META MAG PRESENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS META MAG STAFF PAGE
LETTER FROM THE CO-FOUNDERS
JOY CHEN & TIFFANY HUE
THROUGH SPACE AND TIME
THE POWERFUL WOMEN OF BOBBLEHAUS
LGBTQ+ FASHION & GENDER TRANSGRESSION
LET HER EAT CAKE
A MALIBU MELODRAMA
NEXT STOP UOOYAA
FEMININE IN A SUIT
ELITISM EN POINTE
ERIN YEH & SEJUN PARK
JOY CHEN & TIFFANY HUE
RACHEL FENG & URNA BAJRYCHARYA
VANESSA NGUYEN & LILY GLANTZ LILLIE YAZDI
JOY CHEN & TIFFANY HUE
SALSA MAZLAN & MICHAEL CANABARRO
TIFFANY HUE & CATHERINE CHU
A SENSE OF ADOLESENCE
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BOLLYWOOD
BRAS OF THE 20TH CENTURY
ETERNALIZING CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE
FASHIONS IN WARZONES
FRENCH REVOLUTION & ANTI-FASHION
BOLLYWOOD'S LEADING WARRIOR PRINCESSES
FASHION'S PAST & PROLOGUE
LOOKING BACK TO MOVE FORWARD
GIVING VOICE TO WOMEN OF THE 18TH & 19TH CENTURIES
NOSTALGIA IN THE HOME
CMMND: THE FUTURE OF FASHION
WHAT ARE WE WITHOUT OUR MEMORIES?
THANK YOU & DEDICATIONS
SUE ELLEN ZHANG
NEHA GUPTA & ANUBHA GUPTA PAIGE BRUNSON
ALEXIS SCHROCK & ANYA CHEN
JULIETTE CORNET & NICK BROGDON
ANNA-MARIE GUENTHER & EDWIN TRAN JUSTIN LEE
NATALIE SEMERSKY & CASEY NGUYEN
CAITLIN CHEN & JESSICA HU
ANISHA PATIL & ANIKA MURTHY
CHANG ZHOU & MAYA GEE-LIM GEORGIA WEED & JANIE WANG AVA ALEXIADES
JORDAN MULA & SOFIJA NINNESS
ANNIKA CARLSON & MARGARET JACKSON
ELIAS OMAR & NICK RODRIGUEZ
JOY CHEN & TIFFANY HUE JOY CHEN
KNOT JEWELRY Photography by Sey Yang This series features model Tiffany Guo and a collection of knot necklaces her mother, Ying, has crafted in the past year. Throughout Chinese history, knots have remained a significant motif, dating back as early as 400 BC. They developed as an art form from the Tang and Song dynasties (AD 960-1279) and were often used as cultural and religious symbols. For example, the Pan Chang knot found in many of Ying’s necklaces is used to represent the Buddhist notions of pattern,
My grandmother, who lives in China, can only visit our family a couple of times each decade. When I miss her, I turn to the things she always leaves with me. The silk necklaces and wooden and jade bracelets gifted to me throughout my childhood are one of the few associations I have to her. These trinkets not only have deep implications of our culture, but are also our own personal pockets of nostalgia.
THROUGH SPACE AND TIME: the Space Race, Fashion, & Cold War Politics WRITTEN BY ERIN YEH Alongside the tumultuous political climate of the mid20th century came an age of scientific exploration that brought mankind, and the fashion industry, to space. Directly caused by power politics and a struggle for hegemony between the United States and the Soviet Union, the rapid development of outer space technology resulted in a race for space domination. While the United States worked to place a man on the moon before the USSR, fashion and media had already breached a new world entirely. Inspired by technological innovation and the possibilities of space, fashion designers diverted from traditional methods of construction to surpass the bounds of time. In the present, there’s often a sense of nostalgia for the perceived unity and achievement associated with the space race. This feeling of nostalgia transverses time, moving us to the past while 1960s fashion transported its wearers into the future. Both fashion and politics similarly possess the ability to surpass the constraints of time, a skill promulgated with the rise of futuristic fashion.
The movement to explore space prompted the public to look towards the future, ushering in a wave of optimism at a time of mutually assured destruction. As Cold War politics incited proxy wars between democracies and the rising tide of communism, a sense of optimism amongst the public played a role in ushering in a completely new, futuristic age of fashion. The work of Pierre Cardin, Mary Quant, André
Courrèges and Paco Rabanne defined the impact of futuristic endeavors on the fashion industry. For fashion, the 1960s meant a trip to the future with the rise of unconventional materials and stiff silhouettes.
Designers rose to prominence by embracing the public’s desire for change, adapting to create designs that reflected the science fiction perceived to become reality. The rise of futuristic fashion cannot be discussed without recognizing the influence of Pierre Cardin, an Italian-born, French-based designer who established his own fashion house in 1950. Known for his avantgarde designs, Cardin was one of the first to design couture for men. Inspired by the far-off future, he began designing synthetic garments that blurred gender binaries and ultimately created a lasting impact on the fashion industry’s constant return to space. His unisex “Cosmocorps” collection rejected the traditionalism of the 1950s, aligning with the movements of rebellion characteristic of 1960s counterculture.
Cardin’s Cosmocorps suits and porthole dresses redefined the role of gender in fashion, bridging previously static binaries while international politics were locked in a stalemate With the exploration of space as his muse, Cardin envisioned his designs persisting in the future,
illustration by sejun park
eventually reaching Mars for what he called “the world of tomorrow.” Shielding the faces of his models with plastic visors, Cardin designed for a largely uncertain future as space exploration increased the destructive capacity of both sides of the Cold War. Cardin’s designs were not confined to the boundaries of gender, demonstrating his experimentation in fashion inspired by experimentation in science. However, despite the free movement of fashion and technology, political and social constraints persisted in the 1960s, restricting certain measures of progress. While the short hemlines characteristic of futuristic fashion permitted greater physical movement for women, progress in society and the workplace was limited.
In the United States, women, especially women of color, were grounded beneath the glass ceiling while their white male counterparts entered the atmosphere. The boundaries existing in scientific fields kept Black women in the background, underpaid and segregated from their colleagues despite their vital contributions to science. Names like Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson were largely forgotten in the scientific community, yet fashion provided an opportunity for femininity to be associated with futuristic domains. British-born designer Mary Quant is often credited with the rise of hemlines in the 1960s. Paired with colorful tights, or hotpants, the short skirts and bright colors of her collections paid homage to her youth.
This return to youth culture presents itself as a form of escapism from the 1960s while further demonstrating fashion’s ability to move through time. Consumers of Quant’s designs indulged in a sense of nostalgia for their childhood, embracing a fun and
carefree aesthetic while observing Russian spacewalks and US satellite launches. And as spacesuit-clad astronauts arrived in space, children in the United States began practicing duck-and-cover drills as escalating tensions between North Atlantic and Warsaw Pact states threatened nuclear destruction. Embodying both a childhood aesthetic and embracing the futuristic atmosphere of 1960s European fashion, Quant’s Wet Collection was the first of its kind. She experimented with synthetic materials, creating PVC raincoats that both literally and figuratively reflected the experimentation of the 1960s. Quant’s use of synthetic material invited its own set of obstacles as the plastic was difficult to sew and required technological development to adapt to the unconventional material. Despite the obstacles in creating her collection, Mary Quant’s red and white raincoats featured short hemlines, primary colors and boxy silhouettes, protecting the wearer from the elements in a functional and feminist manner. Adorned with pockets and stiff collars, the Wet Collection provided women with the freedom to select colors that embraced individuality. The mass production of her designs and her interactive retail fronts brought futuristic fashion to the general public, making feminist fashion pieces more accessible. As Quant gained traction in the fashion industry through her innovative designs, feminists at NASA worked to place a woman in space. And while Sally Ride didn’t enter space until 1983, fashion began imagining women on the moon as early as the early 1960s. André Courrèges, a French designer and WWII pilot, launched his Moon Girl looks in 1964, a year after the Soviet Union placed the first woman in space. Featuring geometric designs and contrasting trims, the space-age collection allowed for greater physical movement. As futuristic fashion persisted, his later collections featured plastic helmets and white boots, dressing women on the runway in fashionable futuristic pieces fit for a walk on the moon. Futuristic fashion embraced a variety of color palettes. Primary colors became popular, emphasizing the simple yet nationalistic atmosphere of the era. The use of red, white and blue during fashion’s space-age streamlined the silhouettes of high hemlines while
also demanding attention. In the case of Courrèges, his futuristic designs utilized red and white, calling upon the contrasting colors to draw attention to the skirts and blouses themselves rather than the women wearing them. Yet while the primary colors of space era fashion also resembled the potential of unexplored planets, the prominence of red holds significance politically with the rising red tide of communism that inevitably fueled the destructive competition of space achievement. In addition to the use of primary colors, the rise of metallics in fashion mirrored scientific and technological development, aligning with the aesthetic that emerged from the science fiction movies that further encouraged the public’s obsession with space travel. Paco Rabanne, a Spanish-born Basque designer of the space era, was influenced by scientific exploration, pursuing revolutionary ideas in his own field. Rabanne experimented with traditionally unwearable materials, rising to prominence for his ability to move beyond the use of a needle and thread. Most notably, his use of metal led to the creation of futuristic garments pieced together like armor. In the mid-1960s, Rabanne’s most popular designs were made from metal disks held together by wire rings.
Aptly referred to as a look of armor, Rabanne introduced futuristic and feminine warriors to fashion. The linked metallic disks provide a facade of protection while still allowing elegance and freedom of movement. While his use of metal was critiqued by French couture designers, the unconventional nature of his garments reflected the climate of the era. With the metaphoric Iron Curtain dividing Eastern and Western Europe, space exploration incited a sense of fear alongside inspiration. This entry to a previously unexplored realm provided an opportunity for the United States and the Soviet Union to compete to assert their authority on the global stage. However, while the fashion industry focused on scientific advancement to space, Cold War politics motivated scientific development in a more destructive direction. In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union’s lead in space
advancement led to increased speculation surrounding their arms capabilities. As the United States worked to increase its defensive capacity, Rabanne’s suits of armor captured public attention. Rabanne’s metallic creations that emerged from the arms race of the 1960s were reminiscent of medieval chain mail. Despite looking into the past for inspiration, Rabanne’s use of unconventional materials aligned with fashion’s launch into the future. Recently, Paco Rabanne’s Spring 2021 ready-to-wear collection demonstrated a similar flashback and flashforward. A dress of metallic pieces linked together appearing on the runway in 2021 creates a sense of nostalgia for the garments made by Rabanne himself in 1969, the same year Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The revival of past designs is unsurprising in the fashion industry, yet, with the pandemic politics of the past year, the United States has witnessed impressive scientific advancement to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Politics played a role in encouraging scientific development amidst the polarizing Cold War in the 1960s, and the repetition of history has prompted scientific advancement, and innovation in fashion, again in 2021. Fashion’s obsession with space in the 1960s embodied the public’s optimism and fixation on scientific achievement despite the stalemate of Cold War politics. Since the entrance to space in the 1960s, the cosmos has continued to exist without much regulation by global governance. In the sixty years that have passed, space cooperation has increased while concerns continue to exist over the militarization of space and the rise in power of multinational corporations has further complicated efforts at regulation. As the fashion industry continues to grow, the actions of private corporations are similarly under-regulated as contributions to global waste and carbon emissions increase. Despite these externalities, innovation in both space exploration and fashion has continued to occur, moving beyond the stalemate of the 1960s while continuing to look to the past. Still, even before surpassing Earth’s atmosphere in politics and fashion, the two fields constantly entertained a sense of nostalgia for a different era. And as we’ve continued to see now, politics and fashion transport the public through time with the reversal of policies and the revival of trends.
LGBTQ FASHION AND GENDER TRANSGRESSION Written by Rachel Feng For many, fashion is a medium for self-expression and creativity. For the LGBTQ community, it also serves as a way to build a sense of belonging and to recognize the complexity and violence of queer history. The mere existence of LGBTQ folk is transgressive.
Fashion allows trans people, gay men and lesbians to subvert traditional gender and sexuality norms by satirizing the standard and challenging the comfortable. By continuing to defy the same norms their predecessors did, queer people today are able to pay homage to those that paved the way. Whether it’s the participants of Harlem ball culture or the macho “clones” of the post-Stonewall era, members of the LGBTQ community often look to fashion as a way to exaggerate conventional, heterosexual masculinity and femininity. Ball culture is a Black and Latin American LGBTQ subculture that originated in New York City in the late 19th century. Participants walk, pose, dance, and vogue in various competition categories, many of which involve either dressing in drag or heightening one’s gender performance. Dressed in over-the-top, stereotypically gendered fashion, participants draw attention to the absurdity of gender.
The ballroom scene therefore acts as an escape from a reality where gender is eternally performed and upheld.. Designer Stine Goya’s extended this escapism onto the catwalk in her SS20 show by inviting ballroom
members to strut and vogue down the runway. Her collection—inspired by Paris is Burning and Kiki, two ballroom documentaries—was full of huge polka-dot prints, bright florals, and in-your-face ruffles, exemplifying ballroom’s extravagance and boldness. Looks ranged from ruffled polka-dot mini dresses paired with sheer polka-dot tights to mismatched floral suits with bright yellow sneakers. Beyond ball’s political implications, it is also simply a place to let go and have fun, and Goya’s hot pink heels and colorful, patterned suits are just that: fun. Today, drag has become more widely accepted than ever, celebrated on shows from Pose, a drama series about ‘80s ball culture, to RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality show for drag competitions. Rupaul’s influence has even crept its way into high fashion. Season nine winner Sasha Velour was given full creative control from Opening Ceremony’s designers, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, over the brand’s SS19 New York Fashion Week show. Velour ensured that this collaboration was a true celebration of drag. Set at Le Poisson Rouge, a venue that hosts weekly drag shows, the show featured over 40 LGBTQ models and performers. The drag performers were also given Opening Ceremony fabrics from the collection to design their own costumes with. The collection itself featured a wide variety of looks, including ditsy ruffled blouses and pastel pleated bottoms as well as metallic skin-tight tops and sheer glittery pants. The pieces were all given a unique touch of personality by the non-traditional models who walked them down the stage. The ability we have to cross traditional boundaries between men and women in mainstream fashion today is owed to decades and decades of previous work. While it is more difficult to identify historical gay subcultures due to their necessarily discreet nature, the aesthetes and dandies of the late 19th century were two groups of men who were often associated with queerness due to their strong identification with and pride in their
appearances and style. The Aesthetic Movement of the mid to late 1800s advocated for “artistic” styles of dress—beauty for the sake of beauty. Aesthetic clothing was a rejection of the structure and restriction of contemporary Victorian fashion, turning instead to looser silhouettes inspired by the late Middle Ages. Garments were simple and elegant, often dyed with natural vegetable pigments to look softer and faded. Aesthetic dresses featured minimal embellishments, usually just floral embroidery, compared to the more heavy ornamentation of Victorian dress. Oscar Wilde,
an English author and playwright convicted for homosexuality, was one of the most well-known male aesthetes. During his aesthete phase, he wore his hair long and liked to drape himself in long, velvet coats and capes, accessorizing with flowery boutonnieres. Flashy male aesthetes like Wilde were heavily mocked for their supposed femininity and obsession with fashion. Dandies were closely associated with aesthetes, and many men were part of both movements. However, the dandies took a subtler approach to fashion. This style was primarily worn by men and put a great deal of
Design by Urna Bajracharya
emphasis on sophisticated and fashionable clothing. Portraits of Count Robert de Montesquiou, a known gay dandy, depict him in neat three-piece suits lined with silk. While the look remained masculine and serious enough to pass as mainstream and straight for some men, the dandy’s emphasis on being stylish sometimes raised alarm bells or was seen as a signal to other gay men. The dandy look was also adopted by women, who inherently added another layer of subversion, as the tailored suit and necktie was no longer just a symbol of
Design by Urna Bajracharya
wealth and style, but also one of masculinity and thus not meant for a woman’s body. The archetype of the female dandy continued into the 1920s when women began wearing tailored suits and other masculine silhouettes. Though such androgynous looks were also worn by straight women, lesbians viewed the ‘20s style not as à la garçonne (in the style of a boyish girl), but rather à la garçon (in the style of the female boy). While androgyny in straight women was a rebellion against the confinements of patriarchal beauty standards, androgyny in lesbians was also specifically a rejection of femininity from the heterosexual perspective.
