Looking Through Closets: Defining and Reclaiming a Queer Space within Fashion Praxis
Luke Dimech DIM13397950
I, Luke Dimech, certify that this is an original and individual piece of work and that no part of this has been written by anyone else and have acknowledged (appropriately referenced using the Harvard referencing system) all sources and citations. No section f this essay has been plagiarised and this work has not been submitted for any other assessment.
I would very much like to thank my tutor Caroline Stevenson for her knowledgeable guidance and her kind words throughout the research and writing of this work, as well as Jay McCauley Bowstead for steering my research proposal down the right path. Equally important was the patience required of my partner in life and crime, Kyle. For getting through this year with me, I am forever grateful.
â€œVain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us.â€?
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Queer Introductions The initial intention for this research project was to define and contextualise fashion as a gay medium and the fashion industry as a safe haven for gay and queer identities. However, through the natural evolution that occurs during research, this project’s route was diverted and the initial research question exposed as assumptive and hasty. The first step in outlining what contemporary fashion is and how it relates to queer identities is to define. The challenge in establishing whether fashion is and has been a queer space lies in defining both what we mean by the fashion space and ‘queer’ fashion. Firstly, we shall look at what entities can be represented by the word ‘space’, its characteristics - particularly those pertaining to produced social spaces as contrasted with physical spaces – and how these can help in better defining the fashion world. The discussion shall then move on to queerness. In attempting to break down the loaded word that is ‘queer’, focus shall not be primarily based on examining multiple Queer Theories and theorists, though it is likely that prevalent names such as Butler and Foucault be brought up. Though this is mostly as a result of the limited length of this study, the shift from academic analysis also allows a focus on the pragmatics of ‘queer’, thus allowing us to deal with meanings and contexts behind ‘queer’ ideologies and the relationships between the two as represented in the fashion world. The word queer has so far appeared in quotation marks for the simple reason that it has yet to be defined fully along terms that are relevant for this study, and therefore may, for the moment, represent presupposed ideas of queerness that are less developed and accurate. As will be discussed later, this essay hopes to highlight the importance of image reclamation. Often, and particularly in the fast paced fashion industry, there is the tendency to look towards the future in hopes of remaining current, which also results in the tendency to ignore images from that space’s past. Thus this work will partake in the reclamation of queer images as a search for meaningful connections between fashion and queerness. This reclamation of queer images, or rather, this looking through closets, is what we hope to emphasise as being important, but also the methodology with which we hope to do so.
Space Oddity – Defining the Idea of a Space The first and probably most important delineation to be made with regards to fashion as a whole is that we speak, at least for the purpose of this essay, of fashion as a social space not a physical space. In other words, we are not speaking of the multitudinous fashion houses that consistently put out their contributions to this space, nor are we talking about the brick and mortar buildings mapped across the globe or the actual fashion product. As Henri Lefebvre discusses in ‘The Production of Space’ (1991), a social space is not objectifiable, it is not a thing or a product, rather it is what encompasses that which is being produced, the interrelationships between these objects, the operations behind it, as well as the producers. Put quite simply, social space represents the context for production, be it the production of physical goods, of physical space, of meaning or of relations between all these. In his writing, Lefebvre uses the city of Venice to explain the many variations and definitions of space, product and production. Following much discussion, he arrives to the conclusion, or rather he proposes that it would be more accurate to say that Venice – the physical city of interconnecting buildings and canals seemingly floating on water – is a product of space, or a work of art produced within that same space. It is therefore intended to be representational of the social space that subsumes the buildings, but also their builders, the architects, the governing laws, the intentionality behind its construction, the natural environment it finds itself in, and the population to reside in it; “What exactly were the great cathedrals? The answer is that they were political acts. The ancient function of statues was to immortalize the dead so that they would not harm the living. Fabrics or vases served a purpose.” