META MAG presents
HEAVEN, HELL & PURGATORY
What would the descent of angels look like? Whether it be emerging through a bright light against a blue sky or blending into a taupe toned background, the thought of angels among humans has captured artist imaginations for centuries. Specifically, Renaissance artists have created countless renditions of how they believed angels would appear alongside humans. In recent years, angels have made their way into the human world again in a significant facet of life: fashion. Whether it be through events like the 2017 revival of the Italian brand Fiorucci, the 2018 Heavenly Bodies Met Gala, or the 2019 television series Euphoria, angel motifs have been more present than ever in contemporary clothing trends to witness the build-up to the pivotal 2020s. A thorough examination of Renaissance art and its influence on recent fashion trends and media gives the impression that angels will forever and always be a profound and meaningful symbol in art. Traditionally, angels are messengers and guardians sent from the heavens to the human world. They are present in many of the Bible’s most important events, such as the Angel Gabriel’s annunciation of the birth of Christ. Therefore, to have angels as witnesses means that a monumental event is happening or they are purposefully appearing in the presence of someone extraordinary. Angels appear on Earth to mark the crucial points in history. Examples of these points in history being witnessed by angels were illustrated by some of the Renaissance’s most famous artists. The bottom of Raphael’s painting, The Sistine Madonna, features two baby angels thoughtfully observing the Madonna, a central figure to Christianity. The upwards gaze of the angels in Raphael’s painting is similar to Fiorucci’s logo of two baby-faced cherubs gazing upward at the wearer of the clothing. Just as Raphael’s angels observe an important figure, the Fiorucci angels observe an important figure as well; the individual who is wearing their image. The angel motif found in The Sistine Madonna and Fiorucci’s logo can also be seen in the television series, Euphoria (2019).
Angelic features combined with Gen Z’s obsession of the ’90s manifested itself in the Halloween costume of the character Jules which mimics Clare Danes’s angel costume from 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. Coincidentally, the scene of Danes admiring the sky mirrors the upwards gaze of Raphael’s and Fiorucci’s angels. The immortality of the angel motif becomes apparent as it has transcended layers of time, from the Renaissance to Fiorucci’s birth in 1967, to the 90s, and again near the beginning of the 2020s. Angels have always been a sign from the heavens, and their consistent upwards gaze resembles their optimistic attitude on the capacity for good in human beings.
“Angel motifs have been more present than ever in contemporary clothing trends to witness the build-up to the pivotal 2020s. Angels preside over an important event in Hans Holbein the Elder’s painting The Death of the Virgin, specifically the impending death of the Virgin Mary. Angels float at the top of the painting where they wait to escort Mary to paradise; in this case, angels are a positive omen that signifies Mary moving on to Heaven, to be closer to Jesus. The presence of angels thus also marks the transition to a better place and a brighter future. Renaissance works like The Death of the Virgin by Holbein and the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo often feel crowded compared to minimalist art styles. The amount of people and objects illustrated in a Renaissance painting is similar to the trending style of maximalism where more is more and bigger is better. People today are drawn to drama in clothing, and the Renaissance produced some of the most theatrical paintings because artwork back then was used to depict events and people as monumental due to the time and resources it took to complete each piece. While the feeling of Renaissance luxury is trending again, so is the color palette. The resurgence of angels in
fast fashion typically takes on the color palette of Renaissance paintings and the cherub-like appearance of angels. Many of these garments are heavily inspired by Ariana Grande’s tulle gown from the 2018 Met Gala by Vera Wang. The gown depicted images from the aforementioned Sistine Chapel ceiling on its structured corset and cloud-like draped dress. Taking on the color palette and sheer textile used by Vera Wang, cerulean blue mesh tops and dresses decorated with white clouds and flying angels became edgy staples in retail stores within the last year. The muted brown, blue, and white color palette characteristic of Renaissance paintings appeared in watercolor-like splashes in many collections of clothing brands aimed at Gen Z consumers. As young people obsess over everything from the ’90s and early 2000s, Vivienne Westwood’s 1990 Fall/Winter collection featuring corsets depicting François Boucher’s oil painting, Daphnis and Chloe, has become a source of inspiration. Westwood is a staple when it comes to examining historical references in fashion. The natural tones of the painting combined with the corset’s light beige paneling and thick straps gave the painting a second life as a piece of artwork in the form of fashion. In the painting, the character Chloe is lounging on the ground while Daphnis is hovering over her. The lovers have fabric luxuriously draped about them and sheep surrounding them with a scenic view of the landscape in the background. The picturesque poses of the characters mimic the dramatic flair Renaissance artwork has and Westwood’s corset adds another layer of drama by cinching in the wearer’s waist and creating an exaggerated silhouette. Westwood’s classical art corsets are being revived in a sustainable way by New York designer Kristin Mallison who creates similarly beautiful and intricate corsets with textiles from vintage furniture. Mallison’s work most clearly reflects the zeitgeist of young people today who are looking for unique pieces but not at the expense of the environment. The feeling both Westwood’s and Mallison’s artistic corsets invoke is one of grace and refinement. Similar
to the concept of heaven being an unreachable destination, these artistic corsets take the wearer to an alternate universe where timelines merge and Renaissance style is expressed through contemporary techniques. Looking towards the heavens and history are forms of escapism and angels take part in both by helping transport people through the Renaissance fashion trend and guiding people towards a better future spiritually. The idea of angels being guides towards paradise and the hope of having a “rebirth” in a civilization like the Renaissance is gaining traction likely due to the current anxiety in the world. In this unstable time, young people are looking to the distant past for stability and in turn have drawn aesthetic inspiration from forgone moments in history. It is no wonder then why the angel motifs omnipresent during the Renaissance as a response to the Bubonic plague are resurfacing now as we attempt to recover from a global pandemic. Also known as the Black Death, the plague that took place in the mid-1350s drastically changed civilizations in Europe and Asia. The impact of the plague solidified Italy as the center of the 1400s Renaissance. Many in the upper class became patrons of the arts as the uncertainties of the past led to a new spirit of inquiry. The possibility of a Renaissance after such horrific times gives people hope in the prospect of prosperity and angels are the ones that guide humans towards such bliss.
The possibility of a Renaissance after such horrific times gives people hope in the prospect of prosperity and angels are the ones that guide humans towards such bliss. From the general affinity for the aesthetic of Renaissance artwork to the particular way angels are presented, looking to the past for inspiration has been a major theme this year. In quarantine, people found stability in being able to bake their own bread or grow their own
Illustration by Lily Glantz
vegetable garden like how most of the population did in the past. In a historical moment of extreme change and uncertainty, a rare constant is the work of great artists from before. The works of these artists give people faith that things will eventually improve and lead to new creations that bring humankind to new heights. Heaven is viewed as a separate destination from where mortals live and somewhere that is a paradise beyond human imagination. Angels are one of the few entities that can cross between heaven and the mortal world and their purpose is to guide humankind to do good. The addition of angels into any piece of art represents the potential in humans to act morally and with altruism. By leading humans to be righteous, the angels help create the possibility of heaven on Earth. Angels appear at important moments in history and they appear for important people. Perhaps todayâ€™s fashion consumer is unconsciously searching for the attention that only an angelâ€™s otherworldly presence can give. Or perhaps they are searching for the feeling of security knowing that guardian angels are around to witness the turmoil in the world alongside humans. The power of hope in the future that angels hold made them important figures for artists in the Renaissance and important for the population today looking towards a brighter tomorrow.
In Buddhism, life is bookended by two portals: one from the previous life and one from to the next. The concept of a permanent heaven and hell does not exist; rather, there is a life-to-life pursuit of Nirvana.
Reborn, in short, is a diptych experience resulting from the concept of reincarnation in Buddhist tradition. Each work, delicately paired together, communicates in a vibrant discourse regarding the social pressures of self-realization. In order to fully reach oneâ€™s potential, there perhaps lies pain and suffering, but it is comforting to know that existence doesnâ€™t end where life normally ends.
This project tackles topics of gender expression and confidence, those near and dear to my heart. Enjoy the pieces separately for their distinct merits, but take the sets of photos as they come. You will now see an individual coming into full bloom. Casey Nguyen x
REBORN REBORN REBORN REBORN REBORN
Written by Vanessa Nguyen Illustrations by Michael Canabarro
Religion has always been a rich source of inspiration for artists throughout history. The Catholic church, once the biggest patron of the arts, commissioned creators to reference religious iconography and stories in their work. Paintings like those on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel showcase how religion was once the central subject of art before the decline of the church. Although art no longer solely revolves around religion, modern-day artists and designers are no strangers to drawing inspiration from it. Many high-end designers like Alessandro Michele and Alexander McQueen have created collections centered on heaven and hell, showcasing their interpretations of the two. Unsurprisingly, fashion inspired by religion can be controversial, as designers reference sacred figures and icons in their work. Consequently, fashion featuring religious influences falls into a sort of purgatory, a middle ground between appreciation and appropriation. Here, artists can either celebrate or demean the religion they draw inspiration from. Many high-end designers have used the concept of heaven and its holy figures as a source of inspiration for their collections and pieces. For instance, the 2018 Met Gala theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” pushed designers to create pieces that incorporated or showcased influence from Catholic iconography. Gucci designer Alessandro Michele drew inspiration from Catholic holy figures in his depiction of American singer Lana Del Rey as the Virgin Mary. Michele’s deliberate cloaking of Lana Del Rey in white symbolizes, like the Virgin mother, purity. To further establish the parallels between the two, he embellished her ethereal, white robes with golden, floral swirls, a bronze heart chest plate, and a large blue headpiece. Embedded in the bronze heart were seven daggers, a clear reference to religious imagery; old paintings often portrayed Mary with seven knives piercing her heart to symbolize her mourning. Each of the daggers represented a sorrow that she had to bear, the most prominent being the crucifixion of her son. Lana Del Rey’s elaborate headpiece,
composed of a silver jeweled halo encircled by blue feathery wings, is reminiscent of those of angels, further reinforcing an image of purity and holiness. The influence of Catholic iconography can also be seen in Michele’s portrayal of Jared Leto as Jesus. Atop his head, Leto donned a golden wreath of flowers and leaves, similar to Jesus’ crown of thorns. This golden crown coupled with Leto’s beard and shoulder-length curls made him the striking image of Christ. A stole embroidered with the same golden swirls and flowers as Lana Del Rey’s gown was draped over his shoulders, a clear reference to papal attire. Michele’s use of the stole strengthens the resemblance to Jesus; both the stole and Jesus are symbols of sacrifice. Through his stylistic choices, Michele successfully brings Catholic holy figures to life, simultaneously creating divine pieces and adding his own touch of heaven to the Met Gala.
Like Dante, McQueen took his audience on a journey through his interpretation of hell, boldly claiming that religion is the cause of all war. The etherealness of heaven makes it an enticing source of inspiration, but some designers prefer something darker. Consequently, many have centered their collections on the subject of hell and satanic figures. Alexander McQueen deliberately dubbed his 1996 Autumn/ Winter collection “Dante,” referencing the ancient author who wrote The Divine Comedy, a narrative in which the main character ventures through the afterlife and explores the realms of heaven, hell, and purgatory. Like Dante, McQueen took his audience on a journey through his interpretation of hell, boldly claiming that religion is the cause of all war. McQueen chose to hold his show in a church built by a suspected Satanist. The soundtrack consisted of orchestral music layered with terrifying sounds of war; the seemingly innocent church hymns were at times drowned out by the sounds of gunfire and the desperate battle cries of men.
