Does true style exist or are we all just imitations of style? By Holly Riddington N0296392 FCP2
Mass production, consumerism and globalisation. The world has progressed faster in 100 years than it has since time was first recorded. There are habitual technologies that could only have been dreamt about a mere 50 years ago, but have we really progressed as far as we think, or are we on a tipping point, ready to go back in time, back to where we started? The immeasurable social changes over the last century have led to extensive revolutions and reversals of attitudes towards issues such as race, class, gender, cultural identity and diaspora. Inaugurating the turn of the century, Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 launched Britain into an era with a light-hearted, culturally enriched demeanour. The Edwardian period divulged a emanate interest in socialism, self indulgence and entertainment. Citizens were finally able to express themselves more than ever before in any way, shape, or form. These two images express the extensive differences in fashion that occurred between the two eras of Victorian and Edwardian. The Victorian image, promoting a very typical style of dress during this era, is a woman wearing an hourglass shaped corset, compressing the abdomen, forcing it downward with a wide bellshaped skirt consisting of often six petticoats. The Edwardian image show a woman wearing a ‘health corset’ (figure 2) promoting an S shaped curve along with a trumpet bell shaped skirt. Faced with the ability to express themselves freely, it would seem that Western men and, in particular, women would acquire a plethora of individuality in fashion and style, mirroring the newly liberated persona. The French ‘fashion genius’ Paul Poiret contributed to helping set women free the very restraining dress form popular (shown in figure 1) to this period. Poiret wanted to represent independence and freedom – ‘the natural body’. This revolutionary streamlining idea reflected the strength that women had gained alongside the success of the suffragettes and their position aside men, particularly in the workplace. A lot of support started to build up around this ‘retextualisation’ of the body and ranged from artists such as Freud and Matisse, to the Russian Ballet. Why, then having been granted this great freedom of all things, eminently in appearance, is homogeneity and conformity more apparent prior to the period when self-expression had been made orthodox? Lucian Freud’s painting ‘Fat Sue’ (Figure 3) shows how artists were n longer afraid to paint more controversial subject matters. The painting shows a large woman laid nude, asleep on a settee.
Some say man is responsible for submitting himself to the temptations of mass production and consumerism, supported in the work of Rosenfeld (1997) and Davis (1985) however, some believe that giant forces such as globalisation and capitalism are to be held responsible for the birth of giant, global fashion houses and resources. This view has been supported in the work of Miles (1998), Radford Figure 3 (1998) and Crane (2004). Mass branding and advertising evolved from this vast liberation and emancipation of consumer power, creating the most un-individual, expressionless culture and society to date. In an attempt to increase profits, brands began looking for new sale methods. Keeping manufacturing costs as low as possible in the far east, technology tools and buying online contributes to the fact that brands are able to keep the customer enthusiastic about high street stores by delivering new items, mid fashion labels two main collections. This new method, fast fashion, was somewhat the result of globalisation taking full affect in the late 80’s. This image is an example of an early mass production factory due to advancements in technology. Mainly women and children worked in these factories, some as young as 7 years old, and were valued for their ability to do intricate work requiring dexterity and nimble fingers. The industrial revolution created new inventions and it renewed interest in scientific discovery. The fast fashion phenomenon makes it easier to replicate designer collections, therefore making the exclusivity of designer clothing a lot more accessible. The status derived from wearing a designer item, extensive advertising and press about designers and collections, paired with your ‘favourite celebrity’ wearing the latest new item, trends spread like wild fire especially as the digital age is well and truly upon us. An additional ingredient making it is easier than ever to imitate the styles of others, trends such as blogging, Facebook, twitter and more recent editions such as stumble upon and Pinterest have derived from the simple search engine that launched this fad into a common practice. This image was taken at London Fashion Week and is showcasing Christopher Kane’s collection. A very cultural collection showcases the Scottish designer using influences of other cultures prints and patterns. Figure 4
An even further hypothesis given to answer the question has suggested that human beings have an innate characteristic that embeds a natural fondness to herd. This behaviour will be apparent and occur in situations of domination or without. These instincts create the requirement for jurisdiction and regulation in one form or another. Individuals, tribes and cults are starting to break out of this mass assemblage. Women are able to be much more expressive of through their body shape. Ethnically diverse groups and other cultures can flourish and boast their culture and designs, many are being taken on board and manipulated by Western Designers. Chinese prints, the Japanese Kimono and vibrant colours of Africa are all commonplace designs and materials used in western fashion. A trend however, that broke out of our own culture and history is that of the Punk and Gothic movement. Tribes like the punk movement began as a form of anti-fashion, claiming that it wasn’t just a fashion statement but from an attitude, to ‘the punk way of life’. Pippa Bailey says that punk was about bringing political education and participation to the youth of Britain in the 1970s and 80s. Reasoned political protest encouraging people to be individuals, fighting for what they believe and to not be tied down by social expectations of their futures. Music, clothing, hairstyles and the ‘ideology’ as a whole start to form the punk subculture and became its own political philosophy. Based on the designs of designers like Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and the Bromley Contingent and the limited employment and generally low incomes impelled punks to shop in thrift stores and charity shops, similar to the ‘make do and mend’ war generations. Leather jackets, studded and ripped clothing, body piercings, heavy eyeliner for both men and women, and covered in deliberately controversial images or slogans such as portraits of Karl Marx and Benito Mussolini were worn by punks.