Unfortunately, the postwar period and the rise of violent anti-gay harassment meant that visible queerness all but disappeared. Signals to other gay men became subtle and unknown to straight society, in the form of suede shoes, for instance. After the Stonewall riots in 1969, however, members of the LGBTQ community were able to more openly express their sexualities in fashion. This gave rise to the clone, a subtype of gay men who dressed in overtly “masculine” ways: denim jeans, plaid shirts and work boots, for instance. This look countered the effeminate stereotypes often associated with gay men at the time.
Importantly, however, the clones of the 70s had no intention of blending in with muscular heterosexual men and instead wore their clothes as a parody of straight male fashion. Their jeans were tight enough so you could almost see their genitals, and their form-fitting shirts intentionally butch-femme roles had been criticized for supposedly mimicking and perpetuating traditional masculine and feminine stereotypes, butchness was revived in the ‘80s as a political force. Butch women argued that their bare faces and baggy pants did not make them “the man” in a lesbian relationship, but rather broadcasted their sexuality to the world with the primary intent of signaling to other lesbians. Butch and femme roles were especially prominent in the country and western world, as western-themed bars were a safe space for butch women to wear flannel shirts and jeans and dance with other women without raising any questions.
For most lesbians, being either butch or femme was not only a stylistic choice but also an identity and a symbol of resistance. Androgyny in lesbians also returned in the ‘80s and ‘90s as a major influence on fashion. Suits were stuffed with shoulder pads to emphasize the narrow waistline and popular masculine wedge shape. The buzz haircut also became popular among lesbians as a way to more drastically divorce oneself from traditional femininity.
This resurgence of androgyny can be attributed in part to celebrities like Madonna and k.d. lang. Madonna’s sexual confidence had already made her attractive to lesbians, but the release of “Justify My Love” made her essentially a lesbian icon. The music video was full of actors portraying lesbians, sex workers and rent boys. In her stage performance of the song, Madonna dressed as a Victorian dandy, outfit complete with waistcoat, top hat and silk cape. Her image as an attractive and sexual androgynous woman boosted the look into popular culture. Singer k.d. lang similarly popularized androgynous lesbian fashion. Her style consisted of both country shirts, handkerchiefs and jeans as well as dandy-like men’s suits and ties. In Vanity Fair’s August 1993 issue, lang was pictured with her hair cut short and wearing a three-piece pinstriped suit and tie as well as leather brogues. At that point in time, masculine femininity was still a new concept to most of American society. This mainstream display of androgyny was thus fascinating and compelling. The lesbian look was fashionable, cool and chic. Gender today continues to spark discussions and debates across the world, both in fashion and beyond. Whether it’s designers like Stine Goya and Opening Ceremony or everyday people, the queer community continues to push the boundaries of gender and fashion, forcing us to question what we consider normal. Fashion allows the community to remember its past and history, with all its struggles and triumphs.
This sense of collective nostalgia is not a longing for the past, but rather an ambition to do justice to LGBTQ people from decades and centuries ago by continuing to resist and fight. From the Victorian dandies, who needed to be subtle to be safe, to modern-day drag queens, who can vogue down high fashion runways, LGBTQ visibility has come a long way. However, there are still countless opponents and barriers to overcome. The fact that visibly queer fashion and bodies are still seen as bold violations of norms is an everlasting reminder of how much further there is to go.
LET HER EAT CAKE BY MIKAYLA LOBASSO
Confined by the rigid social rules of the times, 1950’s housewives were forced to uphold conventional images of femininity through traditional housewife fashion. Yet, under the pressed aprons and pastel prints, were women yearning to break free from the confines of societal standards. This series serves as a visual representation of rejecting outdated patriarchal frameworks and finding personal liberation despite them. The depiction of despair while in traditional housewife wear is symbolic of oppression, while the progressive fashion acts as a symbol of self-deliverance.
WRITTEN BY VANESSA NGUYEN
TH E SE LF : AN EX P LO RA TI ON OF
R E T N U CO E R U T L CU
Part of the tumultuous coming-of-age process is the realization that there is a vast world outside of the self. Questions surrounding one’s identity and how it fits in with the rest of the world arise. How do we balance other’s expectations of us and who we truly are? How do we define ourselves in a world that we did not create, but that we have inherited from our parents? For the hippies in the midsixties and seventies, this process of selfactualization was reminiscent of youthful rebellion, as they identified heavily with their rejection of traditional norms. Members of this counterculture adamantly refused to let others put them into boxes and boldly transcended all boundaries. Proud of their originality, they sought to unabashedly showcase their individuality through channels like fashion and dress. The counterculture’s desire to define themselves through their nonconformity is especially evident in their rejection of gender norms. Born into an era largely defined by the rise of the women’s rights movement and the emergence of birth control, the youth of the mid-sixties and seventies witnessed how changing attitudes loosened the rigid regulation surrounding female sexuality. Thrust into an environment where the designated, restrictive roles for women in society were being questioned, and emboldened by the newfound autonomy women had over their bodies, young women broke free from the confines of gender norms. For some, this meant rejecting the constricting silhouettes of the fifties in favor of something more liberating.
LIKE A VISE, THE FORMFITTING SHEATH AND PENCIL DRESSES OF THE PREVIOUS DECADE CONSTRAINED WOMEN’S BODIES, CINCHING IN TIGHTLY AT THE WAIST AND ACCENTUATING THEIR HOURGLASS FIGURES.
Seeking to free themselves, they discarded these restrictive garments and opted instead for relaxed and unconstructed silhouettes. Loose and flowy, and lacking any definitive shape, the granny and peasant dresses that were popular amongst hippies allowed for much more physical movement and freedom. Often extending from the shoulders to the ankles, these dresses also effectively concealed their womanly physique, providing women with an avenue through which they could reject traditional femininity. For other women, increased exposure of their bodies was their mode of expressing their sexual liberation and transcending the boundaries of gender norms. Intentionally tying up their shirts to reveal their bare midriffs and choosing to go braless, hippie women outrageously defied conservative notions of modesty. To the youth, proudly showcasing their bodies was an expression of freedom, but to outsiders, it signified rebellion, an image further reinforced by the way hippies styled their hair. Popular mainstream hairstyles at the time included the beehive, an updo in which women used excessive amounts of hairspray to pile their hair atop their head into a conical shape, with an emphasis on structure and form. Selfcontained, the constructed “beehive” sat atop women’s heads like a crown, regal and elegant. In direct contrast, hippies preferred naturalness, growing out their hair only to leave it unbrushed, frizzy and unkempt. Wild and uncontrollable, their hair was a physical embodiment of their defiance of gender norms. While women boldly pushed through the boundaries set for them, hippie men dissolved these harsh boundaries with a gentler approach, leaning into femininity. Like their feminine counterparts, they demonstrated a preference for naturalness and grew out their hair. Longer, unruly hair coupled with full beards, mustaches and sideburns softened their appearances. This refusal to conform to gender norms was not just
of the counterculture proudly demonstrated their objection to violence by painting these blossoms on their faces. Their use of floral decor as a mode of nonviolent protest showcased their high regard for the “feminine” ideal of pacificism and disapproval for the traditionally masculine ideals of aggression and violence.
THUS, IT WAS THROUGH THEIR DRESS THAT THEY WERE ABLE TO REFASHION THE MEANING OF MASCULINITY AND DEFINE THEMSELVES OUTSIDE OF TRADITIONAL MALE ARCHETYPES LIKE THE AGGRESSOR OR CRUSADER. Like their rejection of gender roles, the values that hippies held were often at odds with those at home in the Western world. This feeling of alienness fueled their desire for exploration, leading them to transcend both physical and intangible boundaries in hopes of finding their place in the world. Mainly, hippies experimented with Asian belief systems, as the country’s interaction with these nations through warfare allowed the Eastern world to enter the consciousness of American youth. Finding solace in the idea of enlightenment and enjoyment in Indian practices like meditation and yoga, hippies naively idealized Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. This childlike fascination with religions abroad birthed an appreciation for international influences, which was reflected in their dress. Admiration for Eastern culture is especially evident in their appropriation of the paisley, a tear-dropped shaped symbol of life and fertility that is closely associated with Hinduism. Thought to be exotic and therefore a physical manifestation of their rejection of the West, hippies donned the paisley pattern on a variety of apparel. In conjunction with this desire to explore internationally, hippies also sought to explore their inner world as they believed it was necessary for spiritual growth. Psychedelic drugs like LSD altered their perceptions and
propelled them into dreamlike states, where they experienced visual distortions and other false sensory sensations. These illusory experiences were characterized as spiritual ascension and their influence can be seen in the attire of hippies. Seeking to emulate their rich inner world, they utilized bright garments and chaotic layering. Fabrics decorated with geometric patterns were paired with those embellished with colorful, psychedelic swirls. These clashing elements overstimulated the eye, encapsulating the surreal experience of warped consciousness. Along with their exploration with different ways of thinking came their exploration with “alternative” ways of living outside of the mainstream, which is evident in their experimentation with Indigenous American culture. Inspired by Indigenous beliefs of living in harmony with the planet, hippies developed an increasing consciousness of environmentalism. Their dedication to peaceful coexistence with nature is evident in their attempts to be more eco-conscious. Rejecting synthetic fabrics and showcasing a preference for natural ones like cotton, wool and hemp, hippies sought to be more sustainable. Similarly, they also practiced secondhand shopping, recycling and reworking vintage clothing in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, the counterculture’s admiration for Indigenous Americans and their ideals is also ironically reflected in the appropriation of their dress. Clothing themselves with buckskins, garments traditionally made by Natives from a deer’s hide, the counterculture’s mimicry of the Indigenous way of life paralleled their imitation of Native apparel. This desire to emulate Indigenous attire is also obvious in the hippies’ adoption of fringe, threads of leather or suede that embellished jackets and tops. Originally used by Indigenous peoples to repel rainwater and as a way to ensure that no raw material would be wasted, fringe was adorned by hippies to signify their support for Native causes. However, although they may have been well-meaning the counterculture’s imitation of the way Indigenous people lived through dress is inherently problematic as it degradingly reduces Native culture to a caricature of
what it actually is. Youth experimentation with Indigenous culture wrongfully portrays their practices as an “alternative” way of living that everyone can participate in and reflects the hippies’ cultural incompetence and insensitivity. Shortly after the end of the seventies, the counterculture movement dissolved and many continued their lives in accordance with the mainstream. However, despite the brevity of their movement, their dedication to their ideals allowed them to leave their mark on the world, as they played a significant role in ending the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. The hippies’ rebellious transcendence of both societally created and physical boundaries is
strongly reminiscent of youthful defiance.
THEIR DESIRE TO EXPLORE BOTH THE WORLD ABROAD AND THE ONE WITHIN FUSED WITH THEIR DEDICATION TO NONCONFORMITY AND UNIQUE SELF-EXPRESSION ALLOWS THE COUNTERCULTURE TO CAPTURE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE YOUNG AND IS NOSTALGIC OF THE UNIVERSAL COMINGOF-AGE EXPERIENCE.
ILLUSTRATED BY LILY GLANTZ
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE YOUNG?
A MALIBU MELODRAMA BY LILLIE YAZDI
A MALIBU MELODRAMA IS A PHOTO SERIES DEPICTING AN ALLAMERICAN MID-20TH CENTURY CALIFORNIA HOUSEWIFE REFLECTING ON HER LIFE.
NEVER MORE THAN AN OBJECT MODEL: MADELEINE WARD
IN A SUIT
WRITTEN BY SALSA MAZLAN
Considered one of the most gendered garments in history, the suit has consistently been a symbol of male prowess, success and accomplishment. Characterized by muted colors and a strong, linear silhouette, the ensemble of matching pants to blazer was arguably designed to be an archetype of masculine clothing. Often worn in professional spheres, suits are donned as a sign of respect and formality corresponding to the event one is attending. While this workplace etiquette has largely been retained, the suit has now be-
come so widely adopted across genders, generations and space that it is no longer seen as gender-exclusive. Beginning with the Suffragette Movement of the 1910s, we observe how the women’s suit has shifted purposes from helping women to blend into male-dominated spaces to being the daily outfit that captures the poise of the modern-day woman. Women wearing so-called “men’s clothes” was once only acceptable in the fictional world,
when female actors would take up male roles. Even then, both the onstage and offstage presence of a woman sporting a man’s suit was still seen as scandalous: an invasive and blatant rupture of the fixed gender norms of the time. The suit was only able to cross into the female public sphere due to a dire need for functionality—first, with the marches of the Suffragette Movement, and second, with the use of pants for leisure activities, in particular tennis, equestrian and cycling. The rallying cry of the Suffragettes and their eventual success for women’s right to vote indicated a turn in the early 20th century, one which demanded for less physically restrictive clothing. In a manner to represent the character of the emerging “New Woman”—a woman more valiant, involved and outspoken than the previous generation—the Suffragette Suit came into being. A predecessor to the modern skirt suit, the Suffragette Suit was composed of a blouse, a jacket and an ankle-length divided skirt. This shortened length was in fact a counterpoint to the constraining yet popular “hobble skirt,” a garment so narrow at the ankles one had to “hobble” around.
Women could now take longer strides_--- both figuratively and literally---a clear breakthrough, as if to mark the dawn of women puncturing the glass ceiling. This was also perhaps one of the first instances where color was woven into the female sociopolitical sphere. Purple, white and yellow were popular color choices for women’s suits, standing for loyalty, purity and hope, respectively. This novel association between color and women’s politics is marked in history and still prevails today, as we observe these politicized hues
sweep across parades, pop culture and political parties. In the realm of high fashion, Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to take menswear designs and tailor them for women, abstaining completely from using corsets in her tailoring. The iconic two-piece Chanel Suit refashioned the garment to one of ultra-femininity and sophistication with its cinched waists, full skirts, dainty embellishments and use of tweed. An emblem of Chanel’s message to the contemporary “liberated woman,” Chanel’s marrying of traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity produced a garment that was both still acceptable and comfortable in post-war society. Credited with the creation of the first ready-towear women’s pantsuits, French designer Marcel Rochas pioneered the wide-shouldered look for women. Evolving at a time where women were joining the workforce at a rapid rate, the matching woolly, grey jacket and pants signified a newfound power and opportunity for women as they situated themselves in positions both within and outside of the home that were formerly held by their husbands and brothers. Rochas’ designs also coincided with the popularization of women’s tuxedos by film star Marlene Dietrich’s appearance in three films spanning the 1930s. Her public championing of the pantsuit contributed immensely to shifting international perceptions on what could be considered “women’s wear,” thrusting both tuxedos and double-breasted suits into infamy. By the 1940s, multiple film powerhouses had followed suit, thus solidifying pants as part of everyday women’s wardrobes. This fad for the female suit soon subsided as many women reverted to more traditional domestic roles after the downsizing of the wartime economy. With the embrace of the “housewife” look characterized by nipped waists and full skirts in the 1950s, this abrupt change exhibits
just how reactive sartorial decisions are to shifting subcultures and social positions. Only when a more significant proportion of women joined the workforce—this time, permanently—did the suit come back in full swing. The 1960s were also a time of opportune progress. Laws such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were introduced; this formal recognition and adoption of more gender inclusive policies reframed the narrative as a whole. Young women put evening gowns away and donned bow ties instead. Suit designs then ranged from Yves Saint Laurent’s 1966 classic Le Smoking tuxedo to the swanky, modern takes by André Courrèges. YSL’s tuxedo was able to assuage tensions around gender by being fundamentally constructed on a masculine structure but tailored specifically for the woman; a more feminine collar, subtle curves—particularly around the waistline—as well as modified pants to visually elongate the leg made up this revolutionary piece of clothing. It garnered widespread attention due to its origins—with reference to 19th century men’s smoking jackets, it was a garment only worn in an exclusively male context of drinking brandy and smoking cigars. Wearing the tuxedo outside of this context marked the eventual deluge of women into this bourgeois history, simultaneously paving the way for a more daring and feminist future. Even so, the primary way of convincing male-dominated boardrooms of the competence of their female counterparts was to directly emulate their look, a matter that attracted much criticism and opposition. The suit was still very much tied to the male gender—there had yet to be an equalization of this attire. Power dressing hit full throttle with the surge of women in the workplace, making up 50% by the 1980s. For those striving to enter the professional domain, a new suit cut had been designed that radiated an assertive authority and self-determination. The Armani power suits were
distinctive in their oversized, boxy silhouettes, created by the insertion of big shoulder pads. Still tailored to the waist, this became the stereotypical look for women in business. Broad and squarish in shape, the jacket seems to impose and extend into space as if to emit an unrelenting formidability originating from the wearer. At the same time, this silhouette disguises a woman’s figure, possibly taking the focus off her gender and shifting it towards the literal and metaphorical power the suit holds.