The lights would often flicker, sinisterly solely illuminating the Catholic iconography within the church while thunder raged intensely in the background. McQueen’s soundtrack and setting choices allowed him to create his own hellish world, setting the stage for him to establish a connection between war and religion. Many of the collection’s pieces were emblazoned with black-and-white photos of soldiers in the Vietnam war. Others were ripped as if someone had slashed through them with a knife, reminiscent of the tears found on soldiers’ uniforms. To further illustrate the devastation of war, McQueen interspersed the collection with bird claws, which are symbolic of death. One model donned a skeletal claw that extended from her ear to her mouth, positioned in a way such that it resembled a hand silencing her. Alongside these references to war and death, McQueen also included religious imagery, adorning one model in a crown of thorns, similar to the one Jesus wore. Other models wore black masks with a figurine of the crucifixion attached. This infusion of references to religion and war in both the soundtrack and the collection allowed McQueen to create a nightmarish world where the church is a battlefield, condemning religion as the cause of all war. Fashion inspired by religious iconography is a true sight to behold, but its controversial nature causes it to land in a sort of purgatory; designers who feature religious influences in their work must be careful to walk the thin line between appreciation and appropriation. However, as designers strive to be both creative and original, they often push this boundary. For example, in his Spring 2000 show titled “Eye,” Alexander McQueen attempted to capture growing Islamophobia, the Western fear of Islam that resulted from rising tensions between al-Qaeda and the United States. In his collection, McQueen drew inspiration from Muslim coverings like burqas, full-body veils that cover the eyes with a mesh screen, and niqabs, facial veils that leave a window for the eyes. Muslim women wear these garments because they value modesty. For Muslims, dressing conservatively
is a way they outwardly show their devotion to their faith. Therefore, coverings like niqabs and burqas that allow them to dress modestly have deep religious meaning. By sexualizing these garments, McQueen blatantly disregards their true purpose and ignores their religious significance, extremely pushing the boundaries of religious fashion. For example, the niqab McQueen fashioned entirely out of large, white sequins and paired with matching underwear is flashy and scandalous, counteracting the intended modesty of niqabs. McQueen’s embellishment of a burqa with gold and silver studs paired with matching underwear is also gaudy and inappropriate. Most controversially, the way McQueen ostentatiously styled a black niqab with a strappy leather bathing suit, cut so that the models’ breasts were exposed, opposes the conservatism of the original garments.
McQueen’s eroticization of these garments caused audiences to ponder whether he creatively appreciated Muslim attire or whether he appropriated it. McQueen’s eroticization of these garments caused audiences to ponder whether he creatively appreciated Muslim attire or whether he appropriated it. However, due to his nonconsensual borrowing and offensive interpretation of Muslim clothing, most agree that “Eye” was a particularly distasteful display of cultural appropriation. Growing Islamophobia caused by conflicts between the United States and al-Qaeda on the global stage meant that Muslim women were at a higher risk of experiencing hate crimes and harassment for wearing these coverings; their distinctive dress makes it easy for others to identify as followers of Islam. However, in McQueen’s fashion show, these same garments were viewed as fashionable and sexy, and the models wearing them did not have to worry about facing the same oppression that Muslim women still do today. McQueen’s blatant sexualization of the niqabs
and burqas was incredibly disrespectful and proved that he didn’t have a true understanding of the significance and purpose of the garments. Unfortunately, McQueen is not the only designer that has been accused of appropriating aspects of religion. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel, was also widely criticized for his appropriation of Islamic culture. In Chanel’s 1994 Spring/Summer collection, Lagerfeld used a verse of the Quran as decorative lettering on a low-cut dress. Because of Islam’s conservative approach to feminine attire and the Quran’s status as a sacred scripture, this piece unsurprisingly sparked outrage. Dubbing the dress “the Satanic Breasts,” the Muslim community and its leaders found it so offensive that they threatened to stop the importation of Chanel goods to the Muslim world. As a result, Chanel chief executive Claude Eliette promised to burn the dress as part of his apology to the Muslim community. Lagerfeld explained that he understood the verse to be a love poem inspired by the Taj Mahal, not part of Islam’s sacred texts. However, despite the fact that he may have had good intentions, Lagerfeld’s lack of knowledge on the Quran verse and his use of it for aesthetic purposes was undoubtedly cultural appropriation. On the other hand, although the 2018 Met Gala received criticism because its theme solely focused on one religion and thereby excluded others, the event is still generally considered to be culturally appreciative towards Catholicism, the one religion it showcased. Unlike the shows and collections of Lagerfeld and McQueen, the Met Gala received consent in the form of an endorsement by the Vatican, the council of Catholicism. The ways in which designers of the Met Gala drew inspiration from Catholicism was much more respectful and humble than the methods of McQueen and Lagerfeld. This is especially evident in how Dolce & Gabbana styled Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke. Clarke donned a lacy, black, floor-sweeping dress embroidered
with golden swirls, flowers, and six-pointed stars. These golden elements emulate the extravagance featured in Catholic art, where artists often used gold leaf to embellish their pieces. Alongside these golden detailings, the designers decorated the dress with picturesque images of floating cherubs, reminiscent of paintings on a canvas. Atop her head, Clarke wore a crown composed of red jewels and golden leaves, resembling Jesus’ crown of thorns. By establishing accurate and appropriate parallels between Clarke’s dress and religious art, Dolce & Gabbana demonstrated a clear understanding of the Catholic symbolism they referenced. This piece in particular exemplifies how designers for the Met Gala were largely able to respectfully appreciate and pay homage to Catholic art. Undoubtedly, religious influence will continue to be showcased in high fashion as designers create more collections with heaven and hell inspired themes. Consequently, designers must also learn how to navigate this fashion purgatory to avoid creating pieces that offend communities and instead create ones that celebrate and honor the religions they reference.
An Artificial Taste of Heaven Written by Tiffany Hue
Love is perplexing. Love is cynical. Love waits for no one. Love is an oxymoronic concept of euphoric torment, a drug people cannot get enough of, an addiction to validation and self-expression. Love is what binds people together in relationships and what breaks them apart during hardships. Love is what Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of A Lady On Fire celebrates as a melodramatic homage to renaissance art. This onscreen revitalization of purgatorial miscommunication but mutual connection follows the story of a timid 19th-century painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who is sent to the secluded French island of Brittany to covertly paint a portrait of a withdrawn maiden, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). This island serves as Héloïse’s escape from reality due to her impending arranged marriage to a Milanese aristocrat, and this escape later transforms into an inevitable cage of purgatory where her confusion, lust, and desire soon overwhelm her being. A pivotal motif referenced throughout this film is the allusion to Orpheus and Eurydice, a classic trope for representing the torment of love. Orpheus’s inability to overcome temptation leads to the eternal perish of his paramour, Eurydice, which leaves her spirit to suffer in the underworld as Orpheus exists in his own
personal hell of eternal guilt. As Héloïse reads the myth of Orpheus aloud to Marianne, this myth manifests itself as a parallel representation of the hellish love between the two French mistresses–specifically in Marianne’s subconscious. She hallucinates her love in a gothic fashion as the imagined Héloïse appears in Marianne’s dream dressed in a ghastly white gown, like an angel rising from the underworld–like Eurydice incarnate. Although Sciamma is not the first auteur to romanticize this myth, Portrait of A Lady On Fire elasticizes the story as a bookend for Marianne and Héloïse’s tormented emotions. The unspoken secrecy between Marianne and Héloïse manifests itself into subtle glances and nuances, which breaks out of the binary heaven and hell to a perplexing sort of emotional heartbreak–or a purgatory, a ‘do they or don’t they’, a ‘will they or won’t they’. This dichotomy is an exhibition of Sciamma’s exploration of the female gaze. Nuanced peeks and authentic eye contact between Marianne and Héloïse contrast that of the stereotypical and detrimental male gaze known to degrade women in classic cinema. In this film, the nuanced gazes are more positive than typical patriarchal conceptions of desire and lust; Marianne’s efforts to vulnerably share herself with
Illustration by Paige Brunson
Héloïse cultivates a reborn female gaze. From red dress to green gown, Marianne and Héloïse share heavenly looks of anticipated attainability. These shared gazes feature impeccable visuals reflecting the women’s wardrobes. Marianne’s signature outfit is her sultry red dress; her observant personality is animated by dark and
“The angelic nature of heavenly love enters the lives of Marianne and Héloïse during their moments unclothed lascivious connotations of red, a color often representative of mistakes and perish–almost like that of Eurydice. Her dress also features pockets, which was unconventional in typical 19th-century gowns–that is, society did not expect women to carry material possessions. The choice to include this unorthodox feature in Marianne’s wardrobe invigorates her character as one who does not comply with restrictive societal standards. Her scarlet aura contrasts that of Héloïse’s elegant, earthly green gown. Typically, green is the color of revival, life and nature–specifically Mother Nature, in terms of feminine connotations of power. So while at first glance, Héloïse’s green dress may seem representative of life, her misconstrued relationship with Marianne is analogous to a purgatory of love. Much of the wardrobe is that of an homage to renaissance artists. Costume designer Dorothée Guiraud revealed that Héloïse’s simply-stitched dress was an upheld symbol of the soon-to-be wed’s purity, especially considering the fact that this signature gown was what she would wear when traveling back to her soon-to-be husband. Although Marianne’s sultry red contrasts that of Héloïse’s pure green, the two are initially complete opposites–from blonde versus brunette, unmarried artist versus arranged matrimony. Their differences evoke an emotional desire through subtle stares between strangers, small nuances that contribute to the con-
fusion and unspoken desire between the two. Marianne’s aggressive self-destruction creates the principal visual of the film as her frustration at a requited yet failed love sends her into a violent spiral that manifests itself in the physical damage to the painting–the painting that is the whole reason she is there. Héloïse. The only woman she cares about, burning right in front of her–burning the life and love they once had, the eternal flames of hell that is this unsettling love, all this as the pain of being apart slowly inches itself into the purgatory of their lives in Brittany. For a film that almost exclusively features the relationship between two women, the overarching concept of love breaks binaries attached to the mainstream ideology. Contrary to traditional religious concepts of heaven, the angelic nature of heavenly love enters the lives of Marianne and Héloïse during their moments unclothed. This euphoric sexual intimacy is as heavenly as it gets–no binaries, no limits, no restrictions–just them with each other. As they unclothe, they experience a type of love that is not barricaded nor binding, and the viewer
As the removal of clothing represents the liberation from the strict binds of society and matrimony, physically disconnecting with the wardrobe serves as an iconographical symbol of these characters, which truly allows them to escape the hell of emotional suppression. experiences this emotional penetration even for those who have never been in love. We watch the satin dresses leave their skin as we bask in the candlelit glory that is the authentic consummation of love between the two as they break out of their purgatorial routine of skimpy socialization on the island and transcend activities beyond their usual boundaries. As the removal of clothing represents the liberation from the strict binds of society and matrimo-
ny, physically disconnecting with the wardrobe serves as an iconographical symbol of these characters, which truly allows them to escape the hell of emotional suppression. The power of Héloïse and Marianne’s relationship shatters standards implied by patriarchal standards. The women achieve true love at the expense of their gowns and clothing. Ironically, it is the absence of their signature gowns that introduces us to the idea of the women being each other’s woes, homes, and most importantly, heavens. However, following their first intimate act, the two dress in matching white undergowns. The stereotypically sinful act of sexual desire proves to be that of a heavenly nature after achieving what both Marianne and Héloïse truly want. While institutions like the Catholic Church may label sexual intimacy as a
“Perhaps there is a heaven beyond religious boundaries. Perhaps heaven is a place–nay, a paradise–that we find in people. sinful act that taints individuals’ repertoires for heaven and eternal afterlife, the idea of love between Marianne and Héloïse proves to be that of heavenly nature; the white gowns represent the pure, wholly, untainted love the two share for one another. It is soft, it is pure, and it is beautiful. Perhaps there is a heaven beyond religious boundaries. Perhaps heaven is a place–nay, a paradise–that we find in people. As Héloïse leaves the island, she represents Orpheus in her elegant green gown–a symbol of life, the one who returns to reality to look back at her love, she who is dressed in a deathly red. However, in this purgatorial state of love that doubles as an artificial taste of heaven, the departure from Brittany portrays a state of stagnancy due to the barricaded pursuit of love. Under patriarchal binaries in a society of forced heterosexuality, Marianne and Héloïse both share an undying love for one another, but cannot act on anything beyond this line. This love lives and dies in their signature red
and green gowns, lives and dies as Orpheus and Eurydice, lives and dies and exists eternally in Brittany. With the paradoxical environment in this heavenly purgatory of expressive love, Brittany spirals into a tortured, hellish location as the couple nears the end of their stay. In essence, Portrait of A Lady On Fire shows us what it is like to be human. Through the heavenly, hellish and purgatorial aspects of the illicit relationship of two women within a patriarchal society, the heartbreak and reality sets in once Héloïse is set to leave. What is next for the women? For all those who love? We reach the apex of realization that this–these emotions, the torment, the mental cage we trap ourselves in regarding love–it is all a part of the human experience. Perhaps the most powerful feeling of all–love– is one of the only forces in the world that may grant us even just a glimmer of hope. What happens in heaven, stays in heaven, and that is certainly the case with the secluded island of lust and love that is Brittany, France.
