So often fashion is dismissed as superficial, shallow and not worth talking about amongst the truly important issues going on in the world. When you consider the famine in Yemen, the slaughters in Syria, and the rise of Trump, it can possibly be hard to argue that anxiously and excitedly waiting to see what Emma Stone is wearing on the red carpet at the Academy Awards somewhat fulfils the stereotype. However, I would suggest that this is the time that fashion, and art in general, is so crucial. Not just for a way of expressing condemnation of regimes and support for minorities, which so many artists have been doing, but important for the ordinary person to find a bit happiness and brightness in our otherwise gloomy world.
The reason I have been thinking about this is because recently anger or pain caused by two personal experiences have been, definitely not resolved, but eased by fashion. The first occurred at Christmas. My family life imploding, I turned to many sources of comfort. Friends, other family members I was not ready to castrate, food, and also my other close friends; Asos, Topshop, Zara and Urban Outfitters. Whilst this has had a very negative impact on my bank balance (hello overdraft!) it did help to ease some of the pain – perhaps only fleetingly – of my reality. When I showed a pair of outrageous boots bought during this period of time to my mum, I expected the usual questions of how I would be able find a successful compromise between the heel height and my clumsiness. But no, instead I got a smile and a story of her killing it on Kensington High street back in the 70’s in shoes not too dissimilar. These boots, though still not been worn, were worth it – not just giving me some amusement and light relief, but reviving memories of my mother’s glamorous past.
The power of clothes and fashion, and its relationship with memories, was further demonstrated to me by my favourite aunt during my latest visit to her. After an evening of heated political disagreement (Brexit still causing me grief), we reunited in the morning over her clothes. Both fans of a bit of sparkle and glamour, and luckily being the same size as my aunt at my age, I left her house with a bag full of dresses and a head full of stories, love and memories. Each dress she pulled out of her overflowing wardrobe had a story – mostly good, sometimes sad. But through her dresses, it was as if she had chronicled her life, and it was a true honour to be entrusted with her history.
So when people claim fashion is pointless, you can argue that fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry which provides innumerable jobs, inspires hundreds of movies and books, and provides a platform for self-expression. Or you can look at the personal stories of fashion, like the recent story of Tess Newall’s lost wedding dress that had been handed down generation to generation since 1870. You can look at the simple happiness and joy that fashion has the ability to create.