Broad and squarish in shape, the jacket seems to impose and extend into space as if to emit an unrelenting formidability originating from the wearer. Straying away from Armani’s more explicit interpretation of womanly prowess and empowerment—tantamount to placing her in a masculine body—designers like Donna Karan sought to incorporate a genteel form of sensual beauty. Softer lines that emphasized a woman’s curves were the core of these designs; fine materials such as silk were also used in her more romanticized approach. There was less of a need for women to be hardcore and zealous in asserting their equally-deserving positions in the workplace. Women could look feminine and still command the room. Both male and female attitudes increasingly acclimated to these changes. It has become common to see female suits gracing the Senate floor. More women are also now in executive positions across the globe, each affirming their
own agency by governing what is an appropriate look for the office. Politicians and national leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jacinda Arden have transformed fashion in the workplace, paying special attention to certain colors that denote different meanings. Whether alluding to Suffragette white, bipartisan purple, or a fuchsia representative of the LGBTQ Equality Act, no longer is there the concern to play it safe and subdue the self-assured, modern woman in the corporate world.
No longer is there the concern to play it safe and subdue the self-assured, modern woman in the corporate world. Similarly, celebrities such as Li Yuchun and Tilda Swinton have brought the androgynous suit to the red carpet, effectively elevating the garment to idol status. Experimenting with color, contours and fabric choices, these celebrities, along with many others, have extensive collections of suits that have been worn out in public—for both award shows and in their daily commutes. Online markets such as China’s Taobao have reported a significant increase in women buying suits over the past few years. The number of female consumers for the suit industry in China today is predicted to overtake the number of men in ten years’ time, marking a momentous shift from the long-held viewpoint and portrayal of Chinese women in popular media as being docile, passive characters who evade successful positions. This rapid normalization of the suit in the last few decades is just one aspect reflective of the growing irrelevance of gender-specific standards of beauty—we are currently at a point
of exceptional aesthetic diversification.
This rapid normalization of the suit in the last few decades is just one aspect reflective of the growing irrelevance of gender-specific standards of beauty -- we are currently at a point of exceptional aesthetic diversification. Suits, in many ways, pose as an armor to the contemporary issues of gender discrimination that women have faced historically, and in the present-day—at work, in politics, and with regards to their own self-confidence.
There is no longer one way, or one gender that can carry the suit. There is no longer one way, or one gender that can carry the suit, for it is a garment that is as adaptable as its history. It can be said that with each suit that is made and worn is the embedding of the plight of women across generations, a collective memory that is shared and built upon the collision of patriarchal exclusivity and fervent female opposition.
A COLLECTIVE MEMORY THAT IS SHARED AND BUILT UPON THE COLLISION OF PATRIARCHAL EXCLUSIVITY AND FERVENT FEMALE OPPOSITION.
WRITTEN BY TIFFANY HUE
D BY CATHERINE CHU
The bitter smell of rosin and the uncomfortable feeling of cinched corsets may provoke an ocean of nostalgia for ex-ballet dancers. Although hours of practice were questionable trade-offs for painful blisters, every dancer can relate to the euphoria of performing on stage. With tightly-wrapped pointe shoes and neatly tucked buns, it was lights, camera and action. The nostalgic discourse of ballet cannot be discussed without hailing the effervescent tutu that has become an orthodox token of dance couture. In the 19th-century, the Paris Opera Ballet introduced the first prototype of the ‘tutu’ on Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni. Its ankle-length tulle was designed to complement the intricate footwork of the elegant dancer’s thin legs and pale figure as chaines and rond de jambes were uniquely exposed by the ankle.
Heavily influenced by Romanticism’s emphasis on emotional rhetoric, ballet couture followed a strict design rule that indicated higher levels of footwork led to shorter lengths of tutus. Centuries ago, ankles were considered scandalous parts of women’s bodies; today, we can thank the tutu for normalizing the desexualization of dancers through the transformation of dance couture.
But who were the elegant figures that accelerated this movement? Women with thin builds and milky white skin performed on global stages and opera houses as ankle-length tutus transformed into contemporary pancakestyle tutus to accompany the complex footwork upon their thin build. Ballet couture was never created with the intention of representing anyone else other than thin white dancers, yet ballet remains one of the most historically
LIGHTS, CAMERA AND CALL TO ACTION. institutionalized systems of art to this day. Contemporary ballet’s nostalgia for Romantic influences exhibits a dangerous sense of reminiscence that perpetuates elitist practices against dancers of color. Though the tutu revolutionized the desexualization of dancers on stage, the nostalgia for ballet couture presents more harm than good. The culture of ballet is built upon nostalgic reiterations of variations that date back thousands of years as performers continue to grace the stage with choreography from centuries before. Ballet is built upon the idea of classical nostalgia, but ballet couture has roots in elitism and historical Whiteness. High-end professional tutus cost thousands of dollars and the dresses incorporate stiff corsets that adhere to the dancer’s body to purposely shape thinner builds. Because ballet couture was never representative of the greater population, dancers of color are often relegated to the backburner at auditions and on stage. Orthodox ballet institutions fail to implement inclusivity in their practices; there are still no pointe shoes suitable for Black and Brown dancers, and tutus that were historically designed to fit thin white
dancers continue to incorporate tight corsets. So while it is nostalgic to reminisce on the Romantic period that shaped ballet couture, how effective is it in progressing towards a future of ballet? While audiences typically watch ballet to experience a sense of virtuousity, the purity and grace presented by ballet couture erase any presence of dancers of color. What is to be said about dancers of color who are misrepresented in the arts? What is to be said about the systems and institutions that continue to fail those that work so hard to elevate it? Though nostalgia regarding the euphoria of performance transports dancers to a haven of optimism, the next step in the institution of ballet when every dancer steps on stage should be lights, camera and call to action to fight the system that lacks inclusion for the dancers of color who continue to uplift it.
When I was younger, art was always a source of happiness for me. But, as I grew older, it transformed into a source of stress. I felt pressured to create artwork that stood out to establish a successful reputation. I wanted to create playful fashion and bring back the pieces I made when creativity felt natural. At 3 years old, I was incapable of controlling my pencil, and it resulted in a lot of abstract shapes. This lack of control, however, resulted in art that wasn’t defined by skill. These pieces showcase the origins of my creativity and the blissfulness of being a kid. The design on the sweater vest takes inspiration from hearts I drew to represent my small family of three. I wanted to take an old school clothing piece and add my own childhood spin on it. I used old fabrics my mom would use to sew baby clothes, and hand-sewed them together with bright primary colors that remind me of the simplicity of being a kid. The patches on the sweatshirt replicate a self-portrait of mine. I also attempted to write my name in Chinese, seen on the little scribbles that are sewn on the side of the abstract figure. There are a lot of pressures that come with growing up, but it is still important to remember the things that once made us happy.
WHAT IS IT WITH HUMANS AND GOLD?
H E T G D
OF B GE
E N D L A O
WRITTEN BY NEHA GUPTA
ILLUSTRATED BY ANUBHA GUPTA
What is it with humans and gold? Pretty globally, gold is nearly synonymous with “best,” with “number 1,” with “winner”– Olympic medals can attest to that. The only thing more powerful than a golden object is a golden age. Golden ages will never be forgotten because the nostalgia their halcyon nature evokes is enough to keep them in high esteem for centuries. Sometimes, though, the strongest nostalgia comes not from the golden era itself, but from an admiration for the legacy that is left behind. Such can be said for what is widely regarded as the Golden Age of Bollywood– a period from the 1940s to the late 1960s when the politics, culture, and cinema of India were closely intertwined. Though the word “Bollywood” wasn’t coined until the 70s, Hindi cinema began long beforehand, and its Golden Age created a foundation for the Bollywood legends to come. The birth of the golden age of Hindi cinema coincides with the birth of India as a free nation, so it follows that the mood and wardrobe of Indian films heavily revolved around
WHAT IS WHA HUMANS the political atmosphere at the time. The weight of both World War II and the Indian independence movement impressed a solemn stamp upon the tone of movies, resulting in the prevalence of somber, formal clothing worn by movie stars and fans alike. Another defining feature of the 1940s in India was the emphasis on practicality, especially as Mahatma Gandhi, a very prominent cultural figure at the time, had encouraged Indian citizens to weave their own khadi, a type of cotton cloth, and boycott British goods. Clothing had become a symbol of protest, modeled by Gandhi’s simplistic white clothing and caps. Hindi cinema reflected this; wardrobe was simple and traditional, with pristine, refined saris and classic dhotis topping the fashion charts. These minimalistic outfits were an understated emblem of quiet pride in Indian culture at the time.
However, there was a conflict between a strong sense of culture and a pull towards international affairs. While Indians were fighting for independence from the British, they were also fighting for the British in World War II. Many people were torn about fighting on the British side, but the British Indian Army was one of the populous volunteer armies during the war. Additionally, the decade brought an increase in the commercialization of Indian cinema, augmenting India’s presence on the world stage. Because of these two developments, western styles started to flow into film wardrobe repertoire and many male actors began to don classy, pressed suits and hats. The blend of traditional Indian clothing and western suits aligned with the formal atmosphere of India at the time, while illustrating the clash between Indian and western culture.
With versatile clothing being the most popular and functional, the salwar kameez became a staple in wardrobes across the country. Featuring a long tunic and loose, gauzy trousers worn with a floaty chunni (scarf), the humble salwar kameez could be made with a large variety of fabrics and could fit both casual and ornate occasions. Hindi cinema took well to the salwar kameez, which added a delicate yet modest twist to actresses’ outfits in many movies.
A key movie of the 40s was Achhut, released in 1940. Achhut, meaning “The Untouchable,” criticized India’s dehumanizing caste system and promoted Gandhi’s movement against the concept of untouchability. The wardrobe of the film was replete with traditional Indian saris that were unrealistically elaborate and ornate for the village setting of the film, which demonstrates the directors’ ambivalent sentiments about glorifying Indian culture while simultaneously criticizing parts of it. Contrasting with the setting and message of
IT WITH &G & GOL OLD D? the movie, the extravagant wardrobe drew viewers’ attention to the injustice that was ingrained in Indian society and culture.
As the ‘40s melted into the ‘50s, India grappled with the aspiration and responsibilities of being a newly free country. Although many regard Indian Independence with a sense of nostalgia, the general mood at the time was that of angst, which was deeply reflected in Indian films of the era. Class division was a salient theme of cinema in the ‘50s, as the gap between social classes had become extremely striking. Romances between members of different classes were woven into movie plots, while wardrobe further illuminated the deep rift between the wealthy and poor.
One movie that deals with class consciousness is Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955), a film that is now considered a classic. In the movie, the wealthy heiress Anita (Madhubala) marries a struggling cartoonist named Preetam (Guru Dutt) as an intended sham and eventually realizes she is in love with him. Although this would now be viewed as a classic joke-turns-real romance trope, the movie was edgy at the time as many people had never considered marriage between members of different socioeconomic classes. The wardrobe furthered this theme by introducing new patterns to saris and
adding funky accessories such as hairbows to Anita’s outfits. Furthermore, the film exhibited fresh necklines that exposed actresses’ shoulders– a “risky” fashion choice at the time. By experimenting with these new patterns, adornments, and cuts, the film mirrored India’s growing desire for a revamped culture. However, Mr. and Mrs. 55 was far from feminist. One widely criticized feature of the movie is its promotion of a woman’s role as a housewife. At one point in the plot, Preetam’s sister-in-law preaches about the fulfillment of being a wife and mother, even justifying domestic violence by musing “if you come across a small pebble in your rice, does that mean you stop eating?”
Although the film hinted at society’s introduction to modernity, it still affirmed previously entrenched misogynistic ideals. Discrepancies such as this exposed flaws in the perceived golden age of Bollywood-- reminding us to be aware of how nostalgia tends to gloss over the more abominable facets of seemingly immaculate eras. Class division remained a popular theme as time passed, especially as social issues carried on and people continued to live in poverty. The movies of the 40s and 50s created
a foundation for more contemporary Bollywood movies encompassing social issues such as Rang de Basanti (2006) and 3 Idiots (2009). The innovative ideas expressed through wardrobe also got the ball rolling for new styles in future films. Enter the 60s: an era of films defined by carelessness and flamboyance free from the heaviness of 50s movies. Movie directors quite literally put up a screen that portrayed India as the picture of harmonious paradise, but underneath the flashy films lay a darkness that still blanketed the country. There were two wars, which, paired with the deaths of two prime ministers, rattled Indian citizens. India hadn’t grown into its identity, but interestingly enough, film had. Spirits were low after multiple decades of political and cultural apprehension, and cinema, as well as the idyllic wardrobe in each film, became an escape from reality for many people. If the political atmosphere of India seemed to be trapped in black and white, cinema was a paradise in color– quite literally, as the 60s marked the introduction of color to film in India. Color brought a whole new dimension to wardrobe and set the tone for flashy outfits that are so popular even in contemporary Bollywood films. Many directors opted for bright outfits that jumped off the screen, possibly to engage the viewer even more in their 2-hour escape from reality. There was a growing space for experimentation, which wardrobe designers took full advantage of. Youth culture exploded on-screen during this decade as well, and with it came a splashy type of modernity accompanied by the growing incorporation of Western ideals and fashion into film. An exalted actress and fashion icon of the time was Sharmila Tagore, whose departure from demure clothing shattered the boundaries of women’s fashion for a whole generation of young women. Possibly her most memorable wardrobe moment occurred during the movie An Evening in
Paris (1967) when she sported an electric blue one-piece swimsuit– a fashion choice that was revolutionary at the time. In the same movie, she also plays the role of a bar singer, where she flaunts a sheer golden skirt of tassels and scarlet bandeau that are far from previous standards of modesty for women’s clothing. The confidence with which she modeled these outfits planted a seed of female empowerment that would continue to manifest itself in the Bollywood wardrobe as time wore on. Not only did she influence future generations of actors, but she inspired an entire cohort of women to dress more audaciously as well. Actresses like her pushed the envelope so that contemporaries could find the space to do the same. Nonetheless, Bollywood’s ability to impact culture impressed both positive and negative attitudes to society. Beginning in the 1960s, filmmakers’ juxtaposition of wardrobe with the message of their movies heightened internalized misogyny. Actresses who wore more risqué outfits were both glorified by moviegoers but were simultaneously shamed in the movies for being overly promiscuous. Showing skin was a symbol of modernity, and yet actresses who did were cast in roles such as “the homewrecker” in which people were encouraged to hold only them (and not the men) at fault for damaging relationships.
Although this age of Bollywood is regarded as golden, it is wise not to forget its downfalls while getting caught up in its successes.
The groundwork that Bollywood’s Golden Age set in place is more important than ever as a pandemic of social injustice and government wrongdoings continues to plague India and the world. The Bollywood industry’s extensive scope, due in large part to the reaching impact of films from the Golden Age, provides creators with a platform to advocate for social change through the art of film. In such a time where everyone feels nostalgic for better times, we can hope that the legacy left behind by one Golden Age might pave the way for another.
THE STRONGEST NOSTALGIA COMES NOT FROM THE GOLDEN ERA ITSELF, BUT FROM AN ADMIRATION FOR THE LEGACY THAT IS LEFT BEHIND.
REVERIE ILLUSTRATIONS BY PAIGE BRUNSON
My childhood was filled with crumpled construction paper and an assortment of dull Crayola crayons and colored pencils rolling off the kitchen table. Animations of princesses and fairies convinced me that I could grow up in a castle in the clouds. I dreamed of owning a spinning closet of elaborate dresses and heels.
I now feel disconnected from that past version of myself and wanted to contrast my childhood fantasies with my present-day reality, as expressed through fashion.
Looking back, my seven-year-old self might be disappointed that I have not yet dramatically run down a curved staircase in a puffy ball gown.
I reimagined outfits I thought my future self would wear versus how my current twenty-year-old self would style them. I no longer dream of wearing restricting ball gowns and instead feel more myself in comfortable pantsuits and overalls.
However, if I found my present-day self in a Georgian ballroom, I would likely trip on my dress falling down the stairs. Escapism and reverie is my Achilles’ heel. Nostalgia reminds me of how optimistic I used to be bursting with outlandish ideas.
While content with my nonmagical life, I still fear my sense of imagination and curiosity is slowly diminishing with every harsh reality. My work investigates prior hopeful conceptions of my future through couture using the combination of scanned drawings and digital illustration.