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 74). Thus social spaces are living entities, where each work or product circulates within them, yet it also forms relationships and new meanings with other products, thus stimulating and reforming that space. Through its allencompassing quality, social space is a result of past actions and intentions yet makes it possible for future actions, intentions and productions to occur (Lefebvre, 1991). A significant factor in forming and changing any social space is perspective; the lens through which these objects are being produced, but also that through which these objects (or products) are being viewed and experienced. In other words, both producers and their audience have an inherent power to have social spaces rendered
differently, simply through their relation with and interpretation of the subject. According to Lefebvre, the principles of interpretations and superimpositions (of meanings) means that the physical fragments of a social space can and will be subject to multitudinous analyses. Therefore, as objects result from and correspond to individual needs, they “enter into the circuit of exchange” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 88). In turn, it would be impossible to have a singular mapping out of a social space that deals with its myriad aspects and interpretations. A single map might only be applicable to a specific group of meanings within that space, though this may be at the risk of isolation from it context (Lefebvre, 1991). What this suggest for the questions at hand – defining a queer space in fashion - is that it is possible for fashion to be a social space because it encompasses several of the attributes mentioned above. Moreover, a ‘queer’ mapping of the fashion space is also a possibility due to the simple fact that products within the space are being produced by ‘queer’ identities and are also being experienced by and viewed through ‘queer’ lenses. However, considerations of a queer mapping of that space must not treat the subject with exclusivity; in other words, there oughtn’t be a suggestion that fashion is only a ‘queer’ social space, as there are countless other maps of meaning that have been formed. Rather, this essay hopes to clarify what a ‘queer’ space looks like (now that we have confirmed that it is possible), and validate and reclaim products as having ‘queer’ meaning, thus rendering them eligible for a new mapping of the fashion space.
An Identity Query – Identifying Queer In discussing a relation to queerness it would be very easy to get bogged down in discussions of sexual activity. Though certain aspects of sexuality shall be brought up, as with the images of Saint Sebastian in art, the ‘queer’ focus of this essay shall be on social existence. As mentioned in the previous chapter, a social space, be it queer or not, encompasses many contributing parts, which will here include (but not be limited to) gender, identity, art history, fashion history, social activity, perception and idiosyncrasies of creative production. However, in studying sexuality, or rather, in using it as our starting point, we are opening ourselves to a discussion of social organisation, systems of belief, and cultural production (Hall, 2003).
First and foremost, we must contest the common perception that the term ‘queer’ inherently references gay people. Though homosexuality has been a predominant topic of mention in queer research and queer theories, a statement that puts forth that queerness is only related to people who are attracted to their same sex would be inaccurate and limiting. A more comprehensive statement would highlight queer’s ability to eliminate or alter the perception of a heterosexual viewer, thus helping in the construction of a nonheteronormative and binary presence within a space (Horne & Lewis, 1996). The stance this study takes on queer is that it can be defined, as it has been in the past, as a transgression from what society has come to perceive as heterosexist norms, and thus serving as an umbrella for a myriad of desires and hybrid identities (Horne & Lewis, 1996). In light of this definition, queerness can relate to Barthes’s paradoxa in that it has the power to “resist and disturb the beliefs and forms and codes of the culture” (Allen, 2011, p. 87), which is to say that it goes against common views on what can be considered ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ (Hall, 2003). Though Hall brings about Barthes and Death of the Author in relation to Queer Theory and academia, similar arguments can still be applied to social spaces due their centring around perspectives and beliefs which, as discussed in the previous chapter, form an integral part of a representational space. However, what may be problematic is that such a broad definition of queer erases specificity (in that it seeks to define queer though a lack of restricting definitions), thus opening the door to behaviours and activities that are neither normative nor previously defined as queer. Nevertheless, Hall (2003) emphasises that this breadth can be uplifting in terms of creating a dialogue around inclusivity and diversity in the queer space.
