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Fashion And Modernity: Creating a Modern, Reflexive Self

Fashion And Modernity: Creating a Modern, Reflexive Self

I apologize for the absence in posts, dear readers! It’s been a dizzyingly busy fall! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend here in the States, and are getting in the spirit for the holidays ahead. I’ve been accumulating lots of trend worthy material on my Pinterest boards over the last couple months. Have you visited? Just this morning, I pinned several of the raw images from today’s post and decided I couldn’t not contribute a few words about their significance.

Every once and awhile, a fashion editorial appears that embodies a future trend without need of any other accompanying photos. Lindsey Wixon (does she ever do anything bad?) is the star of this editorial. The trend is part Victorian (see the first sighting of this trend HERE), part 70’s knitwear with a dash of 80’s bling. It’s a beautiful amalgam of decades that is equal parts whimsical, brash and stately. While these images and stylings may appear contradictory – even strange – to the untrained eye, it is this ingenious grouping of decades that makes styling and trend-scouting so exciting. In Fashion, Desire and Anxiety: Image and Morality in the Twentieth Century, Rebecca Arnold writes that it is in the nature of modern fashion to be inherently contradictory. It displays both ‘the promise and the threat of the future…revealing both our desires and anxieties…constructing identities that use stylish dress as a route to self-creation and yet ultimately to self-destruction.”¹

But not to leave you on a depressing note! Caroline Evans makes a compelling argument in Fashion at the Edge, that while, “Fashion, with its affinity for transformation, can act out instability and loss,” it can, “also, and equally, stake out the terrain of ‘becoming’ – new social and sexual identities, masquerade and performativity.”² I agree that fashion is deeply related to the construction of the Self. As much as it functions as a cultural mirror for changes and revolutions in politics and society, it is also a useful medium for constructing and deconstructing identity. “Gilles Lipovetsky has argued that fashion is socially reproductive, training us to be flexible and responsive to change in a fast-changing world. ‘[It] socializes human beings to change and prepares them for perpetual recyling.’”³ What an interesting new way of understanding the (sometimes) vicious and quickening pace of fast fashion! As we watch an increasing number of designers step down from some of the major fashion houses (Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Raf Simons, Alexander Wang and Alber Elbaz to name just a few), this trend forecaster has to wonder whether the stakes have become too high and the demands unrealistic. As our twitter feeds update in real time and Facebook invites us to share our feelings and thoughts at every hour and minute of the day, the cycles of fast fashion almost seem lackadaisical in comparison. There is a certain anxiety that accompanies the modern age, a restlessness that follows the mechanization of the routine processes and procedures that once kept our hands and minds from straying too far in any given direction. But Evans argues, quite brilliantly, that “the kinetic, open personality of fashion is the personality which a society in the process of rapid transformation most needs.” Instead of being derided as “superficial, frivolous or deceitful,” “fashion has an important role to play, not merely in adorning the body but also in fashioning a modern, reflexive self.”4

Using fashion as a survival mechanism or at the very least as a tool for shaping an identity against societal expectations of what it means to male, female or other, is a topic that’s close to my heart. Fashion has always enabled a certain level of creativity in my life – it’s been a way of silently expressing who I am and who I am not. It’s been a way of trying out new personalities and facets of identity as I’ve grown up, as well as a way of revisiting fond trends (hello, ballerina tulle skirts) from my childhood. I recently came across this wonderful quote by Virginia Woolf that says, “Clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm; they change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” So go on, dear reader: Be bold. Be silly. Be quiet, loud, brash, stately, charming, and eccentric. Your wardrobe stands at the ready!

Stay tuned for more meditations on fashion and modernity in the upcoming weeks!

 

Fashion And Modernity: Creating a Modern, Reflexive Self

Fashion And Modernity: Creating a Modern, Reflexive Self

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Publication: The Edit November 2015
Model: Lindsey Wixson
Photographer: Chris Colls
Fashion Editor: Maya Zepinic
Hair: Diego Da Silva
Make-up: Maki Ryoke

¹Caroline Evans. Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity, and Deathliness (New Haven: Yale University Press) 2003, p.7
² Ibid, 6.
³Ibid.

 

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