BRAS OF THE 20TH CENTURY AND THE TREND OF BEING UNCONSTRAINED Written by Alexis Schrock
Illustration by Anya Chen
Traditionally, the introduction to a bra marks the beginning of womanhood. However, what is meant to be a new and exciting introduction to the next step of a woman’s life becomes the target of the male gaze. Patriarchal values teach women very early in their lives that men are a force to be wary of. While men are continually justified for their actions, women have been continually subjected to fear and oppression at the hands of these male figures. Patriarchal values are cast upon women in an effort to control and minimize their decisions. One way the patriarchy does so is through regulating how a woman should dress. Throughout history, bras have been dictated by these patriarchal values. Regardless of whether the bra is exposed, covered, or absent, the concept of wearing a bra is constantly subjected to various opinions, new definitions, and the patriarchal male gaze.
The malleable garment has been used as a symbol of many ideas: political resistance in the action of wearing no bra, the patriarchy’s confinement of natural curves, femininity, self-love through individual expression through a bra, and fashion in bra-wearing trends. Bras have been redefined and transformed multiple times throughout their existence. The malleable garment has been used as a symbol of many ideas: political resistance in the action of wearing no bra, the patriarchy’s confinement of natural curves, femininity, self-love through individual expression through a bra, and fashion in bra-wearing trends. Clothing, particularly the bra, has been a weapon in women’s subordination. In the ‘60s, the idea of being unconstrained from the patriarchal rules of society led to a rebellion against the bra and its absence in the daily fashion decisions women made. Since then, going
without a bra has become more and more accepted as society moves towards a celebration of the natural body. The braless movement has been used by women to redefine how their bodies are presented, creating new societal norms of freedom of expression. Women have been wearing bras for over a century. In the 1920s, the boyish silhouette of the Flapper era inspired a new trend in undergarments: the goal of flattening. The androgynous figure was created through the use of a bandeau brassiere, which compressed breasts to downplay women’s natural curves. The appearance of flat breasts for flappers was equated to appearing as equals to men, leading to a trend of compressing brasseries to emphasize masculinity. Although this trend was created by women to be seen as equals to their male counterparts, the flattening began to appeal to men. Through hypersexualization, the object worn to promote gender equality was glorified by the patriarchy as a beauty standard for all women. Women who could not achieve the desired look were shown advertisements for weight loss. Due to the constricting patriarchal standards, wearers of the compressing brassiere suffered a breakdown of breast tissue and decimation of their self-image.
Men created a standard for a woman’s dress and presentation in the workplace in an overt exertion of power and dominance over their female colleagues. This stereotype did not last long as by the 1940s, women’s dress codes began requiring the bra as part of the work uniform. Women in the workplace were informed that bras must be worn to make those around them more comfortable and to provide anatomical support for the breasts. Similar to how boys make sexually-induced comments towards girls in middle school
hallways, men in the workplace not only commented on women’s bodies but also deemed it necessary for them to wear bras in all workplaces in the ’50s. Men created a standard for a woman’s dress and presentation in the workplace in an overt exertion of power and dominance over their female colleagues. This expectation was not just instituted in the workplace, but also throughout Western society as a whole. Women were held to this standard set by the patriarchy in an effort to satisfy the male gaze at a dehumanizing cost to women. In the ’60s, the braless movement was utilized as a weapon by women in an effort to dismantle previously set patriarchal standards. The second-wave feminist movement used the symbol of the bra in the fight for women's liberation. Due to the patriarchy’s usage of the bra as a tool of individual restriction, hypersexualization, and control of women, the movement chose the undergarment as their weapon to fight with. The bra—and the choice to go without it—became their symbol of embracing and defining their own femininity during the braless movement led by New York radical women civil rights groups.
In the ’70s, the bra remained the number one public enemy to feminist women—a symbol of the patriarchy and its controlling dictation of women. In the ’70s, the bra remained the number one public enemy to feminist women—a symbol of the patriarchy and its controlling dictation of women. As a result, many women went braless as a defiant act against the hypersexualized patriarchal values that had been heavily forced upon them in the past. In doing so, women began to dress for themselves, regardless of the male gaze. Today, many women decide to wear lingerie as a statement piece in their closets. This decision to wear lingerie in today’s public
eye is a visible act of defiance against the constraints the patriarchy imposes upon women. Not only does this styling decision challenge the hypersexualization of lingerie, it is a direct expression of individual voice and personality. This allows the woman to confront the patriarchal narrative and freely express herself in society. The trend of being unconstrained is a recurring trend we see today now more than ever. Political theorist and feminist author Iris Marion Young describes that braless women are deobjectified because they challenge the norms inflicted by the patriarchy. The decision to visibly forego a bra is still widely controversial today, particularly in social media. Eight years after Lina Esco spearheaded the Free the Nipple movement, a woman’s bare breast is still censored on Instagram— an obvious double standard that only highlights the platform's binary and outdated approach to gender.
The trend of being unconstrained is a recurring trend we see today now more than ever. Whether they are exposed for maternal reasons, erotic reasons, or for the mere comfort of not wearing a bra, nipples are subject to highly uncomfortable objectification. Women’s nipples have never been neutral body parts. But, with the increasingly popular decision to avoid the bra altogether, women’s natural curves and nipples have been seen more and more in runway shows, social media posts, and everyday life. Clothing from runway shows are often presented in a luxurious manner, glorifying the entire image that is presented, including the model’s appearance, as well as the clothing on them. These images that are created in runway shows tend to dictate the upcoming seasonal trends. If a model for a highly known brand has exposed nipples as she walks down the runway, this image has become widely absorbed by the audiences.
As other brands replicate the exposed aspect through their models, this image becomes more accepted to audiences. The patriarchal rules begin to weaken as a new understanding is instilled within audiences. It is becoming more normal for a woman to be herself in deciding whether she wants to wear a bra or not, without the previous standards that would have dictated the decision for her.
While deciding to be braless is still not universally accepted, the trend of being unconstrained has brought about a newfound celebration of the feminine self. While deciding to be braless is still not universally accepted, the trend of being unconstrained has brought about a newfound celebration of the feminine self. New changes in recent history have challenged patriarchal standards that were once strongly held in society. Although these norms are still apparent today, the feminist movement continues to chip away at the misogyny that is deeply instilled in society. Beginning from women-led movements that held the bra as a symbol of embracing femininity, the patriarchy is slowly being challenged by women all over the world defining who they are through their own uncontrolled decisions.
FUTURE NOSTALGIA Consumerism & Sustainability in the Digital Age Written by Juliette Cornet Photography by Nick Brogdon What kind of fashion nostalgia will we feel when looking back on the 2020s? Nostalgia has always played a defining role in the way that we dress. Historically, the appeal of nostalgia in fashion was based on this idea that we could bring back to life clothing reminiscent of another time rather than letting it disappear. By dressing in ways inspired by the past, we are paying homage to aesthetics from our childhood and throughout history. Therefore, in thirty years when we are looking back on the glory days of Gen Z fashion, what will it look like? To answer that question, we need to understand the complexities of how and why this generation dresses the way that it does. Despite mainstream trends, this period of fashion is more complex than biker shorts and Nike Air Force 1s. Gen Z fashion goes beyond simply being defined by certain trendy accessories or silhouettes. The manner in which we consume fashion is more important than ever and will end up defining how we will look back on this generation in the future. Interestingly enough, the two major opposing consumption trends that define this generation–fast fashion and sustainability–
are both heavily influenced by pop culture trends of the 20th century and early 21st century. The rise in popularity of fast fashion is directly related to the rise of post-war consumerism that arose in the 1950s and 1960s. No longer was buying material goods looked down upon as an indulgence but instead seen as a way of boosting the economy and demonstrating social affluence. Innovations in textile factories made clothing cheaper and more accessible, allowing people to purchase more clothing than before. Consumerism was not only promoted but glamorized through pop art. The legendary pop artist Andy Warhol put Campbell’s Soup Cans into the carts of shoppers everywhere when he reproduced the famous cans lined up next to one another to imitate the mass production advertisements popular at that time. Today, his art is clear proof of the glorification of consumerism and mass production that marked that generation and Warhol wasn’t the only one. Richard Hamilton’s magazine collage–Just
What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing–depicts a modern-day (as in 1956) Adam and Eve in a home that is swarmed with post-War consumerist temptations. Just like that, consumer culture was born. The influence of these cultural movements is reflected in the materialistic and glamorous fashion that defined that period. No longer were women bound to the dull colors and practical shapes worn during the war allowing for brighter colors and dramatically cinched waistsopening up to large skirts and pearls. In fact, this “New Look'' was popularized by Christian Dior, who wanted to bring back the extreme femininity and extravagance to the nostalgic post-war population. However, as the decades dragged on, the negative effects of consumerism came to light and were openly criticized. Art and fashion strayed from the glorification of consumerist practices and found fault with it. Modern artists like Duane Hanson, Barbara Kruger and Banksy all aggressively call out consumer culture respectively with Supermarket Lady, Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) and Jesus Christ with Shopping Bags. This influenced the rise of thrift culture in the mid-80s to combat these toxic ideologies.
The consumerist and anti-consumerist divide continues to plague Gen Z today. Which side we choose will forever define how we will nostalgically look back on today’s fashion. Due to the widespread access to media in the digital age, trends have faster turnaround times than ever before. There is always something shiny and new being shown off by influencers on Tiktok and Instagram that people immediately want to get their hands on. The rising appeal of fast fashion companies parallels the rise of consumerism in the 20thcentury. Fast fashion brands like Zara, Urban Outfitters and Shein keep up with consumer demand by using sweat-shops and cheap labor factories in Asia. They lure buyers in with their reasonable prices and constant supply of trendy clothing. Fast fashion is a convenient and cheap way for our generation to keep up their “cool kid” reputation, undoubtedly inspired by and mirroring the social affluence clothing had in the 50s and 60s. The only difference is that this generation flocks towards more casual and sexy silhouettes rather than dramatic poodle skirts and modest blouses.
WHICH SIDE WE CHOOSE WILL FOREVER DEFINE HOW WE WILL NOSTALGIC ALL LOOK BACK ON TODAY’S FASHION. difference is that this generation flocks towards more casual and sexy silhouettes rather than dramatic poodle skirts and modest blouses. The manner in which Gen Z consumes fashion is not the only way it is influenced by the past. Nostalgic for a time before they were alive, this generation seems enamored by 20th-century aesthetics, constantly recycling trends from previous decades. Thrifting and shopping vintage are cooler than ever before. We see evidence of this in the comeback of wide-legged and flared pants paired with blazers and button-downs. These 1970’s silhouettes are in high demand among
thrifting youth. However, does this simply come from a fascination with vintage aesthetics and the popularity of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop in 2013? I think this generation's popularization of thrifting comes less from a sentimentality for past styles and more from a will to change the way we consume. More than any generation before them, early 2020s kids grew up learning about global warming, climate change and pollution. They grew up watching movies like Wall-E depicting a consumerist Earth’s bleak future, inspiring them to reduce, reuse and recycle from a young age. The digital age has allowed them to grow up having access to endless amounts of information. As a result, Gen Z is hyper-aware of the devastating implications the fashion industry has had on our planet and is currently looking for a solution. The appeal of thrifting and shopping vintage comes from more than a place of bittersweet remembrance of times past. Gen Z is conscious of the devastating effects of mass consumption and is looking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint and their amount of waste. This desire to cut down on their consumption comes from an ongoing environmental movement that began around the eighties. This movement gained traction in the arts and culture world by becoming a popular subject for documentarians and artists. In 2003, artist, photographer and filmmaker Chris Jordan came out with a piece entitled Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption which is a wide-angle image of millions of thrown-out flip phones demonstrating the sheer amount of waste humans waste in such a short amount of time. In 2017, he came out with a heartbreaking short film called Albatross portraying the lives and deaths by plastic pollution of thousands of chicks. The environmental movement that has only gained more cultural prominence influencing Gen Z to want to limit their contribution to pollution. Seeing as though the fashion industry is one of the biggest sources of pollution today, the popularity of thrifting and buying second-hand comes from our generation’s will to change the way we consume fashion. By thrifting clothing, we aren’t supporting fast fashion brands that are more and more at fault for this excessive waste. Furthermore, we are keeping one more piece of clothing from entering our landfills. Alongside thrifting, this generation is starting to be defined by a sustainable fashion movement in the same way that shoulder pads defined the 80s. Today, it’s cool
to show that you are just as concerned with your carbon footprint as you are with staying trendy.
Sustainable fashion has become a trend in itself. We’re beginning to flock to small businesses that use low stock, recycled materials, less water and are made to last. There is a shift back to natural fabrics like cotton, linen and hemp rather than synthetic materials like nylon, polyester and rayon. This awareness of what the materials are used parallels environmental art that was popular in the eighties and nineties at the start of the environmental movement. Environmental artists, like Nils-Udo and Andy Goldsworthy, used natural materials found in their immediate environment to create artwork. These pieces are made to deteriorate seamlessly into nature without harming the planet since they were found on site. Materials that don’t harm the planet are just as critical to sustainable fashion as they are to environmental art.
Shopping sustainably is Gen Z’s next solution to keeping our planet healthy while still expressing ourselves through clothing. Inspired and deterred by past generations, the 2020s are beginning to change the narrative on how and what we should consume. In the end, what future nostalgia will look like when looking back on this period of history is up to us. We can let our wallet savings from the dirt-cheap fast fashion deals define us or we can hone into the sustainability movement in fashion and forever change the way we consume. There will come a time in the future when people will feel nostalgic for our fashion trends. It is up to us to decide if they will positively or negatively impact our planet.
CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE Written by Anna-Marie Guenther TW: This article alludes to pedophilia and abuse.
Childhood, a time of blissful ignorance and naivete, is often fogged by a lack of remembrance. The memories of our most simplistic times fade and we become preoccupied with the commotion of adolescence, then the humdrum of adulthood. We can reminisce, but what exactly does adulthood lack that propels us to do so? Japanese Lolita fashion answers this question for many women: the extravagant result of temporary evasion from the stressors of womanhood. In Japan, patriarchal social hierarchies confine women to designation as consumers. Excluded from profitable work and burdened by inescapable gender norms, acquiring a socially acceptable and meaningful role in society is an existential undertaking. Upon marrying, Japanese women are expected to surrender their autonomy and devote themselves to their children’s education. Meanwhile, the suffocating grasp of Western beauty ideals makes feeling beautiful an immensely complicated ordeal. Thus, the consolation of an albeit temporary evasion of societal pressure persists as the principle of Lolita fashion’s existence.
A reclamation of childlike innocence is a defense mechanism, a passive alternative to challenging the patriarchy in angry and sexually-charged methods. Instead of reverting to truths of their own childhood, Japanese women have adopted a false, imaginative childhood that does not belong to themselves or anyone. Instead, this neo-romantic, false sense of nostalgia allows these women to assert themselves as self-centered and unapologetic, a role which they would have never had access to otherwise.
The streets of Tokyo were once like none other. Home to a medley of fashion subcultures, Tokyo’s Harajuku district was the epicenter of progressive youth culture, an eclectic intermingling of creative expression. The genesis of the various fashion subcultures that Japanese youth conceived can be traced back to the financial crisis of the 1990s, a period where dissatisfaction and alienation encouraged unprecedented ways of rebellion, particularly for young women. Streetwear exploded in an unconventional and, for much of the older generations, unnerving direction. Lolita, one of the most iconic and internationally recognizable fashion subcultures to dominate this era, is also one of the most misunderstood. Lolita has complicated connotations in the West, though the controversy of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel is entirely separate from the emergence and popularity of Lolita fashion in Japan. The term “Lolita” was first used to denote the fashion subculture by Japanese magazine Ryuko Tsushin, a nowexpired publication that showcased an “antifashion state of mind” in designer culture. Lolita has since evolved into a phenomenon with a plethora of contrasting substyles: gothic, punk, sailor, classic, sweet, and a substyle for men, ouji/kodona. Despite the creative differences in Lolita’s substyles, there are no clear delineations or hardset rules of dressing in Lolita. Victorianstyle dresses, skirts, high collars, full sleeves, curled hair, an abundance of lace and frill, however, typify the entire subculture. Those donning Lolita are extraordinarily elegant, modest, picturesque, and, without fail, cute. Dubbed “the cuteness revolution,” Lolita represents the duality of refinement and adorable charm. This duality is a product of the cute craze of the 1970s, known as “kawaii” style, and the aristocratic styles of the Visual Kei movement in Japan. Visual Kei, an artistic movement manifested by musicians like X Japan in the 1980s, was a fixation on over-the-top visuals. The elaborate dresses, feminine makeup, and brilliant costumes of Visual Kei were, in large part, responsible for the far-reaching popularity of Lolita fashion.
