High Fashion v. Practical Fashion “Is it art?” (Also, what is fashion?)

tl;dr You decide.


Now that we’ve gotten all the cursory onlookers out of the way, let’s touch on a topic very dear to me: fashion. If any of you have ever seen me on more than one occasion, or, perhaps on a good day for me then your first time meeting me, then you know I take my clothes very seriously. Unless it’s Saturday or after 2 am I am usually dressed head to toe in various clothes that are too “stylish” for the typical college student in which to be prancing about. However, fashion, writing, photography and sleeping are my greatest passions in life. (Exploring, philosophizing and sleeping a few I didn’t add in until I thought of them just now.)

Well, what am I saying? Let’s cut to the heart of situation. What is fashion? What is “fashionable?” And what in holy hell is “high fashion” and why do my shoes cost $4950?

Fashion, to me, is the external expression of a person’s internal state; whether it is what they are feeling at the moment, how they believe the world should work, or anything at all that helps embody said person; fashion is an extension of one’s being into the most basic realm: sight and vision.

Now, as you can imagine, this leaves much of fashion open to interpretation. Yet, somehow, there seems to be a general consensus upon what is fashionable per season, whether it be the Fall/Winter season or the Spring/Summer season. How does this happen?

Cue the fashion show. Dissidence. What fabric will make the biggest color splash? What cut of dresses will make heads turn? Fashion has evolved for some to an art form; thus, we get high fashion. It isn’t meant to be practical. It isn’t meant to be worn on the street. It’s meant as fashion’s purest vessel: expression. Beyond taking the cut, the colors and how a person wears something there becomes shape. Why should humans look like humans if they don’t feel human? Why should we be confined to the limits of our being when art has the ability to transcend one’s self? The manipulation of human expression into inhuman forms is precisely the meaning behind high fashion. Why do your shoes cost $4950? Because you want to express $4950 worth of human expression in ways that can’t be found in human capacity for less than $4950.

However, high fashion isn’t the only expressive art in fashion. The ability to express oneself through fashion makes, in essence, said fashion art. My own fashion, therefore, is an extension of my artistic nature by its own right, regardless of how I look or seem to anyone else. That is why it is very possible, and very feasible, to lie with fashion.

As an example, it is quite probable that pedestrians seeing a man dressed in all black leather, with rivets and studs hammered throughout his ensemble, would believe he is a very unapproachable person. Though he may be one of the kindest men to walk the Earth, he is not seen that way. Thus, as with all other art forms, it is the ability to lie as well as tell the truth that differentiates between those that are artists, and those that are pure expressionists. Pure expressionists adhere to one side of the spectrum and have insufficient ability to transmute their talent into the other side, as that would also require being able to move along the spectrum and have complete control over not only internal emotions but also passerby response. The best and most efficient way to have complete control is to wear clothes that express, to a point, what one feels and will always shock people into watching and observing: thus, high fashion has been born as the premium medium of clothing artists.

Now, however, practical fashion, such as designers as Kenneth Cole and Giorgio Armani, are still obscenely expensive; but they are also subtle.

The subtlety of expression is also pricey because the subliminal interaction between the one wearing the clothes and the passerby observing the clothes being worn is still extremely important. Subtlety in the face of greatness, as many celebrities are wont to pursue, takes a vast amount of anti-expression: the ability to suppress expression. Actors and other faces of the public are built upon their expression as a career, thus, to leave that career behind if it needs to be done, whether for a week of vacationing or retirement in the Riviera, the suppression of expression, and subsequently the abandonment of the person as they are, is a requirement. This is done through subtlety, such as a simple black coat (priced at $1425 from Armani, and $545 from Kenneth Cole) which nearly everyone has.

Now, why buy a coat from Armani and not from where everyone else buys their black coats? Because everyone else’s black coats are made to be coats, they are made to stand out to better express, and therefore give image and a specific style to, the designer. The practical fashion coats are made to blend in. And even so, it is not guaranteed that a subtle coat will do its job for the price, whereas high fashion always succeeds in turning heads.

Therefore, high fashion is actually more practical at doing its job than practical fashion, even if it is simply because high fashion is unrestrained, its only rule requiring that it is pure expression.

Ultimately, the definition of fashion as well as its impact is a dialectic between the wearer and the observer. Call it art, call it a monstrosity, call it what you will but it’s expression. Whatever one wants it to be, it can be made to be. I started this with the intention of revealing some grand revelation, but it’s taken me nearly four hours to write this (doing research, watching catwalks, being both appealed to and appalled by Givenchy) and I’ve long forgotten it.

Oh! That’s right! Never, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever underestimate the fashion function of nudity.

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