Browsing Tag

Fashion Conscious

News

On Women’s Marches and Fashion – This is What Democracy Looks Like (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

March 9, 2017

by Dominique Michelle Davis

The recent Woman’s march and the ability of women to organize in a effort to protest misogyny and oppression inspired and saddened my heart to know that in 2016 as far as we’ve come we still haven’t overcame. What was inspiring was the fact that women were united and also embraced the support of males in acknowledging what has been a systemic issue in the United States and especially in the politically arena. The march was and is what democracy should reflect. Women, men, children, LGBTQ people, people of color, young and old all chanting in chorus for basic human rights and speaking truth to power.

How does this relate to fashion, pop culture and beauty? Because the beauty of life is that it comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, cultures and experiences. How we fashion our lives to cope with the struggle and challenges of reality may be only the most outer layer of us expressing ourselves, but who would want to be vulnerable and share more when the mere appearance presents a challenge and barrier toward forming a deeper connection? These are just my thoughts about the power of visual appearance and the symbolism it may represent for individual expression.

During the march a young lady was dressed in what upon first gaze was a bit odd and eccentric. Then it dawned on me, she was dressed as a Suffragist.I remember learning about this in history class, and I can acknowledge and site the names of leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Temperance movement with vague recollection, so I was moved to do some fact checking to jog my memory. The task of researching this bit of history also made me realize how easy it is to forget the suffering and struggle of the past when in present day it appears that equal rights is within reach. One of my favorite signs during the march stated “I still can’t believe that we still have to march for this.” That was my exact sentiment and it felt reassuring to be among a crowd who was just as dismayed and angry with the system who would vote for a reality star with no proven track record of what it takes to move a country toward a future that is accepting and embracing all life and experiences; or for that matter, how to build relationships with other countries to foster global and non-exploitative economic prosperity.

Women’s “dress codes” has evolved since the Temperance Movement. In fact, women’s dress in the 21st century is, as it was during the dress reform movements of the 19th century, a progressive movement in and of itself. Women’s garments were very restrictive in function and style and today, in America, we have the option to choose. Hopefully that will remain unchanged under this new administration. Laughing, but very serious.

Fashion

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, On the Carpet, On the Street

Are Dress Codes No Longer A Thing? (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

June 6, 2016

by Dominique Michelle Davis

In a recent discussion with a close friend the topic of appropriate dress attire was debated. I took personal offense to the attire worn to a business casual event and said as much, which got my gears grinding about the inception of formal dress codes and the purposes behind them. I went to my Emily Post book and scanned a few articles about western and eastern dress codes and the class and social status that dress can portray. There was clear evidence of a haves and the have not’s formation in the writing there, so it imagined people as being either wealthy or poor. Are we seeing a reduction in dress due to a reduction of the middle class? Or is it pure rebellion against restricted social structures that pre-approve style trends?

Emily_Post_etichette_good-manners

Post is the author of the legendary etiquette guide. It is either loved or hated or some combo of both.

As a person who questions all forms of conformity within society I really had to think about why this particular issue bothered me so. I saw my friend as an extension of me, which was something (his attire) and someone I couldn’t control. I took personal umbrage because I knew that he was aware of the rules and chose not to oblige, yet, I choose to break dress code rules as a way to establish individual style and personal preference all the time.The great thing about people pushing back against codes of appropriate dress is that it encourages individuals who choose not to follow traditional and conservative paths of dress to the work of developing cultures and norms off the beaten path, something that could also then extend into their pursuing career fields and environments more accepting of their individual expression (or perhaps even changing the sense of what is and is not appropriate dress in some of those more restricting and conservative fields).

mcc-dress-code_2218716b

A glimpse at some perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable work clothes.

The free spirit and conservative conformist within me polarizes my thoughts and led me to a temporary state of confusion and concluded with why do I even care how another person chooses to dress? I know from personal experience that I loathe when people try to dress me in what they deem to be appropriate for the context or setting, but sometimes it’s just easier to get along and go along than to stand my ground on the issue. Some battles just aren’t worth it. Some days I wish I could just go to work in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s not as if my intellectual capacity is in any way affected by my outward appearance. SO again, why was I so bothered?

