Sunday, July 26, 2015


    We are never satisfied with reality.  It simply won't do.  The least and the last of us, if asked to answer honestly, have our dreams and desires.  And for the vast majority of us, they manifest in our thoughts, in apparel terms, to some extent. In those apparel terms we have created endless fantasies of other cultures and times, bastardizing, by morphing the truth of those things into something we call that truth, but is other than that in reality.  When costumes for Masques were created to celebrate the classical world, did they actually wear togas and chitons?  Nope. They threw a bit of drapery around what was essentially contemporary dress for them, and called it classical.  When Hollywood does historical costume, the results a re a mash up of current ideas of beauty and enough cues from the time in question to make it look real to us.  And when couture designers take inspiration from one culture or another they mix that into a stew of other ideas to come up with something that references, but does not ape that other culture.

    The result of all this messing about with reality is that we end up creating a new aesthetic, a new set of terms to be placed into the Attire language's huge database.  Since no new idea springs 100 percent out of someone's head without reference to something else that already exists, this is only natural.  You can call it cultural appropriation, if you wish, but its really a larger force in play, and one that none of us works outside of.  
    Our ability to create rests partly on a foundation of observation of the things around us in our world.  We see something, our curiosity starts working, wondering a series of what ifs about what we see, and then our creativity revs up, working out how to make it real.  But at the beginning point, we saw or experienced something that set off this chain of actions.
    So we work all the time in a world of fantasies, trying, sometimes with desperation to bring those dreams into 3 dimensions.  The Attire language could not exist as it does without that consistent journeying into visionary territories.  If we were clothed at all, it would be in an entirely different way.  It would be the difference between plunking out random notes on a piano, or using that instrument to play a concerto by Schubert. 
    When I look at the work of designers in the apparel world, and I see influences from other places, I don't see cultural appropriation, I see this larger mechanism at work, guiding us to take what we see around us, and imagine it again in a different form.  Besides, no group can claim sole rights to a style of dress or decoration, for they too found their inspirations all around them, and probably in part from other people.

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