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My Selves

Director’s Commentary:

Looking back to my introductory blog post I mention two important subjects: fashion and an idealized notion of beauty in the fashion industry. If this has not already been apparent: I have a passion for fashion. In my post I talk about fashion as performance art– which I can embody, at least in clothing, the persona of various characters such as the rocker chick (“rocker chic”) or the SoHo bohemian. Each day I can change personas just by the clothes I wear. Personally, I like to experiment with style. That is who I am: an experimenter, an artist.

What intrigue me about fashion are the meanings we allot to clothing. What does it mean to wear a dress as opposed to pants? What if I were to say that I prefer to wear dresses everyday as opposed to pants? What does that say about me? The dresses versus pants question is likely to convey notions of gender in which the dress is more likely to be associated with the female identity while the pants are more to be associated with the male identity. We know that some women prefer to wear pants and yet that fact does not make them any less of a woman and we know that men in some countries wear kilts or dresses depending on culture. Despite knowing this, in the back of our minds there is the notion of gender stereotypification of clothing. We do not necessarily have to agree with the stereotypes, but they undeniably have lasting power.

Considering that stereotypes can be perceived in clothing, I would like to offer the notion that self can be conveyed through clothing as well. In my last project, I tried to define what constitutes self. I argued that the true self lays in the body, the physical self. Now I offer the idea that our physical selves are our truest forms of self because our bodies contain all of the many personalities within us. I believe that we are born as incomplete individuals and we spend our entire lives constructing who we are and who we want to be. In the video I don some of the outfits in my personal wardrobe that convey who I am and some that convey who I want to be. The “hipster” outfit (first look) conveys my love of bargain clothes shopping, the “hippie” (3rd look) my liberal political attitudes, the “girl next door” (5th look) my cuteness and friendliness, the “safari” (7th look) my adventurous side, and the “1980’s” (last look) my love of bright colors and the fact that I was born in the 80’s. These aforementioned personalities are who I am. The “rocker chick” (2nd look) conveys that someday, I would like to be tough-skinned and free to do whatever I felt like doing, the “old Hollywood glam” (4th look) that I would like to be sophisticated and classic—never going out of style, and the “serious working girl” (6th look) that I would like to be perceived as hard-working. These personalities are whom I aspire to. Like magpies that collect shiny objects, we collect personalities that appeal to us. Clothing enforces these personalities.

I once heard the saying: “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want to have”. For me, the same idea can be applied to personality. Don’t just dress as the person you are, dress for the person you want to be as well. I would not want to pass as solely as the person I want to be. I would not deny my history—the many personalities I have harbored in the past. After all, they made me what I am today. When I put on the clothes that convey who I would like to be, I am performing, not passing. I make the distinction between performance and passing such that the term “passing” denotes deception and is generally seen a sinister connotation. Juda Bennett wrote an essay entitled Toni Morrison and the Burden of the Passing Narrative about Toni Morrison and how she addresses the notion of passing in the African American community. Bennett wrote that in Morrison’s Tar Baby even without the action of passing, just the idea of it was despicable and was considered a “threat” (Bennett, 208). In her essay, A Posttranssexual Manifesto, Sandy Stone wrote that passing in the transgender community is a form of lying. By passing as one gender or the other, transsexuals forfeit any “authentic relationships” because they are basically lying (Stone, 335-336). My performance in experimenting with clothing styles of personalities I aspire to be is not a form of lying to others or myself rather, it is a way to try on personalities.

What is important when I try on these personalities is that they fit me in a manner much like trying on clothes. Our true selves contain our realities as well as our aspirations. And I believe that in trying on clothes that fit certain personality type but whose personality type does not fit with either reality or aspiration is folly. That said, the interaction between self and fashion is complex. We try on clothes to fit personalities and we try on personalities to fit ourselves. To find a personality that fits, now that is ideal beauty.

Bennett, Juda. “Toni Morrison and the Burden of the Passing Narrative”.
African American Review. Volume 35, Number 2. (2001): 205-217.
Stone, Sandy. “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto,” Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology. Ed. Patrick Hopkins. Indiana University Press, 1998. 322-341.