Friday, August 1, 2014

Ooooh, Shiny!

    We are, after all, magpies at heart.  The lure of shiny things seems innate to us all.  From smooth rocks wet with dew, and crystals found in caves, to beetle wings and gold nuggets we have craved these things around us since the beginning of the beginning.
    Sure, for every culture on the planet the presence of shine in apparel is an instant indicator of wealth and status. We have literally sewn gold or sliver coins onto clothing to make it inescapable to the viewer how affluent we are. We have sewn our clothes with metal wrapped threads, or placed tiny discs we call sequins here, there and everywhere.  We have even woven cloth entirely of gold or silver in order that others might know without question who has the most oomph in the room.
                                              19th century Russian Cloth of Silver dress

But gleam and shine carry other messages too.  When we see too much of it in one place, on one person, we start to question the reality of what we are seeing, the morality of the wearer, and their taste.  In addition, hard shine is the province of many metals, and so the connection to armor; and by that militarism, aggression, and physical protectiveness all come into play.  The dresses done by Paco Rabanne in the 1960s, recalled the chain mail of the Medieval, and so, the women who wore such dresses were quite literally armored to face the modern world.
    So the messages we can get from shiny clothing are varied, complex and often at cross purposes with each other.
    Typically, the less we see, the more tasteful we perceive it to be.  Unless we are talking about the attire of royalty, who seem to get a pass from us, since its all about the display of temporal, and monetary power for them. They are living symbols of the sway and wealth of nations, so they have traditionally manifested that on the surface of their bodies.
                        Cloth of gold coronation gown of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna

  When we get to the modern age and things like metallic spandex, lurex and polyester lame's in a gajillion colors, the messages get sent into other places entirely.  First we get space age futuristic references, and then there are profoundly sexy/kinky subtexts that get conveyed.
  But whatever the messages, we will not, no, it seems we cannot give up our love of things that glisten and shine.
    Next time you see someone out and about wearing something with a lot of glitz, take a moment to think about how it makes you feel, and what you think about, both for yourself, and about the wearer.  Its revelatory, I assure you.


  1. The thing that keeps running through this otter's mind is whether the home has an attire's mind of its own, too, and its own desire to make a statement. Enlightenment-era (I think) ladies and gentlemen sported jabots, but so did their windows. Floor-to-ceiling windows demanded a great deal of curtain fabric; the floors were attired with patterned rugs, and the furniture upholstered in their own sentences and paragraphs of some dialect. In regard to bling, there is nothing more beautiful for decorating a wall than metallic textures, either a soft shimmer over the whole surface, or wallpaper figures picked out in metallic ink. Embrace the windows with draperies made from dupioni silk, and tell me what you have.

  2. This is a very astute comment, and I would expect no less from you Mr Otter. What we are looking at here, is I think a consonance that occurs in every age and place that melds how we manifest our current perceptions of ourselves and our world into a cohesive whole. Look at the furnishings, art architecture and dress of any era, and you will realize that stylisitically, they suit each other completely. We are not, ultimately, content with expressing ourselves with our mouths, or our apparel, we must, and do express ourselves everywhere and anyhow we can.

    Bravo sir, for your observations.