Monday, January 18, 2010

Things I Don't Get - Fashion

This is an ongoing, occasional series of comments on things I don't understand. It's just me thinking aloud, not passing judgement. I encourage people to help me understand.

This one comes as a complete surprise to all of you who know me. I don't get the whole idea of fashion. Of being in fashion, of being fashionable, of the importance of fashion.

It's that very quality of "now" that bothers me most about fashion. The fashion industry wants you to buy it now because it's the current style, the current rage. A year or two from now they will excoriate you for wearing that same piece. All too often the latest "fashion" seems to have much more to do with some form of primal display behavior than anything else. "Look at me!"

So fashion for me fails on several points:

It is ego driven - Either through the need for self aggrandizement or more often I'd bet, a need to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. In the second instance we need to recognize that fashion not only will not compensate for whatever shortcomings we feel, it is in fact incapable of doing any such thing. In fact it is designed to constantly push new inadequacies on us. Why we would place ourselves on such a treadmill of self inflicted insult is unclear to me. If your level of "cool" or "sophistication" (the adult version of "cool") is based on your ability to be fashionable then aren't you admitting that you are "unsophisticated" by nature? That you must obtain and put on sophistication since you have none of your own? On the other hand if you are already cool then surely your status in relation to a changing and arbitrary "fashion" is irrelevant. Isn't it?

It is materialistic - It's about what you own, what you can possess, what you can acquire. So naturally fashion is kept expensive. Expensive in that it requires an ongoing expenditure of time and wealth. Expensive in that it is kept at a (false, IMO) high value. You, in this moment, are not capable of having what is needed to be happy. You MUST acquire more, acquire the latest, acquire the newest. Fashion in this sense spreads beyond clothing to many other parts of our lives. You must have the fashionable phone, computer, game system, TV, car, eat the cuisine of the moment. When your happiness or completeness as a person is based on things you need to realize that it can be taken away from you. It can be destroyed so very simply. Amazingly we teach just this concept by our actions to our children. And have been doing so for generations now.

There is one other thing about fashion in clothing that I don't understand. It happens almost entirely in the fashion industry for women. It is the circus side show element of the "clothing" presented. So much of what is presented to women as desirable, "fashionable" can not possibly be worn by the majority of the women of the world. Another large portion of it looks like something thrown together by a mad man. They are costumes or fabric art but they are NOT clothing. Well except maybe for Lady Gaga. In the end too much of what is "fashionable" actually makes people look stupid IMO. Like the Emperor we blind ourselves to the reality of our fashion in the vain hope that it makes us better.

For me fashion is a waste of time. It is a tacit admission that the fashion consumer has nothing else to offer except display. In entering into that covenant with fashion we sell ourselves short, we cooperate in our own diminishment. And that maybe the greatest offense of fashion of all.

Spare me the pursuit of the latest and greatest. Give me rather the person who by the quality of their mind, their spirit, their personality puts the petty, ephemeral nature of "fashion" in its proper, minimal light.



Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen "The Devil Wears Prada"? In it, Meryl Streep's character gives the most inane explanation about why the fashion industry is necessary, having to do with how a designer chose a certain color that is now "the color" of the year. As if it's not possibly for anyone to see a color, think it looks nice and make some clothes out of it. Not to mention all the other colors from the same designer and/or show that didn't catch on. The fashion industry seems to be a prime example of an industry that just throws things against the wall and sees what sticks.

Anonymous said...

"All that is not eternal is eternally out of date."
~ C.S. Lewis