The answer for me, and for many, is that what has been impressed as acceptable has molded my view for dress codes to be in alignment with venue and social settings. Deep down I admired my friend’s ability not to care about what other people think, yet his choice to choose that setting to make a point to be an individual had me less than pleased. My ability to recognize my conformity to rigid social structures of dress has helped to create a voice that I never knew could coexist with following a set of rules imposed against what some may call free will. It is important to also consider, put simply, that these rules are often in place to create new structures for disciplining people on the basis of their identity – especially gender, sexuality, race, and age – and that this too is reason to be very critical about too while also investigating our individual belief systems about dress codes. That is, what is the underlying statement or implication for statements we make about the dress of others particularly as it relates to systems of oppression, marginalization, and injustice?

dress-code-4

The Patriarchy always got something to say about fashion. These are facts.

In 2016 where the rule stands to be there are no rules, or moving further along those lines, do dress codes even still exist? And when is it ok to make a fashion faux pas? Kanye West’s recent display at the Met Gala speaks to previous writings by Dr. Eric Darnell Pritchard in an essay for Ebony Magazine called “Who Gets to Make a Social Fashion Statement?” In some respect, lending credence to artists who have created a platform have the ability to make socially conscious or unconscious statements with dress is a win for everyone as it disrupts rigid belief systems of propriety that limit who can and cannot transgress in everyday life.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kanye West attends "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

photo credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Met-Ball-Best-Dressed-Kanye-West-3x4

We don’t know about these blue eyes, but I am here for this Balmain Trucker jacket and YSL boots though.

I am in no way in support of the blue eyed contacts Kanye wore to the MET Gala, or even suggesting that Mr. West was making a socially conscious statement, but one does have to question why he chose that venue, that setting and that platform to make a world debut of a clearly statement on representation and race by wearing blue eyed contacts after creating recent songs such as “Black Skinhead” and “Blood of the Leaves,” I’m just saying. I’m really interested in understanding his thoughts with his latest fashion statement and how it, as an example, might inform my larger comment here about social spaces and appropriate dress. Kanye’s introduction to the black skinned blue-eyed West was probably the most appropriate place to display his break. Maybe he actually knows the Bluest Eye and will enlighten us in his new album; title yet unknown.

Dress codes, and a lack thereof, ranging from white tie to grunge all fall within an economic class, and in many cases a performance of race, that has been normed by those included to be an inclusive safe haven. I think about a quote from Emily Post, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Fashion, personal style and dress codes create an outward outlet for freedom of expression, which also has the ability to offend our delicate sensibilities when it doesn’t align with constructed worldview that we’ve created. In this respect we see how the feelings of others can be both something that liberates, but also in the case if dress codes, can constrain and regulate people across difference and individual as well as communal modes of style for expression. Kudos to those who create their own lane, it takes courage to break the mold. Just maybe give those of us who aren’t prepared a heads up? Even if you do not give a heads up, there always seems to be a code to be included regardless. The code when you are breaking the social norm is you are not to be trusted because here comes trouble. It is worth it to think about what that response to dress code transgressions mean and what effect they have for the transgressors and also the transgressed.

 

Fashion

Uniform Madness? (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

May 2, 2016

(above: Eco-conscious haute couture look by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel.) 

by Dominique Michelle Davis

Over the past few weeks I’ve begun to read Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul by Dr. Tanisha Ford, and reading Glamourtunist editor Dr. Eric D. Pritchard’s recent post of “Dissonance, Denim and Social Change,” I began to wonder about the origins of uniformed apparel as a sense of belonging to an outfit or organization demonstrating solidarity among its members. This brought my thoughts back to my very first “Fashion Conscious” column, when I learned and wrote about the first known fashion designer to create his own fashion label which was a break from societal norms placing him on the vanguard within the fashion industry.

In thinking about what keeps fashion current and moving forward are the artists that are willing to take risks and break from the traditional molds to present a different view for consumers. This could include incorporating political messages or an affront to societal rules by redefining hemlines, incorporating traditional and cultural ethnic inspired prints, color contrasts and mirroring nature. The Gucci spring/summer 2016 show perfectly exemplified breaking out of the mold and uniformity along multiple lines, especially mixing colors and prints on clothes and accessories in gloriously wacky ways.

gucci_spring_summer_2016_collection_milan_fashion_week1

Gucci, Spring/Summer 2016.

