it’s a clean, polished natural look, or a more eccentric, bold, artsy look, we should take pride in how we dress. On my site, I teach people who cannot afford designer clothes, how to still dress fabulously and always maintain impeccable style. Again, great post and keep writing. You definitely have a new fan! 🙂

    http://www.thebargaintrendsetter.com

  3. I agree with everything you said. For me, fashion shouldn’t be a way to hide who we really are, but quite the opposite, it should be a way to express who we are and to make a statement. As 80s as it sounds, I was born in the 80s, so I absolutely think you’re right. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    morethanlabels.co.uk

  4. Well, considering my old job took me to (New) Oriental Plaza Mall 3 times a week in Beijing, it was impossible not to distribute some of my pay-cheque into its coffers. For some reason, I enjoy shopping for others more than shopping for myself. So I declare myself personal shopper for some of my friends and their teenager daughters. 😛

    It’s funny you should bring up YSL, since they made one of my first favourite scent: Opium. I laugh now when I think how “rebellious” it was for an Asian to wear such a scent considering its historical baggage. I can still hear them now, “How dare you wear/buy that considering what it did to China!” or “How dare you stereotype yourself!”. LOL. (sadly, Opium has gone through some reformulation over the years, and it’s not as I remember it)

    Hilariously, I just bought a Shalimar last year. It’s kinda funny how fashion (including scents) runs around in circles. Given all the “clean shaven, post-modern, industrial, metal, white, etc” (single tone) scents lately, I think a spicy oriental like Shalimar is pretty decadent and rebellious. Instead of Chanel No. 5, wearing this to bed feels more like satin sheets and silk linens.

    I digress.

    Japan has done a lot of cute and innovative things with its traditional fashion, and the best part is that you can still find artisans who make it the old school way. For those who don’t know, Victoria, BC, Canada (at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria) holds one of the best Kimono collections from the legendary Geisha, Ichimaru –

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichimaru

    The collection is currently on loan to Textile Museum of Canada at Toronto:

    http://www.textilemuseum.ca/apps/index.cfm?page=exhibition.detail&exhId=356

    Given Ichimaru’s status as a Geisha or a Diva, her Kimono collection was the best of the best, cream of the crop. So, if anyone gets a chance, go see the exhibition at Toronto, or you can wait until it goes back to the AGGV to view it.

    “Exhibition Overview

    The fascinating life of Ichimaru (1906- 1997), one of the most famous geishas of the 20th century due to her exceptional singing voice, is told through this collection of her magnificent kimonos and other personal effects. In the 1930s, Ichimaru left geishahood to pursue an illustrious career as a full-time recording artist, but even as a diva, she continued to perform in full geisha regalia. Combining her experience as a geisha with an extraordinary talent as a vocalist and musician, she would become a unique figure in the social history of twentieth-century Japan. Determined to distinguish herself, she studied music with the best teachers to be found in Tokyo’s “floating world,” or pleasure district. Ichimaru secured a recording contract in 1931 and never looked back as she won international renown.”

    Sadly, due to obvious reasons, China’s current display of traditional fashions (pre-Qing) is lacklustre at best since it’s difficult to find people who really know how to make them or wear them in the correct period sense. Most of the time, it feels like cosplay more than anything. I won’t besmear your elegant post with that famous story of how some Chinese people can’t recognize Hanfu (Han Dynasty wear) and mistaken it for kimono.

    Currently, I find this designer to be intriguing:

    http://www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/johan_ku

    http://www.johanku.com/2004_EmotionalSculpture.html

    His knitwear collection somehow feels very Chinese and yet very modern at the same time. The Emotional Sculpture, Calligraphy and the re-Sculpture collection are pretty fabulous and somehow feels warm (probably because it’s knitwear 😛 ).

    http://www.johanku.com/2010_Calligraph.html

    http://www.johanku.com/2005_Resculpture.html

    It reminds me a little bit of Galliano’s Dior around late 90s, but I don’t know why.

    Keep up the fabulous work. 🙂

  5. Excellent post. I have enjoyed fashion for almost 50 years now. When I was 11 I persuaded my wonderful mother to make me a Chanel-style suit. Every time I remember how she made it and didn’t question my choice I love her even more.
    Thanks for following my Seaford Currents blog.

  6. Hi there,

    Fashion exceeds the need for clothing’s functionality as a tool or for protection. Neanderthal man probably had a very good reason to don the animal hides he wore those first precious years, camouflage. Early man was cunning, but mostly hungry. It’s a lot easier to sneak up on prey when you look and smell like the prey and not some half starved crazy man. Of course, being a northern hemisphere kind of guy around the Ice Age he probably put a lot of thought into staying warm, and before fire he probably used animal skins for that.

    And though Neaderthal or the eskimos may have been early adopters of clothing as we know it today, animals havn’t been enitrely outshone by man. Hermit crabs use shells for protection. Is a prospective new shell entirely funcitonal? Or does it pick the first one it comes upon that will accommodate it, or are there other factors involved in the decision making process? If there are other factors involved, what are they? Does the hermit crab say to itself, “Man, I’m going to look good in this thing. I am going to attract the ladies!”

    https://www.google.com/search?q=hermit+crabs&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=YXAgU7_mO-nd2QXzzYCgCg&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1413&bih=863

    It rains in the rainforest and the orangutan that lives in the rainforest isn’t always in such a receptive mood. So, the orangutan will break off a palm frond and place it over his head to protect himself from the rain. But is that the only factor that goes into the orangutan’s choice when choosing a frond? Is the choice merely for functionality? Or like the hermit crab does he say, “Hey ladies, I look cool!. Come and get me.”

    https://www.google.com/search?q=orangutan+covers+head&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=aW8gU_aiO4KI2wXB8YHYCw&ved=0CFAQsAQ&biw=1413&bih=863

    Fashion has never been kind to me. I look better in a tux than I do in overalls but James Bond I’m not. I can live with that. However, I do appreciate it when the fairer sex is fashionaable. It makes up for it when they are not a redhead and puts them over the top when they are.

    If the world is your oyster, then eat hearty and share your feast with the world.

    Thanks

  7. Dont try to wear something just because it is fashionable, it will not look good on you, try to personalize the trend if it does not go well with your personality, you can also try this if you get bored of a piece of clothing or you dont want to let go of those old jeans.

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