Lolita is a close descendant of “Doll Fashion,” a trend popularized by brands PINK HOUSE and Milk. The prominence of gothic Lolita in its early days can be traced back to Milk in particular. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Lolita fashion took form as its own subculture. Fashion media outlets and the public finally began to take notice, with features in the now-defunct FRUiTS magazine, a publication that specifically focused on highlighting fashionable youth in the Harajuku district. With its popularity came mass diversification of Lolita’s iconic elements as new brands traveled overseas. As Lolita maintained its demand into the early 2000s, the gothic substyle dominated the Lolita aesthetic. Meanwhile, mainstream media propelled Lolita into becoming an international phenomenon through Kamikaze Girls (2004), the novel turned live-action turned manga about a Lolita-obsessed girl, and Japanese band Malice Mizer. The inspirations behind Lolita fashion are the reasons for its grandeur. Perhaps the most obvious influence at first glance is Victorian-era fashion, with gothic Lolita reflecting its archetypal dark colors, brooches, lace, and voluminous dresses. Notably, Lolita’s full skirts, excessive lace, and high collars are reminiscent of the Edwardian era in Britain. The opulence of Rococo is translated into characteristic Lolita garments; the protagonist of Kamikaze Girls (2004) is utterly obsessed with Rococo style. Lolita is a physical manifestation of a lack of control, the aftereffects of the consumer market chaos in Japan of the 1970s and 1980s. Within the span of two decades, the apparel industry transformed entirely: a struggle to procure textiles became a contest among retail outlets to satisfy consumer demand. Concurrently, the pervasive influence of Western media, the oil crisis of the 70s, and the Anpo protests in resistance to the US-Japan Security Treaty instilled a sense of foreboding in many Japanese. Lolita originally materialized as a coping method for the state of tumult. Thus, Lolita has never been a representation of reality, more so an escape. Through an inauthentic, nostalgic fantasy,
Lolita was a means of selfpreservation amidst the destabilization of life. In its original intent, there was no concern for emulating realism. Instead, dressing in Lolita meant young women could glamorize the fashion eras of their choosing and blend their own distinct tastes. To that end, it is no surprise that cuteness prevailed.
This fixation on cuteness enabled young women to restore the joy and vibrancy of childhood, even if their memories of youthful exuberance were fabrications of their imagination. Upholding responsibilities, maintaining self-discipline, and offering self-sacrifice are values by which women are obliged to vindicate in Japan, except in Lolita fashion. The appeal of unrestrained fashion is its rejection of this suffocating morality and the detriments of social inadequacy. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, men invaded and irreversibly perverted the realm of Lolita fashion, a safe haven for young women. By sexualizing the appearance of children, men hold responsibility for the defamation of Japan’s most well-known fashion subculture. Lolicon, or the Lolita complex, is the phenomenon in which men corrupt the cuteness of Lolita as a means of unleashing their repressed pedophilic fantasies. Throughout Lolita’s decadeslong existence, Lolicon has persisted as its crippling affliction. From seeking the youngest possible Lolita dressers and giving rise to an industry built on sexually exploiting a desire for innocence, men have used Lolita fashion as a vehicle for commodifying their own twisted fetishes. The pervasiveness of Lolicon is
intrinsically linked to the grotesque fetishization of shōjo, which translates to “young girl.” Targeted for their perceived passivity and naivete, the Japanese schoolgirl as a trope has been long abused by men. As a means of sexual gratification without the inconvenience of emotional maturity, men have induced widespread trauma among a generation of young girls by fueling enjo-kōsai, transactional relationships between middle-aged men and junior high and high school girls. Particularly in the 1990s, this practice of men prostituting young girls caused international controversy. Thus, Lolita fashion dialogue cannot exist without mention of exploitation and abuse, further evidence of how those in power have done a callous disservice to Japanese women. Although the media has devoted itself to proving otherwise, Lolita fashion does not exist to satisfy the male gaze. Women don the iconic panniers, brooches, full skirts, and high collars of Lolita for themselves only. Though Lolita has endured considerable disengagement in the last decade, a result of those who joined at the height of the Lolita craze growing older, the era has retained its immovable legacy as one of Japan’s epochal fashion subcultures. Lolita’s cute exterior granted numerous generations of women a moment of escape from reality. More than that, Lolita fashion was an outlet for expending pentup creative energy and seizing the attention of the lavish fashion industry. The streets of Harajuku were once a playground for Lolita, an arena in which they were free to dress and act outrageously, defiant in the face of those preserving the inequitable status of young women in Japan. Lolita fashion, however, is a precarious lifestyle. With time, becoming older proves to be difficult when the basis of the aesthetic remains to appear youthful. The stares from strangers last a second longer, isolation turns unbearable, and the silent judgment becomes deafening, pressuring an altogether abandonment of Lolita. Yet, the problem remains what drives individuals to choose to be clothed in garments that simulate the warmth of childhood. What does it say about their contentment or the state of mental wellbeing? Alas, the Lolita philosophy makes it abundantly clear that though there is undeniable creative ingenuity across its many dimensions, the unfortunate truth is that the blatant sexism that persists in Japanese society gave rise to the anachronistic practice of dressing cute to feel a sense of belonging.
Nostalgia is apparent anywhere and anytime. Animations that I feel that played a prevalent role in pop culture and the lives of many people, are Hunter Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho. For example, the fashion wardrobe of the main character, Yusuke Urameshi, emphasized the comfortable and stylish era of the 90’s, and I know that people have created outfits inspired from his wardrobe.
In terms of Hunter Hunter, character, Killua Zoldycks, has undoubtedly one of the most stylishly finesse wardrobes. His nonchalant clothes showcased baggy shirts, shorts, and sneakers. All these characters’ clothes portray the nostalgia of certain decades and thus have influenced fashion in their own ways as well.
BY JUSTIN LEE
From Syria to South Sudan, fabric piles out of small stores with crumbled walls and no electricity. Women walk to work, armed with a needle and thread to support their conflict-ridden communities. Amidst the chaos of war zones around the world, young women spearhead the fashion scene, providing a peaceful sense of community and a nostalgic, homey alternative to the large fashion corporations that boom in underdeveloped, war-ridden countries. By earning money for their communities and empowering young people to create, fashion merchants in war zones benefit their societies while drawing on historical and cultural inspirations in their work. From traditional methods of manufacturing to cultural prints and symbols, war zone fashion is a creative outlet for culturally significant pieces and a form of political awareness, allowing ordinary citizens to play a role in their country’s recovery and fight against exploitation.
As countries fall into chaos and jobs become hard to find, large corporations jump at the opportunity to employ vast amounts of workers and export valuable resources. In divided countries, economic instability and government fragility attract the attention of large businesses. Businesses bet on fragile, conflicted societies and set up shops, welcoming vulnerable citizens into sweatshops. This exploitative behavior has become all too common, creating inequitable supply chains, increasing the presence of human rights violations and diminishing the power in the hands of native populations. The lack of accountability placed on large businesses poses significant issues, taking power away from struggling people. The intense exploitation of workers and saturation of foreign markets forced by large corporations creates further difficulties in war zone societies. But an alternative to these mainstream capitalist monoliths is on the rise.
Small clothing businesses in war-ridden countries fight the influence of large companies, helping their communities by fostering unity and creating financial opportunities. By generating revenue, spreading awareness or showing allegiance to groups through clothing, workers in the garment industry play a role in their societies by proxy. The money garment workers bring in immediately cycles back into their communities. Business in the small fashion industry also allows workers and consumers to show their allegiance to certain groups through what they create. By weaving garments with significant colors, patterns and fabrics, garment workers share their voice and introduce symbols of their beliefs into society. Should these garments arrive on the world stage, they also spread awareness for important issues like poverty and gender-based violence. Merchants in African and Middle Eastern nations aid their countries by showcasing their pieces at fashion shows and online, allowing people around the world to support fragile communities in war zones. Winnie Godi, a designer from Juba, South Sudan, has had pieces shown at events like Accra Fashion Week, bringing exposure to her small country and its conflicts. Her line is a prime example of how small merchants act as activists as she raises awareness for critical social issues while incorporating traditional elements into her line. In Godi’s most recent line, Anataban, she references the work of the Anataban Campaign, an “artivist” collective dedicated to raising awareness for the struggles of South Sudanese people through multimedia collaborations. From sexual violence to cycles of poverty, the work of Anataban has a profound impact on global awareness, and Godi’s line demonstrates how members use art, including fashion, to fight for their countries. Her most popular collection is dedicated to sexual violence survivors, and she uses her platform at large fashion shows to speak on issues caused by the insecurity of war. As a vehicle for activism, the fashion industry allows community members to show their support for issues without fighting for them directly. By working with the prints and colors inspired by South Sudan’s 64 tribes, Godi’s collection reminds those in conflict-ridden countries of their roots, allowing them to remain in a visibly united community with others who share their religious and political ties.
In areas surrounding South Sudan, where borders are redrawn and communities are split because of war,
Fashion can be used to carry on culture through symbols and patterns or by fostering communities of garment workers from the same cultural roots. By using elements from dozens of tribes, Godi also uses her creative outlet to show unity. Instead of the war and destruction associated with the current South Sudanese Civil War, Winnie Godi’s inspirational collections serve as a reminder of the similarities between distinct communities, contributing to societal awareness and improvement in South Sudan. Designers like Godi also find ways to prolong the impact of their activism despite the barriers that exist in war zone societies. The lack of government funding for public infrastructure during wartime means many fashion merchants, including Godi, go weeks or months without power, crafting by hand. As people fight to earn enough money to survive, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust local suppliers who have little reinforcement over exports. Despite these setbacks, the fashion industry can combat these issues by participating in the ethical sourcing of sustainable materials and the production of minimal waste, high-end pieces. Godi’s fabrics are ethically sourced from neighboring African countries, and her revenue goes to teaching other young women to sew, providing for herself and her community. The prolonged positive social impact of Godi’s work and the resulting amplification of native voices directly contrast the stories originating in sweatshops, which seem to propagate this culture rather than actively fight against it. Godi’s business also faces struggles characteristic of smaller organizations operating out of economically unstable countries. Without the financial support of large fast-fashion corporations, the success of small businesses fluctuates dramatically with their
dramatically with their government’s stability. In war times, investors are unlikely to readily provide money to exporters. The risk associated with investing in a business as unstable as import-dependent fashion causes a domino effect, impacting producers like Godi who need foreign support to successfully import materials and export creations. Fashion businesses also need to attract customers, and while the ability of customers to travel into a conflict zone to shop is a notable problem on its own, potential buyers are less likely to spend if the economy is unstable. Should small businesses be given the funding necessary to create, they have the potential to contribute to financial stability by increasing jobs, revenue and investor attention. This then correlates to social benefits, which are arguably the most significant part of the small fashion industry. Where the war zone fashion industry makes its most profound impact is in fostering a community that supports and empowers women. In Middle Eastern countries in turmoil, women rarely have a beneficial role in societies as they are not allowed to fight. The ability to find safe employment through small fashion businesses is significant because it allows women to have a stable role in their communities while also creating communities of their own. I Love Syria, a bracelet company dedicated to the empowerment of women, is an example of the benefits the fashion industry can bring. This brand stresses how its sales improve the lives of its workers by allowing them to be financially independent. Their work is more than performative as the company’s revenue helps feed starving families, house communities and protect women in danger of sexual violence. Businesses like I Love Syria foster a familial atmosphere full of strength and pride where women teach and protect each other. In addition to the community that the fashion industry curates in war zones, the international sale of garments draws global attention to the conflicts that exist in their countries of origin. This exposure contributes to the financial, and therefore societal, impacts of garment creation, helping fund and unite communities engaged in war. Bringing together garment workers from opposite sides of significant struggles further contributes to societal improvement. In areas like the border of Israel and Palestine, fashion pervades
powerful political divides. ADISH, an Israeli and Palestinian-owned fashion company, employs workers across the Tel Aviv and West Bank divide, breaking down social barriers and working amidst tensions in an area where conflict overwhelms each side. This leads to a beautiful integration of styles and patterns as the act of two merging cultures provides a noticeable representation that two sides of a conflict can still be peaceful. This humanization is a powerful way fashion impacts war zones. Companies like ADISH find ways to navigate tense political climates, and by doing so, they establish an extraordinary ability to create meaningful change. Small fashion businesses in war zones provide an important way for older community members to revisit their roots. Many older garment workers have had their craftsman skills conveyed through generations, and they can recall what their role models taught them as children and pass down these skills to a new generation. This nostalgic reminder of workers’ roots is all the more inspiring and motivational, and it fosters a family-like workspace. When older workers teach, they establish recurring themes of helping disadvantaged women learn not only the marketable skill of sewing but also how to be independent.
By establishing a family atmosphere among women, these companies create an environment of nostalgic craftsmanship as laborers transfer generations of culturally significant practices to young workers. The uplifting role of the fashion industry in war zones is refreshing and empowering, providing a new chance at life to women. As fabric-filled shops and vibrant colors line the streets of shaky societies, there is undeniable longevity of the garments created as they impact much more than their immediate consumers.
NC H REV O L
F A I T SH N I A
Written by Caitlin Chen Illustrations by Jessica Hu Nostalgia is a safe haven, a place for us to submerge ourselves within the comfort of the past and hide in our imaginative subconscious. It keeps us from the truth and the duress of the present, giving us a fantasized idealization of deep-rooted solace. Yet the simultaneous feeling of warmth is tinged with a sense of longing and a soft melancholy. Returning to the past transports us across time and space, allowing us to wander wherever our mind chooses, but reality is a reminder that our reverie is impermanent. Perhaps, this is why humans have the innate desire to admire and worship past trends in our history, because they’re irreplaceable moments
that are lost to the power of Father Time. History repeats itself through the rise and fall of empires, momentous revolutions and fads crashing in then fading out. Throughout humanity, political and social movements have initiated change and challenged the status quo, often creating new ideologies and trends simultaneously. Within political activism, a sort of cultural anti-fashion emerges hand-in-hand with historical events to represent a larger movement that is fighting for change. Of the many movements throughout history, the French Revolution, in particular, is a trendsetter
for ascribing meaning to fashion and transforming it as a tool during a cultural and political revolution.
Throughout humanity, political and social movements have initiated change and challenged the status quo, often creating new ideologies and trends simultaneously. The French Revolution was a period of social upheaval starting in 1787 and ending right before the turn of the century. Its role in history left a major impact in many avenues, affecting not only European and New World history, but also influencing the fundamental rudiments of modern liberal democracy. The Revolution altered the dynamic between the monarchy and those being governed, redefining the nature and use of political power. Along with the birth of democracy, another concept arose as a means to rebel against the pre-existing standards. The concept of anti-fashion emerged from the French Revolution as fashion was utilized as a symbolic weapon to inspire and represent change. The French have a natural talent for fashion and perhaps this arises because haute couture itself was birthed within the French Court. The earliest leaders of fashion dressed the aristocracy in highly elaborate French Rococo or Rocaille, economically and stylistically distinguishing the higher class with a notion of extravagant exuberance and individualistic panache. The Rococo gave purpose beyond the physical form of clothing, possessing the ability to story-tell, create, and express for each unique wearer. As such, cultural integrity weaves itself in with each stitch on a garment, preserving a sense of history and story. This agency was unique because fashion had not previously been envisioned as a vessel for symbolism or semantics; it granted members of the aristocracy the opportunity to indulge in distinctive designs and manufacture clothes tailored to an individual’s physical shape and the aura they carried themselves with.