Dylan Clark concludes that the idea of ‘being a punk’ was tamed down by the media, becoming less about the shock value. Punk was ultimately being morphed into something that it had fought hard to avoid and in fact, this mainstreaming went against everything punk was ever trying to express. Figure 6 is focused on the leg attire and boots that these people are wearing. The Dr. Marten boots, black colours and ripped tights represent the punk look. Many of the styles that were brought about by punks, have been used over and over since the alleged ‘death of punk’. Punk’s were once very independent, almost scorned upon ideologies, now, ironically, being exploited to the masses. After being modified and merged, they were entered into the mainstream world. All-stars, Dr. Marten boots, Military boots, tapered jean, trousers with leopard patterns, ripped jeans, just some of the types of apparel worn by punks all of which, coincidentally, you can find in relatively every single high street store today. This ‘cool’ new version of punk apparel has dominated those that were true punks, listened to punk music, rebelled against society and didn’t care of people’s views on their dishevelled appearance. Punk is dead. Long live punk. The concept of breaking away from the crowd can sometimes comes across as an effort to counteract and defy all principles of behaviour that have been established. Or is it just revolutionising the methods and attitudes of our society? Bricolage, the core meaning fiddle and tinker, has been given a more modern interpretation of ‘do it yourself’. The infatuation of Punk and Gothic styles come under this DIY culture and continue to cause an extent of controversy surrounding the movement. Safety pins, piercings, metal studs are all uncanny, unprecedented approaches to apparel and style. Pastiche is another form of ‘make do and mend’ that is a way of breaking free from mass culture and collectivism. Sometimes it seems to be ‘different’, you may assume that you have to go to the extremes of cultural taboos, on a universal scale meaning to represent death and sex in order to be considered objectionable or unruly by society. The macabre theme has become greatly popular in photographers’ work and especially in fashion designers. Alexander McQueen, Tim Burton, Tom Ford and Vivienne Westwood are key examples of creating influential and successful gothic fashions and designs. Designers are using macabre not only to influence their collections but also to influence their design from the ‘macabre genius’ Alexander McQueen, to Kermit Tesoro’s skull heels (figure 7), to the high street designer All Saints. Paul Poiret famously deleted corsets from everyday use, freeing women’s bodies. Now, to go against this, ‘goths’ promote tight fitting, historic styled dress, sometimes adopting a very sexual or even erotic nature.
