Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Rebecca Arnold Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety (2001)

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "Rebecca Arnold Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety (2001)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Rebecca Arnold Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety (2001)

2 Introduction Arnold’s overall thesis is that fashion represents a conflict between fear and anxiety. The end of the twentieth century marked a moment in which “political and economic structures fractured” and “stable notions of morality were in turn undermined.” (p. xiv) The end of the twentieth century was marked by a decided turn towards “luxurious fabrics, intricate detail, extravagant accessories and glittering cosmetic effects” while at the same time being imbued with “a disquieting feeling of anxiety.” (xiii) “Fashion reflects and indeed takes part in the construction of ideas surrounding the body and its display. . . [it] provides a space for image-makers and consumers to experiment with and challenge mainstream notions of physical display. Fashion demonstrates clearly that morality is not a set of fixed absolutes stating a monolithic culture’s unchanging standards of acceptability, but, rather, constantly shifting beliefs that can be moulded and challenged to reflect the myriad social and cultural groups of western culture.” (pp. xiii-xiv) She also thinks that “those alienated from the mainstream sought visibility by creating their own fashions.” (p. xiv)

3 One: Status, Power and Display
The problem is the relationship between the need to display power and the fear that such displays, constructed as they are by designers, is a sort of trick being played on us as the consumer. Arnold uses the 1991 Moschino spring/summer collection with a belt that read “waist of money” as an example of this blend of desire and anxiety. (p. 1) She cites Mica Nava who noted “Consumerism is far more than just economic activity: it is also about dreams and consolation, communication and confrontation, image and identity.” (p. 3) By the early twentieth century cities had become the “space in which new categories and new fashions could breed and multiply” and this was especially true of women who “were drawn further into fashion’s realm to seek fulfillment through its fantasy images, to construct a self based upon desires rather than needs.” (p.3) In this way, “consumption acts as the salve for this lack [of status and opportunity], driving the economy, yet seeming to assuage the inequalities it enforces.” (p. 4) However, this means that marginalized groups “now seek to create ‘imagined’ status for themselves through the construction of styles which mark out their own territory. . . “ (p. 4)

4 Excess Dior. “New Look” 1980’s “Power” Look. (from Arnold. Page 9.

5 Cruelty and Power Image from: Faux Fur from

6 Simplicity Image from:

7 Imperfection Recent photo of Mary-Kate Olsen reviving “Grunge” look.
Image from: Vivienne Westwood 1970’s Punk Fashion. From:

8 Eco Image from: Jimi Hendrix

9 Two: Violence and Provocation
She begins with an attempt to foreground the degree to which violent images, to cite Richard Stivers, are the “most real” in our culture, a culture drowned in imagery, because they “simultaneously give us a sense of being alive and of having control over others.” (p. 32) Similarly, “visual slumming” could represent a sort of rebellion against designers as dictators of taste and culture. When this is “choreographed with scenes of violence this aesthetic plays upon a western culture’s fears of and fascination with the underbelly of consumer society.” (p. 32) At the same time fashion images could act out fantasies of revenge “for the alienation and sense of lack felt by those who are too poor to gain power through the acquisition of lifestyle-enhancing goods.” (p. 32)