Rose Bertin, known as the “Minister of Fashion,” was the dressmaker to Queen Marie Antoinette and is widely credited with having brought couture to the forefront of popular culture, establishing fashion as a creative device. Bertin clothed the queen from 1770 until the overthrow of the French monarchy. Marie Antoinette’s legacy as the last queen of France was vilified by her excessive spending habits and opposition to reforms as she became known as Madame Déficit. In popular culture, her insensitivity to the citizens’ struggles is alluded to by the popularized statement: “let them eat cake!” Greatly discrediting her image and painting her as a vain royal, Marie Antoinette was perceived as unwilling to see beyond her excessive spendings, ultimately contributing to the downfall of the French monarchy. Of Marie Antoinette’s many woes was her tendency to stray from the traditional norms and indulge in her expensive desires with no concern for the equally costly consequences. Through a wide range of fashion choices, including refusing to wear the traditional corset, she used Bertin’s designs to rebel against the etiquette of Versailles, solidifying the idea of fashion as a means of self-expression. The queen spent her early pre-childbearing twenties as Rococo’s fashion icon wearing Bertin’s ostentatious designs. Bertin’s extravagant gowns ensured the wearer could occupy up to three times as much space as her male counterparts, giving women a more imposing visual presence so that their clothes would speak for them. The imposition of physical space was reflective of Bertin and Antoinette’s authority in the realm of fashion. To match the grandeur of the gowns, hair needed to be elevated, reaching up to three feet high and decorated with strategic ornaments for each occasion. The decorations would range from ribbons, pearls, and feathers to unconventional pieces like animals, ships, and plates of food. The hair became a canvas where the hairdresser could formulate complete stories and express ar-
tistic or political symbolism. The pouf, which our modern-day beehive is derived from, was an instant phenomenon with noble and upper-class women clamoring to try the queen’s new fashion statement; perhaps, it’s where we first see the influence and rage of a fashion trend. However, as more people gained purchasing power, the hairstyle grew in height to sustain distinctions between classes. The higher and more outrageous the pouf was, the higher one’s title was. The hairstyle kept growing taller as the aristocracy clamored about to distinguish themselves, all while turning a blind eye to the suffering public. Marie Antoinette herself protested against the norms of the court by wearing a chemise à la reine. The white frock was a simple garment consisting of layers of thin muslin tied with a sash around the waist. Compared to the elaborate and heavy gowns, it was light and loose-fitting, resembling more of an undergarment than a traditional royal gown. However, it stripped female aristocrats of their identity, allowing them to escape the structured life of the French Court for the simple countryside. This transgression was a betrayal of the French aristocracy, causing a scandal because a queen should not appear indecent. Her escapade was an unintentional occurrence of anti-fashion which entered the modern couture world with Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s “poor girl” style, often cited as the first intentional modern anti-fashion movement. In both situations, the excessively wealthy would appear as understated as possible, despite being able to afford the highest quality of fabrics. And at a time of great political unrest and economic strife, Antoinette failed to understand why her playing dress-up as a peasant was degrading to someone else’s reality. She eventually resorted back to traditional court styles to resume her role within the French aristocracy as tensions rose, but her extravagant mannerisms had greatly angered the mass-
es and her unwillingness to act as a proper queen did not help. In 1789 when the Ancien Régime was abolished, the French Revolution erupted, and with it came the birth of modern and accessible fashion. From an economic standpoint, sumptuary laws had previously made clothing difficult to acquire for commoners. When the Revolution overthrew the monarchy, members of all backgrounds were able to use fashion as an expression of individuality. Clothes gave people a visual identity that they could control. Fashion became a political weapon, a symbol of rejection towards the French monarchy in support of liberté, égalité, fraternité. The motto was the French monarchy in support of liberté, égalité, fraternité. The motto was intended to unite and inspire revolutionaries, symbolizing the need for natural rights and freedom for a brotherhood that would be treated as equal.
This moment gave birth to a politically fueled anti-fashion, a defining turning point in history where something not typically considered aesthetic became commonplace to rebel against the status quo. With this, anti-fashion began to emerge as a great equalizer to reject the social stratification and economic disparities of the previous era. During the Revolution, fashion constantly changed to reflect the shifting political tides, and in the Reign of Terror, political institutions began to weaponize fashion to publicly reject previous rulers. The Convention decreed that freedom of dress was a basic human right, with its following edict ironically contradicting itself by stating that all previous laws on dress were to be maintained, including one that mandated all French citizens to wear a red, white, and blue cockade in public.
Besides the tricolore accessory, there was a revulsion against extravagant high-fashion due to its association with royalty and aristocracy as radicals and Jacobins became more powerful. This created a political “anti-fashion” movement that emphasized simplicity and modesty to act as a direct juxtaposition to previous trends. Men wore plain, dark clothing and short unpowdered hair while women wore revolutionary jackets and strayed from the impractical full skirts that were previously popular. As the Revolution introduced ideologies that encouraged equality, dresses and hairstyles diminished in size with au naturale and humility becoming the newly enforced norm. Promoting individualism and social differentiation through fashion became significantly less important and even attracted danger. The public adopted a collective modest look of cultural anti-fashion to represent the beliefs of egalitarianism behind the French Revolution. The structural composition of fashion shifted as well with wool and cotton becoming the favored fabrics over the previously popular silk and lace. Somber, muted colors were preferred over the traditional Rocaille pastel blue, pink and green tones, with the exception of red, white and blue, becoming increasingly implemented into society. The declining popularity of highly elaborate Rococo styles allowed for the emergence of fashion that embraced classical and rationalistic ideals of Enlightenment philosophers, often condemning the Rococo style as immoral and indecent. The French Revolution left a lasting impact on democracy and fashion, leading to the creation of documents that are now the basis of modern democratic ideals while simultaneously giving birth to a fashion movement focused on the rejection of norms. Since then, anti-fashion has been incorporated into a variety of forms, acting
as a symbol of non-conformism in social movements or radicalized creativity in the fashion industry as seen in avant-garde, camp or kitsch fashion.
The French Revolution left a lasting impact on democracy and fashion, leading to the creation of documents that are now the basis of modern democratic ideals while simultaneously giving birth to a fashion movement focused on the rejection of norms. Nevertheless, humanity still occasionally finds its course back to the past, often revisiting nostalgic trends to find comfort from the reality of the present. By trying to remain in the past, nostalgia can become a potent political agent that hinders our attitude and actions in the present. Anti-fashion itself has evolved to challenge the status quo and remind us that it is change and innovation that we thrive off of. While nostalgic longing acts as a much-needed escape, there’s a whole future to be discovered. Although it feels daunting to approach the unknown, uncovered potential has much more power to impact our world than wasted regrets or safe remembrance.
GRAPHIC BY ANIKA MURTHY
BOLLYWOOD’S LEADING WARRIOR PRINCESSES: IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION WRITTEN BY ANISHA PATIL
Coined the “Portmanteau of Bombay and Hollywood”, Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world, exceeding Hollywood at an unparalleled level with the number of feature films produced annually. Not only that, but Bollywood’s films also reach a much larger audience, with distribution extending to the global Indian diaspora. While this representation doesn’t exist for South Asian actors and actresses in Hollywood, Bollywood shares the stories of people with brown identities from all over the world. Bollywood’s influence is inextricably linked to Indian identity, with cultural features like music, singing, styles of dance, and fashion. Films exist as a platform for identity expression of characters based on the director’s and designer’s vision, and Bollywood has both created new fashion trends and has been the platform for representing existing trends in Indian culture. This industry has spearheaded Indian representation and notoriety in media
on a global scale, with superstars like Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra, and Deepika Padukone paving the way for other actresses. Bollywood stars bring characters to life by modeling looks that represent the fashion and beauty ideals of the time that the film is set in, especially in Bollywood’s period pieces. These epic historical romance films–Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani, and Padmavaat–are set in India’s royal cities in the 1300s to 1800s, and are notable because of the beauty, wealth, heroism and warrior skills that they portray when constructing regal, female identity. The films reveal the politics of royalty and the responsibilities that come with holding such great power. They cement the idea of these Leading Ladies, the Queens of India, being timeless beauty symbols and they create the beauty ideals of the 1300s to 1800s, which extends to beauty ideals now because of the inevitable association of these ideals with the actresses who play these roles. The fashion trends of this era used to create regal identity are
comparable to the value that is placed on the top designer brands today: Chanel, Cartier, Hermes, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc. We yearn for this for what it represents in society. Indian women take pride in this particular beauty that we come to know because of these films, which reject European standards of beauty; this return to traditional culture is what we yearn for in an era of globalization. What beauty ideals are reflected in Bollywood based on those that exist in real life within South Asian women? These standards are what are known as “traditional beauty ideals” versus “modern beauty ideals” that have evolved as a result of globalization and the influence of Western fashion. Rebecca Gelles, a scholar of the Independent Study Project (ISP), defines traditional beauty standards in her research on the impact of narrowing cultural beauty standard in India in the following way:
“THE IDEAL INDIAN WOMAN IS FAIR OR MEDIUMCOMPLEXIONED, HAS A NARROW WAIST BUT WIDER HIPS AND BREASTS, AND HAS LARGE EYES, FULL RED LIPS, AND LONG BLACK HAIR THAT IS EITHER STRAIGHT OR WAVY.”
Following this, Gelles explores modern beauty ideals that have evolved to reflect Western ideals, focusing on the following characteristics: skin color, hair texture, figure, and clothing. While there is regional variation, most likely the result of local disparities, foreign influence, historical changes, politics, and religious imagery of Hindu goddesses, the image is fairly stable. Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Mastani, and Padmavaat are some of Bollywood’s highestgrossing films and are considered to be some
of the most successful commercial films in all of India’s film history. Star-crossed lovers Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan were born to play their characters in Jodhaa Akbar, a film about a Hindu princess and Mughal prince who honor their eternal love and values during the 16th century, built on the premise of peaceful religious practice during Akbar’s reign. Bajirao Mastani’s leads–Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, and Ranveer Singh–are caught in a tragic love triangle in which Ranveer Singh’s character is married to Priyanka Chopra. He then takes Deepika Padukone’s character as his second wife, though the marriage is never accepted by Hindu society, as she is a Muslim princess. Finally, Padmavaat’s characters played by Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, and Ranveer Singh are caught in a complex love triangle as well, though Muslim King Alauddin (Singh) lusts after Hindu Queen Padmavaati (Padukone), wife and true lover of Hindu King Ratan Singh (Kapoor). This film was the most controversial of the three, receiving commentary like the following:
“CRITICS DISLIKED THE PORTRAYAL OF KHILJI AS A STEREOTYPICAL EVIL MUSLIM KING AND RATAN SINGH AS THE RIGHTEOUS HINDU KING WHICH LED TO PROTESTS BY RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES.”
It is important to note the intertwined relationship between various powerful societal structures of India reflected in these films, such as religious undertones specifically between Hindus and Muslims, the politics of the royal dynasty, war, and marriage. How has globalization–as a form of modern capitalism–impacted the Bollywood fashion we associate with the female Indian identity today? Bollywood, much like Hollywood, has
created these beauty standards based on what sells because of capitalism. To make a profit, the industry must create an image or a product that sells. If Bollywood can create iconic characters, wardrobe and looks included, in the visual art of film, the industry will create a look that will sell based on ideal beauty standards to increase revenue based on viewers. What sells is that which is perceived as beautiful, which is decided by men, especially in an industry that is dominated by male directors and screenwriters. As Aggarwal states, “According to a report by Geena Davis Institute that was released at ‘Global Symposium on Gender in Media’, the gender ratio in India’s film industry stands at 6.2 males to every female and only one in 10 directors is a woman.” (03) Bollywood reflects the tenets of India’s culture, including its prejudices.
“CONTEMPORARY SOUTH ASIAN SOCIALITY IS MARKED BY SIGNIFIERS OF RACE, CASTE, ETHNICITY, AND COLORISM…. RACIALIZED CASTEISM IS AN ANALYTIC THAT REVEALS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACE, CASTE, AND COLORISM IN SOUTH ASIA.”
With a caste system that has deep historical roots that manifest through differences in appearance like skin color, beauty ideals inevitably reflect this inequality. In this way, colorism exists on screen just as much as it exists in real life in India. Comparison of South versus North Indians in leading roles, especially protagonists versus antagonists, reveals which actors and actresses Bollywood favors based on which physical features. There’s an obvious preference for lighter skin toned actors and actresses. Bollywood’s period pieces especially exhibit the interrelationship of casteism and colorism that focuses on traditional standards
of beauty. However, caste is not only defined by occupation, but also by appearance. An individual’s religion and caste could be determined based on how they groomed themselves and dressed. For example, Muslim men are distinguishable by their goatee beard; Hindu men had a mustache. These films illuminate, through wardrobe and design, not only the differences between men and women but also the difference between a warrior and a soldier. These differences in battle ranking and prestige are reflected in battle with armory and jewelry worn throughout the films. The fashion of Bollywood’s Leading Ladies is marked by rich textiles, silks, embroidery, beadwork, mirrors, stones, jewelry, and flowers. Color symbolism is perhaps one of the most interesting factors in creating these Leading Ladies’ identities as we know them to be, based on these films.
“THE SYMBOLISM OF COLOR STANDS OUT AND CONTROLS EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE IN INDIA, BE IT RELIGION, POLITICS, FESTIVALS, OR CELEBRATIONS. IN INDIA, BE IT THE NORTH, SOUTH, WEST, OR EAST, COLOR AND CULTURE GO HAND IN HAND.”
The color red has huge symbolic significance in Bollywood, especially with the depiction of Leading Ladies in films. Red, the color of Hinduism, has been used in a variety of contexts including religion, politics, festivals, and celebrations including marriages, war, romance, purity and sensuality. The Leading Ladies are best known for their extravagant looks in which they are adorned in red lehengas with the most elaborate detailing– embroidery, beadwork, and mirrors–on silks
and rich cottons. Meanwhile, green is consistently used throughout these films in various settings similarly–clothing, flags during wars, during romantic scenes–to represent Islam. In Bajirao Mastani, Mastani is wearing green when she greets her Hindu mother-in-law, Radhabai. Radhabai comments on this color, foreshadowing the tension between Mastani and the rest of Rajput’s Hindu society. It is also used throughout Padmavaat to represent the Khilji King Alauddin, his army, the people he rules, and his wife, Mehrunisa. Finally, while white is used in European weddings to represent purity, in India, it is the color a widow wears. It is a funeral color. This sort of nostalgia is a longing for days gone by, not necessarily for a situation. This was a time where there was greater respect in some ways. These protagonists were women who were either empowered by their consort or chose to take on the mentality of leadership. Because everything is so deliberately designed, including the costumes, it rapidly enables a complete and utter suspension of disbelief which is necessary for the viewer to be transported back in time. You buy into the story because it’s a suspension of disbelief in terms of the dramatic impacts. The mere act of a person giving up his kingdom and breaking all social
mores for love shatters your suspension of disbelief; it shatters when a woman can use a sword just as well as a skilled male warrior and fighter. Beauty ideals are an illusive reflection of globalization with influence of caste, religion, gender, and regality enacted through fashion and design. Globalization and technology have created a revitalization in timeless, nostalgic Indian beauty ideals inspired by Bollywood’s period pieces that continue to exist through mediums of creative expression across all platforms.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE IDEAL IDENTITY IS AN ILLUSION.
FOOTNOTES REBECCA. “FAIR AND LOVELY: STANDARDS OF BEAUTY, GLOBALIZATION, AND THE MODERN INDIAN WOMAN.” INDEPENDENT STUDY 01 GELLES, PROJECT (ISP) COLLECTION. 1145., 2011. NAQVI | UAE EDITOR, BOBBY. “WHY ‘PADMAAVAT’ BOTHERS ME AS AN INDIAN MUSLIM.” OP-EDS – GULF NEWS, GULF NEWS, 7 NOV. 2018, 02 GULFNEWS.COM/OPINION/OP-EDS/WHY-PADMAAVAT-BOTHERS-ME-AS-AN-INDIAN-MUSLIM-1.2164257.
AGGARWAL, SHUBHANGINI. “‘GENDER RATIO IN INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY STANDS AT 6.2 MALES TO EVERY FEMALE’.” BW BUSINESSWORLD, BW BUSINESSWORLD, 2017, WWW.BUSINESSWORLD.IN/ARTICLE/-GENDER-RATIO-IN-INDIAN-FILM-INDUSTRY-STANDS-AT-6-2-MALES-TO-EVERYFEMALE-/13-07-2017-122077/.
SURESHI M. “RACIALIZED CASTEISM: EXPOSING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACE, CASTE, AND COLORISM THROUGH THE 04 JAYAWARDENE, EXPERIENCES OF AFRICANA PEOPLE IN INDIA AND SRI LANKA.” JOURNAL OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES, VOL. 20, NO. 3-4, 2016, PP. 323–345., DOI:10.1007/S12111-016-9333-5.
05 SMITH, KATE. “SYMBOLIC COLORS OF INDIA.” SENSATIONAL COLOR, WWW.SENSATIONALCOLOR.COM/SYMBOLIC-COLORS-INDIA/.
FASHION’S PAST & PROLOGUE BY CHANG ZHOU
Fashion cycles through countless trends and clothes pass through countless hands where each piece’s history is simply the foundation for its future. Written by Chang Zhou Photography by Maya Gee-Lim “What’s past is prologue,” writes Shakespeare himself. Though his original statement applied to the life-altering situation implicated by Antonio, Duke of Milan, it also applies seamlessly to fashion and the material culture surrounding clothing. Fashion cycles through countless trends and clothes pass through countless hands where each piece’s history is simply the foundation for its future. Its endurance in capturing the uniqueness of humans throughout periods has made it an irreplaceable way of keeping historical records and an important carrier of nostalgia and memory. The Met’s exhibition, About Time: Fashion and Duration, and Dior’s Autumn-Winter 2020 haute couture video show fashion as the subject used to carry glimpses into the past. In the research article “Materialising Memories” and Fredrik Tjaerandsen’s 2019 Moments of Clarity show, fashion is presented as a method of inquiry to experiment with its relationship to memory. Fashion is thus bonded strongly to memory as focal points for recollection and outlets for experimentation, both revealing clothing’s intimate relationship with human history, sentiments and resilience.
