Power and Expression: My Theory on Style

Style as expression is often taken for granted because it’s so self-evident, its visceral. At the same time, fashion is often considered trivial and frivolous, demeaning in its pursuit of beauty. But for me, fashion and style are important. Just like how to some people, theatre is important, paintings are important, or film is important. Fashion is important to me. All the visual arts — painting, sculpting, dance, etc — they are also in pursuit of beauty. They bring drama, life, death, love, and everything into a physical aesthetic, a beautiful aesthetic. I see fashion the same way.

For me, style is an externalization of what comprises me internally. How I dress for the day should best represent who I am, and how I feel. In an extremely corny way of explaining why I cut my hair so drastically, perhaps it is because I don’t want to try to look pretty — I just want to try to look like me. I guess by doing this blog and showing my own sartorial style, I am trying to express not only who I am, but what I perceive to be beautiful and interesting as well.

Bill Cunningham, in his lovely documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, explains fashion and clothes as one’s armour for the day-to-day; I agree. We can be so lost in the mundane routine of our lives, whether its work, school, practice, studying, etc., that we are susceptible to losing our own individuality. Routine is a dangerous thing, and I believe the arts is a way of subverting this. Literature (being my major) almost always forces me to analyze life, society, and history in a new light. It provokes questions, pushing and sometimes breaking the boundaries of our own everyday perceptions (read Naked Lunch, MY GOD; Fight Club, the book, is a good place to start, too).

Michel Foucault theorized on power, control, and docile bodies. That is, rendering the body docile through micro-managing and supervising. Think prisons: the prisoner is rendered obedient through  constant supervision and scheduling; it controls what the prisoner does every hour of the day, thus controlling the prisoner themselves. The prisoner wears a uniform, has no name, and is only recognized by number. The prisoner is stripped of his humanity and identity. But moreover, think of the way our society is structured; it is deeply entrenched in organized schedules and we are bureaucratizing our own lives and are therefore less autonomous. Thus, by choosing to style myself in a certain way, it allows me, in a small way, to exert my sovereignty as an individual. I have the power to subvert a mechanized system by expressing myself through my clothes.

A side note: it is really important that I wear my clothes, my clothes do not wear me. I am not defined by my clothes, they help evoke my definition of me.

Look at this woman. Despite the fullness of the print and her oversized jewellery, it is her smile you notice first, it’s captivating. This is a perfect example of the person wearing the clothes, and definitely not the other way around.

  1. Betty said:

    you are such an arts student. I can’t believe you were ever in commerce 😛
    loved this post!

  2. Well said. I especially like this line: “I am not defined by my clothes, they help evoke my definition of me.” Great post!

  3. I’ve noticed that a lot of fashion bloggers have mentioned Bill Cunningham in some way. With good reason. He’s an incredible artist and human being. I’m glad that you’re just as inspired and that you see art and beauty in the everyday.

    • As you can imagine, this post was a pretty important one for me. I really admire what Bill does; he is so proficient in what he does and remains genuinely humble. I’m glad that you are enjoying the blog!

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