by Dominique Michelle Davis
[Editor’s Note: It is my great honor to introduce the very first “Fashion Conscious,” a column that will be a featured monthly on Glamourtunist.com, and penned by contributing writer Dominique M. Davis. You can learn more about Dominique’s experience working in and love of fashion on our contributor’s page, but I wanted to extend that to say that Dominique and I previously worked together on a project where we styled and produced fashion shows several years ago, and it was one of the great joys of my own work in fashion. Since that time she has gone on to complete a Masters of Education degree in Community Counseling, with interests in arts therapy, and writing and development. “Fashion Conscious” will merge Dominique’s intersecting areas of expertise, joining it with Glamourtunist.com’s commitment to “celebrating people of color, LGBTQ people, women, youth culture and all types of bodies in fashion and pop culture. All too often the messages we receive in pop culture and fashion can be destructive… this [is a] resource that loves pop culture and fashion but doesn’t come with any of the baggage!!” as said by a supporter, Dr. David Glisch-Sanchez of Soul Support Life Coaching. So please enjoy Dominique’s first “Fashion Conscious” column below, and please read, share and otherwise engage with her important work. Love, Eric]
“…I walk the streets and camouflage my identity…”
~Fugees, The Mask
These lyrics from The Fugees prompt gnawing thoughts of a curious fashion fiend, and invites me to consider questions like: How does your outward appearance reflect who you are? How does clothing mask our identities?
I think we all believe that we are making conscious choices about the garments and labels that we purchase as consumers. However, I have to consider Miranda Priestley from the Devil Wears Prada when she stated, “…that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.” Let us consider this for a moment. I argue that our outward appearance is not a true reflection of who we are, simply because the garments have been preselected and predetermined for us. So how do we truly become individualist in our fashion?
In the 19th century, Charles Frederick Worth (above) was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments he created. Although Worth set the stage for implementing a democratic process for designers to get credit for their work, it nonetheless added to the elitism perpetuating social constructs of class. Take a huge step forward for artists developing a profitable niche market. While this allowed tailors to gain artistic control of their designs, it also created a competition within the market, giving way to the best designer to be dressmaker for the social elite. I guess some things still haven’t changed although we see new labels such as BySonyaMarie, whose mission is to bring “Hollywood to the middle class.” This is one individual choosing to start a long journey of making the fashion industry as an art form more equitable for all to enjoy.
The roots of contemporary couture offer some details that are conversant with my interests here in deciphering the camouflaged identities of artistic expression from fashion elitism. In the beginning, fashion, if I dare to declare it as such was as basic as hardware of gold and tribal markings, evolving into a multibillion-dollar industry, which can perpetuate narcissistic behaviors of using labels as a way to distinguish class. No judgment in that last statement. I enjoy designer labels too! I appreciate pieces by the likes of Lois London, Charles Elliott Harbison and Barbara Bates to name a few.
Although I have a consumer science background I’m just becoming more conscious of implementing how to question the motives of my behavior. This leads me to further my knowledge of consumer markets and read more about Marx theory and John Locke in regards to class and consciousness. I consider how my dollar is impacting the world… and my wallet; making me more aware of the purchasing power of the consumer. As this relates to fashion, I am more concerned with the quality of the garment and consider for example; the price? How long will this last? Is this a classic, a trendy or a fashion forward item? How many styles can I get from this one piece? How am I feeling about my purchase? And lastly, am I using this purchase as a way to mask emotions and avoid dealing with difficult situations? The last two questions can be great to avoid the slippery slope of developing a process addiction, a debilitating habit of using processes to avoid feeling pain. On the flip side, internally there is a multitude of conflicting emotions occurring simultaneously within each of us. As a way for us to express ourselves, we buy clothing that suits our individual taste.
Fashion is what you determine. Labels or no labels, however you choose to present yourself is up to you. I challenge us to be more aware and conscious about what drives you internally, and what role fashion can play in a greater effort to express that outwardly. We owe it to ourselves, and to those who are watching and can learn from us, to become more conscious about our adornment beyond labels. My purpose is to use the arts – including fashion and style – to promote social consciousness. This is how I choose to express myself and make a positive impact on this world today and for the generations to come. It would be great if we had a relationship to fashion and style that breaks down labels and lets us get to know one another genuinely, and not the mask we adorn ourselves with day to day.