I am taking my inspiration from the Zulu exhibit at the Fowler. Aesthetically, I am pulling the geometric designs from the bead-work and translating them through piecework and cut-outs in my design. Conceptually, I am inspired by the concept of expanding body space by use of the Zulu spears. I am conveying this idea through looser silhouettes and bright colors.
My top proved more difficult than I thought. But I guess that’s what I get for sewing chiffon on the bias. The cutouts were excruciating, but the easiest way was to hand blanket stitch around them. Making yards and yards of the orange binding tape wasn’t as time consuming as I thought it would be. I’m excited with how it’s turning out, regardless of the frustrations.
I wanted my alter ego to portray a side of me that does not get shown often and is the complete opposite of how I normally live. I had been kicking around the idea of being more “feminine” or dressier than I normally am for a while. Although I did consider the idea of posing as a French exchange student, which would tap into my French minor and would include my not shaving. Something that I think would have received a lot of controversial responses. Yet I felt like this would not push me as much as I wanted. So I decided to go with glamming up. I wanted to create this fancier identity for myself, opposed to the one that is used to t shirts, jeans, and being makeup free. Since fashion can act as a kind of language and draws on “a shared pool of meanings applicable to clothes [which are] unambiguous or if ambiguous that there are agreed ways…that instruct us how to interpret one’s appearance” (Tsëelon, 112), I wanted to see what kind of message I would send off as a more made-up individual. I am a person who takes a more schizoid attitude and believes that “trying to be fashionable would be extremely exhausting, strange and annoying”(Bonelli, pg 168). So I attempted a more histrionic approach to dressing, putting a lot of emphasis and effort into my outward appearance. Normally I allow my dressed body to be “actively produced through particular, routine, and mundane practices” (Entwistle, 49), so my alter ego embraced the concept that “identity is dependent on appearance” (Campbell pg 16).
To perform my alter ego, I chose four locations to spread out the necessary time. I débuted my alter ego at a Halloween party, where I was in character for five hours. Although I had not yet made a concrete decision about my project, I had formulated the idea of being femininely dressed up early on. I’m including this in my project as my idea for my alter ego really did begin back then, and Halloween seemed like the perfect opportunity and excuse to dress up. To this Halloween house party, I dressed up as a black cat. I mean, what’s sexier than a cat, right? I wore super tight black clothing, curled my hair, and did my make-up. I chose my outfit because it was something that I had and something that was flattering on my body, as well as suggestive enough to break away from my comfort zone. I did classic cat make-up with heavy black liner and lots of mascara to make my eyes pop, and whiskers. My personal reaction to this was immediate discomfort to the amount of make-up on my face and the constant awareness to my face and my inability to touch it. The responses of the public included the attention of a guy who said that my confidence influenced his decision to talk to me. I was not anticipating this, as there were perhaps a dozen other black cats at the party. I guess Tsëelon is correct in stating that it is the “sum total of the ingredients that make a look, as well as the fit and manner in which it is worn” (118).
My second outing in my alter ego was out to dinner with a friend on November 25, 2013. I just returned home for Thanksgiving holiday. Part of this day included some time at home in my hair and makeup to add to the project the experience of my alter ego as part of my getting ready for the day routine. For this outfit, I wore pink, of which I cannot stand and avoid wearing at all costs. I was expressing a feminine stereotype and how “dress modifies the body, embellishing and inflecting it with meanings which, are gendered” (Campbell, pg 38). Incorporating full makeup and hair into my daily routine was extremely time-consuming and annoying. While I usually take all of two minutes to get ready for the day, I somehow ate up an hour and a half of my morning getting ready. When I went out to dinner, I wore tight burgundy jeans, a black t-shirt, and a pink jacket, with six-inch heels. There was literally no reaction from people other than my family, who was shocked to see me out of my sweats. I guess I looked pretty comfortable, sipping my blueberry margarita, in my stilettos and pink.
Thanksgiving Day was my next alter ego act. I dressed up for our casual family dinner. I wore printed leggings and a black top and tall boots with a little heel. After running a 10k on Thanksgiving morning, I definitely didn’t feel like dressing up. But I still put my face on and did my hair, although I adjusted the amount glamour to fit the family dinner. I was adapting my alter ego to my social situation, as Entwistle suggests that when “dressed inappropriately for a situation we feel vulnerable and embarrassed” and that different situations “operate with different codes of dress” (49). Again there was not much response, other than my family noticing that I was more “done up” than usual.