by Salsa Mazlan Religion transcends its spiritual bounds when spoken into existence or materialized into texts, items, and dress. Iconography such as the Christian cross, the Islamic crescent, or the Star of David, among others, have become widely recognized and emblematic of specific faiths. Embedded in both daily and ceremonial religious wear, the conscious choice of wearing these icons showcase a pious individual’s celebration and devotion to their faith. Though not the main component of religious dress, it is common to see individuals adorning their garments with specific headpieces and jewelry, both of which may symbolize and possess a political, legal, and divine power of their own. Why do so many religions have headwear? Perhaps it is due to the distinctness of the item, starkly placed at the top of one’s head, completely within one’s line of sight. Perhaps it follows the quip, “the higher the hair (in this case, headdress), the closer to God.” It is possibly the most blatant indication of one’s deference to their faith, simultaneously indicating their rank and role within their community by its degree of opulence. Many religions also use headwear as a way to convey that specific rites of passage and stages in life have passed. Whether it is getting married or surpassing puberty, these milestones call for a physical manifestation to mark an important change in an individual’s life. The emergence of headwear in religion may also be an issue of modesty. Hair is often seen as an expression of individuality and beauty, and arguably, a source of pride or hubris. Covering one’s hair or greatly limiting it from view thus suggests an individual’s commitment and deference to higher ideals of modesty.
Most notably, however, headwear and ornamentation act as cultural signifiers of certain religious attitudes, statuses, and ideals that sway with the contemporary socio-political climate. For instance, the regal, ornate style of some religious dress prevails today from a deliberate decision by the Roman Catholic Church in the 8th-9th centuries to distinguish the clergy from the laypeople. As a result, clerical clothing began to reflect the divine, possessing holiness within its own materiality. Through the use of fine materials such as silk, embroidery, and gold, and the adornment of bewitching jewels onto mitres and papal tiaras, this specific style of religious dress evidently linked divine power with wealth. These materials were most likely exclusively accessible to the upper classes of society, an intentional choice reflective of the distance and contrast between religious authorities and followers, and of the spiritual and physical realm. A renowned bearer of extravagant headwear, Pope Pius IX, the head of the Catholic Church from 1846-1878, owned a papal tiara containing 19,000 precious stones, of which 18,000 were diamonds. In contrast, today’s Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, often found donning more plain forms of the mitre and zucchetto (skull cap). Perhaps an extraction from the more modest look that rose by the late middle ages and early modern period, this style of dress typifies virtue. Inspired more specifically by nuns, religious garments shifted to reflect the common, with solid colors and significantly fewer embellishments, as if personifying the vows to live modest and ordinary lives. These austere designs portrayed ideals of humility and equality, externally leveling out the religious hierarchy. It
is clear that though styles of religious dress may build upon or subvert one another as time goes on, what lies at its core are adapting forms of truth, goodness, and beauty. These moral principles are situated all over the place, even in high fashion. Many designers have taken inspiration from religious texts and paintings, extracting and transporting stories and characters into an imagined world that stretches and plays with conventional depictions of religion. Notable designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, and Balenciaga all have an acclaimed record of incorporating their own ideas of and personal relationships with religion into their garments. The Holy is always lurking in creation; it becomes tangible once stitched into clothing and accessories. It is evident that religion in fashion is far from unidimensional, but rather flourishes due to the myriad of interpretations on the expression and concretization of faith. The array of dress, headwear, and jewels featured in the 2018 Met Gala, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, best exemplifies the extraordinary beauty and creativity that arises from one’s devotion to their religious beliefs. Initially meant to encompass five religions: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Catholicism, The Met Costume Institute’s curator-in-charge Andrew Bolton noticed how skewed the representative field was, with the majority of designers swaying towards Catholic and Christian imagery. Including the other four religions would thus look very tokenistic, especially as Catholic iconography is far more popularized and normalized in everyday scenes relative to the other faiths. The event thus avoids major contention and claims of cultural appropriation because of this choice. However, the exclusion of less represented religions only further asserts this hegemonic imbalance. At the very least, the Gala could have been a seminal gateway for these other religions to situate and establish themselves on the international stage. An entrancing space full of the sacred and mystical, the Gala featured celebrities and other public figures draped in regal-like clothing, decorated lavishly in gems, with the crème de la crème sitting on top of their heads. Some drew more obvious references to figures such as Lady Madonna, while others embedded motifs of great religious significance more subtly into their outfits. The “Catholic Imagination” had never been more in full swing,
originating from a collaboration of personalized creativity by both the designers and the people wearing it. Angels seemed to roam the crowd as various celebrities donned the halo, a symbol largely associated with the divine and one’s exceptional holiness. Ranging from the simple, circular golden line of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s, to fused forms of fashion across history, the halo aims to elevate one into the ethereal. Solange’s remarkable hybrid headdress was a black durag with sun rays protruding from her head, with the cape reading “My God wears a durag” in Gothic gold font. Fusing together something universally Black with something universally angelic, Solange took her inspiration from Black Madonna and Black saints, citing her 2013 album, Saint Heron. Accoutred in a solid black Iris van Herpen structural dress, carrying Florida water and obsidian, Solange paid homage to staples in Black culture. Most importantly, the uniqueness of her entire getup is a testament to how Black bodies have been historically erased from the holy space. She fills this void with this statement piece, reminding others of how empowering and celestial one can be in black. Janelle Monáe’s look is a prime case of two creatives meeting perfectly in the middle. Veiled in a silver headscarf and a wide golden brimmed hat, the flattened dimensions of her headpiece cast an unconventional depiction of a halo, as characterized by having more spatial depth. It is as if the divine world is brought within our reach, grounded into physical space by the horizontal alignment. These two headpieces may have been Monáe and her designer for the night, Marc Jacobs’, interpretation of Joan of Arc’s chainmail headdress and Jude Law’s Young Pope (2016) halo in-perspective, both of whom are deeply revered religious figures. With headpieces potent enough to fit in with the theme, Monáe diverted to honoring her working-class parents with her black and white wide-striped gown. A reflection of the ideals taught by religion, Monáe’s look encapsulated notions of humility and equality. A turn to the gothic and dark arts of religion spotlights one unforgettable look: Madonna in Jean Paul Gaultier. Demure, gothic, and stately sum up Madonna’s deep black full-skirted, long-sleeved gown, her head bedecked in a black netted veil draping from a crown consisting of jeweled crosses. The crosses seem to drip from her, adorning her ears, neck, and chest, as if signifying a core compo-
nent of her identity. Famously known for her turbulent relationship with the Catholic church, Madonna—emphasis on the name itself—has been anything but bashful with her music and dress. Alongside being boycotted by the Vatican for her music, after she dedicated “Papa Don’t Preach” to Pope John Paul II in 1987, she is known for many of her religiously offensive looks such as the subversive cone bra, also a collaboration with Gaultier. To her, Catholicism is her “alma mater”, the foundations of her education which involved both pomp and abuse, an expanse she now freely roams in with her artistic production. Madonna’s trajectory alone attests to the endless interpretations and relationships one may have with their religion.
breaking through the boundaries of who holds the authority and position to wear such items, in terms of both gender and class.
Following closely behind with an air of thematic opulence, SJP graced the floor in a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda gold filigree, heart-embellished gown. She seemed to be elongated multi-directionally, with an incredible train extending across the room and an ornate golden headpiece arising from the crown of her head. The elaborate headdress was a work of art in and of itself, featuring a nativity scene—the miracle of Jesus’ conception. A widely known story that many probably partook in in primary school plays, the nativity scene is one that celebrates birth, new life, renewal, and hope; Trailblazing the way for more brazen interpretait is an unmistakable endorsement of the Christian tions of the theme are the royalty of the red carpet: religion. The wholehearted embrace of gold in these Rihanna and Sarah Jessica Parker. Decked out in garments also denotes its deep relation to the dia Maison Margiela gown, a matching jacket, and vine sphere. Gold has long been used as a material an ostentatious mitre reminiscent of those worn in to embody both holy qualities and expressions of the medieval era, Rihanna paid tribute to the Pope human reverence towards their god(s). Selected for with her overt and exquisite getup. Each compoits brilliance, indestructible nature, malleability, and nent of her outfit was created in elaborate seafoam relative scarcity, gold became the appropriate elejacquard, festooned with a multitude of bijoux and ment to address and worship the god(s). From the pearls, the latter being deemed as sacred objects pictorial language embedded in SJP’s headpiece to and symbols of religious purity to Christians. Tying the gold diffused across her costume, Dolce & Gabthe outfit together is the monumental mitre, sat bana’s work almost deifies the wearer, elevating her proudly on her pate. Typically exclusive to the Pope above and beyond this space. and certain bishops and abbots, the mitre is worn for specific liturgical functions, such as on Sundays By bringing such deeply ingrained principles and and feast days. Rihanna challenges this tradition practices into fashion and the public space, these with her majestic appearance at the Met Gala, designs expand people’s idea of what Catholic art
can beâ€”from paintings and sculptures by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and da Vinci, to collections by Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga; from hanging on walls to hanging on people. Fashion is the convergence of body and fabric. It is marked by cultural processes, norms, and thought, all of which either assert or provoke new meanings within the contemporary moment. Within the religious realm, fashion and religion coexist in an enchanted world, one made of statues, holy water, stained glass, and votive candles, saints, and holy pictures. Catholicism and fashion share one prominent thing in common: a fixation on bodies. Whether it is exploring ideals of purity, sacrifice, or birth, there is a certain concentration on the carnal, which these garments effectively embody or avert from. Just as religion may situate itself differentially within each local or societal context, the crossing over of faith in fashion suggests that the body is always transforming alongside it.
