Sunday, October 4, 2015

Extravagant Visions

    It's October, Halloween is on its way for all US residents,  and time to talk a bit more about costume as a separate but important part of the Attire language.  I've written before that costuming ourselves gives us broad license to play. It allows us the freedom to get as dramatic, as out there, and as big, in every sense, as we desire.
    One of the tropes we return to consistently when we costume ourselves, is that of vast and opulent wealth.  We may trick ourselves out in any period of time, or something entirely fantastical, but the overarching theme is visual display of grandeur and consequence.
    I came across this series of images, accompanying an article about an exhibition displaying the work of two extremely talented costumers working in Texas, Linda Leyendecker Gutierrez and Niti Volpe.  The gowns you will see here were designed between 1985 and 2006, for two different clients, for the Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball, held in Laredo, Texas.
    It is plain from these images that the intent is not to reproduce the apparel of the colonial period in the United States.  In fact, its clear that the intention is not to ape any particular age whatever.  These gowns, in their overall silhouette, owe more to the mid 1800s than to any other time.  The style of decoration covers periods from the Renaissance through the Rococo.  The result is a series of sublime and over the top fantasias.  The lucky ladies who commissioned and wore these incredible pieces of work, would have been able, through donning them, to get to parts of their personalities that normally don't get much freedom.
    That is, at the core, what we achieve when we dress up all fancy and stuff.  We gain access to segments of our inner selves that we keep out of sight for one reason or another.  It may be that we don't feel entirely comfortable with some aspect of our inner self, so we lock it away.  Or it may be that the kind of behavior we wish to indulge is not socially acceptable under normal circumstances.
Whatever the reason that lies beneath it all, the result is the same.  We open a door inside ourselves, and some part of us emerges into the light for a time.
    I suspect this very mechanism is part of why some people dislike dressing up at all.  It is, for them, too frightening a thought to let out what remains caged.  To me though, giving these sections of ourselves the chance to come into play now and again is a healthy thing.  And surely, greater self knowledge isn't a bad idea.
    And of course the simplicity of play, of dressing up for the sheer fun of it, devoid of deeper considerations is a pleasure we tend to lose as we grow up, so, again, giving that a chance to reemerge is a wonderful thing. It's freeing, sensual delight.


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