Although a lot of controversy has been brought up around these taboos, due to over sexualized advertisements such as Tom Ford’s outrageous and audacious campaigns that never fail to get noticed and criticised. Also, very controversial previously censured television programs such as Embarrassing Bodies and Skins are being viewed by all ages. This suggests that the only way people of todays society’s attention’s can be captured is to create what could be seen as bad press or controversial debate. Slowly, these kinds of themes and images are creeping their way into all of England’s front rooms, magazines and advertisements etc. By putting themselves into the lime light of the media, their ideas aren’t so controversial, dubious or even opposed any longer. Can they be called individual any more? Is this a sign of things to come and what can be expected as a widespread tolerance? True style and original design may simply have passed. Are designers running out of steam? New ways of dress came, went, came back again, and have quite literally been used to death. Is there anything else that could be designed that hasn’t been already? It’s hard to believe that there is. Fashion trends are going round and round in cycles ranging from next big thing, to fashion Figure 8 suicide. ‘Eventually everything comes back.’ This pattern lies in shoulder pads. Commencing as a staple item in a 1940’s woman’s wardrobe, shoulder pads were introduced by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs in 1931. The suit in figure 8 is an example of a suit by Schiaparelli with shoulder pads. Joan Crawford was first captured wearing them in the film ‘Letty Lynton’, shoulder pads saw their height after World War II began with a militarised style of dress popularising and started to slowly die out by the end of the 1940’s. Once again, in the 1980’s shoulder pads hit the fashion runways defining the silhouette, boasting power dressing. The extremity of size and shape of this decade’s shoulder pads became inevitably turned to disregard in the 1990’s. A quicker turnaround this time saw a sprightly resurgence of the beloved shoulder pads in the turn of the century, seeing artist sensations such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna rock shoulder pads back into mainstream fashion. Lady Gaga. Everyone knows who she is, whether he or she likes her, or not. She is perceived to be an inspiration to all, a great role model, her creativity and individuality, renowned. Lady Gaga won Vogue’s ‘Best Dressed of the Year’ in 2010 with the headline, ‘And It’s Lady Gaga by a Mile: The Outré Original Wins Best-Dressed of the Year’. Even Vogue is agreeing she is the ‘outré original’. It is a genuine statement to say that she is eccentric, slightly bizarre, but original, is a very questionable statement. Gaga revealed to Ellen DeGeneres on the Ellen Show that, ‘I didn’t fit in in high school, and I felt like a freak. So I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with, and they don’t feel alone.’ Gaga claimed this as being the reason for her eccentricity, so that people that felt the way she did during school can relate and appreciate her work. Some feel rather differently about her inspirations.
In an almost identical re-enactment of Annie Lennox’s ‘Gender Bender’ routine at the MTV Video Music Awards, many viewers, including Kelly Osbourne, accused Lady Gaga of copycat antics. Madonna’s eighties hits Express Yourself and Bette Midler were also said to be large influences of Lady Gaga’s track Born This Way. Gaga’s statement, ‘You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.’ is further criticised at the decline on Grace Jones’s part of the chance to collaborate with her due to ‘lacking originality’. ‘I’d just prefer to work with someone who is more original and someone who is not copying me, actually.’, is the response Jones gave to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“I’ve seen some things she’s worn that I’ve worn, and that does kind of p*** me off… I wouldn’t go to see her.”
Figure 9 and Figure 10 are front covers of V magazine, one staring Grace Jones and one Lady Gaga. A prime example of the ‘copycat antics’ used by Gaga. Even gaga herself expresses that the likes of Annie Lennox and Grace Jones are of great inspiration to her, but is she taking it too far? This example shows how it is hard not to refer to things that people have done and worn in the past. Msaybe there isn’t enough steam left to run on.
Figure 9 Figure 10
I personally have opinions about who I feel are people or styles of ‘the epitome of true style’. Those artists and designers that had true passion in what they were designing, their imaginations being influenced by the empathy and emotions they had towards their work, they held the true essence of style. The people that have or had seldom influences were fighting against politics and government, the public, they were the minority however still rose above the negatives. In the end, many became very popular, even if their work was not seen to be appreciated before their deaths. Their work changed and is still influencing our society to being the liberating one we now know it to be. Without them, things could be an awful lot different. Steve Jobs has “made a dent in the universe’, and will never be forgotten. Not only were the products he helped to create incredible but his legacy also extends to the lasting impact he has made on gaming, technology, and entertainment. The development of both iPods and iTunes has changed the way we view media forever. CBGBs, New York’s ‘birthplace of punk’ according to MTV, gave birth original and inspiring bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, and countless other acts during the venue’s 33 year history. Saw some of the most influential punk artists that are still more than famous today walk through its doors. Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg and Paul Simon all hung out here listening to scenes of Jazz, Latino music, punk, disco, new wave and classical but all unsigned music and bands. Opening our eyes to unsigned music, a new kind of entertainment, art and culture, CBGB’s, this small, rather grotty venue has helped shape the music we all listen to today. Figure 11 shows the outside of CBGB’s (Country, BlueGrass, and Blues), the walls paste with concert posters and newspaper clippings. Finally, Chanel, the person Coco Chanel chose to rebel against fashion norms by creating clothing styles she knew women would want to wear rather than what they were told to wear. Chanel is one of the most influential, prominent and well-known brands around today, and has been since it’s first years in 1909. It’s people’s innovative, inspirational ideas like these that shape the way we all live and see the world today. The freedom to be able to express yourself through your style and clothing is drowned underneath the sheer mass and power of the global fashion brands. The determined, fierce pressure we as a nation are being forced under by advertising that is introduced then driven by these brands to conform to ‘trends’ gives very little room for individuality to be recognised.
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