Article by Neha Gupta Illustration by Jessica Hu Purgatory, a word that tends to stir feelings of dread and doom, is rarely ever seen outside of religious context. However, the concept of purgatory can be interpreted in many ways, religious or not. Purgatory is represented as a state of limbo, even a period of stagnation or entrapment. The Truman Show depicts purgatory through its setting and its wardrobe, more specifically the wardrobe of the movie’s protagonist, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). The metamorphosis of Truman’s wardrobe throughout the movie reflects the broader transformation of menswear, both on the runway and the streets, during the past decade or so. In both cases of Truman’s fashion and menswear fashion as a whole, changes in style over the last few years have been tied to changes in culture and perceptions of masculinity. Truman is unwittingly born and raised as the star of a massively popular television show, every movement of his being filmed and broadcasted globally by hidden cameras. Unbeknownst to him, everyone he has grown with is merely an actor, hiding his reality from him, and his true love Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) is ripped away from him after she tries to divulge the truth. The creator of the show, Christof (Ed Harris), controls every aspect of Truman’s life, and has no qualms about putting Truman through trauma just to produce a dramatic storyline for the TV show. Over time, both viewers of The Truman Show and Truman himself begin to understand that his mundane and false world, hiding under the peachy name
of Seahaven, is in effect a sort of purgatory, in which he is effectively trapped. After making this shocking realization, Truman embarks on a mission to escape from the television set, and the movie ends with a scene of Truman climbing up a staircase out of the set, quite literally ascending from the purgatory that encapsulated him for so long. Truman’s wardrobe throughout the movie reflects his entrapment in and gradual egress from Seahaven. In the beginning and middle of the movie, during which Truman is blissfully unaware of his reality yet still feels frustrated at his inability to leave Seahaven, Truman can constantly be found sporting vapid, uninspired looks similar to the wardrobe of all the extras in the television show. His outfits consist of feeble colors, such as khaki, mustard yellow, and muted red, paired with the restricting silhouette of business casual clothing. Although he mixes patterns and experiments with layering, Truman’s outfits can’t escape the realm of unpalatable, ill-fitting suit jackets and slacks, just as he himself is restricted to the confines of his predictable,
TRAPPED IN YOU
humdrum town that represents the “perfect TV world” of the late 1990s. His style embodies NormCore, a style aesthetic that espouses welcoming the mundane and following the crowd when making fashion choices. Truman’s fashion, which so blatantly blends into the wardrobe of all the other actors in the TV show, represents the conformity encouraged by NormCore and demonstrates how following the wardrobe that everyone else is wearing can serve as a very restrictive state of purgatory for fashion, as it evades uniqueness and evolution. As a movie viewer, one can’t help but notice that every day is almost a complete repeat of the day before, almost as if Truman is stuck living the same day over and over again. The repetition of bleary outfits from day to day accentuates the monotony of Truman’s life and depicts Seahaven as a sort of purgatory in which Truman is glued in place. Although Truman longs to explore through traveling and being spontaneous in his everyday life and clothing, his efforts to do so are constantly ill-fated as he is cornered in the camera-ridden dome of the television set. The colors of his clothing itself are deeply similar to the colors that the other actors in the television show wear, representing Truman’s difficulty with expressing his individuality. In a world which was built around him and which controls his every move, he doesn’t have autonomy over his own life, which shows in his indistinct clothing style. For example, when Truman decides to visit a travel agency, determined to go on a vacation to Fiji, he wears a striped
burgundy polo with white slacks and a khaki jacket. He completes the outfit with a matching maroon flat cap and checkered suitcase that almost resembles a briefcase— a subtle nod to the prevalence of business casual fashion of the time. Throughout the scene, Truman’s various attempts to leave Seahaven are foiled, and his subdued outfit mirrors his lack of self-determination, emphasizing his inability to escape the town that imprisons him. However, by the time Truman finally breaks out from the television show, his style has completely evolved. In stark contrast to his hackneyed outfits of the past, Truman dons a black, monochromatic outfit consisting of a knit turtleneck sweater and chic trousers, complete with a sailor’s hat. His haphazard and unshapely outfits might have been acceptable for his past self, who had resigned to an unfulfilling, confusing, and NormCore daily routine, but his new enlightenment and liberation from the control of Christof calls for a much more sophisticated and striking wardrobe. Truman’s final outfit is a complete departure from his past apparel. As for Truman’s black sweater, it symbolizes his evolution in that it is reminiscent of a cherry red knit sweater that belonged to his true love, Sylvia. The sweater is the only vestige of Sylvia’s love that Truman has with him, since Sylvia was seized from the show after nearly exposing Truman’s secret. Truman cherishes this vivid ruby sweater, and its presence seems to
inspire him to break free from his false surroundings and seek out the truth. When Truman wears his black sweater, it appears to be a subtle nod to Sylvia and her role in motivating Truman not to settle for his reality, especially since sweaters were never a staple in Truman’s wardrobe beforehand.
Truman illustrates his escape from the purgatory which is his manufactured reality. Additionally, Christof, the creator of the TV show, can be seen throughout the movie wearing a similar black sweater. During the majority of the movie and Truman’s life, Christof is akin to a puppeteer who commands Truman’s every move. A puppeteer dresses its puppet as a sign of their authority, and this can be seen through Truman’s initial wardrobe of clothing that resembles that of the extras in the TV show and lacks individuality. However, in the last scene, Truman’s adoption of the black sweater indicates that he is stealing control of his life away from Christof, and transforming from the puppet to the puppeteer. Truman’s sailor cap furthers this implication, as it displays how he is now the captain of his own adventure, the master of his own life. Fittingly enough, this is the outfit he wears as he scales the staircase that leads him out of his man-made purgatory and into the real world. Through asserting a style of his own and rejecting the NormCore outfits he has worn throughout his life,
Truman illustrates his escape from the purgatory which is his manufactured reality. Up until recently, menswear has been stuck in a bit of a purgatory of its own, rife with uninspired silhouettes that have all somewhat been a riff on the same basic style of business attire, or designers’ slight ventures into subtle street style. Over the past two decades, menswear runways have been pretty predictable, spanning the limited range of apparel such as tuxedos, business separates, button downs, ties, bomber jackets, trench coats, and tailored slacks. In the late 1990s, business casual was made popular by Bill Gates, and since then menswear seems to have been built around businessmen, men who spend their lives in office buildings or law firms. The focus on business apparel began to define menswear as a whole, in effect creating a strict label for masculinity. A prime example of this is the Dior Men 2006 Fall collectionprimarily black and white styles, all taking inspiration from business garb. As the aforementioned label stretched into the 2010s, menswear entered a bit of a stagnant state. Stella McCartney’s Fall 2017 menswear collection- replete with structured trench coats, tailored pants, and sweaters- illustrates how trite menswear fashions have persisted. Although many designers, such as Louis Vuitton in the Fall 2007 menswear collection, have experimented with various fabrics, textures, and patterns, the primary style of the collections remain consistently similar throughout the years, which has become stifling. Menswear has been extremely limited by the strict code of masculinity set
TRAPPED IN YOU
in place by gender norms, which caused past menswear designers to have forgone creativity in favor of enforcing these extremely binary expectations for men. However, designers are now breaking out of the box with menswear designs, coming up with innovative designs that are redefining menswear by steering it away from traditional images of masculinity. Lanvin’s Spring 2020 menswear collection features unconventional pieces like cropped, structured collared shirts and longline knitwear, along with strappy sandal-esque shoes. These items of clothing, which have traditionally been worn by women more than men, break down the gender norms surrounding the fashion world, ushering in a new era for menswear in which clothing is much more individual. This presents a direct contrast with the large emphasis on the suit as an embodiment of what it means to be a man. Another designer that illustrates this revolution is Ludovic de Saint Sernin. His menswear clothing, which spotlights draped blouses, crop tops, and crossbody bags, expands the spectrum of masculinity by highlighting that no style is solely reserved for a specific gender. The growing ambiguity in menswear fashion is extremely representative of younger generations breaking free from the purgatory of strict gender norms and societal expectations established in the past. Marni is one more designer that is severing ties with quotidian men’s fashion. In their Spring 2021 collection, male models don wide culottes with skirt-like overlays, tunic length shirts, and pieces that blend together instead of appearing as outright separates. The way that each piece of clothing melts into the next mirrors menswear’s gradual transformation from bland to blatantly
striking. It also symbolizes the growing fluidity of menswear and how gender roles are portrayed by clothing. Thanks to style icons such as Billy Porter and Harry Styles, menswear is expected to continue moving in a direction of perceived femininity through the channels of brighter coloring, looser forms, and creative cuts instead of remaining constrained by strict gender norms. All the changes being made in the world of menswear are abandoning the purgatory of stagnant style and gender expectations, freeing up space to accommodate for imagination and ultimately allowing men to take control of their style and use it as a means of self expression. Just as Truman Burbank’s style development mirrors his growing strength and individuality as he escapes from his television show purgatory, menswear’s transformation as a whole symbolizes an evolving culture and an ever-changing role of gender in fashion.
All the changes being made in the world of menswear are abandoning the purgatory of stagnant style and gender expectations, freeing up space to accommodate for imagination and ultimately allowing men to take control of their style and use it as a means of self expression.
Photography by Maya Gee-Lim
”IS SHE AN ANGEL OR A WITCH?” by Anni Carlson The question is almost as old as history itself. Women have forever lived in a binary. There are only two means of living—the preferred and significantly more pious means synonymous with angels and heaven and the darker and more sinister considered akin to witchcraft and hell. All too often, these two extremes are associated with physical presentation and sexuality as displayed by fashion decisions. Simpler cuts, sharp lines, and dark colors have become synonymous with all things evil, hellish, and masculine. Women are expected, even to this day, to stay away from them. Ever wonder why the femme fatale wears lots of black and often leverages her sexual presentation in order to manipulate men? Well, it all started ages ago with gendered expectations of clothing. But what about men? The same binary exists, and it might just be harsher, at least when it comes to the rules of fashion. Often, men are boxed into one singular shape of clothing, varying only with the dress code or occasion shifts slightly. It’s the same thing over and over and over again; dark colors, straight legs, square shoulders. There’s some light in the varying collar styles--classic, spread, club, long tip, wing, cowl-- but that’s just about all that’s allowed by society when it comes to men’s expression. Not only is
traditionally male attire reminiscent of the themes synonymous with hell, but it’s also hellish in nature that it confines all men to a specific and unwavering set of standards. Femininity is pious, heavenly, angelic, whereas masculinity is raucous, hellish, evil. The energies and their physical manifestation in the form of fashion are strictly defined. In a world where categorization is king, androgyny is seen as the ultimate sin, even when it comes to clothing. But recent years have shown a shift towards mixing the identities and establishing an entirely new set of rules instead. Though, much like with oil and water, it’ll take an enormous shake-up of epic proportions for the forces of heaven and hell to combine and redefine the expectations set out for men and women couture. So, the question becomes a matter of moving forward; where in the world are we to go from here? Well, it starts with integrating each side of the binary into the other. Incorporating dark colors and sharp, harsh lines into womenswear (even the Spring/Summer lines–all eyes on haute couture) and pulling flowy, breezy silhouettes and light pastels
Photography by Maya Gee-Lim from traditionally feminine clothing and highlighting it in menswear. Escaping the troublesome, restrictive, and often damning unspoken mores in fashion in this way is an urgent matter, but luckily, there are some heavyweights fighting on the front lines. In the ’80s and ’90s, pop icons like Prince, David Bowie, and Billy Idol often touted traditionally feminine colors, styles, and makeup while imbuing masculinity and power on stage. Fast forward and even more men—even rappers who very often like to be considered the toughest of the tough— are sporting the angelic and heavenly attire expected of their female counterparts. Billy Porter frequently wears skirted ensembles on red carpets, Lil Nas X often dons sparkles and bright pinks. Frank Ocean has been seen in glitter eyeshadow and rhinestone fishnets and most recently, Harry Styles wore a dress on the cover of Vogue. And while the insular world of haute couture often likes to think it is they who set the trends for the
rest of the world, the rest of the world has set the trend and they are simply just beginning to catch up—I hate to burst your bubble but these days, Miranda Priestly’s (Meryl Streep’s) chain of demand is no longer accurate, not even with cerulean sweaters. Following trends set on the street by male skaters, Virgil Abloh and his cohort at Louis Vuitton Menswear have in recent years explored the bubbly, flowy lines and bright colors usually seen dominating the runways at Women’s fashion shows. Prada, under the guise of Creative CoDirector Raf Simons, has displayed a greater sense of androgyny and even femininity on their runway with lacy, loose clothing making persistent appearances throughout their Fall/Winter 2020 show. Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana have been highlighting florals and curves in their menswear lines, two things traditionally reserved for only female models on the runway. As for the women embracing traditionally dark and devilish attire synonymous with
masculinity, look no further than the most recent red carpets where stars like Zendaya and Kristen Stewart can be seen sporting pantsuits rather than gowns. Less dainty cuts and sharper have made their way in front of some of the broadest audiences with the likes of Billie Eilish who frequently sports basketball shorts and big t-shirts, once the go-to for young boys in the ’90s. And of course, the work being done by Gucci doesn’t stop with menswear; the house has also incorporated dark colors and harsh, straight lines into their recent womenswear. Straight legged pants and boxy t-shirts are becoming stylish and J. Crew, The Gap, and Ann Taylor have been incorporating androgyny into their ad campaigns for years with models who stray further from traditional cisgender expectations of women (though there’s much more left to do besides hiring catalog models with flat-chests).