I also think about the cliché term that history and fashion repeats itself which brings me to one of the current fashion trends forecast for this spring and summer which is 70s inspired suede and fringe garments. We’ve seen the look presented in the 2016 collections of designers Jonathan Sanders, Alberta Ferretti, Rebecca Minkoff and Olivier Rouesteing. Historic recurrence is thought to be the repetition of similar events in history.

Rebecca_Minkoff_spring_summer_2016_collection_New_York_Fashion_Week1

Rebecca Minkoff, Spring/Summer 2016

Staying in line with what was happening in the 1970s we could draw a few parallels to the current state of affairs in the decade of 2010. In the 1970s films like “Rocky” and “Star Wars” were released and the rise of technological advances saw of the first commercially available game being released. In 2015-2016, “Creed” and “Star Wars VII” were released and we see the advancement of social media networks such as Instagram, Snapchat and Kik.

Reviewing the political climate of the 1970s in comparison to the current state of affairs it is interesting and noteworthy to mention how the people continue to use threads as a method of communication to advance social change.In politics, the second wave of the feminist movement grew celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the 19th amendment to the United Stated Constitution which also saw the Women’s Strike for Equality and other protests as well as Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister in the United Kingdom in 1979, and of course in 1972 Shirley Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

shirleychisholm-fashionEBONY

In 2009 the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was passed and in 2016 Hilary Rodham Clinton is running for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination for President of United States. With this in mind I think of Karl Lagerfeld’s recent eco-conscious haute couture collection for Chanel to be mindful to use repurposed materials and bringing an environmentally conscious collection to the forefront for consumers and fashion elite alike.

chanel-ecofashion

Karl Lagerfield’s recent eco-fashion collection for Chanel.

Dr. Ford and Dr. Pritchard shed light on how apparel was used to help bridge the advancement of blacks across the African diaspora and promote social change. Apparel has long been used to show solidarity in wardrobe uniformity across political structures to showcase party allegiance. The use of colors, and structure and likeness of uniforms creates and promotes cohesion and at the very least the appearance of harmony and conformity. Individual breaks and/or the use of uniformed apparel to break from rigid or traditional norms attempts to cause a disturbance to what has been understood to be acceptable. The ability to have free will and choice of how to appear clothed in public can be liberating and maybe evening therapeutic for a sense self expression. The use of apparel throughout history can be viewed as having multidimensional in its approach to represent a structure, a movement or a creative vision to spark a conversation for change.

Glamourtunist

Sightful Sensation: Style and Visual Culture (‘Fashion Conscious’ Column)

March 28, 2016
(ABOVE photo credit: from eco friend, a brain model made out of recycled denim).

by Dominique M. Davis

Ever wonder what causes your heart to skip a beat as you fight a damn near orgasmic reaction to the flyest pair of pumps, no wait, caged sandals, and the bag… the bag to die for paired with the perfect skirt and a lipstick that screams wear me NOW? The power of visuals is a powerful draw, presenting images that appeal to our senses and ultimately our desires. Marketing and advertising has a lot of influence in consumer purchasing behavior, but why and how? My interest in visual art and fashion as a visual art led me to do a little information gathering on visual art and how it influences or affects the brain and consumer purchasing behavior.

your-brain-and-fashion-1

In my search, I went through some articles on neuroscience and neurobiology that provided insight supporting how visual art has real affects on the brain in both perception and cognition. How does this apply to fashion, beauty and the arts? As we perceive images we assign meaning or interpret data to discern and make informed judgments and/or decisions. Culture and society has a huge influence on norms and customs which can affect consumer tastes preferences and purchasing behavior. Integrate marketing and advertising to appeal to emotional states of mind and the power of visuals can become that much greater in influencing culture.

Fashion and beauty (whatever that may mean to you) has the power to empower and transcend norms and traditional customs by incorporating messages from all walks of life and cultures. In an editorial for Ebony.com   entitled “Who Gets to Make a Social Fashion Statement?” Eric Darnell Pritchard cautions us to be more mindful of the inequality evident in   what politicized fashion statements are readily accepted and celebrated, and which are targeted for dismissal or punishment particularly when they visually disrupt norms.

Fashion is a visual art form that can be a creative outlet of expression in a culture bogged down in norms and customs. The images that we see can trigger a multitude of emotions and sometimes call to action. I think about Karl Lagerfeld’s latest haute couture collection for Chanel during Paris Fashion Week 2016 which focused on eco-conscious couture. This high fashion couture collection focused on environmentally conscious fabrics keeping the integrity of couture and incorporating socially conscious and environmentally friendly messages.

