Thursday, August 14, 2008

Defending Fashion

I've always felt the need to defend myself against those who think that I must be frivolous or superficial because I love fashion. Well, I probably am a little superficial, but it doesn't have much to do with loving fashion. :P

I think I've found a reason why people have this mentality. The word "couture" has now been equated with excess, over-the-top frippery. People tack it onto anything that's supposed to be impressive - supposed being the operative word. The word has lost its meaning because it's overused and abused. I mean, there are even condos named Couture these days - how ridiculous is that? How does a residential apartment (that anyone can buy as long as they have the money) have anything to do with couture?

Do people even know what couture is? It refers to the exquisite products from old school fashion houses - ateliers - where you'd go in and have everything tailor-made for you, pre-ready-to-wear and the only way the middle-class-and-up did things pre-industrial revolution. Style and quality (i.e. handiwork and materials) were prided above all else, and of course, the prices reflected it. That's what couture is. It's not a term to be thrown around lightly, and only the products of companies/fashion houses that meet really strict, high standards can be truly dubbed "couture."

And this is why fashion is not necessarily frivolous - fashion is art. When I say that fashion is art to me, I don't mean that I'm one of those people who drapes myself in fugly ensembles and turns my snobby nose up at those who don't understand my esoteric sense of style. I'm not. I like mainstream and my aesthetic is quite mainstream. Conventional beauty is considered conventional for a reason, right? Because it's pleasing to most people.

Similar to how some people like to hang Van Gogh, Monet or Degas on their walls, I like to hang Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Dior in my wardrobe. Same principle. Who is anyone to say that one art form is inferior or superior to another? Is fashion not as "serious" an art as painting because I can wear it? Makes no sense to me.

I love fashion because it reflects upon cultures and people and eras. Pants becoming mainstream to women's fashion heralded lots of development in women's lib. The costumes of women in the Tang dynasty were supersexy and adorned, which points to the (relative) peace and cultural prosperity of the time. And the photos of a 12-year-old me channeling Britney/Christina, donning my best low-rise bootcut jeans and a cropped wrap top with an all-around zircon belly chain and ultra-shiny pink lip gloss shows, in my opinion, when North American Corporateland first realized that selling sex to prepubescent kids is (unfortunately) very, very lucrative.

The great thing about fashion is that there are multiple ways to enjoy it. You can enjoy it on a rack, in a fashion spread, on a model, and on yourself. I'm a particular fan of enjoying fashion on myself not just because it makes me look nice and feeds my vanity (good cutting/tailoring is like magic!), but simply because I luxuriate in the feel of top-quality, lush material against my skin.

So no, fashion isn't just a frivolous interest; it's an art. How do you enjoy it?

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