And while sure, it may take a couple or so years for the general population to adapt to the changes being made in the upper echelons of fashion and among some of the highest achieving creatives on the planet, there’s a true shift being made. Androgyny is becoming more frequent and as it does, it’s becoming the new normal as well. The presence of yin within yang is growing and it’s very much the same with the dot of yang within yin. Eventually, maybe someday, the distinctions between menswear and womenswear will be nearly impossible to identify and the rules delineating the correctness of it all will fall away. But for now, as things continue to progress, just ignore the expectation and associations that come along with dressing yourself and wear whatever it is that you want. Be angelic because you like it and embrace all things hellish because you want to, not because of any other forces that be.
Photography by Maya Gee-Lim
EMBRACE ALL T JUST BECAUSE
Photography by Maya Gee-Lim
THINGS HELLISH, YOU WANT TO.
Article by Juliette Cornet When Daphne Du Maurier’s novel Rebecca came out in 1938, it swept audiences into the shady and alluring world of the de Winters of Manderly estate. The novel tells the story of a newlywed couple who are seemingly haunted by the legacy of Maxim de Winter’s ex-wife, Rebecca, and her mysterious death. The novel brings forth an intriguing notion about the powerful connection between clothing and it’s wearer. De Maurier brings to life the idea that a person’s influence is interwoven in the clothing they once wore, even long after they’re gone. Rebecca was so impactful that it even captured the attention of the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, who’s 1940 adaption of the novel won Best Picture at the 13th Academy Awards. This psychological thriller was recently brought back to life for Netflix by director Ben Wheatley starring Lily James and Armie Hammer. Both Hitchcock and Wheatley’s adaptations of Rebecca remain loyal to the book. While Hitchcock’s film was critically acclaimed and picked up multiple nominations and awards, the
general reception of Wheatley’s film has been mediocre. Perhaps this lackluster reception is due to the relative similarity of both the films. Hitchcock’s Rebecca was his first American made motion picture which made it a pioneer of its time. It set a new standard for the psychological thriller and cinematic storytelling. Wheatley’s Rebecca feels like an in-color photocopy of Hitchcock’s film leading audiences to deem the adaptation unnecessary. What is the point of remaking the movie of one Hollywood’s greats without the addition of a fresh take? However, there is one area in which Wheatley and Hitchcock’s adaptations differ and that is in wardrobe choice. Neither film disappointed in the wardrobe department, dressing the characters in over the top outfits such as colorful suits, feathers, pearls as well as sophisticated ball gowns. In fact, the influence of fashion plays a big role in Du Maurier’s novel. Not only does it drive the plot by giving the viewer clues about the late Rebecca but it also plays a part in Mrs. de Winter’s
character development. One of the most intriguing aspects of the story is the power Rebecca, an unseen character, wields over the protagonists and the plot. The shadow of her legacy seems to continuously torment the new Mrs. de Winter who is endlessly comparing herself to the once alluring and glamorous Rebecca. Rebecca’s lasting presence at Manderly turned the estate into a place of purgatory for the new de Winter couple and all who work there. The main reason Rebecca’s power and presence withstands the test of time is through her notorious sense of style and remnants of her elegant clothing. Rebecca’s influence from beyond the grave brings to light the truly immortalizing influence of fashion and clothing.
Rebecca’s influence from beyond the grave brings to light the truly immortalizing influence of fashion and clothing. Seeing as though Rebecca never actually makes an appearance as a character, both films had to get creative in the ways they made her lingering influence known. One of the ways they did was through Mrs. de Winter’s wardrobe which was continuously compared to the late Rebecca’s infamous good taste. Hitchcock’s costume designer Irene Maude Lentz made the choice to dress Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) in mousier, drab outfits made up of collared blouses and knee length skirts, often unsuitable for the old money she married into. When she
is first introduced, she is reminiscent of a girl fresh out of the classroom. In particular, her white tennis outfit with the collared polo and ankle length pleated skirt gives the viewers this impression especially when juxtaposed with the brooding Maxim’s (Laurence Olivier’s) dark suit. The overall effect is to make Mrs. de Winter appear childish and naïve in comparison to Rebecca who is often described as “the most beautiful creature [one] ever saw” (Rebecca, 1940). Therefore, when Mrs. de Winter is first introduced to the clearly unimpressed staff at Manderly looking like a drowned rat in her dull, ill fitting suit, viewers can’t help but wonder how Rebecca dressed on the daily. Hitchcock doesn’t make viewers wonder long, eventually allowing Mrs. de Winter to take a peek inside her closet. What she finds is an entire armoire devoted to expensive fur coats and sheer pajamas. By opening up her closet, Mrs. de Winter is seemingly bringing Rebecca back from the dead. Her spirit is directly tethered to her clothing, especially considering her style was well-known. There is a big moment when the fur coat brushes Mrs. de Winter causing her to immediately tense up. This small reaction from her gives the impression that Rebecca herself is actually the one touching her face. These overwhelming remnants of Rebecca at Manderly caused Mrs. de Winter to feel isolated and trapped turning the estate into her own inescapable hell. Manderly was supposed to be Mrs. de Winter’s and Maxim’s opportunity for a new life and instead are stuck in a sort of limbo between their future together and his past with Rebecca due to her enduring impact. Wheatley’s costume designer Julian Day uses the same tactics as Hitchcock by designer outfits that demonstrate
Rebecca’s presence from beyond the grave but in a slightly different way. In the 2020 adaptation, Mrs. de Winter (Lily James) had a much faster and obvious style evolution that Joan Fontaine’s Mrs. de Winter did. The viewer’s first glimpse of Mrs. de Winter is in the south of France where she wears a heavy, bland suit. She looks very out of place in her environment and clearly doesn’t fit in with the opulent, colorful and feather toting people around her. However, once she starts seeing the stylish Maxim, frequently sporting a bright yellow suit, her outfits begin to evolve. She begins to wear more florals, symbolizing her bloom into womanhood. Furthermore, once she arrives at Manderly, her style evolves again demonstrating her adaptability. Lily James’ character quickly goes from being dressed in girlish florals to more modern and powerful tweed pant suits. As a result, Mrs. de Winter is this time viewed as a more comparable opponent to Rebecca. They are still depicted as opposites but with a modern twist. Rebecca is still portrayed as accomplished and glamorous while Mrs. de Winter is now characterized as more practical rather than incapable. This is perhaps why Wheatley makes the choice to replace the fur coat from Hitchcock’s film with a sheer nightgown instead. The nightgown represents Rebecca’s captivating allure that new Mrs. de Winter lacks in comparison. When she tries to emulate Rebecca by buying expensive lingerie, Maxim (Armie Hammer) shuts her down, preferring her to go back to wearing her modest two-piece pajama set. Wheatley’s modern spin on Mrs. de Winter makes her more palatable for 21st century audiences. She isn’t the hopeless heroine completely dependent on her husband to solve their problems. Her growth and increasing courage are depicted in her evolving wardrobe. Rebecca’s memory and everlasting influence are clearly tied to the clothing she once wore. Therefore, in the 1940 film, when Mrs. de Winter tries to be more like Rebecca, she
fails. Nevertheless, she goes out of her way to buy an expensive and fashionable gown. The dress she wears is a gorgeous black dress with life size white roses attached to the bodice. However, her attempt to dress more like Rebecca is badly received, making her instead look ridiculous and out of place rather than glamorous. Mrs. de Winter doesn’t stand a chance in comparison to Rebecca since glamour was what Rebecca excelled at. Both Hitchcock and Wheatley include the infamous party scene when Mrs. de Winter is tricked into ordering the exact same costume Rebecca wore to the ball the year before. Hitchcock dresses Joan Fontaine’s character in a large, white ethereal gown. When she makes her grand entrance at the ball, her ghostly white dress and similarity in appearance to Maxim’s late wife make us feel that Rebecca has come to haunt them. This scene remains relatively similar in Wheatley’s adaptation. Although this time she is outfitted in a red baroque gown paired with a brown wig. This time, it isn’t only the ghostly quality of the outfit that makes Rebecca’s otherworldly presence known but the effect the brown wig has in changing Mrs. de Winter’s appearance to look more like her. The party guests’
A piece of the human soul is forever linked to the clothing it once wore. reaction to Mrs. de Winter’s appearance is proof of the powerful influence clothing has in remembering the dead. In fact, this places Mrs. de Winter and Maxim in a sort of purgatory by never allowing them to escape Rebecca and her legacy. The acute memories Rebecca’s clothing produces seems to give her transcendental powers, allowing her to affect the people of Manderly estate long after she’s gone.
Du Maurierâ€™s novel as well as both adaptations of Rebecca are a testament to the seemingly supernatural powers and influence of fashion. Even in real life, the memory of style and fashion have the ability to immortalize the people they are tied to. A piece of the human soul is forever linked to the clothing it once wore. It is why people have the tendency to either hang on to or immediately get rid of the clothing of someone who has
passed on. While can be a comforting memento of someone lost, it also has the ability to haunt someone endlessly as was the case in Rebecca.
Illustration by Anubha Gupta
THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS EMBODIES THE DUALITY OF LUXURY AND DESTITUTION.
A LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS A TIMELESS AND ELEGANT GARMENT BRIDGING DELICATENESS AND STRENGTH THROUGH EVERY FORM.
Photography by Nick Brogdon
The little black dress has been a statement of elegance and simplicity for nearly a century. With differences in silhouette and material, the black dress has been glamourized as accessible and attainable. However, as women wear little black dresses to night clubs and celebrations, there are also women working long hours for low wages to produce the dress that has been deemed essential. The little black dress embodies the duality of luxury and destitution through the simultaneous existence of a liberating global trend and a destructive production process. The global integration that enabled the growth of the trend perpetuates the demand for garment factories, solidifying the dual existence of contrasting yet concurrent realms similar to Heaven and Hell. In a realm of luxury and opulence, the little black dress became a global statement, dominating both high and fast fashion with its versatility. The dress was championed as fitting for all occasions, acting as a blank canvas for designers and wearers to leave their own signature touch. The inherent simplicity of the color allows for trademark accessories to secure one’s individuality while still indoctrinating the widespread idea. Distinct from other garments, the little black dress is a heavenly statement when considered in the context of its grandeur. The dress isn’t a single item of clothing, allowing black dresses of all fits and lengths to defy trend cycles and dominate the media. In doing so, it has taken on different forms throughout history, reflecting the social context in which it was produced. As a whole, under heavenly conditions, the little black dress has embodied feminist ideals, emphasizing strength and power. In 1926, Coco Chanel’s boat-neck black dress graced the pages of Vogue magazine, making a statement that changed the fashion industry. It challenged the conventional use of the color, disassociating black from its traditional attachment to mourning and becoming a trend that has yet to perish. While the little black dress eventually came to embody a wide range of drapes and fits, Chanel’s first black dress was drastically modern and feminist. As women in Europe and the United States began to gain
economic independence in the post-World War I era, Chanel’s black dress embodied the movement towards weakening societal restraints. Loose-fitting and without a defined waistline, the black dress featured in American Vogue embodied the 1920s as fashion rejected its traditional hemlines and cinched waists. However, the little black dress is not a single entity and thus was not created by a single person. The concept emerged as a product of our interconnected society. Widely credited with the popularization of the dress, the French designer introduced the black dress, and its association with feminism, to the public and established the existence of the dress in a heavenly realm of glamour and simplicity.
