"I turned myself into the fiction of myself to such an extent that any
natural feeling that I have, of course, from the moment I'm born,
becomes a feeling of imagination... I stripped off my own being to
such an extent that existing means dressing up . Only when I'm
disguised am I really myself."
- Fernando Pessoa. (emphasis added)
Fashion is the ultimate medium, the medium without content that is read to contain multitudes of identities. This medium is always the message, and does not pretend to be otherwise. When fashion talks, it always talks about itself: vintage, retro, trompe l'oile, couture. The way that fashion is read, however, inscribes style onto the body in a creation of identity.
Fashion is an aesthetic technology of the body. It is an extension of the skin, and also an autoamputation of numerous identities. The look of the body, its ability to function and its own basic functions are altered by what the body is wearing and how the body wears it/extends itself. Fashion photography defamiliarizes the body and has the ability to amputate limbs (often to show the limbs fulfilling their true purpose: to carry a shoe, to show a glove). High fashion and couture (when it, as it so often does, represents androgyny, camp, unusual gender performances, etc) is not drag but an amputation of gender in which identity radically shifts with what one decides to wear each morning. Fashion is both a revision of the body and a performance (the film Paris is Burning to shows how fashion performs not only gender, but race and class), and I will use its liminal nature to show how performance revises the body. By always-already performing, we are always-already cyborgs.
But what is the difference between clothing and fashion? It could said that clothing encompasses fashion (there exists unfashionable clothing, or ‘mere clothes'), or the opposite: fashion (or to be fashionable) can also include ways of walking, talking, eating, smoking a cigarette, and most importantly the choice of clothing and manner in which clothing is assembled. Fashion carries the mark of both personal style/identity and the unraveling (or explosion?) of those identities. Fashion (in the sense of what is ‘fashionable,' or Good Fashion) carries the mark of coolness. Coolness and personal style define the body, making the inner (mind) outer. It emphasizes surface, makes the private into the public and back again. It is one of the manners in which the public/private citizen becomes a cyborg citizen: we often can tell politics or musical taste from style, and we can be politically surprised by a relevant disjunct in this expectation. When clothing extends the body, what is the implication to this extension being/looking cool? I'll examine McLuhan's Narcissus story (gadget fetishism), the science fictionalized discourse in Haraway, and Baudrillard's ideas about seduction.
Other topics that could be covered, though I cannot cover them all... The “internal” implications of coolness (taste, theory), appropriation (fashion colonialism; pertains esp. to race performance), nativism, the fashion icon, and sexuality/sexual attraction.
The scope of this project is obviously large, larger than I have even expressed in this proposal. I will need to discuss the limits and shape of the paper in office hours, and then the sequence of thoughts/events will become more logical.
Sources I will cite: Haraway, Vogue , Marshall McLuhan, the film Paris is Burning, Nylon , Baudrillard, Japanese street fashion magazines, Butler, the film A Notebook on Clothes and Cities (Wim Wenders's documentary on Yohji Yamamoto - which I will hopefully find). &more. A few books that I have found on the library website look good; I will have to check them out and see what I can use.
I am also planning, if it is okay, to turn in a small scrapbook of images that I will cite in the paper. In keeping with the theme, the book will most definitely look fashionable.