27.5.08

A Ramble, And A Question.

It's not exactly a secret that fashion, along with the industry that's grown up around it, is capable of being ridiculous at times. But I've never thought of that in terms as harsh as one of my commenters, who declared that there was something unnatural and unhealthy about the fashion industry as a whole, and that he didn't get why such an industry existed. My response on the issue of fashion having certain redeeming qualities despite what seems like insanity to people on the outside (I'm quoting myself- how egomaniac can I be? but I really can't figure out how to paraphrase even one comment, forget comments across the last three posts right now) was as follows:
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I suppose what I meant when I said that fashion is capable of great things despite its skinny-obsession is simply this: the way you dress (which is a choice, whether it's consciously or unconsciously made)is a rather strong visual signal that, one way or another, you use to tell the seeing world and yourself something about how you wish to be seen. I don't know if this answers your question, but the fact that I can exercise a modicum of control over the way I see myself (even if the rest of the world is at odds with that) is something that I think is fantastic, and the same goes with all the other girls across the world who do the same- sometimes risking open ridicule for it. Sometimes, simply dressing the way you feel you should is an act of courage, and to me that's the greatest thing, even if you don't agree. And fashion is definitely part of that. It's not just what shows on the runways or is available in shops- it's anything that helps a person communicate or express something about themselves, and it's a lot wider than most people think.
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In response to which I've been told (it's only right to quote, in this case):

Okay coming back to what you said again... The way you dress is a rather strong visual signal that you use to tell the seeing world and yourself something about how you wish to be seen. If I am not mistaken this is a pro "attention seeking" statement. Not that there is anything wrong with seeking attention but i do not think of it as a sign of courage but rather weakness. A really courageous person wouldnt give a shit what the seeing world sees.
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'Tis all fair enough, really, but I really don't think that was what I said. As for the original question, Coco Chanel puts it much better in the quote I've now come to associate with the Style Bubble header. But it's still a question worth asking, and I'd appreciate it if you guys weighed in on the following :

what is it about fashion that you think makes it great, or makes it special for you, despite all the strikes against it? (I know it's badly phrased, but I really want to know).

19 comments:

The Clothes Horse said...

Fashion for me, is a creative outlet and an expression of myself (much like you said: a visual representation). And that isn't attention seeking--because honestly I hate being looked at (going on stage, giving speeches, large crowds make me ill, etc). And dressing in a way that is creative and original is not caring about what others think. No one I see in real life dresses like me, I get funny looks, some friends openly dislike my clothes--but I continue to dress this way because it is me and I enjoy it. This might seem contradictory, because when you dress in a way that is different you do get attention, but that is not the purpose of dressing that way, it's not positive attention all the time and its more just something I deal with than seek.
Anyway, I agree with a lot of what you said. Ultimately, I want to know why someone who thinks fashion is a waste of time is wasteing their time reading a fashion blog...

Fashion Ivy said...

Fashion is something that helps me to visually tell someone my personality, how I'm feeling at the time.

susie-bubble said...

Ditto to The Clothes Horse's last question... though if the naysayer does indeed take joy in adding his/her anti-fashion commentary on fashion blogs, just to rile things up, that wouldn't surprise me either...

However, getting back to the point is that the first priority with dressing oneself is yes, creating an idea image in your head which you are happy with, which expresses your personality, your hopes/fears, your aspirations or what not.... but then seeking attention is the by-product of that...at least, for me that is what it is. Whilst I'm aware of the impact my outfits will have on others, the key/sole thing is making myself happy and being comfortable in my skin and by skin, I mean clothes...

Annie said...

Fashion is not about attention. That's only the people who dress for other people who want attention. (i.e. women who dress for men) Real fashion, the type seen on runways and in magazines, does not have boundaries. You can be anyone in the world to participate in fashion, no mattter what your income. It is not about name brands, which most people associate fashion with.