The little black dress embodies the duality of luxury and destitution. Throughout history, the little black dress has continued to reflect its societal context from its practicality in the 1940s to its femininity in the 1950s. As the dress evolved, it continued to focus on female independence, even in one of its most notable forms by Hubert de Givenchy. Rejecting Dior’s hourglass silhouette of the 1950s, Givenchy designed a chic black sheath dress for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. His design embodied the feminist ideals of Chanel’s original form by liberating the independent woman and providing a dress that enabled movement. The delicate details of the long black dress embraced strength and femininity, furthering the growth of the little black dress as an immortalized construct of fashion. While the 1960s are notable for Givenchy’s iconic little black dress, the decade also marked the expansion of ready-to-wear fashion and the beginning of a movement towards overseas production. A little black dress is a timeless and elegant garment bridging delicateness and strength through every form. Whether it be on a red carpet or simply from the sale rack at the mall, the little black dress is an inclusive design, drawing on inner strength to channel the remarkable women who’ve worn similar dresses
in the past. The simplicity of the garment allows women to either dress up and emphasize their poise or dress down and let the dress speak for itself as a display of power. In addition to the iconic red carpet and revenge dresses that dominate the discussion, fast fashion retailers provide their own range of little black dresses to the general public, capitalizing on the accessible and flexible definition of the closet essential. For some, the little black dress is a statement, allowing for self-expression and feminine strength as the dress embodies a movement larger than one individual, inviting its wearer into a history of power in a heavenly realm. However, despite its heavenly origins of grandeur, the concept of a little black dress perpetuates the dual existence of a state of hell. The global connectivity that allowed for the popularity of the little black dress ultimately enabled the methods of production that exist in the present. One of the reasons the little black dress is widely known is because of its affordability, allowing the general public to take part. For fast fashion to meet growing consumer demand while capitalizing on private interest,
global integration has enabled the rise of commodity chain production in recent years, giving wealthy corporations access to cheap sources of labor. In 1926, lifestyle magazine Vogue compared Coco Chanel’s little black dress to the Ford Model T because of the vehicle’s overwhelming popularity. In addition to the acclaim and sleek color of the Model T and the dress, both needed to maintain a constant output to meet consumer demand. For Ford, an assembly line method of production allowed for high levels of cars to be produced ’80s and ’90s allowed the garment industry to move overseas. With the rise in demand for ready-to-wear fashion and growing consumer interests in the 21st century, offshoring has allowed for fast fashion corporations to source labor at a low price and maximize profits. While the little black dresses that have dominated red carpets for decades are typically made in designer ateliers, the dresses available to the general public are often assembled under more hellish conditions. In certain regions of the world the black dress
occupies a heavenly sphere, while in others, a black dress is merely one garment among countless others. With the second-largest garment industry in the world, clothing production in Bangladesh provides fast-fashion corporations with a source of cheap labor at the expense of the young women who spend hours at the sewing machine. Operating in the global periphery, young women in Bangladesh oftentimes face sixteen-hour workdays and receive pay below a living wage to satisfy the constant demand for black dresses and countless other garments. Under severe pressure from larger corporations to meet product deadlines, the female workers operating within garment factories face illness, sexual harassment, and a constant risk of factory fires. The garment industry in Bangladesh accounts for more than 80% of the nationâ€™s exports and has garnered international attention in the past few decades. In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka exposed the lack of structural restrictions and the complacency of the fashion industry. The Rana Plaza garment factory was responsible for the manufacturing of clothing, such as black dresses, for European and North American based corporations. The buildingâ€™s lack of structural integrity led to its collapse in April of 2013, killing over 1,100 people and injuring thousands more as factory workers, mainly women and girls, remained trapped beneath the rubble. Indirectly, the advent of the little black dress, an inherently feminist garment, contributed to the suffering of women at Rana Plaza and continues to contribute to the conditions of Hell in Bangladesh. Following the collapse of Rana Plaza, fast fashion corporations asserted their commitment to increasing transparency in the supply chain, thus taking greater responsibility for the workers producing their garments. Despite this reactionary effort, the garment industry in Bangladesh continues to produce supply in hellish conditions, partially through Export Processing Zones. Export Processing Zones, or EPZs, are regions within a nation that provide weakened labor, environmental, and tax regulations to attract investors. Little black dresses are provided to the masses for affordable prices at the
expense of women in other areas of the world. Physically fenced off from the rest of the country, the multiple EPZs in Bangladesh predominantly serve the garment industry which is currently struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As Western-based corporations face their own economic difficulties, factories in Bangladesh suffer from canceled orders and Covid related shutdowns. A little black dress makes its wearer feel powerful and confident by drawing on the poise of those before them, however, many of the black dresses we wear carry the implication of unethical production. Due to the interconnected nature of the fashion industry, decisions made by consumers and corporations are felt in other regions of the world, similarly to the social connections of the mid-20th century that allowed for the popularization of the little black dress in the first place. Through a heavenly sphere of global influence, the little black dress grew to embody a message of feminism, strength, and power. At the same time, the little black dress and its foundation in affordable accessibility construct a hellish environment as global interest entices trans-national production with damaging conditions. Little black dresses have often been described as timeless and trend defying, the most famous of which have been immortalized in the memory of the public. However, as tastes and societal contexts continue to evolve, black dresses are constantly produced. The little black dress is timeless when considering the garment conceptually. In reality, it continues to contribute to the mass consumerism characteristic of capitalist Western societies. As a whole, the fashion industry encompasses the duality of Heaven and Hell. Through the popularization of a dress, generations of women have felt powerful and confident by leaving their own marks on a monument of fashion history. In another region of the world, the uneven development of our global society allows for the exploitation of young women who work tirelessly in garment factories. Yet, as these dual processes persist, hardship and grandeur coexist. The Heaven and Hell dichotomy of the afterlife pervades into the realm of the living as good and bad exist simultaneously.
A DYING STAR une étoile mourante
Sue Ellen Zhang This is a personal variation of Degas’ painting The Star “L’étoile” that portrays a heaven fueled by a physical and mental hell.
From the delicate costumes that paint a perfect image to the tulle that flounces ever so lightly with each movement, the art of ballet has a heavenly perception. The silk that elegantly drapes the body and highlights the lines of a dancer, and the tutus that expose the dancerâ€™s long and muscular legs. These costumes enhance the ethereal movements and shapes of a dancer yet they consequently harm the dancer itself. Achieving this heavenly perception is cruel. These costumes are restrictive and leave no room for error. The binding bodice leaves no space to breathe, let alone have a normal day of meals. Dancing with a tutu makes gravity an enemy. The weight of being pulled down makes it hard to achieve the grace and ease shown onstage. These celestial bodies are never showing the true nature of their personal hell.
The Spirituality of Punk Victorianism Written by Rachel Feng Illustration by Catherine Chu Goth is iconic and instantly recognizable. It draws from both the rebellious, punk musicians of the 1970s as well as the tragic, romantic Victorians of the 1800s. Goth’s peculiar appearance makes it an alluring source of inspiration for all lovers of fashion; it is thus no surprise that so many designers introduce various aspects of goth into their looks. Though it is usually associated with hellish characteristics in both its aesthetic and its philosophies, goth is a heavenly sanctuary for its participants: a safe space to push the boundaries of society and be one’s true self.
Goth is a heavenly sanctuary for its participants: a safe space to push the boundaries of society and be one’s true self. The goth subculture originated in the United Kingdom 1980s by fans of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The iconic Batcave club in the Soho district of London, with the motto of “Blasphemy, Lechery, and Blood,” gave fans a space to build community, allowing goth to develop away from punk and into its own fully-fledged subculture. Attendees, often known as Batcavers, embraced individuality in their style and customized their clothes by tearing them apart to fit the gothic look before it was ever sold in mainstream stores.
One famous regular was Siouxsie Sioux of the band Siouxsie and the Banshees, who is often referred to as the “godmother of goth.” As one of the earliest goths, Siouxsie’s style still drew heavily from the punk rockers of the 1970s. Punk women like Siouxsie liked to play with contrast, pairing boxy menswear, like suit jackets and vests, with feminine yet daring accessories, like fishnet stockings and leather bondage gear. Siouxsie was also known for her bold, theatrical eye makeup and her spiky black hair, both of which are still quintessential facets of the gothic look today. Siouxsie’s fearless style, inspired by the punk music scene, paved the way for generations of future goths. Today, what sets goth fashion apart from punk is the influence of the Victorian era. Goths are obsessed with romanticizing the past. Although the Victorians themselves didn’t view their fashion or rituals as particularly morbid or gothic, elements of their clothing were absorbed into the goth subculture precisely because their wardrobes and elaborate mourning practices were seen as dark, mysterious, and magical. Corsets in particular have been widely and ironically appropriated by goths due to their reputation as medieval and unliberated attire. In the Victorian era, corsets were worn as undergarments beneath women’s gowns to emphasize their slim waistlines, sometimes laced up so tightly that they caused pain and
discomfort. Today, they have been reclaimed and reimagined as a vehicle for female empowerment, most often worn as visible outerwear as a statement or an accessory. The Victorians’ enthrallment with death and its relationship to fashion especially impacted the goth subculture. Although etiquette books at the time insisted that mourning dress should be simple and nothing more than a visible expression of grief for the dead, it became an opportunity to show off one’s wealth and sense of fashion. The upper classes often took the death of a loved one as a chance to buy new elaborate wardrobes of black gowns, bonnets, and parasols. Mourning clothes were usually made from crape, an expensive stiff, crinkled, matte gauze. Compared to the traditional goth look of Siouxsie Sioux, contemporary goth fashion draws heavily from both punk and Victorian influences, combining the risqué leather bras and haphazardly ripped tights of the punks with the stiff corsets and sophisticated black gowns of the Victorians.
Their wardrobes and elaborate mourning practices were seen as dark, mysterious, and magical. Goth is about more than just aesthetics and music, however; it serves almost as a religion for its participants. To the outsider, goth may appear demonic, wicked, and ugly. To the goth themself, however, it is like a heaven in its acceptance of the bizarre, a blissful escape from society’s norms and expectations of beauty. Goths share some crucial common values: an appreciation for individualism, a feeling of alienation from the mainstream, and, arguably most importantly, a fascination with the morbid. Music may have laid the foundations for goth, but these shared principles are what make goth not just a specific taste in music or fashion, but rather somewhat of a spirituality. Although goth has no true religious or spiritual affiliation, there is a sense of understanding within the subculture, a solidarity in difference. The goth nightclub, like the Batcave, even acts
as a sort of sacred space. Like many other sacred spaces, the nightclub offers a communal area for members of the subculture to gather, dance, and drink. The rhythmic flashes from the strobe lights and the mystic fog from the smoke machine create an aura of otherness and sacredness within the nightclub. The club is also often decorated with motifs like spiderwebs, torches, and religious symbols to reinforce that the nightclub is a place made for goths. Religious symbols serve a similar purpose in gothic fashion: to emphasize one’s gothic identity. In the mainstream, goth is sometimes associated with Satanism or witchcraft. But, while blasphemous imagery can be used in their fashion, goths rarely actually practice these beliefs. Rather, they view blasphemy as nothing more than an act of rebellion. Institutional religion is often criticized for its conservatism, corruption and abuse, and power over its participants. The goth devotion to individualism contrasts starkly with these flaws. It is thus no surprise that religion is oft a target in goth fashion. Any display of subversion towards religion is typically targeted not at Christ—or other religious figures—himself, but rather at the institution as a whole. This subversion can be shameless and blatant, like perverting religious dress, such as the nun’s habit, by combining it with fetish wear, like fishnets and garters. Or, it may materialize on a more subtle scale, through the secularizing and aestheticizing of religious symbols, especially in jewelry. Favorite symbols of goths include the cross and the pentagram, of course, but also ancient Egyptian symbols like the ankh and the eye of Horus, as well as pagan symbols like the necromancer’s sigil. But, while the use of these symbols is usually assumed to be purely ironic or critical, the prominence of religious iconography in gothic fashion suggests that this obsession with desecrating religious imagery may have become almost a religious act in and of itself. Rebellion against the mainstream in general and against institutional religion particularly is an integral part of the gothic identity, and twisting religious imagery is a clear physical manifestation of this identity.
