‘Outfit of the day’ posts; the ultimate anti-fashion ritual

It’s a strange bind we find ourselves in. All ethnicities and body types
are being represented on runways and in media, and that’s to be praised
from the highest peak, but from this magnificent melting pot emerges only
an endless parade of flawless Fembots. Their sameness is the ultimate
denial of fashion although many of them may be hailed in social media
circles as fashion influencers. We retreat from individuality like never
before. The dominant issue of our time might be the beautiful diversity of
the skin we’re in, but that second skin, the one we nurture and slip into
every morning, our sense of style, is shriveling and dying.

A single homogenized look of perfectly arched eyebrows, vapid stare,
contoured cheeks and plump pout with a few fast fashion separates and
wide-brimmed hat does not a fashion leader make. Where are we going with
this? Instagram’s constant content has revealed a lack of original
programming, and although we might be tigresses on the inside, as
sphinx-like and feline as Kate Moss, or prowling and unpredictable like
Grace Jones, the reality is we’ve lost our roar. Our style vernacular is
basic, monosyllabic. Sites such as Insta Repeat underscore our lack of
creativity in how we present ourselves, and those 2 million-plus daily
posts documenting users’ Outfits of the Day (#OOTD) amount to nothing but a
cliché ritual that should be filed under Old Obsolete Tired Done.

Desperately seeking fashion

Reflecting on the last half of the twentieth century, there were
certainly the dominant beauty trends––from pointed breasts to spidery
lashes, from supermodel coiffures to the lankest of locks, from hourglass
to waif––but every decade presented significant fashion markers: the 1950s
served up beatnik twinsets, capri pants, rockabilly poodle skirts; the
space-age 60s countered with mod plastic accessories and paper shift
dresses; the bohemian 70s danced in with its bellbottoms, velvet
maxi-dresses and psychedelic prints, only to be bumped out of the way by
80s big-shouldered tailoring; the 90s ushered in minimalist slip dresses,
grungey flannels, rave gear, and hipbone-baring bumsters––all of these
became era-defining fashion statements. But this millennium so far,
captured millisecond by millisecond via digital technology, shows less
fashion evolution––athleisure, normcore, upcycling––in favor of more
physical shapeshifting––big busts and butts, trout pouts, hair extensions.
Surgical enhancement triumphs over sartorial splendor so that we’re
emphasizing the canvas and undervaluing the art.

Beauty and glamor are often tossed under the heading of fashion, but
they literally scratch the surface of fashion’s potential and scope.
Fashion is no mere entertainment. Fashion as art can provoke thought, spur
change, and uplift the soul the way a painting or sculpture can; while
glamor is more likely to temporarily amuse or provide escapism. A trip to
Dover Street Market can imbue the visitor with the wellbeing associated
with spending time in a temple. Fashion genius does not need to make itself
replicable and true pioneers trust personal instinct not Youtube tutorials,
value experimentation and the importance of failure. To strive for bland
perfection and conformity is an erasure of the art of fashion. It’s style
over substance, polish over process.

Like follows Like

The Like button is integral to modern society but the act of liking is
the equivalent of using the word “nice.” It’s noncommittal, inoffensive,
non-confrontational. Anyone can be nice, and what is familiar will receive
more Likes as we humans are creatures of habit. A manufactured aesthetic is
easier to digest than an outfit put together with disobedient abandon.
Being a rank and file influencer of today leaves fleeting impact––but
shouldn’t we choose to influence with lasting effect? And shouldn’t we be
choose to exert most influence on ourselves? The somewhat successful social
media influencers with sponsorships and contracts are not dissimilar to
corporate middle management in that they show up to work in uniform and
make money by shifting product to the masses. But one who meaningfully
moves fashion forward will not answer to the term “influencer”, but will
seek to communicate something candid, often imperfect, and be blithely
unconcerned if they are making others uncomfortable, indeed might
deliberately set out to do so. That sort also tends to believe that clothes
should not be disposable, nor bought for an Instagram snap then returned to
the store, and that fashion should spark more critical debate than an
episode of The Bachelorette.

Authentic creatures of fashion are like unicorns, special, elusive,
spontaneous. They’re writing their own stories as they go and cannot be
tamed into performing in someone else’s narrative. Traditionally fashion’s
most beloved figures, from designers to muses, did not belong to any cool
clique, falling instead into the observer role, misfits outside the system,
often even in conflict with it: Coco Chanel was an orphan, Isabella Blow
claimed she wore large hats to keep people at a distance, Yves Saint
Laurent was a quiet and retiring youth and anxious adult, Martin Margiela
chose anonymity and gave no interviews, while Giorgio Armani, now head of
one of the only privately owned luxury brands, expressly stated to the
Financial Times, “I have always been a loner.” The popular kids
with the most followers are the antithesis of creatives who quietly craft
art that can shift society forward.

Recent reports suggest Gen Z rejects the over-curated inauthentic
version of reality that Instagram has spawned, the
pushing-hair-behind-one-ear pose while gazing into the middle distance in
front of a millennial pink wall doesn’t apparently resonate with them. But
the popularity of last year’s Huji Cam app which makes photos look like
they were snapped with a disposable drugstore camera bought around the turn
of the last century complete with digital date stamp in the corner suggests
they are simply in search of a different fakeness. The process to
self-creation should be blurry, even unfocused at times, but not as a
result of technological deception. From teenage experimentation to the
role-playing and risk-taking of ones 20s and beyond, trial and error mix
with courage and imagination can open up untold possibilities for
self-expression, helping us to reach that ultimate fashion goal: individual

But for that to happen, it may be time to put aside the media creation
and work on the Me creation.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for
the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Header photo Wikimedia Commons by Anders Lejczak Perfect Selfie,
Travelling with the Fuji X100T, taken on Koh Hong Island, Thailand on 2
February 2016, 06:06


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