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?
‘Fashion should be a form of Escapism, not a form of imprisonment’ – Alexander McQueen
‘What fun is it being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero?’ ― Bill Watterson
Fashion & Identity
‘The boor covers himself, the rich man or the fool adorns himself, and the elegant man gets dressed.’ – Honoré de Balzac
‘There is one other reason for dressing well, namely that dogs respect it, and will not attack you in good clothes.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
‘Fashions fade, style is eternal.’ ― Yves Saint-Laurent
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