Looks And Books...

By Lucy Harbron - 19:45

Location : Bowes Museum @ the Catwalking: Fashion Through The Lens Of Chris Moore exhibition

Gone are the days when a love of aesthetics meant a lack of intellect. Our fashion bibles tackle social and political questions, we like our clothes with a touch of art history and our garments made with ethics. It's amazing, living in a time when fashion comes hand in hand with thought. But I think we still only see that from the inside, while others doubt the ability to do both looks and books.

Within the circle, we see it all. Tabloid art history giving us our references, Manrepeller telling it to us straight, Dazed celebrating queer culture. Our favourite bloggers refuse to bullshit us with faux perfect lives and refuse to accept any falsities calling out over-editing, exploitation and inequality as and when we see it.  We see fashion living and breathing and thinking, intersecting history and sociology and psychology and politics and art and literature and more, whispering secrets from present and past to learn about humanity. But from the outside, it's easy to just see pretty pictures of the Hadid's and Kardashian's without seeing their (somewhat questionable) advocacy and charity work.

The world still treats fashion as dumb. Fashion degrees are still considered as 'easy' options in comparison to academia, and fashion jobs are still seen as positions won through socialising and being pretty, rather than careers hard fought for and worked hard for. While I know I put in work to get my internship and all throughout my time there, I still feel the friction of eyeballs rolling each time I talk about social media as a job. It's not taken seriously, and I'm not either as a result. The intellects raise eyebrows at my fashion path, and the fashion kids are all too often shocked at my academic path.

Me? I feel more than comfortable doing both. Together and separate.

Let me talk you through a day in the life: Wake up. Spend 2 hours getting ready, sitting in front of my mirror singing along to musical theatre soundtracks, tracing hands over clothes till I pull together a look with full character reference and development. Go to uni and debate literature, feminism and theory. Get a coffee with friends and debate pop culture. Write an article, a blog post, work on my book. Watch youtubers show me the clothes they bought.

This isn't me switching between two different sides of me; I don't turn off one part when I start talking about books or leopard print boots. And my leopard print boots shouldn’t come into question when I start talking theory or feminism, or anything. A good outfit neither defines nor undermines intelligence. I serve looks and books, I use books to think up my looks, and I use the looks described in books in my analysis. Did you get that?

For me, I’ve always loved fashion for the thought in it, the lineage and legacies hidden accidentally in outfits. As a writer, I love character building, spending time picking out clothes and considering the historical and cultural references behind my choices. I like spending time researching time periods, the rights of women and the things they wore as protest or submission, then walking into a room with just a little bit of their power folded into my turtleneck. I like paying homage to people, places, periods. And I can do that through my clothes and the thought I put into it, or the person I step into when I slip on my shoes. I like dressing up to go to museums, and I like what I learn when I’m there. Looks and books, together.

Those that argue that fashion is shallow and thoughtless don't think about it enough, don't look close enough. They don't give us the credit we deserve, sending models down runways wearing history lessons, art lessons, political agendas, using both sides of our brain just to dress in the morning.

Fashion always has been intellectual, it's the world's favourite form of social and cultural signalling, protest, and empowerment. Each thing in your wardrobe is born from knowledge and history, your Topshop jeans are the youngest of a long family history if you think and listen closely. Within the circle, we're considering this. Treating all our purchases as sources to say who we are and what we stand for, to consider cultural significance, using our money as our vote to support or not support what a brand or a garment represents. We're academics, really. Our specialism is just what we put on our bodies, our cited texts the newest Guardian fashion article, Madonna music videos, biblical Madonna's and Instagram.

Maybe those still considering fashion stupid just aren't quite clever enough to get the references??

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