RetroActive – Why Looking towards the Past is Important In hopes of beginning to explore this broadly defined space, it seems important to do so by looking backwards. A temporal exploration of the history, not only of fashion and dress, but also of queer history and queer stories, can better attempt to find a connection between the two and establish the first moments of fashion as a queer space. As posited by Lefebvre, any space is contributed to and changed by the many products circulating within it (be those products meanings, perspectives or
actual objects) (1991), thus in order to explain a present space, it might prove fruitful to look through the products of its past in understanding how the present state of that space was changed and formed. Some may argue that the concept of a queer history is problematic in that it is very much dependent on the historiansâ€™ beliefs and biases, and open to multiple versions of interpretation and shaping of information. This leaves queer history exposed to subjectivity and its being understood as an artificial construct (Hall, 2003). Though a valid point, this study does not view it as a threat to the reclamation of queer history; how is the idea of exploring the past of those that have not aligned with heteronormative values much different from explorations of histories pertaining to women, feminists, ethnic minorities and the like? Personal interpretations and unique experiences are important in shaping different histories and become integral parts of unique mappings of spaces. In the words of Judith Butler in Gender Trouble (1990); There is one aspect of the conditions of its production that is not always understood about the text: it was produced not merely from the academy, but from convergent social movements that I have been a part, and within the context of a... community... Despite the dislocation of the subject that the text performs, there is a person here... [Who] encountered sexuality at several of its cultural edges (xvi). Thus, as has also been proposed by poststructuralists, historical meaning can be found beyond the text itself (Hall, 2003). It can be derived from in-between the physical structures and literal meaning of the words and the objects, it can be derived from the identity of the producer and also the spaces they occupy. Therefore, if there are queer identities in the present, there must also be queer texts and valid queer histories. It is up to us, in the present space to identify and reclaim them, through looking backwards we can tease out from what cultural texts we have available in defining the space at particular times.
A Wilde World â€“ Initial Associations between Dress & Queer Identity In general, stories and images of sexual orientation and sexuality seem to have been downplayed in historical record keeping, with sexual non-conformity often going
ignored or un-recorded. Most are probably aware of the persecution of homosexuality in medieval era, as well as attempts at disguising the sexual variance that appeared during the Renaissance (Hall, 2003), yet these facts reveal very little, if anything, about the fashion space and other visual products. Possibly, one of the first recorded associations made between fashion/dress and queer identity is found in the life of Oscar Wilde. For the most part, artists embody a sense of the outsider; by existing outside of the mainstream they create a vantagepoint of observation, whilst also allowing them to seek solace in a world they can create or mould (Farber, 1996). This is even truer of queer artists such as Wilde, that faced the ubiquitous risk of persecution, thus leading them to play with ‘masks’ and understand dress as having a valuable offering of symbols and opportunities for constructing artifices (Stradling, 1996). For instance, Oscar Wilde and his circle of friends decided upon wearing green carnations as a signifier of their sexuality and a revelation of their secret (but true) identities to gay men they hoped to attract (Cole, 2000). Other symbols were also to be found within gay spaces at the time, however these were often modes of communicating preferred types of sexual activity (Cole, 2000). For such identities, these codes rendered social life and presentation (through clothing) meaningful and classifiable (Hall, 1977), allowing these men to construct their Oscar Wilde wearing a (supposedly) green carnation to signify his sexuality, Photo by Alfred Ellis & Walery Studio, 1892
images using materials from a broader culture (Cole, 2000); they began to shape their own space.
This close relationship with dress and Wilde’s queer identity also rears its head during a court case following Wilde’s arrest. The writer was arrested and labelled (by his lover’s father) as a sodomite, which led to his prosecution for ‘crimes against nature’. In the press, however, Wilde was criticised for his eccentric dress and
effeminate manner, qualities that revealed his unnatural sexuality as a threat to ‘normal’ middle class values (Hall, 2003). Such statements help to highlight two aspects of this discussion; firstly that there is a clear connection between dress choices and unique expression of identity and; secondly, that such discourse around the homosexual (a queer identity) implies that what constitutes a queer identity need not be homosexual acts such as sodomy, but certain desires, choices and levels taste that can be understood as a kind of queer aesthetic (Kaye, 1996).
Back to Life – Resuscitating Queer Images in Fashion Though Oscar Wilde’s example plays an important role in defining a connection between that which we now consider queer and that which we now call fashion, some might argue that his identity plays less of a role in contributing to a more recent visual culture. It is quite true that the figure of Wilde as a witty, camp dandy influenced generations to come in modelling themselves after him (and even defining themselves against) (Hall, 2003). Yet, one may question his image’s relevance in the current fashion scene and contemporary representations of queer life. Therefore, what must also be looked at are images from recent/contemporary fashion spaces that seek to engage with prior queer products, not as reiterations, but as reclamations of queer life or reanimations of cultural corpses (Freeman, 2000). In turn, this study, with this section in particular, attempts to add to or continue a reclamation that has already started by highlighting the queer cultural products in fashion that may confirm a queer space within the contemporary fashion industry.
