Fashioning Identity: Status Ambivalence in Contemporary Fashion PDF by Maria Mackinney-Valentin


Fashioning Identity: Status Ambivalence in Contemporary Fashion
by Maria Mackinney-Valentin

Fashioning Identity - Status Ambivalence in Contemporary Fashion


List of Illustrations viii
Preface x
Acknowledgments xiii
1 Introduction: Status Ambivalence and Fashion
Flows 1
Politics of appearance 2
Dressing the part 3
Sartorial dialectic of identity 5
Fashion flows 7
Vertical flow 8
Horizontal flow 9
Upward flow 12
Scattered flow 12
Fashioning identity 14
Chapter outlines 15
2 Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Fashion and Time 19
The ambiguous now 21
Between dowdy and hideous 23
Style revivals 24
Old fashion 27
Forever after 29
3 Perfectly Wrong 31
Taxonomy of age 33
Corporeal patina 34
Logic of wrong 35
Senior moment 37
Staged ageing 40
Age ambiguity 40
Conspicuous poverty 41
Radical permanence 43
4 Copy Chic and the Ambivalent Original 45
Modes of copying 47
Fashion IPR 50
‘Tis the season 52
The Chinatown tote 54
Copy chic? 57
5 Sartorial Shrugs and Other Fashion
Understatements 59
Sartorial shrugs 60
Inconspicuous consumption 62
Fashionable displays of the ordinary 64
Deliberate lagging 66
Staged casualness 68
The fashion nun 69
Biological capital 70
Fashioned bodies 72
Raw beauty 73
Lazy chic 77
Identity assemblage 78
6 Not So Fast Fashion: The New Perseverance 80
The new speed of fashion? 81
Gradual change 84
Spot on 85
Forever new 88
Beyond saturation? 90
Fashionable implications 93
7 The Devil’s Playground: Fashion and
Subcultural Identity 95
Metal visual culture 97
The T-shirt 99
Fashion and subculture 100
Subcultural persistence 103
The band T-shirt 105
Copenhellsters vs. Copenhipsters 107
Mass-niche 111
Multigenerational subcultures 112
Humor and inverted snobbery 115
Next step for fashioning subcultural identity 116
8 Trans- global Narratives 118
“B” is for ball 120
Soccer history 123
Cultural exchange 124
World dress 125
The soccer jersey as fashion 127
Fashioning goals 130
“Welcome to our club” 132
Transnational fandom 135
Individualization 136
Cultural ambivalence 138
9 Fashioning Zeitgeist 140
Fashion as a mirror 141
Low-calorie realism 142
Warp and weft 144
The great outdoors 147
Blue collar chic 150
Gender and sexuality 152
Is there a “right” zeitgeist? 153
Afterword 155
References 159
Index 177

P.1 Eloise, the author’s grandmother, North Carolina, 1954 xi
1.1 New president John F. Kennedy and wife Jacqueline Kennedy
and others walking to his Inauguration, Washington DC, January 20, 1961 3
1.2 Shoppers camping outside in Copenhagen days before
the launch of the Balmain x H&M capsule collection, 2015 10
2.1 Julia Roberts wins the award for Best Actress at the 73rd Academy
Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday March 25, 2001 20
2.2 Display at Décor, one of the first vintage stores in Copenhagen, 2016 26
3.1 Fashion icon Iris Apfel attends the “Iris” photo call during the
52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on
October 9, 2014 in New York City 32
3.2 High- fashion granny chic in the fashion spread “Senior Moment”
from US Vogue, August 2004, shot by photographer Tim Walker 38
3.3 Tattoos as a fashionable display of radical permanence further
emphasized by representing fashionable garments that are bound
to transience, 2016 42
4.1 The original Chinatown tote bought for $2 in New York City, 2015 46
4.2 Model on the catwalk presents a creation by American fashion designer
Marc Jacobs during Louis Vuitton Spring- Summer 2007 ready- to- wear fashion show 49
4.3 The inexpensive bag is used around the world as a practical carrying device 56
5.1 Using gender fluidity explicitly in marketing as seen in this Diesel
campaign, Copenhagen, 2016 60
5.2 The full beard is considered a display of distinction through biological potential, 2016 65
5.3 The tailored sweatpants as a form of extreme casualness represent an
elusive status claim, 2016 75
5.4 The raw beauty of the clean, makeup- free face is seen as a status
marker of absence rather than addition, 2016 76
6.1 Leopard print capturing new territories including stroller, 2015, Amsterdam 83
6.2 American pin- up glamour model Bettie Page 86
6.3 Gucci window display in Copenhagen, 2014 89
6.4 Nike Mercurial Vapor IX endorsed by Cristiano Ronaldo, 2014 92
7.1 Ormar, a native of the Faroe Islands, wears a Machine Head
T- shirt, Copenhell festival 2015 96
7.2 Lars wears one of his fifteen Slayer T- shirts, Copenhell festival 2015 105
7.3 Collaboration between H&M and Slayer, 2015 106
7.4 Christina in a Copenhell 2015 festival sweatshirt and Mikkel in Bloodbath
band T- shirt, Copenhell festival 2015 108
7.5 Asger, aged ten, wears a Metallica T- shirt, Copenhell festival 2015 114
8.1 Frederick in his favorite Manchester United jersey, 2015 119
8.2 A mural on a local pre- school in Watamu, 2015 121
8.3 Stadi Market— short for Stadium Market— famous locally for new and
secondhand sportswear, Nairobi 2015 130
8.4 “I feel so happy when I wear my Manchester United jersey,” Willy, tuk- tuk
driver in Watamu, 2015 137
9.1 Duncan MacGregor wearing the MacGregor tartan 145
9.2 Paul Bunyan Statue (Kenton Commercial Historic District), February 3,
2014 149
9.3 Gender bending in a black- and- white version of the lumberjack shirt,
2016 151

