Who’s the audience

1.
Peony silks,

in wax-light:

that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose

candled into-

what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?

About gowns,

the Old Masters,

were they ever wrong?

This penitent Magdalen’s

wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous

she seems to wear

all she’s renounced;

this boy angel

isn’t touching the ground,

but his billow

of yardage refers

not to heaven

but to pleasure’s

textures, the tactile

sheers and voiles

and tulles

which weren’t made

to adorn the soul.

Eternity’s plainly nude;

the naked here and now

longs for a little

dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer

the invisible, every saint

in the gallery

flaunts an improbable

tumble of drapery,

a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,

satin’s violin-sheen)

raveled around the body’s

plain prose; exquisite

(dis?)guises; poetry,

music, clothes.

2.
Nothing needs to be this lavish.

Even the words I’d choose

for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,

tortoise, mottled, splotched

-jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,

all cloisonné and enamel,

a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,

brass buttons

tumbling to the floor.

Who’s it for?

Who’s the audience

for this bravura?

Maybe the world’s

just trompe l’oeil,

appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;

who could see through this

to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume’s

the whole show,

all of revelation

we’ll be offered.

So? Show me what’s not

a world of appearances.

Autumn’s a grand old drag

in torched and tumbled chiffon

striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow

fruitfulness! Smoky alto,

thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,

those October damasks,

the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,

uncountable curtain calls

in these footlights’

dusky, flattering rose.

The world’s made fabulous

by fabulous clothes.
Couture

Mark Doty, 1953

Back to black

I have a closet just for black clothes. I also have another one for all other mainly dark colours and reds but these never feel so true to myself as black does. I can’t remember why I started wearing just black but for a long time it felt like the most stylish and comfortable solution to the morning rush of getting dressed. Chic, sophisticated people tend to wear black,  so I’m told by a million glossy magazines, books and film imagery.  Apparently, I also tend to look smarter dressed in black.  I can always try to project the existentialist intellectual that lives in me since my teenage years. I grew up during the post-punk, Gothic 80s and have never managed to be Goth even though I still nurture a special admiration for the whole commitment that kind of aesthetics entails. Some of my most glorious errors are a nod to this sumptuous dark world.

Albeit all the experimentation and character creations around my “cinematic self”, I have never been truly convinced that my clothes could become the visible form assumed by the way I chose to define my public persona. At least not in the sort of spectacular, larger than life way I envisaged.

As a spectacular sub-culture, Goth provides a unique insight into the experience of extraordinary “self-authorship” because of the dramatic and unconventional nature of the external self-constructions of individual identity through dress and personal grooming. Whether or not you are drawn to the “dark side of the human heart”, it is almost impossible to remain indifferent to the dramatic manipulation of appearance and the fantastic narrative that accompanies Goth fashion as an illustration of the  extraordinary dimension the stories one writes for oneself can attain, allowing space for the creation of a “historic utopia” as far removed as possible from everyday life.

As superficial as it might seem, fashionable self-construction is not only about “the look”.While designing an aspirational self, fashion “props” allow the individual to construct a personal “bricolage” which gives the access to their extraordinary self via their ability to transform, and in some cases contest conventional social categories through their glamorising discourses (Thompson and Haytko, 1997). While this might not be a characteristic of the Goth subculture alone, both its cultural pervasiveness and the recurring concern with the distinction between authenticity and depth on the one hand, and a fascination with surface and performance on the other, make Gothic a postmodern archetype of “stylistic resistance”. An is this very stylistic resistance that perpetuates its fashionable allure.

Late capitalism produces the desire for an aura that is felt to be prior to or beyond commodification, for a lived authenticity to be found in privileged forms of individual expression and collective identification. For as long as goth seems to answer that desire, it will thrive as an undead subculture: forging communities on the margins of cities, suburbs, campuses and cyberspace; defying constraints on gender and sexuality; and imbuing the stuff of everyday life with the allure of stylistic resistance.

Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Michael Bibby

While Goth as a subculture has not faded away, the increasing heterogeneity in styles and fashion and a world that seems to no longer produce a coherent dominant culture or the cultural values against which resistance might be expressed, have transformed subcultural style in an ideologically vacant performance of over substance (David Muggleton, 2000). The incorporation of a subculture in mainstream society through commodification is not exclusive of Goth but its enduring resonance with contemporary fears, desires and anxieties might have exhausted itself: where once Gothic provided a space in which the dark dreams of the Enlightenment could be realized, now it simply exposes the void at the heart of an advanced consumer culture. The seemingly inescapable Gothic now functions as the perfectly protean postmodern commodity

All of the varied elements that once defined street style are now high fashion’s greatest source of inspiration. At Jun Takahashi’s Undercover and John Galliano’s Margiela in particular, they have been incorporated in dazzling and inspiring ways. But sometimes the embrace of street chic comes across as a mere flourish tacked on to spice a bourgeois brand with a bit of danger, to make a woman with a coddled existence feel a bit more in touch. It is an attempt to buy cool.