A Divine Intervention â€“ Dragging it Out In her feminist paper Packing
History, Count(er)ing Generations (2000), Elizabeth Freeman likens this â€œresuscitation of the obsolete cultural textâ€? (p.732) to the work of drag queens and drag kings. She stresses that identity expression through clothing requires a shift from models that are futuristic, nonnarrative and based on iteration, to ones that are narrative, historicist and based on allegorisation. This idea of allegory is borrowed from Butler, where she states that drag allegorises normative gender and identity through multitemporal movements across bodies, gender, Divine in her full outrageous campy glory, Photographed by Michael Zagaris, 1973
and chronology. Thus by working allegorically, like drag, fashion has
the power within itself to fuse moments and images into a cohesive expression of identity and, though this identity might not necessarily be a queer one, it still performs a temporal crossing that registers a particular level of queerness (Freeman, 2000). Through his collection presentation for spring 2016, Gareth Pugh offers a clear visual representation of the connection between the allegorical potential of mainstream fashion and drag culture. A non-queer viewer might only see models wearing late 70s and early 80s inspired designs and somewhat clown-like sheer masks with conspicuously artificial hair and exaggerated receding hair lines. However, a queer audience would not take long to look past the sum of its parts and see the bold image of Divine coming through loud and clear (o rather, loud and queer).
Flamboyantly dressed, bold, and deliciously vile (Ewens, 2015), Divine was the star of several John Waters films. It is because of his irreverent attitude and aesthetic and unabashed queerness that many would consider him a god (or goddess) of drag. In resurrecting Divine’s image, Pugh has fused past queer products with the current fashion space simply by allowing them to inhabit and circulate within it. By allegorising identity and using an image that queer people can identify with – one that is also about identity - he has also contributed to the queer narrative in fashion.
Left: Divine in red sequins in Fiorucci (a New York gay designer) invitation card, illustration by
Richard Bernstein, 1985
Centre: Red platelet sequins and receding hairlines were all the rage at Gareth Pugh Spring 2016 collection presentation (image from vogue.com) Right: The beauty look at Gareth Pugh’s Spring 2016 show, including Divine’s trademark artificial mole, severely angled eyebrows, and blue eyeshadow from her character in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, 1972 (image from vogue.com)
We find another version of temporal drag - which also happens to reference Divine – in Miu Miu’s Spring 2015 collection. “In it, Prada extolled the virtues of the obnoxious brat, the slut, the bad Divine as Dawn Davenport in scenes from John Waters’ Female Trouble, 1974
girl—in short, the virtues of Dawn Davenport,
played by Divine in John Waters' Female Trouble” (Furniss, 2014, in Vogue.com). Thus the designer partook in a fusion between a past queer cultural product and her current consumer’s identity. What is noteworthy here is that Miuccia Prada identifies as a heterosexual female, yet still makes her contribution to a queer dialogue in fashion. This strengthens the argument made previously, that the idea of queer is not solely dependent on nonheterosexual activities and sexual acts, but also on a visual language and culture (Stradling, 1996) [please refer to Appendix I for additional material].
Miuccia Prada’s version of Dawn Davenport in her Spring 2015 collection for Miu Miu (images from vogue.com)
Therefore, if fashion identity has the potential to be queer by partaking in temporal drag – allegorising - then perhaps shared culture-making projects (as is the fashion industry) might do well to look backwards as a potentially transformative part of the current queer space in the industry itself (Freeman, 2000).