As a child, my favorite time of year was when we boarded the Boeing 747 from Copenhagen to Charlotte, North Carolina, to spend Christmas with my maternal grandmother, Eloise. She had insisted on not being called Grandma. It cramped her style. So I called her “mormor,” pronounced “more- more,” Danish for mother’s mother. It was a linguistic coincidence, but the name sat well with her attitude to life, setting her firmly apart from what she saw as the frumpiness of grandmotherhood.

From her silver lame dress, worn whenever, to squirting bourbon from between her front teeth at people she found boring at cocktail parties, she was all about more fun, more parties, more fashion. An elegant rebel from 1911 to 1991. She had nothing but great ideas. She gave me a white rabbit– fur coat when I was 6. For a while, she drove a yellow Toyota with an “Eloise’s Taxi” sign on the roof just in case she felt like driving someone home. She had an English Setter, named Liz after her idol Elizabeth Taylor, who experienced an unplanned union with a frisky Boxer from the neighborhood. Always making the best of a situation, in this case a litter of six puppies, she named the special breed a “Sexer.” She had me parading down her stairs in party gowns far too big for me while she sang “Heeeeere she come, Miss Ameeeeerica . . . .” She was a Tiffany’s meets K- mart, “just- for- the- hellof- it” kind of a lady. An adult version of Kay Thompson’s children’s book namesake Eloise who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York doing her own thing.

The sartorial enchantment I associated with Eloise was found in concentrated doses in the attic of her house on Hermitage Road where she kept old clothes from her youth, and from the youth of her parents and grandparents: towers of hatboxes, Edwardian wedding dresses, Chanel suits, and long mink coats. It also hid curious items I had to ask about, such as galoshes and corsets. I spent hours in that attic imagining the people and parties these clothes had seen. What did they talk about? What had happened to them? Were there traces of happy or sad memories in this top hat or that glamorous dress? But there was something eerie about the attic too. The clothes were bodiless, like specters. The fascination with the forgotten history and sensuous luxury of all that silk, lace, and fur coupled with the ghostly sense that life had abandoned these clothes stuck with me long after my grandmother had passed and most of the clothes were discarded. Being Eloise, she had only randomly thrown a couple of mothballs in the attic, which had of course not been enough to salvage the wonder of this ancestral archive of style stories.

I could never drape a silk scarf over my shoulder the way Eloise could, nor am I part of an era where you wore a hairnet and Pucci nightgown to bed as she did. But I put on diamonds when I am in a bad mood, as she taught me. And I still slip into her old silver lame dress for special occasions to give her a party once in a while, with my body as a proxy for hers. I aspire to be as daring as she was even at seventy- nine, and perhaps the closest I have come is writing this book, which in retrospect may have begun in that attic and with her sartorial pizzazz— to use one of her trademark expressions.

This private anecdote about Eloise is part of my personal motivation for writing this book, but it also highlights the importance of fashion narratives, both as personal statements and social performances.

Perhaps subconsciously, the fashion narrative about Eloise and her attic is reflected thematically at several levels in the book— from the vintage fashion that celebrates the value of heritage and memory to the rise of granny chic and geriatric starlets. The case of leopard print works as an example of a new perseverance in fashion trends, visualized by Eloise herself in a head- to- toe leopard outfit. While time, style revivals, and visual self- curation are central to this book, fashioning identity is also explored through a range of other topics that engage quite different fashion narratives, such as underplaying rather than overstating subcultural displays of identity and social aspirations communicated through fashion in a non- Western context.

A key challenge in the making of this book has been to handle the fact that writing about identity mechanisms in contemporary fashion is like trying to stop time. Fashion is often characterized by style change, which likens it to a visual time bomb designed to self- destruct every six months or so. Sociologist Fred Davis (1994: 162) referred to this as fashion holding the means of its own undoing. So it has seemed that every time my fingers hit the keyboard, I was tapping into the demise of my own work. As one friend said to me: “So really, you are writing fashion history?” To accommodate this issue, I have worked toward developing concepts as analytical tools to be used in further fashion and design studies. This effort echoes the work of Fred Davis, particularly Fashion, Culture, and Identity, the twenty- fifth anniversary of which provides the occasion for reconsidering his seminal work with the present book.


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