Why I am a Dressmaker, or, Against Fashion Media

Kat Asharya, the great writer at NoGoodForMe, posted today on Kristen Stewart as Fashion Icon; and in doing so,  she notes, “NOGOODFORME.COM completely destroys any cred-slash-pretense to being a somewhat normal fashion blog!” And it’s true, because fashion blogs, as a group, are mostly devoted to posting pictures of people (famous or otherwise), with a more-or-less “snarky”/”bitchy” commentary about whether it’s in or out, fug or fab, whatever; and Kristen Stewart usually falls on the negative side of that line.  As Kat says, she pretty much wears a hoodie & jeans all the time, which drives Fashion Police types crazy.

This is why NoGoodForMe is the only fashion blog I can stand.  And it’s partly why I decided, after years of soul-searching, that I didn’t really want to be a fashion designer after all.  There were a lot of reasons; but ultimately, at some point I realized that I didn’t want to tell people what to wear, which is what a fashion designer does, and instead I wanted to make people’s dreams into reality, which is what a dressmaker does.

There’s a certain kind of rhetoric, or there used to be, about fashion, and how it can be used to express yourself, fill the world with beauty, and all that.  How the most stylish you can be is when you’re really being true to yourself.  I used to naïvely take them at their word–it’s one reason I got into this stuff in the first place–but the older I get, the more it seems that such platitudes are about as true as the one that says in America, anyone can become rich and powerful.  Supermarket tabloidy magazines, “what not to wear” and “fashion police” TV shows, are obviously not at all about enhancing each person’s separate, unique tastes, but rather hammering them into the bland styrofoam nothing of corporate marketing-approved “style”, with strict instructions to buy a new batch of featureless styrofoam nothing in six months.  Years ago, I saw a TV show where women were ambushed by their “friends”, told they looked like shit, and forced to endure some professional stylists dictating what they’re allowed to wear.  My stomach still churns when I think about the episode I saw: not only did they steal this woman’s favorite clothes (she liked a kind of punky, stripey style), but they cut them to pieces to stop her from ever wearing them again.  It was incredibly violent, and while I am a pacifist, I don’t think I could really have blamed her if she’d responded in kind, and smashed their fucking TV cameras.  I think I would have, in her situation.

Fashion exists, and is constantly changing, such that some things move “in” and “out” of vogue as time goes by; this is surely true.  It’s a much, much bigger topic than clothes–everything from music to philosophy is subject to it–and it’s certainly a fascinating thing to study.  But it’s nothing to enforce.

That’s the mission of most fashion media, these days, though–to enforce “the rules”, or rather, to get their audience to do it to each other.  That, I think, is the real goal: so even if someone like Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton manages to eke out a thumbs-up from the Fashion Police in something weird, they make sure to say Only Cate, Only Tilda can get away with this.  All the other women, who aren’t incredibly rich, beautiful, and talented, are not allowed.  Even if they’re confident enough to ignore their fashion-media-consuming friends calling them fugly, dated, matronly, or whatever, they’re still stuck with the corporate-dictated, featureless (but for whatever superficial ‘trend’ doodads have been stuck on them) clothes they can find in the mall.

But maybe they can learn to sew, or they can come to a dressmaker like me, and get the thing they’ve dreamed of.  The one that’s not in any magazine, the one that’s them and only them.  It might be weird, it might be completely at odds with anything on TV, it might get them called names.  But it’ll be theirs.  And that’s why I do what I do.

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4 Comments

Filed under Manifestoes, Thoughts on clothes

4 responses to “Why I am a Dressmaker, or, Against Fashion Media

  1. I thought I already said, but – I find this post very agreeable. Bravo, bravo.

  2. Becky

    As someone who despises clothes shopping, I feel a bit hypocritical commenting on this, but here goes. :)

    “My stomach still churns when I think about the episode I saw: not only did they steal this woman’s favorite clothes (she liked a kind of punky, stripey style), but they cut them to pieces to stop her from ever wearing them again.”

    That’s grim. And how patronising! As though this woman needed to be educated as to what she should and should not wear, as though she had no right to make her own choices. Admittedly, I’ve never studied fashion and never will but surely it’s as much about how clothes make you FEEL as it is about how they make you look.

    The way I see it, I want my clothes to make me feel comfortable. Ideally, I’d like them to flatter me as well but if I’m in a lazy mood, it’ll be jeans and a huge great baggy t-shirt. No, it doesn’t flatter me, it doesn’t show off my figure and and no, I don’t actually care, because they feel comfortable.

    I’ve never particularly liked being told what to do and certainly not what to wear. I suppose in one way, the only way you can truly make your own choices is to make your own clothes, which I’m not qualified to do at all. But I expect to be able to make my own choices from what is available and not have to buy a certain style because it’s “in” or a certain designer, because I’d somehow be a nobody if I didn’t. I’m not “against” designer or anything like that, the only thing I’m against is wearing it only because it is designer. I remember my mum dragging me out shopping once and we came across a jacket I liked, which happened to be Jasper Conran. I bought it and all of a sudden, she couldn’t wait to get home, she rushed me out of the shop and into the car and it was only when we got home that she told me something I already knew; that the jacket was designer. She thought that if I knew it was designer, I wouldn’t buy it on principal but I find that idea ridiculous. I’m not going to buy something I don’t like because it’s designer but I’m certainly not going to not buy something I do like because it’s designer either!

    I’m not against fashion. I even think it’s necessary and people certainly do express themselves through it. I’ve got a couple of friends who have studied fashion they’re now very happy indeed in fashion jobs but as I recall, none of them ever criticised me for what I wear. One of them said that if I ever got married, she’d make my wedding dress. Whether or not that’ll be practical, I don’t know but if she did, I know it would be made to suit me and it would be MINE.

    Anyway, I think this has been a very long-winded way of saying that I agree. :)

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