We’ve all been there. You walk into a function in your assless rubber pants with a ball-gag in your mouth, slathered in mayonnaise and holding a bunch of torpedo beetroot, and everyone else is in smart-casual blouses and slacks. You just can’t relax the whole night. That’s because fashion matters.
Living in Dunedin we wear a lot of clothes to keep warm, but our clothes do a lot more than that. Clothing choices broadcast a lot about us to the world. They can tell people about your occupation, your taste in music, your political views, your gender, sexuality, how much money you have, what country you are from, and what religion you adhere to. It marks out time, place, social circles, and culture.
Fashion does something else too - it helps us feel part of a group. You may meet someone who says they don’t care about fashion at all, and that they never think about their clothes, but then you see them at a bar with their friends and they are all wearing rugby jerseys, or identical jackets, or long-sleeved shirts, or whatever. Get something too strange for your group and you will get comments.
Stephen Fry said in an interview that many people don’t understand what alternative fashion does, and mock people for “trying to be different” while all looking the same. “You just don’t get it. That’s not the point. What they’re doing is belonging, but they’re outside. It’s that paradox, the contraflow that I think makes life exciting, gives the rosin that our ballet shoes can grip the stage with.”
This week’s Critic coincides with NZ iD Fashion Week. Our tiny city is hosting 49 events, attracting around 8,000 people from around the world. We went to the Otago Museum and looked behind the scenes at the exhibition, “Current,” being put together. It is a reminder that history and museums can be sources of inspiration as well as education, of the massive diversity of fashion, and of its importance to our sense of self. “Current” is interactive and incorporates food, art, design, and performance, demonstrating how fashion is part of almost everything in our lives.
We also have a feature by Paige Jansen reminding us of how, more and more, our fashion choices affect the lives of people and the environment around the world. Our insatiable need for fashion is a global crisis that needs to be adressed.