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On Queer Lives, Fashion, Mourning, and Pulse (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

August 18, 2016

by Dominique Michelle Davis

The mass murder in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub, which claimed the life of 49 people, had me feeling less than optimistic about the future of our country, although I believe that love has a true power to heal pain and hurt. I tread lightly with the following words as not to unintentional offend anyone. I am not trivializing or trying to marginalize the LGBTQ community to a world of fashion and the arts, we know that LGBTQ people are and bring so much more to the world than that, so know that I get it. Still, the recent murder of all of those people, and the target specifically of the LGBTQ merged with a due date for a article. Unable to mourn without writing, and grieve without mourning, I thought I would try to find a way to accept the clear synthesis of the two for me over this summer. So this column is dedicated to members of the community that identify with the LGBTQ community as allies or otherwise. People have dedicated their life’s work to our society whether embraced or not.

victimsfrom PulseMurder

As a member of the human race and being doubly oppressed as an African American woman, I was floored by the inhuman hatred that we still harbor toward our fellow humans. The human existence is thought to be one of the highest levels of transcendence as we have the ability to intellectualize thoughts and act beyond our worse instincts. The human struggle is difficult enough with the games and systems that exist within our society, and for us to choose to add on the persecution of our fellow human beings based on whom they choose to love or who loves them is deeply sad. This Fashion Conscious column then pays respect to the lives lost to senseless violence due to a hatred caused by lack of understanding, a lack of empathy and persistent intolerance.

Numerous people have written about the many wonderful contributions LGBTQ people have made to history, culture, politics, and religious life. Fashion is, of course, only one such area. In February 2015, for example, Queerty ran a story called “The 15 Greatest Gay Designers,” while legendary fashion scholar Valerie Steele of the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) presented an exhibit and accompanying book called “A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk.”

Jenny Shimizu - QueerHistoryOfFashionBookCover

Writings like this article and book provide such important insights into some of the many contributions that queer people have made to fashion for more than a century.Confirmation of these contributions are all around me. Every time I look around at the day to day fashion in the city of Chicago alone, I stand to view at least 1 person wearing a Michael Kors watch, purse, or shoes, not to mention he was a major factor in project runway, Yeezus shouts out Ver-say-ce in “when it all falls down”, Nikki Minaj repped Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein has been an influential figure within the fashion industry and the list continues beyond the world of fashion of how many people have contributed to advance our culture and broaden the perspectives of curators and critics.

In the days following the murders at Pulse, many people took to news and social media to grieve. Several noted that what was sad was that so many of the people were so young and had so much they would do with there lives and contribute to the world. I understood that and share that sense of loss, and and yet, I hesitate to highlight or mourn these contributions in the same way I have talked about what queer people have given to fashion here because, what Pulse taught me about mourning queer lives taken with such disregard is that it shouldn’t take for a person to be a great designer, dancer, singer, actor, politician, religious leader, teacher or anything at all for us to mourn them. The death of any person, and in the context of what I say here any queer person, is a loss because it is a loss of a human being who other people loved and needed. So much of the focus on those who were killed at Pulse, and the queer people who are killed everyday because they are queer, makes the well intentioned point that their death means also the death of potential for what things they will have bought to the world. My point here is that their potential doesn’t matter. It is a loss regardless and tragic regardless. The simple taking of a life is sad enough, and focusing on what those people could have or would have been seems also a bit too insufficient. So this column ends, perhaps rather abruptly and still very sadly, in not really knowing what to say, but hoping that we can create a space to be.

Fashion

Can Fashion Heal?

November 16, 2015

Can fashion heal? — Fashion Conscious: A Column 

by Dominique Michelle Davis (photo credit: wellandgood)

Given all of the research and benefits of art therapy in the healing process, there stands to be a lot of advancement in promoting the therapeutic benefits in the world of fashion. In a culture shaped upon promoting unrealistic standards of beauty, there lies an opportunity to use creative expression in the healing process, but we are starting to hear more about the conversation of how fashion can be healing. In the September issue of Elle Magazine, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, spoke about her use of fashion as therapy. The Arthur Centre at the University Hospital of Marseilles in the United Kingdom offers fashion therapy to teenage patients to improve self-esteem and treat symptoms of depression and anorexia through dress up in garments of local designers. Richards Garnier, a psychiatrist and designer, has his own label, Dr. Jekyll.

According to the American Art Therapy association, “art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self- awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal wellbeing. Today, art therapy is widely practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, mental health problems, and those seeking personal growth. Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. Art therapy also provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making (American Art Therapy Association, 2015).

Fashion Coloring Book by Carol Chu and Lulu Chang; photo credit: http://kidcrave.com

Fashion Coloring Book by Carol Chu and Lulu Chang; photo credit: http://kidcrave.com/entertainment/the-fashion-coloring-book/

The use of the creative expression to start dialogue about self esteem and self image, diagnosis of depression and anorexia, trauma and other disorders provides an opportunity to transform a culture stigmatized in superficial ideology into a space that embraces differences and acknowledges the human experience of suffering. If we can remain conscious about our behaviors, understand and acknowledge our emotional states, this may also decrease process addictions and other mental health disorders by allowing individuals to not stifle their creative concepts. The use of art to reduce anxiety and improve social skills can continue to serve as a tool for those who struggle with challenges and other disorders. We have witnessed many artist who struggle with addiction and depression among other mental health disorders, designers Alexander McQueen, and actor Robin Williams to name just two of the legendary artists who suffered from depression. Creative arts is not a panacea for all mental health disorders, but it can serve to be a platform to create dialogue and promote social consciousness if used as a tool to start the conversation and ask deeper existential questions about life, happiness and self acceptance. I’m personally pleased to see the medical profession incorporate arts, fashion design, as a healing tool in the therapeutic process.

"Fashion Conscious" with Dominique M. Davis

“Fashion Conscious” with Dominique M. Davis

Books, Fashion, History, News, Pop Culture

‘Gloss’: New Book about Chris von Wangenheim’s Fashion Photography

October 17, 2015

So excited to get my copy of the Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha book “Gloss” about the wok of fashion photographer Chris von Wangenheim. Here is a 1971 photograph by Chris Von Wagenheim of faux fur (minus the dog’s fur which is of course real, haha!). I love how luxe this looks, how the tone of the dress she’s wearing is so close to her complexion and drapes onto her so closely it first like skin and that she’s wearing fur and a bikini. And those sunglasses!