In 2014, a woman posed a question to the 1.1 million members of a Reddit thread called Female Fashion Advice. The post was titled ‘Help, I need to wear an ID badge/key card at work!’and it was right in between ‘Help! Uniform for conference interns’ and ‘Enamel pin badges — how do you wear yours?’ How, she wanted to know, do you wear an ID without messing up your outfit?
‘It could have been made for you,’ said the saleswoman when the bank clerk put the coat on and looked at herself in the mirror. ‘It fits perfectly on the shoulders and at the waist, and the length is just right,’ she said, ‘and it really suits your skin tone. Not that I’m trying to pressure you into buying it,’ she added hurriedly, ‘obviously you’re free to choose anything you like, but if you don’t mind my saying so, the coat really does look as if it had been made for you. Just for you,’ she said again, with the hint of a smile.
Maternity and fashion have long been uneasy bedfellows. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that maternity clothing was even available for purchase within the commercial fashion system. Women have been expected to conceal their growing abdomens within their homes and, if they left the house at all (as so many working class women did), inside maternity corsets. As Jessica Friedmann writes, ‘Motherhood is a political category … we are told it is something we must cherish and excel at. Motherhood is janitorial work. It is health care. It is elder care. It is care for the environment, rapidly choking under industrialisation. It is working against the carceral system as it rips families apart … It is an exquisite pleasure and a wonder and a privilege. It is also, by every metric, just a fucking raw deal.’
The clothes worn by the performers evoked the ways in which women often dress to have fun and to dance, to be young and alive at night, in bars and streets and discos, but they are also reminiscent of the kind of clothing a woman might wear when she is raped or killed. These are the kind of outfits that are still moralised within the sort of male gaze that inherits a cultural tendency to assign guilt to the feminine subject and not the masculine agent. These are the sort of clothes that call to mind the throbbing question that arises all too often when a woman is raped: what was she wearing?
‘I have the feeling that if you talk too much about the meaning of something, some of that meaning slips away. I’ve gone through so many interviews with questions about China and Chinese design. It gets tiring. I used to hate being grouped together with other Chinese designers in the ‘China column’ in some Western magazine. But I don’t take it personally anymore. People will always stereotype others. I can’t change that. My feelings can’t be stereotyped though, and as long as I can grow and evolve and avoid feeling trapped by those stereotypes, it’s okay.’
Half-naked and with a silk sash supposedly around his neck, Tamás Király was found dead in his own apartment after what various media outlets called a night of rough, sado-masochistic romp with a male sex worker. In the socially conservative country that is Hungary, both the police and the press focused on the potentially shameful, reputation-ruining aspects of his death instead of the incredible legacy he left behind.
In the middle of my move, I pack boxes of things and throw other things away. So many things are thrown out. The opening up of closets, trunks, and boxes reminds me of the basement closet I hid in as a child, while my parents worked in the adjacent room painting cheap costume jewellery under fluorescent lights. The clothes smelled of mothballs and mildew, damp wool and old fur. Its rafters held my mother’s secret stash of cash and bills. The clothes in this closet — of dresses and jackets — were worn so long ago, pictured only in faded photos, worn on bodies before having children, when my mother was a different person, a young working woman in the city making money for only herself.