The Met Costume Institute’s 2020 exhibition, About Time: Fashion and Duration, captures collective memory by imagining history as in “coexistence rather than succession” according to the curator of the exhibition, Andrew Bolton. The majority of the ensembles featured are black and white to better showcase the comparisons of silhouette and technique regardless of the time era. The coexistence of time is clearly communicated as pairs such as Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1938 mirror evening jacket and Yves Saint Laurent’s “Broken Mirrors” ensemble from 1978 are placed side by side, both replicating the motif of a broken hand mirror on the top of the body. Saint Laurent was directly inspired by Schiaparelli’s ability to create clothing that gave the wearer confidence, and this continuation of themes shows how culture is grown from memories as nothing in the past is truly ever erased. The exhibition presents the opportunity of being able to step back to see the comparison of the two ensembles in retrospect which highlights the timelessness of the human desire to be proud and present oneself confidently. Dior’s Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 video presented haute couture in a mythological dream
The Met’s exhibition ultimately creates a dichotomic space where periods intersect and where time stands still, both with fashion as the catalyst for interpreting collective memory through fashion history. Dior’s Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 video presented haute couture in a mythological dream with a foundation in fashion history. The dolls in the video reference the Théâtre de la Mode exhibition which toured Europe and the United States after World War II and haute couture was presented on small mannequins that were used to conserve materials since textiles and thread were scarce in the aftermath of the war. The greater purpose of the exhibition was to revive French fashion which saw a decline during the war and reinspire the public to appreciate art. References are layered upon references as Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s dolls sought to take on the idea of the Théâtre de la Mode as an homage to a period of reinvention while the Théâtre de la Mode’s dolls were referencing 18th century French Pandora dolls to harken back to a time of French extravagance. In both cases, nostalgia is glorified through fashion for the audience of the present to reinspire the masses during a time of hardship. This method of regenerating memory to inspire certainly works as Christian Dior himself emerged from wartime to establish his own couture house on 30 Avenue Montaigne in 1946. Storytelling and collective learning are essential to a lasting culture, for both of which clothing can be a powerful catalyst. Clothing can spark memories for stories and also function as props for telling these tales. The article “Materialising Memories: Exploring the Stories of People with Dementia Through Dress” published by Cambridge University Press in 2015 uses clothing as a medium for research and inquiry. Clothing from the past is brought up in conversations with older adults with dementia as a way to elicit their memories. Using clothing as a conversation starter, older adults with dementia and their caregivers were able to share many stories from
the past with the interviewers as specific pieces of clothing marked one’s identity, life choices, challenges and celebrations. Therefore, each closet is also a personal museum collection. Clothes are the everyday pieces draped upon their curator, retaining memories of the past, hopes for the future, and the power to transmit the warmth they give onto future generations. Much like how dementia can disrupt memories of the past, childhood also clouds memory during development. Fredrik Tjaerandsen’s 2019 collection shown at the annual Central Saint Martin graduation show called Moments of Clarity, explores the expression of emerging into adulthood and the ability to remember clear memories. The viral show featured models walking while engulfed in balloons and then deflating the balloons to create vibrant latex dresses. Tjaerandsen says he was inspired by “human self-awareness” where the deflating of the balloon represents the moment of truth when humans become in touch with a sense of self-awareness. The transformation of the pieces from foggy bubbles to tight dresses also represents the feeling of growing up. Childhood memories are vague and remembering them can often cause cringe as adults reflect on how their childhood self had no sense of self-consciousness that adulthood brings. Similar to the story of Adam and Eve, the utopian bubble eventually pops for every child once they reach adulthood to truly experience society.
Similar to the story of Adam and Eve, the utopian bubble eventually pops for every child once they reach adulthood to truly experience society. Tjaerandsen and “Materialising Memories” take on a more personal and research-like approach to exploring clothing and expression of memory while the Met and Dior took on a more classic presentation style making references to fashion history and collective memory. Both methods communicate clothing’s ability to hold value, sentiment and memory, which are at the very core of what creates culture. The power that
clothing is charged with is unlike any other aspect of material culture due to the intimacy with which clothing bonds with the wearer’s body. Clothing stores potent and rich memories and triggers them through their visual and tactile qualities. It does so by molding onto each wearer instead of just being “owned” like other aspects of material culture such as tools or trinkets. The envelopment of the human body gives it the power of holding history and culture in such an intimate way. If art is the reflection of the human condition, fashion would be the looking glass the reflection is projected onto.
Four Women, Atlantic City, c. 1960s, John Mosley John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson AfroAmerican Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA
International Women’s Day March, New York, 1975 Student Activities and Student Life Photograph Collection, Barnard Digital Archives, New York, NY
Looking Back to Move Forward What the Fashion of the Second-Wave Feminist Movement Can Teach Us About Feminism Today Written by Georgia Weed
Design by Janie Wang
The early 1960s witnessed the birth of Second-Wave feminism in the United States upon the need to advocate for women’s rights and autonomy beyond enfranchisement. With the slogan, “The Personal is Political,” the Second-Wave feminist movement aimed to dismantle the sexist systems against women and support gender equality. This movement’s powerful focus on the various societal and cultural manifestations of sexism pierced the domestic life of orthodox Americans. Second-Wave feminism greatly liberated women’s fashion through trends that are still prominent today. Despite its great power and influence, however, the Second-Wave feminist movement was flawed. It focused predominantly on white housewives, lacked an intersectional approach and was greatly divided on an issue of major importance--sexual liberation. During this movement, feminism was exclusionary and did not advocate for non-white, non-wealthy women. These issues were left unaddressed, and the fashion that represents them remained present throughout feminist discourse since their introduction in the 1960s. The manifestations of the problematic divisions created during and sustained beyond the Second-Wave are evident in today’s fashion and must be addressed in order for modern feminism to progress. During the Second-Wave, feminists rejected patriarchal standards in many ways, including through fashion. The birth of a unisex uniform, jeans and a t-shirt, is credited to the Second-Wave movement. The rise of separates, jeans and pants paired with different tops, represented a shift away from dresses that were the traditional housewife’s uniform. Jeans granted women more freedom of movement than dresses, representing the feminine individualism feminists advocated for. Additionally, jeans were considered labor attire, which was thought to be reserved for men in the workforce. Jeans, which were attributed to men’s clothing, were worn to equalize men and women in a physical realm.
The rise in popularity of jeans, however, signified a much larger issue within the Second-Wave--a lack of intersectionality. White feminists led the movement for fashion liberation, emphasizing the empowerment of jeans which worked to decrease the existing inequalities between men and women in terms of physical liberation and participation in the workforce. A large portion of the presumed male-dominated workforce, however, already consisted of women of color, mostly Black women, who wore jeans every day as part of their uniform. The ignorance of many feminists on the realities of women of color was incredibly exclusionary and harmful, especially considering the historical significance of their presence in the workforce. Throughout the history of the United States, Black women have consistently held the highest number of labor market jobs as they have historically been excluded from higher-paying jobs. Further, Black women were comparatively more likely to join the labor force due to the intense labor market discrimination faced by Black men. Essentially, Black women in the 1960s often did not have a choice but to work low-paying jobs in order to support their families and themselves. These employment injustices contribute to the extreme wealth-gap experienced by Black Americans today.
By encouraging women to wear jeans in order to be seen as equal to working men, Second-Wave feminist leaders perpetuated the idea that only the interests and realities of white women were relevant in not only the discussion of feminism, but in society as a whole. Again, white feminists overlooked the reality of nonwhite, working-class women, and even further, they turned this struggle into a fashion statement. The rise in popularity of jeans for women not only symbolized an ignorant rejection of intersectionality, but also a stark divide between supporters of the Second-Wave movement. For many women, wearing more masculine and practical clothing that was thought to be reserved for men was an empowering display of societal equality; dressing like a man signified an equal social status. Jeans, often paired with a shirt and no bra, became a uniform for those who rebelled against feminine constructs and the societal expectations that
confined women to the house. Dressing in a more masculine style allowed women to disengage from the notion of strict femininity in terms of appearance. By wearing jeans, which were considered less attractive and less flattering, women felt liberated from their role as eye-candy for men, further emphasizing the Second-Wave feminist notion that women are capable of more than meets the eye. Other women, however, felt empowered by taking the opposite approach, wearing more feminine and revealing clothing that reflected their sexual liberation. This liberation was heavily influenced by the rising support of sexual health movements in the late 1960s, which notably led to the introduction of the birth control pill. Abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, forced sterilization and sexual assault were commonly discussed issues, and women were encouraged to take charge of their sexual independence and safety.
The increased social and political control women gained over their sex lives impacted all parts of life, and fashion was no exception. Possibly the most popular style that emerged from this period of sexual ownership for women was the miniskirt, which proved to be one of the most successful feminist-inspired fashion trends of the 1960s. Before miniskirts, women wore long dresses or maxi-skirts that were not only considered appropriate, but necessary for the role of the housewife. As women moved towards independence and away from these strict expectations of femininity, miniskirts represented independence for women and their ability to make their own choices, not only regarding their sexuality but also in how they presented themselves. Shorter hemlines demonstrated the increased female agency of the Second-Wave, and further, the fight for sexual independence and liberation. Similarly, the new-found popularity of the bikini can be attributed to the anti-conservative, pro-sexual-liberation movement of the 1960s. Women had previously worn far less provocative one-pieces, with higher necks and shorts-style bottoms, but the drastic rise in popularity of bikinis led to almost a complete elimination of this style. Both miniskirts and bikinis represented a dramatic and quite revealing shift from the more conservative styles
Further, the lack of intersectionality in modern feminist movements is still as prevalent and damaging today as it was sixty years ago. Modern-day feminists continue to fail to advocate for the rights of non-white, non-wealthy women, just as countless others did during the Second-Wave movement.
White feminism continues to serve as the standard for feminist beliefs and agendas, even though women of color face disproportionately high rates of violence, discrimination and poverty. March on Broadway, New York, April 18, 1972, Bill Megalos. Student Activities and Student Life Photograph Collection, Barnard Digital Archives, New York, NY.
worn in the 1950s, and they certainly drew a large amount of criticism from both supporters and opponents of the Second-Wave. Many argued that promiscuous styles invited further objectification, which was considered detrimental to a movement that encouraged women to exist and grow outside of their identities as props for men. Women who felt empowered by wearing masculine styles, like jeans, believed that women who revealed their bodies by wearing miniskirts and bikinis were essentially prostituting themselves for the pleasure of men around them. These dual interpretations of feminism and fashion during the Second-Wave are still a relevant issue in modern-feminism. While many feminists agree that women should have autonomy over their bodies and the subsequent decisions they make, there is still a fervent debate over how this liberation should be represented. Many argue that by wearing revealing clothing, women are perpetuating the notion that they exist to satisfy the male gaze, thus harming the goals of feminism. Others find liberation by defining their sexuality without considering male influence, by owning their femininity through more revealing styles.
Today, jeans, miniskirts and bikinis are integrated so deeply into fashion culture that we often forget where they came from. While the modern presence of these clothing items and our nostalgia for the trends that emerged could indicate the success of the movement, the problematic nature of the Second-Wave feminist movement is still present in current-day feminism. The manifestations of the Second-Wave are present beyond the fashion staples it produced, as it solidified its legacy by permeating all aspects of culture. The debate on ownership versus objectification and a lack of intersectionality remain two incredibly large issues in modern feminism. If feminism is not intersectional, meaning advocacy for all those who identify as female, then it is not feminism at all.
Advocacy for all means all races, genders and sexual identities. Most essentially, it means advocacy for all women. This advocacy is not dependent on how revealing or modest women’s fashion choices are or what jobs they have. And if advocacy for intersectionality is not a permanent agenda of feminist movements, then we have not progressed beyond the flaws of the Second-Wave.
ILLUSTRATED BY SOFIJA NINNESS
WRITTEN BY JORDAN MULA
GIVING VOICE TO WOMEN OF THE 18TH & 19TH CENTURIES:
Each year of the Regency era, the aristocratic families of England would gather in London for a sumptuous six-month matchmaking season during which eligible young men and women would dance, eat, and maybe even go as far as to “fall in love” under the spell of autumn air. With pure white ostrich feathers fixed to their hair-dos, the young women, known as the debutantes, would be presented to the sitting Queen and her royal court at the first ball in hopes that they would find their husbands by November’s ceasement of the season. In an article published in the Los Angeles Times by Meredith Blake, Lesley A. Hall, a
historian of gender and sexuality, comments that formal sex education was nonexistent for women. Despite the pressure placed on them to wed swiftly, these women knew next to nothing about the birds and the bees. Their wedding nights were romanticized to the fullest extent by their mothers, who hardly informed them on the events that would actually take place, perhaps only going as far as to label it a romantic “marital act” and leaving the rest to their imagination. Their reputations depended on how closely they adhered to this standard of purity. Further into the article, another historian Amanda Vickery contrasts that while women were
“SWADDLED IN THIS SORT OF NAIVETÉ, HIGH-CLASS WOMEN DURING THIS ERA WERE CONDITIONED TO BE SUBMISSIVE, PURE, AND BLISSFULLY IGNORANT ABOUT WHATEVER WOULD HAPPEN BETWEEN THEIR LEGS.” sheltered, “Men’s diaries [were] extraordinarily casual in reporting sex with servants.”So, while a woman’s well-being rested upon her chastity, men were not expected to conform to this standard in the slightest. And yet, when reflecting on this time period, many subtly associate it with a kind of romanticism… An untouched woman swooning head-overheels over her prince charming, or even duke perhaps? By introducing love as some tangible thing to be unrequited, forbidden, or even chosen, Chris Van Dusen’s Netflix series Bridgerton revolutionized romance on screen. In the opening of the first episode, the viewer is immediately plunged into 19th century London’s high society by the cradling of modernized pop string quartets. However, the series is not entirely historically accurate which is perhaps what makes it so entrancing. It is a historical fantasy more than anything else that clearly left viewers’ hearts aching for some forgotten aspect of the Regency era. Emily Farra writes in Vogue that the show’s release prompted online searches for corsets to surge 123% and silk dresses 3,900%. Bridgerton glorifies a type of romance that some might even describe as “chivalrous” as women are swept off their feet under the moonlight and given expensive floral arrangements
in the morning by potential courters. This is a more traditional form of romance that youth today might refer to as a rarity in the 21st century, exchanged for the technological wonders of Tinder and Bumble. Perhaps this romanticization is the reason that artists and filmmakers alike have given such attention to the Regency-era recently, entranced by the femininity of the women and their bittersweet relationships with men. However, none of these feelings could have been conjured without the notes of 19th-century fashion throughout. Rather than completely adhering to the fashion trends of the time, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick opted for pastel silks and other luxurious fabrics. In an interview with Emily Burns published in The Cut, Mirojnick explains that Bridgerton, being a fictional piece, provided her with the freedom to modernize the dress wear. In reality, fancier fabrics were not imported during the 1813 Regency due to the war, meaning that even the aristocracy had to resort to thicker cottony fabrics. Mirojnick opted for more sumptuous materials. She composed a total of 7,500 looks, incorporating column silhouettes dripping in motifs, powdery pastels to bright floral dyes, embellished puff sleeves, and elaborate wigs worn by Queen Charlotte. These very costumes were meant to coax viewers into stepping into the shoes of these 19th-century women. Watching Bridgerton is like an escape of sorts. Perhaps there is a primitive nostalgia for the royal Regency era during which the rich swam in glorious wealth, spending their coins on elaborate dresses and tailcoat suits. Scenes are flooded with splashing sunlight and intricate floral arrangements. However, a defining moment of the series is the first time that the viewer awakes from the aristocratic dream and is thrust into the harsh realities of 19th century London for those who were not part of the elite. In reality, people ache for the mere dream that Bridgerton composed through each silk glove and flashy jewel. These viscounts, duchesses, queens, and kings were living in luxury at the expense of the working class. And the six-month matchmaking season was hardly chivalrous. People may jest about chivalry being dead, yet
isn’t that a good thing? While Daphne did bask in luxury, her entire worth revolved around how desired she was. Furthermore, the signature Bridgerton-blue color symbolized how she was born into a high-class family. And on another note, the match-making season itself was actually designed to ensure that the wealth of the elite was continuously kept within the elite. It was likely frowned upon for people to marry those of another class. Since the 19th century was not a perfect fantasy, director Shonda Rhimes modernized the era. The reason that Bridgerton is so loved is that it blends modern and classical elements. For example, Ariana Grande’s hit “thank u, next” is covered by Vitamin String Quartet in the first episode when Daphne and Simon meet. While Grande’s song is typically considered a feminist anthem, in Bridgerton it’s transformed into a sort of romantic lullaby. Without these aspects of blending the old and the new, the series would not feel nearly as nurturing and ever so slightly relatable. It combines timeless fashion trends like puff sleeves, empire silhouettes, and layers of gauze fabric. As stated previously, while puff sleeves and empire silhouettes were in vogue during the Regency era, the aristocracy did not have access to the silks that many of the women’s dresses are made of throughout the series. Furthermore, the Featherington family is seen throughout in bright hues of yellow, orange and green. These colors were not characteristic of the era either. However, their ensembles were certainly entertaining to see on screen. Rising artist, Side Dimes, similarly blends the old and the new in her paintings giving voice to women of the 18th and 19th centuries. Inspired by the femininity of European art, she found herself wanting to mix this fine art with pop culture. Her pieces range from women holding McDonald’s Happy Meals to standing in front of the lyrics from Cardi B’s viral song “WAP.” Most of her pieces emulate a playful vibe as she ironically pairs these classical women with the most current trends of our current decade. While her pieces do have amusing modern twists, the portraits themselves are deeply emotional as they attempt to
humanize these women of the 19th century. The women themselves are typically dressed in traditional puff sleeves, empire silhouettes, and embellished or embroidered fabrics giving them completely feminine touches. In the midst of this pandemic, seeing these women dressed in their gowns and elegant silks evokes a sort of ache, especially a fond one when paired with components of our own daily lives. Perhaps millennials and members of gen-z are nostalgic for soirees, dressing up, or for the time when boys were expected to bring flowers to potential suitors. Recently, we have seen a boom in dating apps amongst youth and the normalization “hookup culture,” characterized by impromptu one-night stands or casual sex. Critiques of such affairs might claim that “romance is dead” and perhaps wish to return to 19th-century London when such touch-driven intimacy was more taboo. After all, Bridgerton depicts the Regency era purely as a time when Beethoven was composing a whirl of symphonies drenched in emotion whilst Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the premier feminist manifestos. Yet, romanticizing 19th-century england is a slippery slope, especially when considering a woman’s freedom of sexuality; her worth amounted to how desired she was by men and how well she was able to resist her sexual impulses. The character of Eloise Bridgerton starkly contrasts who 19th-century women were inclined to be which is why any feelings of nostalgia for this era should be dosed with caution. While she is inspiring, Eloise is pure fiction. While “hookup culture” may be a target of criticism, it reveals how society has perhaps evolved for the better since the dawn of the Regency Era. Romanticizing the concept of “chivalry” implies that a woman’s sole purpose in life is to be sought after.