By taking the style, trends, dress, music etc of the subcultures and popularizing them so that they lose their exclusivity and gradually become mass-produced commodities made available to all, the mainstream cultural industry dilutes or annihilates specific meanings transforming authenticity in “ready to wear” commoditized lifestyles subject to the same cultural logic of “self-help narratives” and consummerism impulses. Being authentic, as La Agrado would say, does not come cheap and  you are all the more authentic the more you resemble what you have dreamed for yourself . And this is a rare gift.


References

P.S. While I am selling my 80s vintage gothic errors, a part of me is still reluctant. But then I am not sure if “Gothic Chic” is authentic in me.

Radical Authenticity

I used to be a Tomboy – a micro collection

Growing up, I never managed to be the pretty girl. My hair always looked messy and my bangs covered my eyes, my knees were always bruised from running and falling or bumping into things. Although I suppose I longed to be prim and polished, I’ve never managed to. This is my little tribute to all the girls that have never managed to be “true ladies” and are happy about it.

[cincopa AkMA5WNaZE6r]

 

Check the collection here

Fanny and Alexander

I was 12 when me and my brother who was 10, decided to go to the movies and watch this to “kill some time”. We are not little precocious geniuses so we did not understand that ”

Bergman’s story is Dickensian in its extravagant emotional power – with a hint of Charlotte Brontë – and there is some Chekhov in its melancholy.” We did, probably, managed to understand the sibling complicity created in born out of adversity.

Even so, and as futile as it may seem, the movie made an impression on me because of the sailor outfits (it did, after all, won the Oscar for Best Costume Design in 1984; check Marik Vos’ costume sketches at The Criterion Collection). This movie, also  a contest “between magic and dull diurnal reality” was in part responsible for this Laura Ashley dress in my closet.  I suspect that also watching Upstairs, Downstairs, reading “Os Desastres de Sofia” (Les Malheurs de Sophie [Sophie’s misfortunes]) and a later fixation on Brideshead Revisited had something to do with it. A dress symbolizing and imagined childhood.

Getting to know who you are

What’s in a name

According to the label on it, I’ve had this t-shirt since I was 4. I guess these were quite popular at the time and my brother also had one.


At four, this was just a cute t-shirt with my name on it, now I look at it and see the beginning of my long saga of letting clothes tell me who I am. The fact that it actually has my name on it makes it even more important. I have always identified with the name chosen for me. Both of them. My two given names are Nadine and Stella. One meaning Hope and the other, of course, meaning Star. These meanings have, undoubtedly, shaped my main personality trait, I’m the eternal optimist, the obstinate one “that maintains that everything is best when it is worst.”

Nadine is the name everyone calls me, it’s also the name that has always made sense to call mine. Re-reading my 9 year old diary I realise that it also the name of the character I’ve created for myself. Most of the pages are full of descriptions of this girl called Nadine, an aspirational self, subject to countless experimentations of posture, behaviour, appearance, treated in writing like some amazing heroin in one of the countless books that were my most usual companions at the time.

Growing up in Portugal it was also too different from all the other names at school or the doctor’s office. At a time when you didn’t want to be noticed it was the kind of name that did not allow for any kind of invisibility. I didn’t actually realise how good that was. I do now. It is the kind of name that does not really require a surname. You can just be.

The imaginary or delusional grandeur I came to see in this name made it difficult to live up to it. How not to fall short from the character? I started by dressing it, all it’s moods, quirks, dreams and aspirations as a costume designer of some sorts. That’s how I ended up with a massive closet and no archiving space.

Stella has never been the protagonist. Others have never recognised it as a character and I am only slowly discovering that it might also be a name with it’s own voice.
Say Your Name

References

Voltaire

A character on 2046

Heartbreaking pasts and unchanged futures

 

2046 is one of my favorite movies of all times. It’s beautifully photographed, the wardrobe is divine and it leaves you with a permanent sense of longing and missing the future. I bought this dress on eBay and I was totally convinced that I could attain the sort of elusive elegance portrayed by Wong Kar Wai.

I’m not a movie critic of any sorts and even though I spend a lot of my time watching movies, I related to them primarily through an aesthetic involvement, I want to get lost in them. This particular movie mirrors what seems to be my most pervasive attitude towards life. Somewhat aimless, seldom focused on the outcomes, but always looking forward and enjoying the journey.

Is a dress that important? Having been on stage (not metaphorically) more than once, nothing makes me more aware of the character than the wardrobe that lets me understand what story I’m supposed to be telling.

On the other, the metaphorical stage, having the right props for the day’s performance always seemed to be the most enjoyable way of making the journey., transforming ordinary activities into moments of filmic fleeting beauty.

Every passenger who goes to 2046 has the same intention. They want to recapture lost memories because nothing ever changes in 2046. Nobody knows if that’s true because nobody’s ever come back.