On the evening of May 22, Norwegian journalist Marie Grinde Arntzen will speak at the Piotrovsky bookstore in the Yeltsin Center. A sociologist by training, she studied ecology and wildlife conservation, social anthropology and the basics of humanitarian activities for a long time, and then suddenly went to work as a journalist in a fashion publication. Fashion fascinated her as a complex and paradoxical, but still a science.
We read Arntzen’s Dress Code. The Naked Truth About Fashion from Ad Marginem’s joint series with The Garage and publish excerpts about how fashion works and why style empowers people.
Arntzen shows that fashion is a story not about free choice, but about power and compliance with fairly stringent conventions. The story of how the choice of clothes, turning off a person from one group, makes him part of another. The author poses the question of how much clothing can serve as a tool for representing the personality of a particular person, and along the way tells what and why materials are used to create things, how they physiologically and psychologically affect people.
Also in her field of vision is the economy of fashion. Why is quality falling? How is it that on the one hand, fashion houses and large manufacturers talk about the environment, and on the other, they exploit child labor in third world countries? As examples, the author most often uses examples from the pop culture of the last 10-15 years: clips, MTV programs, fashion shows, films and TV shows. The choice of such images and simple language make the book accessible, but also are its minus, alienating Arntzen's work from the format of academic research with its rigorous methods and meticulousness.
Excerpts from the book "Dress Code. The Naked Truth About Fashion", translated by Elena Vasilyeva
About the essence of fashion, or why we all dress the same
Photographers Ari Verslouis and Ellie Waterbrook began to quietly observe people and found completely identical old women with short gray hair, dressed in shapeless and colorless coats. Long-haired girls in jeans, T-shirts and cardigans, with a capacious bag on the forearm. Men in hoodies and with a bag over his shoulder. Verslois and Waterbrook divided them into several types. Each group was represented by twelve portraits, made according to one sample. The photoproject was called Exactitudes - from the words exact (English "same") and attitude (English "relation").
Fashion is driven by two opposing human needs: stand out and at the same time be like everyone else.
British researcher Joanna Turni believes that instincts and lack of time are to blame. Just imagine: you enter a room with people and you don’t know any of them. Who are you contacting? According to Terni, you will be drawn to the one who is most like you. Thus, the basis of the dress code is the desire to be part of the whole, to demonstrate clothing belonging to a social group or the desire to belong to it.
About how we dress every morning
We are aware that we are met - and interpreted - by clothing. Therefore, we evaluate our reflection in the mirror with several glances at once. These views are similar to surveillance cameras installed in different rooms.
One camera is installed in the room where our self-identification is located, self-image. The second tracks how a person actually looks. This image is constantly checked with the picture from the first room. Together, these cameras must ensure that the physical appearance matches the individual’s self-image.
The third surveillance camera is located in the compartment where a person converges with people. She keeps track of how his image fits into the general human mass. This camera allows us to imagine in advance the social situation in which we find ourselves, and see how it will look from the outside. The fourth is placed very deftly. It is secretly mounted in the heads of others, and shows what other people are likely to think when they meet us. And when the pictures from different cameras do not match, it suddenly turns out that we have nothing to wear.
About sweatshirts with a hood and other things that have a secret meaning
In 2005, the management of a shopping center in the UK ordered that no hoodies be allowed into the building. The hood itself did not bother anyone. The ban was caused by the desire to stop the antisocial behavior, which is inextricably associated in many people with a hood that hides the face. Meanwhile, the hood is not always an attribute of evil. It is as if it was specially created for teenagers: firstly, it distinguishes teenagers from the philistine environment, and secondly, unites them in its own group. In addition, a hoodie with a hood allows them to protect an unformed personality from unnecessary eyes. He makes them less vulnerable.
Another example is the actress Katie Holmes, who at one time wore a dimensionless plaid shirt and old jeans, women from all over the world tried to copy. The fact is that a coarse plaid shirt can be interpreted as a means of seduction. Only a very confident person who lives in harmony with her own sexuality can wear such a thing. Seduction occurs at the ideological level.
How To Predict Next Season Trends
“Rabbits will come into fashion,” Lee Edelkort, a famous Norwegian trend forecaster, once declared. “Of course, trends do not arise from the air. To predict what people will be guided by when making purchases, what their priorities will be in two years, five years, you must have the ability to perceive their collective consciousness. I have very developed intuition, which it allows me to capture what people feel, what they think, "she explained.
In addition, the fashion pendulum has many extreme points: black and white, wide and narrow, strict and reckless. If you have preferred one image for a long time, you need to compensate for it with something opposite. Tight skinny jeans are replaced by baggy boyfriend jeans. A low waist gives way to a high one.
About why some people dress "good" and others "bad"
Fashion is like a hiking trail marked with special signs. Most vacationers only go with laid routes and feel completely satisfied.
At the same time, when clothing stores learned to make fast fashion, and the global financial crisis returned the philosophy of “crazy hands”, it would seem that this should balance the overall chances of looking good. But that did not happen.
For example, British Vogue then caught the mood of the public and rediscovered More Dash Than Cash (Eng. "Stylish - does not mean expensive"). The editors in this section cut off the sleeves of old jackets, dyed their rubber boots, and combined finds from the flea market with fast-fashion samples to create ultra-trendy outfits. It all ended with the fact that Shauna Heath arranged a real fantasy flight under the rubric. She designed catwalk images with clothespins, kitchen towels, rubber gloves and the like.
In fact, ordinary people cannot make boleros from several pairs of rubber gloves. Most of us are able to buy clothes in fast-fashion stores, but few will succeed in combining things at the level that Heath or other stylists do. And here ends the tale of Robin Hood. Nowadays, the right brands, colors and cuts are no longer enough. Now everything is determined by consistency, stylistic decision, vintage and uniqueness. When resources finally became available to everyone, the mod became insanely complicated. Now she can only handle those who are keenly interested in the subject.
About the future of fashion
The desire to buy more and more new things will eventually kill us. Fashion creates a tremendous burden for the environment and natural resources. So, growing cotton involves large-scale spraying of various chemicals. About three million people get severe poisoning on cotton plantations every day. And from 18 to 220 thousand people a year of them die. And the Bangladeshi woman, who will later sew T-shirts from this cotton, has time to sew about 90 pieces per shift and get no more than $ 20 a month. The amount you can live on is $ 50.
Making people buy fewer things at the same time, while being made in a more ethical and environmentally friendly way, is unrealistic. So now, researchers are looking for alternative ways to produce materials. British designer Suzanne Lee, for example, installed in her studio baths with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. Eating sugar, the bacteria synthesized durable skin-like flaps that can be used to sew clothes. Instead of sugar, Lee argues, you can use the waste from any enterprise that uses sweetened water.
Now Lee is facing some unsolved problems so far. At the moment, the fabric she created absorbs water and turns into a voluminous sponge in the rain. In addition, mass production methods need to be developed. Before outfits made from bacterial cellulose become an alternative to today's clothes, a lot of time will pass. Things are required to keep the body warm and dry, comfortable to wear, and also stylish. Clothing is clothing.