Fashion is a silent, inate form of communication between humans. It is an outward expression of self. Anyone who calls off fashion as a means to get attention is forgetting the fact that it is also an art. Would you say the same thing of somebody who wrote a book, or the person reading it? Following fashion is another form of increasing knowledge. It may not be as concrete as following scientific discovery, but it is more pertinent to our modern culture. Behind the pleats and seams, you can find the stories of our society. It is a response to what is happening in our world.

Take, for example, now. We're pretty much falling into an economic depression. And what is the fashion world doing? Lowering hemlines, sticking to more classic clothing. Does that not tell you something about our culture?

At the same time, fashion's obsession with skinny, in my opinion, is more of a reaction to our society. When more than 60% of American adults are overweight, wouldn't the fashion industry have an adverse reaction and, inversely, make their models skinnier and skinnier. They're seen as picture perfect because they've been able to maintain that impossible diet, they've had the dedication to refuse McDonalds and cookies. They act like literal "models"- those who we should aspire to be like. Unfortunately, this means eating disorders and unrealistic standards of beauty. But it will eventually go away, and models will eventually return to healthier sizes.

Fashion, above all, is a choice. You can choose to participate in it or you can choose to leave it be. And anybody who truly appreciates fashion knows this. But it should not be thrown aside as snotty or useless. It is soemthing that, at the very least, should be respected. It takes courage and ambition to be fashionable and everybody should respect that.

emma said...

i think the fashion INDUSTRY has many flaws, things being over priced, people being made to feel bad if they cant buy the new trendy things, and of course the big problem of the skinny models but i feel like most fashion blogs are about person style and inspiring each other and talking to people who share similar passions

emma said...

i think the fashion INDUSTRY has many flaws, things being over priced, people being made to feel bad if they cant buy the new trendy things, and of course the big problem of the skinny models but i feel like most fashion blogs are about person style and inspiring each other and talking to people who share similar passions

Stephie said...

Ah! Thinking question about fashion (:

You know I've always pondered why a subject on clothes is such a big thing among people. No one really have blogs about kitchenware or tap brands, but everyone is exposed to fashion brands and designers.

My theory is, fashion transcends languages. That's the reason why we all read scandinavian blogs or buy french magazines even if we don't know the language, because we can respond to the outfit even if we don't speak the language. That's the beauty of fashion for me.

Also, I like that fashion is democratic. It's reflective of your individualistic choices. You can choose whatever you want to wear, and let your outfit have a voice of its own. Its what people see, and yet can never dictate.

riz said...

Ahhhhh, the loftiest question ever! Perhaps the one I should start my class off with, and ask them what they think.

I believe that fashion defies all representational odds - it morphs and evolves, flows in a variety of complicated ways, that it is impossible to come up with a stable definition of 'style' or fashionability...I could go on, but I'll shut up now!

evie said...

some say it's a superficial pursuit and i say that's hypocritical. everyone wants to look good. no one dresses up thinking i'm going to make myself ugly today.

but i agree with clothes horse and susie - although we might end up drawing attention to ourselves, that isn't the reason for dressing up. to keep it short and simple, i'm just going to say that fashion for me conveys personalities and emotions and provides inspiration. and this passion for it isn't something i can easily give up.

Elisabeth said...

I love the creativity involved, all the way from designer to the wearer.

Nothing thrills me more than buying a new key item and wondering what can go with it - and how many different outfits I can get away with!

The_UndeaD_ said...

Haha Ms BFK...Let the Naysayer speak. No offence was intended. No stones were meant to be cast but some pebbles were thrown at your window to wake you up.
Well I m so impressed by the comments that my comment wont fit into this comment box.... So I instead decided to do this...

Once upon a time a week ago...
Ms BFK opened the door, and walked in to see a dark figure staring out of the window. He turned and smiled at Ms BFK.

The_UndeaD_: At last. Welcome, Ms BFK. As you no doubt have guessed, I am The_UndeaD_.

Ms BFK covering her face with her camera : It's an honour to meet you.

The_UndeaD_ : No, the honour is mine....Please, come, sit.

Ms BFK sat down in the armchair.

The_UndeaD_ : I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like Alice...

