Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Confused Farewell to Alexander McQueen

I was sad to read about the suicide of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

But only in that I'm sad to read about any suicide. Because, until his death, he hadn't really made any impact on me at all. If you had asked me who he was I'd have said "Isn't he a fashion designer?" but that's it. I can blag my way through most topics of conversation - but not fashion.

And it's not that I don't like visual things generally - I love paintings and photographs and some sculpture (though I have a sneaking affection for the idea that sculpture is what you walk backwards into by mistake when you're looking at the paintings).

It's true that I cannot - simply can NOT - understand any visual instructions. All those little pictures of how to put a set of shelves together. Not a clue. I'd rather, if they were made in, say, Hungary, that you gave me the instructions in Hungarian. I could learn the language far faster than I could ever interpret the pictures.

So maybe that's it. Maybe that's why anything to do with fashion goes completely over my head. I've been looking at lots of Alexander McQueen's creations and thinking - - well, who could wear those? They look like Art, perhaps - - - but they don't look like clothes, or not the kind of clothes that real people could wear, anyway. Apparently one of the things he was famous for is a scarf with a picture of a skull on it "A scarf bearing the motif became a celebrity must have and was copied around the world" says Wikipedia.

Why? Celebrities presumably think that if they own this scarf they have "arrived" in the world of Celebrityland. Many of the rest of us think that if we own one then a bit of Celebrityness will rub off on us. But I just can't tell, looking at it, what is particularly special about it.

Perhaps it's just envy because all the models wearing the clothes are a size 8 at their fattest.

I knew a fashion designer once who said that a lot of fashion designers are gay men (as, indeed, this man was and Alexander McQueen was) and that this is why they tend to design clothes that look good on straight-up-and-down boyish figures. That may be true - it was just one man's opinion - but perhaps it's just that fabric works better when it doesn't have to bend round too many curves. Or perhaps it's just that - in a society were many people are overweight - we prize thinness, just as in societies where many people don't have enought to eat they prize fatness.

I do take on board that McQueen had a big influence on high street fashion too - - but I don't understand high street fashion either. All my adult life I've worn jeans and a T-shirt, mostly. Sometimes the jeans are blue, sometimes black. The T-shirts are in whatever colours I find that I happen to like. If it's hot I wear a long skirt and sometimes that's blue and sometimes it's black. I have somewhat smarter versions of these for working in, when the work needs me to look smarter.

When I have to wear clothes for any kind of dressing-up occasion that isn't work-related, my answer is to panic and, very often, not to go. I simply haven't a clue and, although they may fit me, most high street clothes don't suit me anyway because - guess what - they were designed for size 8 models. And it's really not that I'm huge - I'm a size 18, heading down to 16 (I think it must be all the swimming). But I'd never be smaller than that - I am descended from Russian peasants and my back's too broad. If you want something carrying, I'm your woman.

So perhaps it's just sour grapes because I have never been interested in fashion - - and the world of fashion has never been interested in me. If you think you can explain it to me, do please try.


Blogger Silverback said...

I'd rather explain the offside rule to you and I'm not looking forward to that either !

My fashion rules are easy. Jeans wear out ? Buy another pair. T-shirts fade or get too small ? Get new ones. My one pair of trainers fall to bits ? Wear 2 pairs of socks until I can be assed going to the shops for another pair.

Alexander McWho-Now ?

5:41 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Silverback - - I think in your comment there IS an explanation - of one reason why we are friends!
I am setting aside most of May for trying to understand the offside rule. I hope that will be enough time and I hope that we will STILL be friends by June.

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

Ref: the gay men designing clothes for women whose actual body shape they really haven't got in mind. Remember ages ago I posted this link on your blog, a Times columnist talking about the British obsession with showing feet. Was hilarious. I draw you to this passage, which agrees with our point re: gay men designing for women:

"Why a woman would want to draw attention to her nasty little bunioned trotters on a night out, I just cannot imagine. I doubt they do. It's just that these are shoes designed by men who are not into women, and cannot bear to think too much about any part of them more intimate than their feet."

7:38 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

For the people I know who are really interested, it's Dressing Up. Today, they think, I will be a Slightly Boho Artiste With Moneyed Parents, and they find the outfit that expresses that. And the next day, they think, Today I will be a poverty-stricken Eng Lit Student, and they find the outfit that expresses that. The roles and personas are not the same, of course, but that's the basic principle.

Why an entire culture is fascinated by it is more complicated.

7:59 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

It all reminds me very much of the story of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'!

9:02 am  

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