These images are all from artist Maurizio Cattelan's beautiful art magazine Toilet Paper. There is no text, and no context; each issue is just page after page of carefully composed, often surreal photographs made in collaboration with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari. They're not "fashion images" per se, but somehow they make me psyched about getting dressed. The grainy, saturated colors and weird subject matter put me in a whirlwind, stream-of-consciousness inspiration mode which got me thinking about how ideas and values get manifested and coded into our daily, physical lives.
I caught up on a lot of reading over the holidays, including a second pass at Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style. It's a short but dense book that uses the sartorial origins of punk as a foundation for talking about subcultures in general—how visual codes of dress seek to either naturalize or expose broader social mores. Take the safety pin: an ingenious gadget of domestic utility, its prescribed function of fastening diapers made it a symbol of homemaking, child-rearing, and domesticity. But it has since gone through a cycle of subcultural appropriation by punk, followed by re-incorporation into a parent culture that has commodified this new meaning of the pin and sold back to teens as "punk". I saw a baby tee at TJ Maxx recently with a huge, glittery pink silkscreen print of a safety pin on the front. The significance of the safety pin as a symbol of punk ethos is so strong (albeit empty) that you don't even need the symbol itself to evoke it, just a picture of it. RIVETING STUFF. I'm serious.
Of course I don't think moi dresses herself with the normative references and sartorial cues in mind, but the discrepancy between what my clothes signify to me and what they signify to others is always amusing. As a teenager I took most of my cues from books, dressing like what I imagined a particular character to look like, or attempting to channel the hackneyed sensuality of the Sexy Librarian (I don't know where this archetype came from. I'm sitting in a library right now and neither staff nor patrons are coming close, least of all yours truly). Now I'm wary of consciously dressing to mimic the aesthetic of a particular book or movie, because books and movies are carefully crafted totalities, and I am just one lady out there in the world arranging swaths of fabric over my torn up body.
Looking at and engaging with art has certainly had an impact on the way I dress, but in an oblique way. Art people tend to consist of drapey black things and New Balances, and I like to wear colorful graphic things. I don't flout the codes of my tribe enough to ever really stick out, but I'm into a lot of stuff—art, fashion, swing dancing, stand up comedy—and slipping into the uniform of any social set is something I consciously avoid. The attitude always carries the risk of antagonism, a grumpy little subculture of one, but I would like to think that attitude begins and ends with my clothes.
I still try my best to be a sweetie pie wherever I go.
These photos are abstracted manifestations of the concepts of my ideal sartorial self— graphic, colorful, a bit perverse, funny, and whimsical but not naïve. What kind of weird shit makes you excited about getting dressed?