Ms BFK : .....?

The_UndeaD_ : Tumbling down the rabbit hole? Hmm?

Ms BFK : You....could say that.

The_UndeaD_ : I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a woman who accepts what she sees, because she is expecting to wake up in a Paris fashionhouse. Ironically, this is not far from the truth....

The_UndeaD_ sits down in the armchair opposite from Ms BFK

The_UndeaD_ : Do you believe in fate, Ms BFK?

Ms BFK : No.

The_UndeaD_ : Why?

Ms BFK : Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of what I wear.

The_UndeaD_ : I know..._exactly_ what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know,
you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the New York Fashion Week. You don't know what it is, but it's there...like chewinggum on your skirt, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Ms BFK : What is Fashion?

The_UndeaD_ : Do you want to know....what it is....?

Ms BFK nods

The_UndeaD_ : Fashion is everywhere. It's all around us, even in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you pay your taxes.Fashion is the world that has been pulled over your eyes,
to blind you from the truth.

Ms BFK : What truth?

The_UndeaD_ : That you are an object, Ms BFK. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a runway that you cannot smell or
taste or touch. A runway...for your mind....Unfortunatly,no one can be...told what fashion is...you have to see it for yourself.

The_UndeaD_ then pasted a link for all to click

The_UndeaD_ : Follow me.....

http://trulycreative.blogspot.com/

Meg said...

"Fashion is nothing but what one says it is" Roland Barthes

Riz will laugh at me for writing about Barthes again but he said it perfectly with that one sentence...and I love him.

Fashion is a language which mediates our relations with the world.

Make Do & Mend said...

At no time in history has there been no fashion. Clothes allow us to conform (ie we are clothed not naked), allow us to form allegiences (mods & rockers - ok this is a weak example but more weighty would be Roundheads and Cavaliers). Also clothes give us an opprotunity to express individuality in our ommunities.

Fashion, interpretations of, choices of give you a meaning whether you do it or not. By not 'getting' fashion or ignoring it you are equally making a fashion statement.

LINDA said...

I'm sorry, but your friend makes me irritated. Your response had nothing to do with seeking attention. Either he completely misread or just felt like making an irrelevant "rebuttal."

Anyway, we need the fashion industry. Where else can we openly admit that the world is indeed a shallow, shallow place? ;D

But... All jokes and satirical comments aside, fashion is expression. I completely agree with your comment. We're making advances in the fashion industry regarding the "shallowness," but if some other boy says that the fashion industry is useless, ask him why we have video games. ;D

(By the way, I really enjoy your blog. Would you like to link up?)

Blue Floppy Hat said...

To everyone who stopped by and commented on this- thank you so much! I'm sorry about the delay with replying, though..

The Clothes Horse: I shut down in front of large crowds too- I didn't know there was someone else like me in cyberspace! You're right about attention being something of a byproduct of dressing for yourself- it's never the point of the outfit on its own.

Fashion Ivy: It's certainly a tool with some potential that way..

Susie: I wouldn't put it past them, you're probably more right than you know.
About dressing up, I've always thought of it as a means to make my skin a slightly more comfortable place to be in- and fashion is a tool that's really handy for that. As long as you're comfortable in your own image, the attention/lack thereof shouldn't matter, really..

Annie: Thank you for a brilliant reminder that fashion is universal. It's not about the money, or the trends (though those are certainly part of it), but I think people really like to call fashion names because they think it's all about expensive clothes. Though I don't think one can really escape it by just eschewing trends or 'fashion' in the narrower sense- no matter what you wear (or don't wear), you are making a statement about yourself to the outside world- and also to yourself, whether that's intentional or not.

Emma: oh, agreed that the industry is flawed, but it's still the source of so much inspiration to so many people- including us bloggers.

Stephie: I think people just love to hate on anything that they see as frivolous, and I think (this might be controversial) that fashion gets so much flak mainly because it's seen as a women's domain (as if only girls wear clothes), and therefore, frivolous. And the element of personal choice in dressing oneself tends to be forgotten by them, too.
And fashion does transcend languages. Look at the fashion blogging community itself- we're scattered across countries and continents, and still it doesn't take an understanding of language to recognise style when we see it..great point there.