Goth was born out of this desire to break free from establishment and society. In the realm of high fashion, many designers have taken influence from goth’s love for pushing boundaries and infused its philosophy into their work. The late Alexander McQueen was one of the most visionary designers of his time. His designs were always dramatic, shocking, and gothic. His Eclect Dissect collection for Givenchy Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 1997 was no different. McQueen’s inspiration for this collection was a Victorian mad scientist traveling to collect mismatched human and animal parts and stitching them back together. The resulting looks were animalistic, violent, and terrifying. They were nothing like the beautiful, elegant gowns one usually sees on the runway. There were still aspects of traditional beauty—structured blazers, dresses, and fur shawls, for example—but they were married with towering wigs and animal horns. McQueen’s embracing of gruesome imagery and alternative beauty closely align with the gothic adoration for the morbid and different.
Goth was born out of this desire to break free from establishment and society. Rodarte’s Fall 2008 collection is similar to McQueen’s in its focus on deconstruction. The designers, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, drew inspiration from traditional Japanese Kabuki theater and modern Japanese horror films. The most obviously horror-inspired pieces were the white dresses, streaked with red to look blood-stained. The twisted, frayed layers of the dresses accentuated the violence of the looks. Throughout the collection, the full, feminine skirts were paired with distressed tights and spiky heels. Since the subculture’s inception, goths have relished in the deconstruction of fashion. The ripped tights featured in nearly every look in this collection were a clear nod to the punks. By combining the Victorian silhouettes of the romantic dresses with the punk sentiments of the brazen accessories, the Mulleavy sisters artistically embedded the spirit of goth into their work. Though the looks were still
beautifully feminine and elegant, the emphasis on deconstruction ensured that the collection was, at its core, both violent and gothic. This gothic take on femininity is also present in Anna Sui’s Fall 2020 collection. Inspired by the seductive women of ‘60s and ‘70s horror films, including Blood and Black Lace and Daughters of Darkness, Sui’s collection exhibited an incredibly gothic devilish sensuality while staying true to her love for loud prints and colors. Lulu Tenney’s look had a silhouette similar to that of the later Victorians—a slim skirt, a high neckline, and puff sleeves—but it was constructed in a daring black vinyl and worn with tall black boots, a punk essential. The gothic influence was also clear in Yoon Young Bae’s look, which featured a provocative corset-style leather pant paired with a long lace train. The models’ curled bangs, almost reminiscent of horns, combined with vampy makeup ensured that even the most colorful looks were given a gothic twist in their styling. These high fashion interpretations of goth demonstrate its versatility and far-reaching influence. It can be as shocking as McQueen’s monstrous fusions or as subtle as Rodarte’s and Sui’s romantic renditions. Goth’s individualistic and experimental attitude with fashion is inspiring to all in its encouragement of the unusual. The main tenets of the subculture—individuality, alienation, and morbidity—permeate its fashion. Goth is eccentric, rebellious, and macabre. Its dark, sometimes bizarre fashion can be misconstrued as satanic or evil, but it acts primarily as a questioning of mainstream values and beauty. This hellish, frightening appearance masks a heavenly world in which the alien is accepted and the ugly is beautiful.
Written by Giselle Littleton
Mourning clothes carry a rich, connotative history that dates over a millennium. The Middle Ages was a period characterized by a massive loss of human life due to devastation brought by the Black Plague and high rates of maternal mortality. During this era, mourning clothes began to take shape in western Europe and Asia; the color black was originally reserved for European royal families, but soon grew to become the universal color of grief as the Victorian era reinforced standards for dress in mourning. Despite its evolution, mourning attire has continued to represent the universal theme of grief, devastation, and regret over the loss of human life. Mourning clothes have long represented the sorrowful absence of a person who is no longer alive and they continue to carry these themes into the present day. Along with these representations of grief and despair, mourning attire has come to represent the publicâ€™s unstable relationship with the government in 2020 in the context of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Death is often realized in these three conceptual locations, and mourning clothes represent all three from a realized
political and social context. This year, mourning clothes tell a story of hopefulness, inaction, and anger through the framework of a flawed government that fails to serve its people. Mourning clothes are representative of the afterlife, carrying a strong association with the concept of hell. Worn when the wound of death is still fresh, mourning clothes accompany an individual as they experience heartache and bereavement for the lost life. Sometimes, while wearing mourning clothes and long thereafter, an individual may be left with intense feelings of anger, disappointment, and regret. In the hell stage, mourning clothes come to reflect the perception of everything as corrupt or inadequate. This is because grief is an overpoweringly negative emotion. The wearer lives in a world where the glass is perpetually half empty. This poor emotional state is reflected by the concept of the veil as the archetypal accessory of mourning attire. Historically, veils were crafted out of crepe, which was stiffened with glue or starch to mimic a heavy fabric. The veil commonly scaled the full height of an
NG S Photo by Janie Wang
individual and was a burdensome accessory, heavy on the wearer, and difficult to see and breathe through. For the duration of the mourning period, wearers would commonly feel obligated to don this uncomfortable and even hellish accessory. Thus, the veil is strongly associated with the concept of hell as the wearer physically suffers from a loss of mobility. These restrictions conflate the concept of personal hell for the wearer, as their physical suffering coincides with their emotional distress due to their loss. As such, the wearer is frequently at odds with the veil, which consistently adds to their suffering. In addition to reflecting an overwhelmingly negative emotional state, the veil represents the uneasy, antagonistic relationship many Americans currently have with their government. This year, the many lives we mourn were the victims of preventable circumstances.
The governmentâ€™s inability to act during times of crisis has resulted in what is now an untethered relationship past the point of no return. The veil in this context reflects the wearerâ€™s acknowledgment and resentment towards the role the government played in the deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shooting of unarmed Black individuals by authorities. Many Americans feel that the government has failed them and their families. The pandemic has been characterized by a lack of governmental action. Officials were slow to respond with safety measures and failed to ensure that Americans had access to basic resources during a period of withheld wages and exponential job loss. Many were frustrated with the politicization of the pandemic as it became a divisive issue within the two-party system. The pandemic should have been acknowledged as a public health crisis, rather than a subject for political debate.
Many have died due to the Covid pandemic, and many of these losses may have been averted if the government came to a consensus on the pandemic as a serious threat to human life. In this case, the veil illustrates the averse relationship many have with a government that restricts their rights to health and safety. The veil is a representation of the government, a contributor to the suffering of the people. Many have experienced the unfortunate loss of loved ones to the coronavirus pandemic. The lax safety measures issued likely contributed to Americaâ€™s extremely high rate of Covid-related deaths in comparison to other nations. Like the veil, the government serves as an antagonistic force Americans must reckon with as they attempt to power through the hellish reality of an apathetic system that undeniably mismanages their health.
The veil is also representative of the lack of concern for Black Americans demonstrated by the government this year. Many people are angry and rightfully resentful of how deeply embedded racism is in this nationâ€™s foundation. Black Americans are continuously forced to argue for their rights to feel safe and comfortable in their everyday lives. There has been poor resolution and justice for the wrongful deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless Black Americans who have died at the hands of wrongful discrimination this year. Powerful institutions fail to be held accountable as they wrongfully determine whose lives matter and whose lives do not. The mourning veil represents a collective feeling that the governmentâ€™s steps towards working to eradicate anti-blackness have been inadequate, creating a hellish environment for Black Americans. The veil represents a restriction for Black Ameri-
cans as they lack access to the right to feel safe, understood, and at peace wherever they go. Throughout history, the veil has made it difficult for mourners to breathe and it continues to illustrate current restrictions by demonstrating the constraints present for Black Americans. The restrictive nature of mourning clothes can also be seen through the standard of formal attire, with important standards of dress that must be adhered to. Mourning attire is formal because it reflects the way the world thinks about death, as the final stage of life with often overwhelmingly devastating consequences for loved ones. The world places importance on death, and importance has been placed upon mourning attire. Mourning clothes are formal attire worn for limited periods of time. They are not meant to be worn every single day of an individual’s life. For instance, long black dresses are often designated as appropriate attire for funerals. Long dresses and skirts have been historically connected to formality in traditional women’s wear. Other mourners may opt for long black slacks as the go-to attire for funerals and mourning. Black slacks hold a universal formality which can be used as appropriate attire for funerals. The wearer does not expect to wear these garments indefinitely; mourning clothes are not worn every day because, in some aspects, the wearer is anticipating a return to normalcy. The wearer is hopeful for a future in which the long black dress or black slacks are no longer necessary and feelings of joy return.
The wearer is hopeful for a future in which the long black dress or black slacks are no longer necessary and feelings of joy return. From this perspective, mourning clothes may even represent the conceptual location of Heaven. People often engage in automatically contrasting a positive emotion with a negative emotion. A person mourning the loss of a loved one can feel sorrow, while still thinking about feelings of elation and joy. In their periods of
grief, the mourners can still question if and when they will ever be happy again. Mourning clothes reflect the wearer’s tendency to look for positive future outcomes. The formality of mourning attire reflects the forcefully solemn nature of death. Death is such a powerful event that loved ones of the deceased dedicate themselves to following a dress code for a given period of time. Yet, a return to normalcy and everyday casualwear presents itself as the ultimate contrast to the formality of mourning attire. Even in the wake of dark times, mourning clothes reflect an innate need to look towards a better future. This new and improved future that so many people are looking for resembles the concept of Heaven. People are always looking towards greener pastures or a light at the end of a dark tunnel. In relation to this year, mourning clothes reflect a similar connection to heaven. This past year has been characterized by injustices that could have been averted, but wearers of mourning clothes have been overwhelmed by feelings of grief and emotion. They are expressing anger and resentment towards the government for preventable deaths. However, those same feelings are paired with their positive opposites. In expressing their disapproval of the government, the people who mourn for lost lives express dissatisfaction in hope of a more just and safe future. Mourning attire points to a belief that circumstances will change for the better. In 2020, these clothes are an active representation of a positive collective outlook in which people’s lives are protected and valued. When mourning clothes are worn this year, the concept of heaven is reflected in the aspirations of an American collective embracing a brighter future. In contrast, mourning clothes are traditionally associated with a seemingly perpetual state of stagnance in the periods of grief experienced by the wearer. The color black is typically perceived as an empty, inert color devoid of any animation, reflecting a stage in which negative emotions overwhelm the mourner to the point of immobility. All other aspects of
life fade into the background as their attention is directed to the death of a loved one. In mourning attire, the color black is best represented by the concept of purgatory. An individual in purgatory is in a seemingly endless state of limbo, an abode where they are waiting for some final decision to be made. In this state, they are unsure about what is to come, and there is nothing to be done but wait. For the mourner, black illustrates an uncertain future characterized by inaction.
Rather than taking action, many were in a purgatorial state of stagnance, unwilling to educate themselves and change the nation for the better. In regards to 2020, the color black has transformed mourning attire to reflect society as a whole, rather than the individual mourner. In the context of deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic and racially-discriminate police brutality, the color black works to direct accountability towards systems of power regarding the poor circumstances of this year. As the color is illustrative of a stage of stagnance, it likewise holds many systems in America accountable for their own inaction during this period. Rather than taking action, many were in a purgatorial state of stagnance, unwilling to educate themselves and change the nation for the better. Governmental systems and large corporations were unwilling or simply unaware of the social and political action that could be taken to contribute to change beyond the polls. Thus, there were multiple occasions this year where we existed in a state of limbo, unsure of whether any change would occur or not. In 2020, mourning attire holds the government and corporations accountable for our role in maintaining structures that deny us health and life. Mourning clothes have long represented the inevitability of lifeâ€™s misfortunes. Death is the unavoidable last stage of our lives while the process of grieving is inevitable for our loved
ones. This year, mourning takes on a new context as many realize a connection between blatant political disregard and the death of cherished friends and family. Death then becomes the final life stage in which its newfound politicized causes must intertwine with the grieving process. To mourn and wear the designated attire today promotes the notion that transforming grief into actualized justice is possible. And to come full circle, mourning clothes currently urge deep contemplation over whether justice may be as inevitable as death itself.
