The term ‘unisex’, rather fittingly, was coined in the Sixties. Prefixing ‘sex’ with ‘uni–‘ (meaning ‘one’) in the context of fashion refers to a single garment or aesthetic that is shared by both sexes. It suggests that a garment or hairstyle is not engendered and can be worn by either sex without connotations of masculine or feminine.
‘There is an obvious and prominent fact about human beings,’ notes Bryan Turner at the start of The Body and Society, ‘they have bodies and they are bodies.’ However, what Turner omits in his analysis is another obvious and prominent fact: that human bodies are dressed bodies.
Fashion, sex and fragrance. All are, whether in a tactile, carnal or olfactorial sense, desires to be fulfilled but also generators of desire in themselves. A large motivating factor in dressing and scenting ourselves is in the hope of attracting a sexual partner; we dress to be undressed, and scent ourselves to invite someone to take a step closer.
Jeans are one of the most powerful clothing icons of the twentieth-century. Famously named after the French town of Nîmes where the characteristic twill that forms the denim fabric originated, the etymological origin of the word is surprisingly literal: the simplification of the phrasing ‘de Nîmes’ into a single noun.
Fragrance plays a pivotal supporting role for fashion companies by offering a democratic way for consumers to buy into an otherwise unattainable luxury brand. Fashion houses thrive, even depend, on something as seemingly transient as a bottle of perfume.
The word ‘collar’ presents a sort of curt simplicity that seems to fit its form and function as an object of dress. Thought to originate around 1300, the term originates from the old French ‘coler’, referring to the neck, which formed from the Latin term ‘collum’ having a similar meaning.
The main similarity between fashion and fragrance seems simple enough: we wear both on our bodies. However, there are more complex coinciding structures within these decorative matters of the human flesh at second glance. Beginning with Coco Chanel’s eponymous ‘No. 5’ fragrance to the more recent trend of celebrity fragrances, the following series considers the correlations between the consumer industries and ideologies behind clothing and perfume.
Emerging from fashion photography and styling that was intended as more realistic portrayal of fashion, the androgynous waif was a subversive take on mainstream fashion. But the look had broader implications, evolving from its original incarnation as documentary-style fashion photography into the minimalist grunge style adopted by designers in the latter years of the decade, such as Jil Sander, Helmut Lang and Josephus Thimister.
We have seen how the vintage aesthetic can be employed in order to reconnect with bygone times, how it can be seen as a way to hold onto the past, whilst simultaneously remoulding it in the image of the future. In new vintage clothing past, present and future seem to converge in a manner which incarnates each element in equal measure, whilst concurrently not embodying any of them.
Fashion and photography share certain characteristics. Each claims the status of art, yet remains at its margins. The claims of photography have achieved recognition to some extent, yet photography-as-art constitutes only a small part of all photography. Fashion’s claim to artistic status remains contentious.
Austrian-American designer Rudi Gernreich is best known for his topless bathing suit, or the ‘monokini’ as it was dubbed, embodied by Peggy Moffitt. However the designer’s influence was more profound: from his involvement in the early strands of America’s gay rights movement, to his bold and often controversial statements he made as a designer that questioned the role of fashion in culture.
The digital screen and fashion form the cornerstones of modern day consumer culture. Now the two are increasingly fused, but back in 2009, Alexander McQueen was one of the first designers to capitalise on this. The designer brought his creations into the digital sphere by live-streaming the apocalyptic, sea creature-inspired spring/summer 2010 vision, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, on SHOWstudio.com.