Saints and Seamen - The Fashion of Saint Sebastian The post modernist era brought with it new modes of representation of cultural, historical and religious imagery, also bringing with it the ability to create new realities and new meanings for these images. Our culture of imagery which in turn feeds the fashion industry is now rife with appropriation of religious images and icons by queer identities (Kaye, 1996), from Andy Warhol’s postmodern
reinterpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, as well as his transformation of Marilyn Monroe into a pseudo-byzantine icon, to Lady Gaga’s video for her single ‘Judas’ in which she portrays Mary Magdalene wearing Christian Lacroix Couture [please refer to Appendix II for supportive visual material]. Yet long before this setting of the postmodernist benchmark of representation (Kaye, 1996) we find that one particular example of queer appropriation of Christian imagery stands out; that of Saint Sebastian. It would not be a reach of the mind the understand how an image of an almost-nude nubile – yet slightly feminine - young man, often depicted tied to a tree trunk, and being repeatedly penetrated by arrows with an expression of exquisite agony became known as an image of the ‘gay patron saint’ and a symbol of sadomasochism (Kaye, 1996). From renaissance paintings to literature and photography, there are countless interpretations of the martyr to choose from and analyse, though for the purpose of this essay focus shall be placed solely on the queer interpretations of the Saint relating to fashion and dress.
The passion of Muhammad Ali versus the fashion of John Galliano
On the April 1968 cover of Esquire magazine, champion (heterosexual) boxer Muhammad Ali poses as the martyr. This same image was later recreated by John Galliano for the magazine’s 75th anniversary in 2009. It is probable that Ali was not aware of the queer legacy of the saint or the homoerotic subtext behind his image
and it is also possible that such meaning behind Saint Sebastian’s image were not prevalent at the time the photo was captured. However, what is noteworthy here is that John Galliano, a homosexual fashion designer, chose this particular image to recreate. As mentioned previously, an integral part of the mapping out of any social space is the validation and reclamation of texts as having particular meanings, thus allowing for a new mapping out of the social space. Perhaps, this image of John Galliano as Saint Sebastian is an attempt to do just that; in hopes of reclaiming the image of the martyr as the gay patron saint, the designer here becomes an active member in the defining of a queer space within fashion. Similarly, we find two examples of this saintly reclamation in the short-lived career of Gianni Versace; The first of which is directly printed on a silk shirt from the designer’s Spring 1994 collection, and the second is through a Bruce Weber photo in Universe Publishing’s 1996 monograph on the designer in which a silk scarf in the ubiquitous Versace print is draped around the model’s crotch, as opposed to the traditional loincloth. It is still arguable whether such images are necessarily gay or queer, which may be a possible reason why certain An image of a Versace clad Saint Sebastian by
Bruce Weber, 1996
artists felt the need to denote or intensify the queerness in their images
with “details that are additionally coded as gay” (Kaye, 1996 p. 87). Two of such images are the paintings by Albert Courmes (1934) and Marsden Hartley (1939). The former shows our Saint on a dock wearing a French sailor’s uniform, yet, with the exception of shoes and socks, he is nude from the waist down. The latter painting,
Sustained Comedy – Portrait of an Object, depicts Sebastian in a tank top with tattoos of a butterfly, a muscleman and a sailor. What is evident in these two images
is that dress is used as a signifying factor of the queer identity1. Moreover, we begin to see the emergence of the Sailor’s image in queer culture, which was later brought to the fashion space and popularised by designer Jean Paul Gaultier with his signature Breton t-shirt and the sailor-focused advertising of his perfume Le Male (which has a bottle shaped like a man’s torso wearing a Breton tank top). Whether depicted as saint or sailor, the multifaceted image of Saint Sebastian suggests that the cultural offerings of religion, history and fine art are consistently susceptible to reinterpretation and appropriation as icons of any particular subculture (Kaye, 1996). It also enforces the idea put forward by this essay; that the defining and mapping out of a queer space within the fashion space requires a multidirectional reclamation of imagery and meaning.
Left: Marsden Hartley’s 1939 interpretation of Saint Sebastian complete with tattoos, tank and queer symbolism. Right: Albert Courmes’ 1934 Saint Sebastian as a trouser-less French sailor Centre: One of several sailor-themed adverts for Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature fragrance for men Le Male, including a torso-shaped bottle and homoerotic undertones.
