Myself in Public

Wear What You Want - Including Skirts

To Fashion

 Something Understood: BBC Radio 4 29th April, 2012 6.05 am (30 mins) (Irma Kurtz)

(Excerpt of programme. Omitted poems and obviously music that had fashion connection)

We were all born naked devoid of plumage, fur, scales or prickles, no protection or camouflage, only our skins covers us. Thin skins. Beyond nursery modesty makes us cover our skins, and at times our heads and faces but also weather plays a big part.. The wearing of clothing is also a requirement almost everywhere by law.

Garments are a costume of choice except for uniforms. It displays not precisely who we are but certainly what we wish we were and who it is we want to be seen as. That's why it is a safe bet that not many women in the western world and probably not many men who haven't stashed away at the back of their wardrobe a garment they have bought and never worn.

Modesty is a virtue, head turning modesty cannot be. When applied to appearance, modesty remains a feminine virtue even if virtue is constantly compromised by fashion. Fashion has history, not evolution, as fashion repeats itself. Women have always been clothed in fabrics that cover and hide their contours but always draped with suggestive promise. At times exaggerated to the point of caricature. The subtle enhancement is for the the more subtle alluring.

There has always been contempt for people, women especially who do not dress their age. Mutton dressed as lamb is scorned and ridiculed. Its a false promise made by someone who can clearly no longer keep it. In society where prettiness is part of a woman's dowry what she chooses to wear can be camouflage to enhance strong points but also hide real or imagined weaknesses.

Ballet performs dance in flat shoes, high heels for the seductive Tango not only do they lengthen a women's silhouette and pout the arch of the foot they simultaneously send out a signal that she cannot run. She can't very easily walk either. Every summer you see women leaning against sky scrappers changing from flats in to stiletto heels, high heels are reserved for indoors. High fashion has an urban base and it resorts regularly to platform heels, all the rage again in 2012.

At fashion points in history male fops and Dandy's have worn high heels too. Sebastian Horsley describes the Dandy syndrome in his autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld. “When it comes to dress it takes a strong man to be an extrovert. A true Dandy needs complete conviction that he is right. The views of the rest of the world simply don't matter. If someone looks at you then you are not well dressed Mr Bromel tells us, but then Mr Bromel would say that as he was a conformist. True Dandyism is rebellious, the real dandy wants to make people look, be shocked by and even a little scared by the subversion which his clothes stand for and yet Dandyism is social, human and intellectual, it is not a suit of clothes walking about by itself. Clothes are merely the part, they may even be the least important part of a personality of the dandy. Dandyism isn't image and crusted with flourishes, its a way of stripping yourself down to your true self. You can only judge the style by the content and you can only reach the content through the style. Being a Dandy is a condition rather than a profession. It is a defence against suffering and a celebration of life. It is not fashion, it is not wealth, it is not learning, it is not beauty, it is a shield, a sword and a crown all pulled out of the dressing up box in the attic of the imagination. Dandyism is a lie which reveals the truth and the truth is that we are what we pretend to be.”

Ever since the fig leaf, genders have been divided. Even to this day boys are wrapped in blue and girls in pink. Colour coding is good in identification before committing oneself is it not. Ardent feminist disapprove of sexist clothing. Is it because blue is a primary colour and pink is a mere invention of the palette? Be it as it may, but most girls like their pink and so do the little boys.

Comfort and freedom emerge as the essential attributes of masculine apparel be it custom made or off the peg. Just as her footwear has significance for a woman so hair cut and head gear have been telling comments of a masculine wardrobe. From long haired hippy to the fedora and visored cap. From helmet to hoody. In the early 60's, in London, a Bowler Hat adored any man who wanted to be seen as some one in the city. Its not just what a man wants to wear topside, the tip and tilt of it is significant to.

In the main, men dress to court interest in their status and bank balance rather than the smouldering secrets of the hidden skin.

Street fashions swirls and changes according to seasons and the celebrity models too. Military uniforms make a formal and indisputable declaration of rank., thus the assigned uniform diminishes personal responsibility. It puts the individual in service to a greater hole. There are classic uniforms of faith to. There are Nuns Habit, the clerical cloth, the skull cap, the Hijab, garments show heritage and dedication. We put our kids into school uniforms that most of them cannot wait to graduate out of, free at last. Youngsters can't wait to step into the street garb of their peer group. Generally gory, it's a uniform too, one that protects them from exclusion.

Labels are stitched on hidden seams and hidden from sight. Nevertheless they count as telling accessories. Until the 1960's when Carnaby Street became hip and cool, the only label that counted for any woman that had ideas above her station was a Parisian label. We are the only critters that buy our skins and in London at that time, many well dressed women bought their second hands from charity shops often with the labels snipped out. Kate Kern found another solution. “Everyone knows about shopper holics, sad women who can only buy clothes to fill an aching emptiness in their lives. I have the opposite problem. I'm a shop phobic. I can't buy clothes. I come over all shaky and can't be bothered when faced with a rack of trousers. Why is it pleasurable for so many women. How can they think it soothing. They're going to be wearing something saying I spent money on this. This is what I think looks good. You are going to be judged, you might look like someone who cares too much about their appearance or tries to hard. If you pull it off fine, but if you don't its a disaster. Its blazoning out the message that I really thought about this and I still look rubbish. That's why I'm so fond of wearing cast-offs. Its OK to look rubbish in cast-offs because that's what there all about. There's no real decision involved in their acquisition. There about recycling, convenience, avoiding brain numbing trips around shops and saving money, not looking good. The other day I realised the only things I had on that I had bought for myself was my underwear. Shirt and jeans chucked out by husband, belt someone left behind after an overnight visit, Doc Martins outgrown by daughter, socks stolen from son, and they suit me. They tell people that I am a bit of a cross dresser, a bit arty, an alternative and if I can get it in quickly that I didn't pay for them either the telegraphing is complete.”

The unique and idiosyncratic naked soul within our skins cannot be discarded or easily changed. Just as the transcendent art of Shakespeare has not altered because the actor wears blue jeans rather than a singlet. Fashions past, Shakespeare lasts. Here is an excerpt from Much ado about Nothing to make that very point “cease though not that I say a deformed thief this fashion is, how giddily it turns about all hot bloods between 14, 5 and 30, sometimes fashioning them like Pharaohs soldiers in the reeky painting, sometime like Gods, Priest in the old church window, sometimes like the shaven Hercules in the smirched,worm eaten tapestry where his cod piece seems as massive as his club. All this I see, and I see the fashion wears out more the apparel than the man.”

Fashion is entertainment, from the fig leaf to the Top Hat, fashion is a street performance. Fashion is universal show biz.


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