Sunday, 17 July 2011

An emotion reflected in tranquility, the secret behind a favorite or a best dress.

photography: Marc T

The great romantic writer William Wordsworth once wrote following definition for poetry: "An Emotion reflected in tranquility".
I propose that choosing a dress, standing alone in a room in front of a mirror, is an act of poetry. It is a descisive moment ruled by the mysteries of a hidden, coded language. The dress slides over the body, the zip or hooks are done up and instantly the wearer is transformed into their own ideal of beauty.
Through this transformation is how the dress defines the wearer, communicating variuos ideas and images to the world. This is an act repeated every day, and sometimes more than once with one's wardrobe, its silent gestures guard the hidden secrets of a woman's intimacy.
Going back to the origins of the word "dress" help us to understand and further define this highly intimate yet entirely mundane act. The use of the word "dress" goes back to the early 1450's rooted in the old French "Drecier", meaning "to arrange". Drecier probably finding its primary origins in the popular latin "directiare" from the word "directus" and the verb "dirigere" meaning to direct. In accordance with its etymology, the verb "to dress" has meant and still means "to place, to arrange and to put in order".
Therefore, "to dress" at one time represented the act of communication, and "a dress" an outer garment worn by women and girls, a tangible statement giving form to thought anf feeling. This may not have always been an overt statement but a coded message that could be read or misread, by those viewing the adorned women. It is through the medium of the dress that we can all find something to say, to speak of some secret place that we may never verbalize.
Thinking of clothing, as an act of statement and arranging objects together (which is a choice all of us make consciously or unconsciously every morning), we design our visual statement of purpose for the day. This act of arranging can be seen as our defence and justification to a society in which we may or may not feel comfortable. The dress, for example, is an object always equated with women, it is the basis of perceived values of womanhood. It has been the foundation of a women's wardrobe since clothing existed. The choice of a dress, a traditional feminine object, places a woman in the context of traditional roles. It is the modern woman who remakes that object, and through her arrangement of it, either reclaims it as her own the inherent feminine power, or reject that principle and instills the dress as an object of her own values and manifesto of identity.
What makes for a favorite dress? A favorite dress is not necessarily Haute Couture. Social philosopher Giles Lipovetsky points to how clothing oneself, and more specifically picking a favorite dress, speaks about the wearer's being their emotions, moods and character traits. This dates back to the conventions of society portrait paintings, when women and men were not necessarily painted in their favorite suit or dress but in their best suit or dress. The designation of a dress as  a "favorite" depends on several personal reasons. A dress worn on a wedding, birthday party, first meeting with a friend or lover, first dress with a first paycheck, a dress worn during memorable travels etc etc...There must be a strong emotional link between the wearer and its dress, before a dress is considered as a favorite one among others. A  favorite dress is not always the dress that we choose to wear everyday. The favorite dress can, in some cases, only be worn on special occasions or during specific seasons of the year. The favorite dress is a kind of second skin to reveal hidden messages to the outside world.
the favorite dress is in opposition with the "best" dress, which is often worn for external reasons, rather than inner ones. Best dresses are worn at work, in social groups where coded language has different significations anf functions, we voluntary derive that which comprise coded clothing from ethnic and religious groups based on strict traditional and cultural parameters. The "best dresses" also reveal the social position of the wearer and indicates belonging to a certain clan or stage in life.
For example, the Sunday dress is maybe not the favorite one, but will clearly embody the socio-cultural aspects of Sunday within the wearer's specific culture.
Roland Barthes writes in Systeme de la mode (1967) "The theatre of fashion is always thematic: an idea (or, more precisely, a word) varied through a series of examples or analogies. This creates a dialogue within us and the past favorite informs the newest love: fashion design is then seen as an externalization of the interior discourse.
The dress  is the most visible of the languages addressing identity, a sophisticated medium to encourage relations or non-relations between people and specifically between men and women. The dress is, if we want it to or not, an important and effective item that always will surprise, seduce, reject, misread, provoke, classify and control or un-control situations. The language of the dress is deep-rooted in the most hidden parts of our brain and influenced by traditions, cultures and accepted social rules. The fashion world is only an attentive and sharp observer of this phenomena and translate a basic need into a sublime  aesthetic mirroring one's own ideal of what is beautiful.

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