The fact that Hartley chose to enhance the images queer-factor by placing the object of his image in a tank top once again makes a connection between an individual’s identity and his or her chosen form of dress. One should also note that a few decades later, in the 1970’s, the emergence of ‘the clones’ made the tank top a prevalent item in every gay man’s wardrobe (Cole, 2013).
Making a Statement – Dress & LGBT Activism
Activists at an Act Up protest wearing statements of support and solidarity early on in the epidemic timeline, image from Slantmagazine.com
Up until the 1980s very rarely had we seen fashion and dress directly supporting and aligning with queer identities. We have already discussed cases such as that of Oscar Wilde where colours, fabrics and garment details were used as signifiers, not declarations (Katz, 2013) of unique sexual identities2, yet with the emergence of the HIV virus and the aids crisis, the queer world rose to arms in defence of their identities and solidarity with the thousands affected and killed by the virus. Activist groups Queer Nation and Act Up (among others) recognised that the time had come to make literal and forceful statements, and to protest against misconceptions about gay people and AIDS (Katz, 2013), which had by then been labelled ‘the gay plague’. Soon after their establishing, Act Up and Queer Nation began selling slogan t-shirts at their protests, thus giving new meaning to using fashion to make a statement. Some might argue that a slogan t-shirt might not necessarily be the best example to relate to the contemporary fashion space, yet it must also be said that the AIDS epidemic is extremely important to any discussion of queer history and the queer space, and thus should not be ignored or devalued. Wearing t-shirts reading “I support lesbian and gay pride in America” and “Silence = Death” (one of many 2
For instance, green was for Oscar Wilde a signifier of subtle artistic temperament and laxity of morals (Steele) whilst, later on, in the 1970s, different coloured handkerchiefs became signifiers of sexual preference among gay men (Cole, 2000). According to Michael Bronsky, “because it had to be hidden, [queer] sensibility has expressed itself by implying rather than stating, by indicating with appearance what it was not allowed to state with content (Bronsky, 1984 p. 180).
statements designed by gay artist, Keith Haring) became a forthright declaration of a different identities and a political statement. What’s more, donning these statements and attending these protest built bridges between different sexual identities, allowing even heterosexuals to support the cause and have a claim to queerness in some way or other. Thus, though LGBTQ Activist t-shirts may be perceived as making statements of separation (emphasising the separation of sexualities), they helped bring people together based on ideology, and became roving billboards of change (Katz, 2013), a feat which might not have been achieved had it not been for the simple t-shirt [please refer to Appendix III for supportive material]. Gender mixed brand Hood By Air (HBA), headed by designer Shayne Oliver, recently made a similar statement with their collection for Spring 2017. Emblazoned on their outerwear in large and bold typeface was the word ‘Realness’; the term comes from the New York underground drag scene of the 1970s and 1980s and was used to explain how convincing one was at depicting other identities. By making the literal statement about its ‘realness’ HBA was able to communicate its gender-mixed ideology but also align itself with LGBTQ community and support it Red coat realness from the Hood By Air lookbook for their Spring 2017 collection
through their space in the industry [please refer t Appendix IV].
These few examples mentioned above, though prominent and evidently queer examples of queer imagery, are by far not the only ones. For more images and support material and a short explanation of their significance, please refer to the appendix.
New Performances – The Queer Fashion Space Now In the attempt to determine whether fashion is a queer space, we have defined both what we mean by queerness and what constitutes a social space. Following the above analysis of imagery and the theories connected to it, it seems plausible to conclude that fashion is most certainly, but not exclusively, a queer space, in that it represents a culture of queer images, queer image creators and signifiers, and queer perceptions. However, there is a possibility to take this definition one step further. Though stated that the term ‘space’ need not refer to a physical space with four walls, a floor and a ceiling, this term may still be somewhat limiting to both fashion and queerness. When we ask to what extent something is queer, and similarly when asking to define fashion, the answer is inevitably and intrinsically connected to identity (Hall, 2003). In other words, we might do away with a mapping of a queer space within the fashion space altogether; fashion is not a queer space because it creates a safe haven for diverse sexual identities. Rather, fashion is innately queer in that it allows for a mutable amount of multifaceted performances of identity, beyond sexual behaviour, desire and gender.