WORSHIP & BETRAYAL by Justin Lee
Homage To Worship and Betrayal is a mixed media piece made from a doll, wood, curtains, brass tacks, golden spray, candles, feathers, wire, and shipping cardboard form. As someone with a religious background who questions almost everything, I often ponder what drives faith in religion. Even though organized religion faces constant criticism, their followers seem to ignore these critics and ignorantly stay devoted. Nowadays, it seems like a week never passes without the announcement of a new scandal involving organized religion. When I think of the victims, I think of the generations of people who trusted and believed in organizations whose religions ended up being betrayed or manipulated. This is not a condemnation of belief or faith; rather, it is a discouraging and disheartening version of icons associated with the many houses of worship. The candles and lavish accoutrements symbolize the mystery and performance, hence the curtains. These items represent the often shiny and expensive items used in organized religions such as chalaces and statues. Organized religions often use luxurious items to legitimize themselves in the minds of the public. My goal was to intimidate the viewer, forcing them to question their beliefs and higher authorities just as these greater systems do with their religions.
The Regulation & Suppression of Female Agency Written by Caitlin Chen Photography by Margaret Jackson Trigger Warning: This article may contain some triggering and sensitive material including sexual assault, violence, and abuse. Following death, some people believe that God enacts eternal judgment, determining an individualâ€™s fate according to their behavior on Earth. The Last Judgment ultimately decides where someone belongs: heaven, hell, or purgatory. This decision is authoritative and non-negotiable with a singular figure as the judge, jury, and executioner of the infinite afterlife. We envision these three roles to collectively execute an equal, nonpartisan verdict and that our predetermined destiny is given in all fairness. However, when this notion is applied to our daily lives, the social institutions that dictate personal agency and fate do so in an unyielding, prejudiced manner. Throughout history, the female body has been subjected to regulations, both on an individual basis and a larger systematic level. Institutions continue to enforce judgment and execute policy decisions that perpetuate double standards, leading to the female being unable to express herself without external judgment and having her own agency detached from her control. The patriarchal society that we exist in normalizes the social construction of gender binaries, allowing distinct gender differences and inequality to sustain. Even before we are born, the foundation for dif-
ferences in male and female behavior begins to form. Parents are the earliest agents of gender socialization. From the moment they throw their baby shower and decorate the nursery in shades of baby blue or pink, they have determined how their kids will be dressed and what toys they will be allowed to play with, heavily impacting how their child will identify as they grow older. And as children begin their education, they meet peer groups who ostracize those who do not fit the gender stereotypes constructed by society. Institutions that we join when weâ€™re young play a large role in judging and regulating behavior that encourages gender inequality. In our primary and secondary education, as children begin their identity formation and navigate their way through understanding their pubescent bodies, they are exposed to regulations that enforce the differences in female and male appearance. A dress code gives school authorities the ability to regulate student identity and establish a traditional norm. A typical dress code would deem skirts or shorts above the knee and shirts that exposed the shoulder as unacceptable. Although these dress codes are for all genders, restrictions are typically aimed at females, gender non-conforming, and transgender students, once again prioritizing the heteronormative male narrative over other minority groups. Having gone to a school with uniforms myself, one of the most absurd encounters I had was being written up for wearing above-the-knee socks. Socks were typically the least important part of my wardrobe when trying to get ready in the span of ten minutes, while still halfasleep. If anything, I wore more mismatched socks than matched ones and had never previously considered thigh-highs to have any other purpose than being good at keeping my legs warm during the winter. Yet somehow, the male gazeâ€™s schoolgirl fantasy has sexualized a garment as simple as socks to the point where institutions perpetuate this sexual agenda by placing restrictions on the female wardrobe. If minor decisions in a personâ€™s daily life are regulated by an outside force, that person truly holds no agency over themselves in any capac-
ity. To teach a young girl that her male peers or teachers would be uncomfortable by the way she dresses ingrains the notion that her body is up for judgment by the male audience around her, leading to internalized patriarchy. Furthermore, the mass media we are exposed to daily continues to perpetuate gender binary conformations and subconscious misogyny. Popular culture fetishizes innocence and purity, thus placing minors in a hypersexual role and utilizing the schoolgirl uniform ideal to appeal to their male audience’s sexual prowess. Directly examining the entertainment industry’s use of the schoolgirl fantasy, Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” took the Catholic schoolgirl uniform and sexualized it with a tied up polo, open midriff, mini-skirt, and thigh-high socks. At the time of the music video release, Spears was only sixteen, but her marketing executives used her youthful look and made it appeal to the male gaze. Her hyper-innocent, yet hyper-sexualized image
leads to vicious over-sexualization, a particular trend that continues throughout Hollywood. The rhetoric and images shown in the media simultaneously emphasize the importance of “purity,” while over-sexualizing the female body. It teaches young girls that men should be powerful and sexually aggressive, while women are submissive to a man’s sexual desires. Any ownership of female sexuality immediately makes you promiscuous. It’s an unending conversation that has been told continuously and in many different ways. Social institutions perpetuate r*pe culture, toxic masculinity, and victim-blaming, continuously failing sexual assault victims who are typically young women or other non-gender conforming groups. We are taught to criticize an individual’s actions based on which gender they identify as. A woman is told to dress a certain way and is often blamed for the decisions of a man based on her wardrobe. During a criminal trial in Ireland,
a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in an alleyway by a 27-year-old man. In the defendant’s closing argument, his lawyer asked the jury to consider the underwear the young girl was wearing. His defense attorney, a woman herself, stated that the girl was wearing “a thong with a lace front.” Sexism is so systematically ingrained into our society that all genders weaponize it, allowing double consciousness to reinforce female oppression. A female voice claiming that the wearer of a lace thong is actively seeking and consenting to a romantic encounter gave the jurors full autonomy to exonerate an obviously guilty party. A woman was judged and minimized to nothing more than a few strips of lace and string, yet somehow the thong became the most defining and vocal piece of evidence during her case. Her own underwear had given consent for her and the man was thus acquitted. This form of victim-blaming escalates in the courts with a majority of sexual assault victims unable to find justice in the judicial system. This case is just one of many sexual assault cases that are dismissed or where the perpetrator walks freely without any punishments for his lewd and sexually violent actions. By a series of social factors, judgment towards gender and sexual hierarchy escalates into r*pe culture, an environment in which sexual violence is normalized. When a woman hooks up with multiple men she is labeled as a slut, but if her male counterpart does the same, he’s a stud. If a woman refuses to have sex when a man is interested, she becomes a prude or a bitch. This endless dichotomy of innocence and sexuality in a female demonstrates how little of her bodily autonomy she’s able to control and how much of it is defined by outside figures: It’s a man’s world and we’re just living in it. Perpetuating heteronormative male behavior by encouraging locker room talk or saying “boys will be boys” gives men an excuse to advance misogynistic behavior and allows them to get away with it. Take Donald Trump’s 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, for example, where he brags about grabbing women “by the pussy” without consent. His predatory comments about sexual assault were deemed light “locker room talk” and considering he won the presidency in 2016, his degradation of females was seen as nothing more than your everyday
political scandal. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, was held to a different standard because of her gender, which Trump frequently weaponized against her. Whether questioning Clinton’s strength or stamina or mocking her for being hyper-masculine for shouting, Trump utilized negative stereotypes from both ends of the spectrum. For traditional America, Clinton was too masculine and too eager to please in her crisp Ralph Lauren red, white, and blue pantsuits during the debates. The classic suit and tie combo has always been a symbol of
male power and women were forced to adapt in order to survive in their male-dominated fields. The birth of the pantsuit gave women the freedom to claim a traditionally male garment, a concept that many traditionalists are not comfortable with. As a result, they scrutinize the pantsuit, a symbolism of equality in the political arena. Clinton is a woman, but one who didn’t adhere to stereotypical feminine fashion. She posed a threat to America’s sexist hierarchy, therefore she was critiqued continuously based on a sexist double standard that male politicians do not have to encounter.
standards have created a bias where the female has to do twice as much to be considered half the man. The jury on gender perception leads to a vicious cycle of female suppression because it’s not impartial, but is still given full authority to render its verdict. The same government that follows Trump, an openly sexist president who boasts about sexual assault, is the same political institution that abuses its power by constraining a woman’s ability to access an abortion. A government primarily consisting of heterosexual males with no personal connection to their constituents has always sought control over an individual female’s bodily autonomy. Something as simple as a zip code can be the defining factor of whether she is able to access abortion services or not. By stripping away a woman’s personal agency and authoritatively dictating her life, society is violating her psychologically, pressuring her into choices without acknowledging the lack of consent. By forcing a woman into a lifelong decision without consulting her choice or situation, the United States has reached the apotheosis of the final judgment, with the government playing God with people’s lives. The man, the media, the government, and the social institutions have fully evolved into the executioner with the female body offered as its victim and sacrifice. The social norms that enforce a proper uniform, influence gender roles in the mass media, and set the foundation for r*pe culture comes full circle with a lack of female autonomy concerning a woman’s own biological functions. Institutions have dictated what a girl should wear growing up, how she should present herself, and now they choose her future because the world as we know it has always co-existed alongside gender hierarchies. It would require great Although there has been an increase of reconstruction in order to reform these social instifemales in politics, they are expected to tutions. Although gender equality currently feels like straddle the ambiguous line of being the a distant goal that we can only dream of reaching, right kind of feminine: modest, ladylike, there still needs to be hope. Hope that we can overand fashionable, not overly powerful, masculine, or disagreeable in both appearance come the judgment and scrutiny that weighs heavily within our clothes. Hope that the jury will listen withand behavior. This unjust double standard out bias and resolve its internalized misogyny. Hope on women places them at a disadvantage that one day we can be our own executioners, that when societal expectations create concern regarding the perfection of outfits, hair, and we can decide for ourselves our own future with no makeup on a daily basis whereas their male limitations or force holding us down. counterparts have little to do other than pick out their tie for the day. This gender imbalance and disparity fails women as double
YOU HAVE TO PLAY THE GAME TO WIN Mikayla LoBasso
You Have to Play the Game to Win is a commentary piece about breaking out of the monotony regarding societal expectations of success. We pursue higher education and receive degrees that imply our obligation to work for the rest of our lives, doing jobs that bring us minimal enjoyment, all while wearing unenthused business casual. This is our broken system’s notion of success–this is hell. However, although this is expected of us, it does not mean we have to always follow through according to society’s standards. This shoot represents the exploration of business fashion and redefining our own definitions of success as what enables us to live our fullest life.
This is hell. The anxiety that is involved in every choice I make regarding clothing is often attributed to the desire of not wanting to be detected by the male gaze. There is a dissociation I feel within myself, as I morph and change my being to accommodate that of men. The wanton stares on the street, in our schools, and in the places we feel most safe, are the reasons for this anxiety; for this necessity to not be seen.
Let me hide, for I do not want to be seen by you. You, the men who choose to stare at me. You, the men who leave me hidden in my room for weeks.
Please, let me hide from you.
THANK YOU Thank you for reading and following along our journey of exploring the nuances of the afterlife. As an entirely student-run publication, this would not have been possible with all your incredible support. To our executive board–thank you for being by our side during our first quarter and for walking with us every step of the way. It is with your leadership and talent that we were able to cultivate a publication that exhibits such creativity and artistry. To our staff–thank you for being the best team we could possibly ask for. From Friday night Zoom meetings to endless Slack conversations, your talent, along with your presence–though virtual–has made this journey worthwhile. To our donors–we cannot thank you enough for your generous support. Our editorial could not have been possible without your confidence in our goals and talent. For that, we are forever grateful. And to you, our reader–thank you for believing in META. It is only with an audience that our platform matters. With your support, your love, and your thirst for artistic vitality, META thrives as an intersectional amplification for voices within the community. Thank you all for making META possible. We are eternally grateful and we look forward to when we meet again. With love, Joy Chen & Tiffany Hue Co-Founders of META MAG
We dedicate this publication to our generous donors who have helped make META possible:
Tom Torlone William Chen
Heaven, Hell & Purgatory, tackles nuances of gratitude, immortality, and existential dread, all through a lens of style. We analyze the arti...
Published on Dec 11, 2020
Heaven, Hell & Purgatory, tackles nuances of gratitude, immortality, and existential dread, all through a lens of style. We analyze the arti...