Monday, October 19, 2015

Changing Ourselves

    Changes in style are not only that, they are the physical manifestation of broad changes within our self perceptions.  One need only take a moment of time to look at the fashions that prevailed in 1915, and then look at the current modes, to see that in action. But the activity of this, moves more quickly than that, because our self perceptions, as well as our cultural ones are in a state of constant
evolution.  So its possible to see the way we are changing as a people on a routine basis if we wish.
    This has never been more true than it is now.  With access to garments and accessories from all over the world broadening our vocabulary, and the endless, increasingly rapid changes in our technology, the way these shifts manifest has become a nearly daily thing.  For example the many on line companies that present t shirt designs in fiercely limited editions, that will be gone in a few days, allow people to express new thoughts and feelings consistently.  As well, the speed with which a designed garment can potentially go from sketch to finished piece has shrunk to a few weeks, sometimes days.  So the result is that a new Attire word can be born and get into use almost overnight.
    The way we envision ourselves is never a fully accurate picture, but rather a fantasy of what we believe of ourselves to be truth.  The Victorians did not see themselves as restricted, hidebound, class focused, or obsessed with overt display of wealth, but the evidence seen through the clothing they wore gives us a truer view.
     The fashions we see on runways, and in the mass marketplace, support that fantasy of ourselves.  If someone looked at the clothes on offer through stores who was not part of our culture, they would not be able to see the truth behind the vision.  It is only when these clothes are actually on us, that the falsehood gets revealed. Hanging on hangers in stores the myth remains unchanged.
    We have created a view of us that is supremely youthful, fit and trim, sexually charged, and surprisingly unconcerned about world events.  When you look at the apparel that is out there, the scarier aspects of our global reality are absent, because we cannot face them so fully as to wear them on us.  Or more accurately, the merchants and corporations who make these items for us, don't want us thinking about things like world poverty, global warming, or the rapid corporatization of government.
    That does not keep us from saying those truths with our apparel, it just doesn't originate with major markets.
    Today, we can convey visually, our darkest thoughts about our society, our own selves, and about the future, with the clothing we wear, because there are so many small makers out there that produce, particularly t shirts and hoodies, that are emblazoned with imagery and text that puts the densest, most nihilistic notions we harbor, on display.  We can feel free, with these ephemera, to say the things we cannot say otherwise with our clothes.  Its a safe way to express these thoughts, because such apparel as t shirts and hoodies are not "serious clothes".  We don't have to give them the attention we would if it were a Saville Row suit splattered with Greenpeace slogans.
    These quickly made casual items constitute a kind of visual underground, a worn form of revolution.  The sentiments expressed, the thoughts displayed, can be a challenge to the dominant cultural paradigm, and as such won't get reproduced in the mass market, until that market can find a way to make the messages meaningless.
    What is of greatest note here, is that given the incredible access we have now to information, it is accelerating the rate of society's change.  So in order to keep up with those changes, the Attire language must morph more rapidly too, to be able to express what needs expressing about us.  Is it finally a chicken and egg question?  Which came first, the change, or the manifestation of it?  Sure it is.  But then, a good deal of human behavior distills to that point.
    So as we sail often blithely through our lives, its not a bad idea to stop and look at the information being given freely to us by the people around us, even when they aren't speaking. We are all aware of the challenges we face today, and the shifts going on in our world.  We feel these things so keenly, we almost cannot help but clap these thoughts onto our backs.

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