The last time I got in touch with my persona was at my second Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. I wore a dress that I made, tall boots, and curled my hair. Getting ready was annoying today, as I was so busy helping cook and working on homework that I started to run out of time before the rest of the family arrived for dinner. I missed greeting them when they first got to our house. What was even worse was I did not get to take part in my two little brother’s memorial service for their pet caterpillar. I felt just awful when I heard my eight year-old brother reading the heartfelt eulogy for his pet, through my bathroom window where I was busy “painting” my face. in that moment, I felt like I embodied narcissism and a histrionic approach to identity. I was putting emphasis on my appearance, instead of being a part of an emotional experience of my siblings. I was letting fashion be a “substitute for higher values” (Bonelli, 168). Reactions from my family included comments about my dress, because I made it.
In reflection, this project was not what I anticipated. Unfortunately, due to time and being a broke college student, I wasn’t able to dress up or go out as much as I would have liked. I had to work with what I had. I was hoping to play more into female stereotypes and attend dressier occasions. But I did not have the money or time to go shopping for dresses to make up the lack thereof in my closet. Perhaps I would have gained more public response had I displayed more of the “sexual meanings which are entrenched within the culturally established definitions of femininity” (Entwistle, 54). I also was planning on adding a behavioral dimension to the project, but that did not happen. But, still, I feel like I did learn some valuable things from this experience.
I discovered that I am extremely grateful that this was just an alter ego, and not an everyday occurrence. It was a real drag to put so much time and effort into my appearance, especially during such a busy time due to homework and other projects. I have a great appreciation for my low-key and uninvolved image. Getting “glammed up” is so time-consuming and eats up a lot of valuable time that could be spent on getting more important things done. I am super thankful that my self- value comes from my achievements and not my appearance. I have higher values that are focused on interiority, rather than the exterior which “reflects….egocentrisim” (Bonelli, 167). My self-esteem is “maintained by creative activity [that confirms my] originality and uniqueness” (Bonelli, 169).
I developed “the epidermic self-awareness” (Entwistle, 45) which comes from dressing uncomfortably. I was not used to wearing tight clothing, or dresses, pink, or that much make-up. I was highly self-aware. This was rather annoying at family gatherings or being home when all I wanted to do was relax or nap, but could not because of the feeling thatI was going to mess up my hair or makeup.
Also, due to the lack of public response, I learned that it was not unnatural for me to make my alter ego a regular thing. It did not seem out of the ordinary for me to wear make-up and feminine clothing. I was dressing within the confines of what is socially deemed proper for a twenty-two year old college student to wear. If dress is the result of a “complex negotiation between the individual and the social” (Entwistle, pg 51), then I understand how to dress within what is socially accepted among my peers. As I had a range of different locations, I also adapted my persona to fit the “bounds of what is defined in a situation as a normal body and appropriate dress” (Entwistle, pg 49). I unconsciously was paying attention to “the norms of particular spatial situations”; through exposure to media and society, I have internalized these “particular rules and norms of dress” (Entwistle, 50).
I found this project to be over-all insightful into my own sense of image and identity, as well as a good experience of walking in someone else’s shoes. It took me out of my comfort zone and made me focus on something that I normally put on the back burner. I definitely feel like this project was a success.
Referring to highland rape, rape is a horrific act, why are magazines allowed to romanticize it and put it in advertisements?
I am not aware of advertisements that romanticize and sell rape. Rape remains a horrific act and I highly doubt any company would wish to be affiliated with such a brutal offense. McQueen’s collection was certainly not marketing rape as a desirable product, and I think this question shows a complete lack of understanding about the meaning behind his collection. It clearly stated in the text, Desire and Dread, that this collection was viewed as “aggressive and disturbing”( pg 202). This is a apparently a common misconception, as McQueen informed the public, “people were so unintelligent they thought this was about women being raped—yet ‘Highland Rape’ was about England’s rape of Scotland”(Vogue). His goal was not to celebrate the “genocide” (pg 202) of his ancestors, but to bring to attention the horror and brutality of his origins.
