Can we fathom a framework for underwater fashion? Iconographies of underwater pursuits and their accompanying imaginaries find frequent form in fashion; think of Alexander McQueen’s Atlantis collection which featured his iconic ‘Manta’ dresses, digitally printed to conjure piscatory flesh, like armoured underwater camouflage. But what about the apparel actually worn underwater? If our knowledge of the undersea world is indebted to diving, then it is also indebted to the habitat apparel of deep-sea diving dress. The spheres of activity joined together by the practice of diving are webbed and vast, entangling the ancient art of pearl diving and spearfishing, histories of ornament, and the emergence in the eighteenth century of the discipline of natural history.
That aural impairment is as old as hearing itself is evidenced by a Neolithic female skull unearthed by archaeologists in 1955. By itself, the skull would not be especially remarkable were it not for a prosthetic seashell ‘ear’ surgically implanted, and still seamlessly intact. Its purpose was not purely ornamental: the shell served as a functional conduit for vibration. This is implant and earring, ornament and augmentation: not yet bionic, but somehow presciently cyborg in its arrangement.