US Harper’s Bazaar, March 2011. “Chic and Easy Pieces” editorial.
I’ve set my eyes on at least a half a dozen editorials where a suited character is seen playfully escorting the principle model. At first glance you may think it is absurdly quirky and humorous, but I promise you that fashion magazines know what they are doing with these types of subjects. The magazine is almost mocking their editorial efforts brimming with enchanting couture by infiltrating the scene with a more obvious element of costume. But which is REALLY more ridiculous — or perhaps the more pertinent question is: what is the function of the inclusion of this furry accompaniment in the shot?
The full body costume: the ultimate fabrication of one’s own identity. One’s aesthetic is literally swallowed whole by the deception and the ideal world of costume is realized. The impression people take from a full body suit is a pleasant one: the default smile – nobody cries or frowns or gasps or sulks in a suit because they are always plastered with a smile of happiness, the fuzzy texture suggests softness likeable to one’s favorite blanket, perfect for a hug – a walking teddy bear for the whole world. Just like a real person, they can move and walk, tumble and stroll, interact and talk just as we do, but the full body costume is state of perpetual play for both the wearer and the viewer. We all play along with the game that we all mutually subscribe to. The full body costume is the hyperbolic costume.
But hyperbolic – really? Which is more ridiculous? Let’s consider fashion: the business of the fabrication of one’s identity. Let’s consider the subject. The model’s lips? Pouted and reddened (the ultimate color for attraction). Her strut? Catty and precise (As forced by her heels). Her body? Swathed in the elegance of cream chiffon. All other details are thought out, dissected, perfected, attended, labored over, exhibited, intended, prescribed – these are the processes applied to models in general. They are our cultural mannequins on which we exhibit our playful dreams and fantasies to the same proportion of fantasy as the full body costume exhibits. We are all at play, we are all in a game. If the full body costume is meant to minimize the ridiculousness of the model, than the job of model in general is meant to minimize the ridiculousness of all of us and our numerous aesthetic efforts, the illusion we all subscribe to.
We thus have a deep three-layered cake of sweet, seductive play circulating in this picture at once, highlighting and simultaneously covering the one below it. Yet what is below the third? We can never really know any more. Where before there was clothing as function there are now ensembles, accessories, “total looks,” – where once there was nature there are now “landscapes.” How would one dress if you were never to be subjected to another pair of eyes again? We are beyond the point of return to ever really know. We are all both landscapes and surveyors, wearers and weavers, consumers and producers, locked in a dichotomy of looking/looked, perceive/perceiver, a constant circulation of aesthetic meaning, much of it illusory, from which there is no relief.
Shall I then even bother to point out the flag on the right in the background that reads “sincere” in big letters? How deliciously ironic.