Diseases have always been fashionable. Tuberculosis brought us the fad of looking pale and skinny. Syphilis and it’s symptomatic light sensitivity and rotten noses brought us sunglasses and fake noses that were worn even by those not afflicted by the illness.
I won’t go into detail as to why disease becomes fashionable - first, I don’t really know, and then there’s a whole conference on it.
One point of interest for me is how a fashionable disease is a promise of a physical experience. Similar to a certain subset of internet memes I wrote about before, where a human or a non-human stand-in reminds the viewer of a bodily experience from everyday life.
Smoking in film and fashion can be interpreted in the same way - as a powerful, addictive, self-inflicted bodily experience, as a promise of being highly attentive to the body, the fingers, the mouth and the inside of the lungs.
As smoking becomes much less acceptable socially - and to advertisers - the fashion photography looks for new ways to make the signifier more abstract - the models shown here are not-smoking emptied non-cigarettes.
It would be interesting to test which other bodily experiences could be promised by fashion - besides the obvious promises of eternal youth, sex and drugs. How about being uncomfortable? Being fat using a fabulous fat-suit? Freezing in the winter while wearing a down jacket with huge holes? Not being able to pee, as the process of unwrapping the clothes takes hours? Never being thirsty with a 12-liter water pack hidden in the garment? Feeling unprotected with sleeves that don’t allow your hands to touch your body, combined with an exposed belly?
Include some promise of bodily experience within your work. It changes things.
What is not in this text but could be:
- golden teeth and broken nose as a criminal status symbol
- movement restricting feathers in male peacocks as a sign of fitness
- jewellery made of wearer’s hair for cancer patients
- fidget jewellery for autists as described in a previous text