Riz: I'd love to know what your students say, if you ever ask them that question!
I think the changing nature of fashion is part of why it gets lambasted so often- it does sometimes take people out of and far from their comfort zones..and it's certainly impossible to pin it down. It's to each his/her own, really...

Evie: Even dressing to look ugly is a statement- but mostly, people do, as you said, dress up to feel good. And fashion is part of the inspiration for that- it's about the here and now, but it's not as if the past and future don't get a look-in.

Elisabeth: I agree with you, there's so much potential there..

Meg: I love the quote, and you're so spot-on.

The_Undead: First off, this isn't The Matrix. Secondly, I seriously doubt that I'd need a wake-up call of any kind from you- you're free to take all the potshots you like at me, but I don't know what you're trying to achieve here. You said earlier that you were trying to understand fashion by reading this blog and others, but have you been to any other blogs that discuss it, or attempted to engage the bloggers in any kind of dialogue on this subject? (because baiting me isn't going to amount to anything, really) The reasons why fashion matters to me might not be good enough for you, but the fact remains that they matter to me, and I don't care what you think. Even the nudists and yogis you so admire are making a statement about themselves and the lives they've chosen by eschewing clothing. One way and another, the visual signal is something you really can't get away from- unless you go blind, maybe. Which is a different kettle of fish.
Oh, and it's BFH, not BFK. Unless that was intentional.

Linda: Good point there..the world isn't all doom and gloom, and fashion isn't just fluffy and pretty, but we'd have so much less fun without it. And yeah, it's a lot less pointless than a lot of things- unless you're a nudist, you can't get away from getting dressed every day. Fashion, for me, lies in how people choose to put themselves across (and choice implies a certain level of comfort too).

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Make Do and Mend: I'm so sorry, I somehow skipped over replying to your comment- thanks for the brilliant example, if anything it's an even clearer instance of how people have consciously used their clothes to signal their beliefs on matters as weighty as religion and politics (priestly robes and cassocks come to mind now..)

WendyB said...

As I've previously said, fashion sends a message about who you are. Even if you hate fashion, and dress accordingly, you're still sending a message about your values. You can win jobs or lose jobs because of how you dress. You can be welcomed into groups of people or be rejected by them because of how you dress. It's definitely a way of communication and it's always been so -- that's why for millenia there were rules about who could wear certain colors and fabrics. I think anyone who rejects the importance of dress is just in denial.

headmistress said...

great questions, and great points raised already. I don't think fashion is necessarily about attention seeking at al,l for me, like most of the replies here, it's just a way of navigating a way of being for myself - articulating a part of me I am comfortable with. This is why I have those neurotic days when I'll change a dozen times before midday, because nothing feels right or quite me... Meg's comment and the Barthes quote are spot on.

it irks me so much to see people put down 'fashion' as some vacuous shallow pastime, appropriate only for peroxided empty brains and suchsuch, as the Undead seems to imply. Such a view suggests there should be some kernel of pure unadulterated truth that only those holy mystics who have renounced such trivialities can obtain... when perhaps the only truth is the transience and ephemerality of existence. Fashion, and all the other arts, are only forms of expression that try to celebrate and make sense of these uncertainties - literature dives into sensation, film, into the folds of time, and fashion is all about the immediatemment - it surfs the spider-thin, frayed edges of the present, by allowing us to reinvent ourselves in every moment of our being.

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Wendy: exactly! You put it so well...we may not always have the luxury of dressing how we want, and we may not like the fashions of the moment, but getting dressed is still something that must be done, and an element of choice (and personal expression) is something that's practically a default part of the mix.

Headmistress: It's just as you say...ultimately fashion comes down to what we, the wearers, feel about it. To many people, it's a creative force on par with any other- fashion doesn't have to be art, it can be itself, and it will always have its place in human life.

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