TO ROMANTICIZE A FANTASY OF 19TH CENTURY ENGLAND IS TO IGNORE THE PROGRESS OF NOW.
NOSTALGIA IN THE HOME BY ANNI CARLSON
Culturally, we exist at a crossroads. The current focus on all things past keeps us sane in this present moment and the intercession of design in all forms and sentimentality can be a saving grace. But what about when it isn’t?
When culture loses urgency and desire for newness, a sense of complacency masked by sentience can prevent progress and– even worse–an objective remembrance of all things negative in the past. Take the current revival of mid-century textiles, for example–the art of clothing and interior design, patterns, motifs, and shapes from the 1950s and 1960s are dominating sales in both decor and fashion markets. Colors like orange and green have made an enormous comeback, curved lines and wooden textures are popping up in homes everywhere, and the structured mini skirts and simple t-shirts of 1960s sitcoms are making their way into the gen-z fashion consciousness. It’s easy to be caught up
in the bright colors and intriguing cuts and unique shapes, but it’s even easier to forget what each of those characteristics represented for many marginalized groups at the time. The trauma of being unduly and too quickly sexualized by short skirts has impacted the sexual health and wellness of women and mothers in generation x, born between 1965 to 1980. Fatphobic sizing and marketing made popular styles virtually inaccessible to an entire community of human beings for decades. The level of wealth required to achieve what is now considered to be the “standard’’ mid-century interior decor aesthetic was only available to upper-class white families.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARGARET JACKSON
“ GLORIFYING THE ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, & FASHION OF MID-CENTURY AMERICA DANGEROUSLY MITIGATES THE NECESSARY CULTURAL CHANGES MADE SINCE THEIR ORIGINAL POPULARITY. ”
Beginning with the lack of Black representation in Mid-Century American design, it’s worth noting that the signature ‘60s silhouette of straight and simple lines was, in fact, white-supremacist. The infamous Paco Rabanne straight and short sequin dress fit a specific type of body— tall, thin, and straight, and the models in the media followed suit. Pattie Boyd, Jean Shrimpton, and of course Twiggy all embodied that mid-century look, a look only accessible to those who were wealthy and white. It was the same straight lines and simplicity that came with hefty price tags in home decor. Pioneers Eero Saarinen brought the traditionally Scandinavian design philosophy to the United States without one of the key tenets enjoyed by northern Europeans: low prices. Design equity was and is still an enormous aspect of Scandinavian philosophy, but upon bringing the look to the United States, there was an opportunity to exploit an already elitist society with the use of more expensive materials and limited production runs, making the furniture and decor items inaccessible to the already economically marginalized communities of color, specifically Black communities. TV shows, movies, and magazines all publicized the ideal American family as being white, fit, and wealthy with the mid-century interior design and fashion to match. THE POST-WAR WORKFORCE IN THE 1950S AND 1960S WAS DEFINED, AT ITS CORE, BY A SEXIST IDEOLOGY. The high output and consistent production demanded by the boom in capitalist sentiment was supported only by way of the women remaining at home. Housewives were the backbone of the
American workforce, and the practicality of architecture and fashion reflected that. Belts protected garments from damage by food, water, soap, and flames while high necklines operated as a similar method of protection. Kitchens appliances were designed with a focus on small sizes manageable for the female frame and materials such as linoleum and lucite were made specifically to be easily cleaned. But the design was also restructuring. Belts censured the extent of female mobility, high necklines emphasized the idea of modesty and chastity, and the architecture of kitchens made them fit for a woman and a woman only, leaving men out of the homecare equation entirely. Mid-century America brought with it a whole slew of new designs, and though many were aesthetically revolutionary and exciting, THEY ALSO HARSHLY DELINEATED THE STRICT AND SEXIST GENDER ROLES OF THE TIME. Men weren’t exempt from the restriction either. The definition of a masculine man after the second world war was limited and the fashion of the moment reflected exactly that. The business formal two-piece suit and tie hit its peak in the 50s and 60s with men in the workforce. Any man not wearing a formal tie and suit was considered to be of a lower class and less wealthy because the wool and silks used as the backbone material in menswear at the time were incredibly expensive. The ideal masculine look was represented in the media to all Americans, yet it was only available for the wealthy. What’s more, the casual wear along the lines of straight-leg pants, buttondown shirts, simple polos, and jackets with shoulder pads further emphasized the strict interpretation of masculinity. A uniform existed for men, and
any presentation outside the norm was frowned upon. Looking back at the fashion and design at the time in any nostalgic way runs the risk of omitting the impact of these restrictive and damaging ideals for both men and women as well as the people of color in the United States. But nostalgia exists for a reason; there is good in the world worth celebrating and the comfort and cultural traditions of the past can remind us of not just what is good but what was good. Some would argue that dismissing the excitement and novelty of the fashion, architecture, and design that defined mid-century America would also in a way dismiss the ever-important birth of the attitude that progress is possible. Looking back on the cornerstones of design in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s also worth noting that the transition to functionality and lack of ornamentation marked an important step towards recovery from the second world war and introduced an era of economic prosperity. It’s easy to see all the negativity and restriction that mid-century design represents, but there was in fact much to be celebrated in the work of design pioneers like Eileen Grey, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, and Isamu Noguchi. That isn’t to say that the oppressive nature of societal norms at the time can be completely stripped from the meaning of mid-century design. And in order to maintain a sense of responsibility, they won’t. Context is an essential part of the appreciation. Understanding the ways in which fashion and design acutely represented culture in the middle of the 20th century in the United States is fascinating and worth celebrating. But it won’t get off that easily. Mid-century modern design still represents a specific brand of classicism, sexism, racism, sizeism, and culturally sponsored white-supremacy. It’s important to celebrate all that was good within the context of negativity because neither can be understood without the other.
“NOSTALGIA EXISTS FOR A REASON”
Decades come and go, but in America, one thing remains: jeans. Look in a child’s closet, now their parent’s closet, now the closet of the elderly couple that lives down the street. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z disagree on a variety of things, but jeans are not one of them. Decade after decade, since the late 19th century, jeans remain a staple of American fashion. On the surface, jeans are just a pair of pants; but looking deeper, one will discover that jeans, perhaps more than any other article of clothing, are intimately tied to America and what it means to be an American. Tracing back the lineage of jeans reveals their origins as working man’s clothing. Their persistence in American fashion is a lasting symbol of the country’s origins; it is tied to the desire of Americans to keep up the image of a nation where people willing to work hard could rise through the ranks of society and thrive. The story of American jeans began with a young German immigrant named Levi Strauss who moved to California as the Gold Rush boomed. The rush attracted working-class men from all over America who sought to put in hours of manual labor for a chance to fulfill the promise that the country made to them: the American Dream, the idea that hard work and seizing opportunities would lead to upward mobility
that the old world they or their ancestors immigrated from could not provide. To achieve that dream, they needed the right clothing: something that was tough and tear-resistant, yet still breathable. Strauss’s solution was denim, which satisfied the needs of durability and breathability, while also being soft and comfortable for the miners that needed the pants. Denim’s toughness comes from the diagonal twill weaving pattern of the cotton used to make it, which results in a soft fabric that can eendure a significant amount of friction or force. But, the real secret to jeans’ strength came in the form of rivets—small mechanical fasteners—that were studded into the top to make the pants even stronger. At the same time, jeans’ design allowed them to fit the body, making every pair unique after a few wears, almost as if they were an extension of the individualism that Americans loved and promoted. Jeans were working wear. They quickly became associated with not only the miners, but also the railroad workers, cowboys and others in what would become the western United States who needed clothing suitable to the rough environments they worked in.
of America’s working class. Men would get up in the morning, put on their jeans, then go to work for the day. Jeans were tough, like the men that wore them. World War 2 would usher in a new era for jeans. American soldiers overseas wearing jeans when not in uniform became unofficial models, introducing jeans to the rest of the world. Like the military bases that would remain in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, the jeans would remain too, a symbol of America’s new cultural hegemony. At home, the aftermath of World War 2 introduced jeans to a new market: the new and growing middle class. Soldiers returning from the war used the GI Bill to get college educations, and with more money, they could afford to move out of the crowded cities and own homes in the suburbs. While men wore suits to work, they continued to wear jeans at home, along with their families. Jeans were no longer just for the working class, they were for the middle class. The American Dream of the 1950s was a suburban home with a white
It was with these men that jeans became ingrained into the American ethos. To Americans, the frontier was what truly separated them from the Europeans. The wide-open land had to be settled by open-minded, self-reliant and optimistic people, who valued equality and had the rugged individualism that was required to survive. What better clothing for them than one that was equally rugged and created by people just like them, men who sought to make their fortune? Eventually, the frontier closed, and the gold rush ended. Jeans remained. By the early 20th century, jeans spread east. Automobile workers in Detroit and meatpackers in New York all wore jeans. They were a symbol
picket fence and men who wore jeans while grilling in their backyard. People that wore jeans went from trying to achieve social mobility to actually achieving it, and jeans went with them. The 1950s produced a new archetype: the bad boy. This young man rebelled against the norms of postWW2 American society, playing by his own rules. Bad
Counterculture sought to challenge the existing norms, norms that created an unfair world. Jeans, the clothing of people not born into wealth and who did not decide how the world is run, became a symbol of resistance, continuing to reflect the American mindset of the time, while also remaining true to the frontier ideals established decades before. But, this era of jeans also included a shift in emphasis.
boys were found in cities and suburbs all over America. Hollywood loved them, and 1950s American cinema featured them prominently, along with the jeans they wore. Marlon Brando wore them in 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire and James Dean famously wore them throughout 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause. Young boys in America and beyond wanted to be Dean and Brando, and to do that they had to wear jeans. Hollywood helped create another explosion in jeans, this time in in the working class, middle class and internationally. Jeans became a form of expression among the American youth, a symbol of rebellion, bolstered by the bad boys. The rebellious nature of the youth would turn into a full-on counterculture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The fashion of this time didn’t just have jeans, it revolved around them. As the people questioned the gender, sexuality, racial, cultural and overall traditional norms of society, jeans became associated with those that were dissatisfied with the establishment and wanted change. These decades highlighted jeans’ origins as the clothing of the open-minded everyman, the ideal American.
Aside from representing the working man, jeans had also always embodied individualism. Post-war America had become a place of conformity. Many saw suburban expansion as a move away from individualism, a supposed key tenet of the American spirit before the war. With jeans, young Americans sought to reclaim that individualism. Jeans always molded to the wearer. This was true for the workers that originally wore them, and it became true for the youth of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Different styles of denim emerged, and embroidery and prints were used to add a more individual touch to each pair. Iconic styles of jeans like bell bottoms were created and previously created styles like high-waisted jeans became more common. As jeans shifted more towards casual wear, their individuality was not only more appreciated, but it became their selling point. Their connection to the counterculture only strengthened their connection to individualism, a concept that was heavily tied to what it means to be an American. Americans reclaimed the individualism that the Founding Fathers promoted through their jeans, and successive American generations would continue to do so. In the 1980s, jeans would reach their zenith: the upper class. Initially, jeans faded in popularity, especially among the youth that wanted to differentiate themselves from their jean-wearing parents. But, jeans remained the clothing of choice for the working class. Their association with working-class Americans became globally known and immortalized by singer Bruce Springsteen, who sang of the joys and struggles of the working man. In nearly every performance, Springsteen wore a pair of blue jeans. A pair of light wash blue jeans with a washcloth—the kind used in auto shops— in the back pocket featured prominently on the cover of Springsteen’s hit album Born in the U.S.A. against the backdrop of an American flag. By the end of the decade, European luxury brands like Gucci, Versace and Fendi began to produce jeans, as well as bigger domestic brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Their jeans were marketed as luxury goods. Denim became
fashionable for the rich. Jeans had finally reached all classes of society, turning them into a classless item. They appealed to everyone: the rich and the poor, the young and the old. People from all backgrounds wore jeans—more than just jeans, but denim in general, including denim jackets.
Denim was appreciated for its toughness and versatility, just like it had been for workers in California and the rest of the frontier. By the 2000s, jeans were no longer workwear. Today, people of all ages casually wear jeans, and it’s their versatility rather than their durability that makes them a necessity in anyone’s closet. To create a complete outfit, all a person needs are jeans, a T-shirt, and some sneakers. Every type of store, from fast fashion to online boutiques to designer brands has jeans in multiple styles available for purchase.
The development of the jean is parallel to that of American society. Jeans originated as working wear, then became popular among all classes, and even rose to global significance, much like how America was once a nation of working men ignored by the European powers and the rest of the world, only to become the world’s superpower in the 20th century. For that reason, jeans have become part of the American canon. This piece of workwear transcending classes and having a continued presence in American fashion is a constant throwback to America’s roots as a working man’s country. It’s an unconscious attempt by Americans to keep up the image that America likes to present to the rest of the world: the image of workers pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and upwards social
mobility, whether or not that image is the truth. Jeans, more than any other item of clothing, embody American ideals. They have a sort of rugged individualism that Americans like to believe they have. Any pair a person owns eventually conforms to them. The creases and folds that form are the results of the way that person walks, the way they fold their pants and, for many people still, the work that they do. Jeans continue to influence fashion in America not just due to the strengths of denim, but because they are a homage to America’s past that refuses to be forgotten.
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Nostalgia dives into our subconscious to explore memories, dreams and even nightmares, all through a lens of fashion. Read on to discover th...
Published on Mar 12, 2021
Nostalgia dives into our subconscious to explore memories, dreams and even nightmares, all through a lens of fashion. Read on to discover th...