John Galliano’s Margiela explains the performative power of fashion for their Fall 2016 Artisanal presentation.
In the words of Jagose in Queer Theory: An Introduction, “queer is not outside the magnetic field of identity”, and what this work now hopes to present is that neither is fashion. Therefore, this essay began with an attempt to find a connection between the two, yet ended by positing that they are equal in that they both provide us, that is, those within the space, with a bricolage of histories, of culture, of genders and sexes to choose from in the mapping out of our own spaces (Wilson, 2013). In our current climate, where LGBT individuals have more rights, where homosexuality has been decriminalised in most nations, where transgender issues are at the forefront of our discussions3, we can now expect and even demand that definitions be broadened, heteronormative ideologies disintegrated, and new performances of selfhood be accepted. Much like the protagonist in Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, we ought to accept the multiplicity of unique performances of identity, but also the unity of selfhood (Hall, 2003). This is beautifully illustrated by the opening piece is John Galliano’s Fall 2016 artisanal collection for Maison Margiela, where what seems to be a twisted idea of a jacket eventually transforms into an actual coat. Here Galliano eloquently explains the garment’s fluidity in its allowance of multiple new performances whilst still being contained in its singularity. It is a performance of queerness as much as it is a performance of fashion.
Even in fashion, we have seen trans-female model Hari Nef make her Milan Fashion Week debut walking in the Gucci Menswear show, and John Galliano leading the gender revolution in fashion by having maleidentifying models walk in women’s couture (Stansfield, 2016) [For images please refer to Appendix V].
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Wilson, E. (2013) ‘What does a lesbian look like?’ Steele, V. (ed.) A Queer History of
Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk, New York, NY: Fashion Institute of Technology
Raf Simons, John Gallianoâ€™s successor as creative director for the house of Christian Dior, is also responsible for the resuscitation of images by queer individuals. For his Fall 2013 collection for Dior ready-to-wear, Simons emblazoned his designs with lesser known works by gay artist (and queer icon) Andy Warhol; his fashion illustrations. More recently, for his own brandâ€™s spring 2017 Menswear collection, Raf Simons printed oversized shirts with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work was often homoerotic in nature and distinctly queer. It must be pointed out that Simons is a heterosexual, yet this does not mean that we can exclude him from the queer space; in fact, these examples further strengthen the idea that queerness need not be directly related to sexual activity and desire. Images from vogue.com
Andy Warholâ€™s The Last Supper (The Big C) from 1986 as an example of queer appropriation of religious imagery (Warhol being gay, yet also a Catholic)
Queer Designer Christopher Kaneâ€™s use of religious imagery for his Spring 2016 collection. Kane has previously mentioned his wish to revisit the past in order to move forward, thus a reclamation of old spaces in the moulding of new (and possibly queer) ones (Mower, 2016, in Vogue.com) Images from vogue.com
Lady Gaga as Mary Magdalene in her music video for the song Judas wearing Christian Lacroix 2008 Couture
Appendix III The now popular t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘The Future is Female’ was originally made in 1972 for the first women’s bookstore in New York City. The photograph (above left) was taken in 1975 by Liza Cowan, whose girlfriend is seen here wearing the t-shirt. The photo was intended for a project on lesbian style (otherwild.com). Yet another example of how style can make several statements that are simultaneously literal, subliminal, and queer. On a similar note, Maria Grazia Chiuri attempted the same feat for her first collection as Dior’s first female creative director.
Appendix IV This was not the first time HBA made reference to drag culture and New York underground subculture. Directly inspired by the drag ballroom culture, Shayne Oliverâ€™s Fall 2014 collection for his brand ended with 10 male dancers performing a voguing routine. For Oliver (a voguer himself) this was an authentic and unique expression of identity and culture through fashion (Oyster, 2014).
Demonstrating the ever-increasing gender-fluidity and body-diversity in fashion are (far left) John Whiles in Fall 2015 Margiela Artisanal, (left) Vincent Beier in Spring 2016 Margiela Ready-ToWear and (below) Hari Nef in Spring 2016 Gucci Menswear. Images from vogue.com
Contextualising Your Practice essay by Luke Dimech