10 Ultra Style, Ultra Violence
Pulp Fiction. Sean Connery as James Bond. Lara Croft

11 Gangsters Collateral.

12 Gangstas NWA Tupac Shakir

13 Skinheads Mods vs. Rockers. Image from: British Skinheads. Image from: Image from:

14 Punks Image from: Sid Vicious

15 Heroin Chic Image from:

16 Decadence and Decay Die Young, Stay Pretty Issey Miyake, 1995.
Alexander McQueen, 1998. Die Young, Stay Pretty

17 Three: The Eroticised Body
The erotic displays, the use of underwear as outwear, etc., have their roots in the “shifting attitudes toward women and the display of their bodies which had been crystallized in the mid 1980’s by Madonna, who epitomized the ideal of strong, eroticized femininity. . . she subverted stereotypes of objectified femininity, using flaunted sexuality as an assertion of strength rather than submissive invitation.” (p. 63)This blurred the long-hazy boundary between public and private, but more importantly “aggravated long-standing fears surrounding the nature of female sexuality and stereotypes of femininity as either acceptably modest and controlled, or unacceptably sexualized and uncontrollable. Fashion has made visible male, and to a lesser extent female, anxieties concerning the shifting role of women in late twentieth-century society and the way women should dress and be represented to reflect heir developing social status. Arnold claims that “greater female liberation led to the need for new definitions of identity, which frequently confused the impossible, idealized dichotomy of ‘good’ virginal femininity and ‘bad’ eroticized femininity.” Martin Pumphrey uses the terms: “chaste, passive young woman and the self-denying wife and mother” to describe the nineteenth-century middle-class ideal. These anxieties were also joined with the need to “create and perfect a modern physique. While the natural body became revered as authentic, to be toned and revealed in fashionable short skirts and figure-skimming biascuts, its naturalness was a fallacy. It was to be constructed as a cultural commodity, through the cosmetics and treatments of the burgeoning beauty industry, the internalized corsetry of exercise and, as a quick route to the figure of slender youth, diet pills. This fashionable body was symbolic of discipline and wealth. It contained the familiar ideas of woman as both virgin and whore, clean and pure, yet manipulative and dangerously sexual beneath a facade of artificial forms.” (pp )

18 Underwear as Outerwear
Billboard for Wonderbra featuring Eva Herzegova.

19 Eroticism

20 Fetish

21 The Brutalized Body Georg Grosz. Beauty Thee Will I Praise. 1919.
Kate Moss. Image from: Kristen McMenemy, photographed by Juergen Teller (1996)

22 Flesh

23 Skin “Supermodels” of the 80’s. Image from:

24 Four: Gender and Subversion
In general, this chapter works from the idea that gender is constructed and the struggle for women to find new places in the workplace and culture has led to various fashion moves that subvert typical gender roles or, alternately, try to consolidate traditional patriarchal structures. The key is to emphasize the extent to which the understanding of gender, and the corresponding fashion, is dominated by patriarchal institutions. The move toward androgyny stresses the uncertainties about this new situation. In the late sixties and early seventies “the feminist movement, along with the Gay Liberation movement and the black civil rights movement drove stakes into the heart of traditional moral opinion on representation. The simple dichotomy of masculine/feminine had gradually been eroded during the twentieth century, undermined by the shifting power structures of industrialized society and the crumbling of empires. The notion of a stable masculine ‘norm’ , that underpinned so many cultural ideas in the West, was dismantled by the shifting definitions of femininity, no longer seen as an ‘opposite’ that would remain poles apart from the ideals of strength, independence and rationality, previously viewed as the sole prerogative of men.” (p 101)

25 New Woman Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. Early Chanel Designs.

26 Dressing Up: Woman

27 Dressing Up: Man Beau Brummell Oscar Wilde “Don Draper” Mick Jagger

28 Unisex

29 Androgyny

30 Conclusion “Fashion is always the product of the culture that spawns it, embodying the concerns of the wider society in its myriad styles.” “Inherently contradictory, fashion constructs a realm which is ambiguous, able to bear the weight of the varied meanings which flicker across the body of the wearer. The contradictory nature of fashion relates to our unease about the body and its representation, we are fascinated by and yet uncertain of the responses dress provokes: its juxtapositions can be protective, shielding the wearer from those outside their group, who are unable to read the complex signifiers that are pulled around the body.” “ the importance of fashion imagery, as well as actual dress, in shaping and, indeed, fracturing notions of acceptability.” “. . . the rapid change in cultural values in response to the breakdown of faith in political, religious and media institutions.” “The varied influences that fashion now draws upon reflect both the sensuality of luxury and wealth, and the confrontation rawness of brutality and violence. Fashion is no longer concerned with producing only images of perfection that smooth out the reality of the body and the harshness of western capitalist culture. It now encompasses references to death and the decay, uncertainty and yearning, in its allusions to the detritus of the city, illuminating the shifting moralities of contemporary existence.”

31 Urban Outfitters




Download ppt "Rebecca Arnold Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety (2001)"

Similar presentations

Ads by Google