The power of visual art has a huge influential factor on society and culture, fashion as a visual art has the ability to evoke thought, appeal to emotional content, and allow for creative expression while still serving a functional purpose of clothing the body. That’s a lot for one brain to process.

Fashion

Fabric Science 101: Ethical Concerns and Purchasing Power (Fashion Conscious)

January 11, 2016

Fashion Conscious: A Column

by Dominique M. Davis

Lately I’ve been thinking about the usefulness of starting from the basics of fashion education in efforts to promote fashion awareness. An introduction to the science of textiles is of particular import give the ways that natural fibers versus  synthetic fibers certainly impact the price point of items. Thus, it is imperative to bear in mind some information about textiles in order to be aware of various ethical concerns in your fashion consumption, and also to most effectively navigate its terrain and the impact it has on your purchasing power.

Natural fibers, which originate from animals or plants (e.g. cotton, linen, wool, hemp, silk)  circumvent additional processes during manufacturing and production. Natural fibers are durable but may tend to cost more due to the quality fiber and the process of converting the fiber from its nature form into yarn or thread for ready-to-wear garments. With the development of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, the production of plant-based fibers was streamlined and allowed the manufacturers to employ a “relatively” speedy turnaround to consumers.

A cotton gin machine. The term is short for "cotton engine."

A cotton gin machine. The term is short for “cotton engine.”

 

The production of plant fibers, however, also have ethical implications to consider. Cotton, for example, is considered to be the world’s most widely used fabric. As has been said of cotton, “perhaps no other natural product has influenced the destiny of humankind as has cotton. It has clothed nations, enslaved men and women, monopolized labor and given direction to entire industries” (science.org, 2015). Why is a question that we should continuously return to as a commitment to making ethical and sound financial decisions as consumers? From a scientific standpoint the answer  that readily comes to mind is the durability of the fiber. Cotton has an average life span of two to thirty years. This certainly does maximize your consumer purchases and wardrobe, but it may also be a reason to consider making a different choice regarding the textiles in your own wardrobe given the historical lineage linking cotton to various violences. It would of course be very difficult given the everywhere-ness of cotton, but it does not mean that making informed decisions as much as one can to choose a different textile or minimize its use to do so.

In addition to the ethical scope, there remains the question of making a decision that is wise for your pocketbook. One way to begin to maximize purchasing power of ready to wear garments is comparing the cost of the garment to the materials used to construct the garment. This is only possible, however, if one makes learning more about the materials a priority and part of your choices as a consumer of fashion. The question to ask yourself or even a retailer once that information is discerned might be ‘is the label on the garment adding to the total cost?’ If the answer to the question is yes, you can then follow with, ‘does the brand have a history of producing quality products and does the brand adhere to manufacturing and production standards?’

An option beyond natural fibers are synthetic fibers, which come with their own set of ethical and consumer concerns. Ethically, amongst other things, many synthetic fabrics are made from materials that figure negatively in matters of energy consumption and also with pollutants that are harmful to the environment. The downside, in terms of maximizing purchasing power is that some synthetic fabrics (e.g. nylon, polyester, acrylics, rayon, and spandex) tend to have various problems in terms of the durability in comparison to natural fabrics, so if you want something to last for a long period of time than you should consider purchasing the natural option. But, if you are only buying a piece for short-term use, synthetic might be a better choice for you.

Nylon-Stocking-Weave-Scanning-Electron-Microscope

A nylon stocking weave through a microscope.

Another option is also fabrics that blend synthetics, which often have a more positive impact on synthetic fabrics in that they lessen the problems with durability and other weaknesses with a synthetic fabric, while enhancing all the things that one may love about it. It is also true that some fibers are just as durable as natural fibers such as bamboo, lyocell and modal. All just food for thought in helping to increase consumer purchasing power and staying trendy in the same vein.

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

Fashion

Fashion Conscious: A Column

November 3, 2015

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?

Alexander McQueen's "Red Lace Dress Covering Head"/ photo credit: Chris Osburn

Alexander McQueen’s “Red Lace Dress Covering Head”/ photo credit: Chris Osburn

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?

worth_charles01

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.