Also the term romanticism is misunderstood here. It refers to the late 18th to the mid 19th century artistic and intellectual movement of Romanticism, which broke away from the order of Classicism and “emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.” This was a huge part of McQueen’s design process, as confirmed by the Met Museum…“[this] darkness came from a deep romanticism—the darkest side of the nineteenth century…He was deeply political as a designer … McQueen’s collections often were so hard to watch is that they often channeled our cultural anxieties and uncertainties, and that was very much part of his raison d’être . McQueen was also inspired by the romanticized obsession with nature—“with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought”(Met Museum).The point of romanticism is to explore “all that stuns the soul, all that imprints a feeling of terror, leads to the sublime” and that is exactly what McQueen did. He “uncovered what as a society we are really afraid of, as well as he himself wasn’t scared to shock people and create disturbing collections” (Highland Rape)
Is it possible for clothing to provide the type of protection McQueen tried to create by making women look “so powerful no one would dare lay hands on them?
Since clothing can be perceived as a type of language (How Successful is Communication via Clothing pg 109-135), clothing can become a type of armor for women, yet undesirable attention will still be received from society. Fashion has been linked to power and is used to distinguish the “boundaries of sexual difference”(Entwistle, 39). Power is traditionally associated with men, so for women to aspire for power through dress would be to break away from “conventions of gender [and viewed] as potentially subversive and treated with horror or derision” (Entwistle, 35). For McQueen, this female power lay in “strong uncompromising and aggressive sexuality…a femme fatale, the woman whose sexuality was dangerous, even deathly…male desire would always be tinged with dread” (Dread and Desire, 204). He wanted people to “be afraid of the women he dressed” (Dread and Desire, 206). The femme fatale is a” fearful representation which configured female sexuality as perverse, even deathly, and which echoed fears about the social, economic, and sexual emancipation of women at the turn of the century” (Dread and Desire, 204). In everyday life, I believe this femme fatale is represented by any women who discovers her liberty from social oppression and exudes this power as confidence. Any women that realizes her power is a threat in a “mans” world. A femme fatale is not necessarily the leather and fear clad dominatrix that walked the runway in McQueens shows. The frightening women in our society could be the flappers, the androgynous pant suits of the 40s, and the power suits of the 80s, all which represent the freedom of women and their intrusion into male spheres of society. Women are challenging “tradition and displaying their acquisition of sexual equality”(Entwistle, 53). This doesn’t make women frightening or repellent in the way of deathly sexuality as McQueen designed, but repellent in their freedom and equality of gender. There will always be undesirable attention for women who break away from their traditional and passive roles.
“A free woman in an unfree society will be a monster” (Dread and Desire, 209)
Are the opinions of the viewer or designer a more correct interpretation fashion?
Neither. Fashion viewed as an art form gives it the same ambiguous meaning, giving the viewer/artist/designer freedom to interpret as it moves them. Art is meant to be a two-way street the process of creating a work of art has the same importance as the process of viewing the art. Each infuses it with meaning and purpose.
Fashion relies on “well-established stereotypes” and a meaning that is “rigid, self-evident, and rather stereotypical” (How Successful is Communication via clothing, 119)Fashion acts as the “visible form of our intentions”, “the insignia by which we are read and come to read others, however unstable and ambivalent these readings may be” (121). Designers can play into theses stereotypes to market to a certain audience. However, as indicated by the above question, fashion can be misinterpreted or then can be a huge variance between the intention of the designer and the response of the viewers.
Why is it appealing to sexualize or eroticize fashion?
Because sex sells. It feeds our lusts, our fantasies. In both articles, Adolescence: Identity, Fashion and Narcissism and Fashion, Lifestyle and Psychiatry, it discusses how so much of society defines beauty as identified by your outward appearance. There is a lot of pressure to be beautiful, young and desirable, in order to feel self-worth in society. Sexuality becomes an attribute to strive for. Fashion plays up these carnal desires, in ways subtle to explicit.
It was a busy week home. Even though I was not at school, I brought school with me. I managed to complete my pants. It went pretty well. The only issue was that I realized my material was too thin to do a single layer, so I had to fully line my pants. This turned out to be less difficult than I imagined. I am very thrilled that they fit like I hoped they would.