I was on my way to a modeling go-see yesterday, Halloween has just passed, and I reflected on the idea of “dress up”.
Modeling certainly has that element of “dress up” – the original and still pervasive ideal of skinny, beautiful women dressed up like outrageous and elegant dolls has long entertained the masses and been a symbol for young women to idolize and emulate. At least that’s what the fashion industry and society have built the “model image” to be.
Halloween is a holiday where children and adults can dress up, be spooky, or crazy, or powerful, or whatever they want. A character from the highly entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful show “Lucifer” said on their latest Halloween episode something to the effect of: “Halloween is suppose to be the one day where you can be whatever you really want to be.” It’s a time where people can go masquerading as their greatest fears or their greatest desires in a night of mischief, gatherings and good times. At least, that’s what we’ve come to believe.
But, there’s something more to it, isn’t there. Dressing up – pretending to be something we’re not. Trying to attain the beautiful, the unique, the high-society look, the statement; to display to ourselves and the world around us how cool we are, how interesting, how funky, individual, rich, powerful, confident, lucky, #blessed and #fierce.
Is there anything wrong with “dressing up”? I’d say inherently no. Who doesn’t like to put on something that makes them feel good, dress a bit more wildly than they might, put on fun accessories or try out a “new look” now and again? We ladies like to try out a new lip color now and then, get that nice new pair of shoes, or put on something “sexy” when we’re going out with the girls. Men get a new fade, that Gucci watch, that “sick” club outfit, or the latest shoe style. And in acting and modeling, we’re constantly playing dress up – being dressed in the latest fashions or putting on the clothes of a character we are about to portray. There are phrases like “fake it till you make it” and “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. So, what, if anything, is wrong with dressing up?
What we wear and how we dress has always been an indicator of our style as individuals, our dress and look speaks to who we are, possibly giving those looking at us a hint of our personalities, our values and our interests. But, what happens when we stop dressing who we are and start dressing up like who we want to be – or more so, who we THINK we should be in the eyes of others? When we stop dressing in what we like and start dressing up as what we hope others will like, envy, or accept?
Kind of a loaded question I guess, because fashion in a way has always been designed to make an individual stand out. Why do we really want the latest Nike shoe? Why do we really put on that sexy dress? Why do we wear ties and cuff links or put on makeup? Who are we really “dressing up” for?
This topic is a veritable can of worms but I feel it’s something we always should be mindful of. Women especially seem to get the short end of the stick (as we do with many things, but that’s another topic for perhaps another day) – make up, body image, sexy outfits – outfits that are “too sexy” and the impossible line between slutty and prudish. A woman can be ridiculed for wearing make up and trying to “pretend she’s something she’s not”, or she can be shamed for not wearing any make up and “not taking care of herself”. An example of this is Alicia Keys and her no makeup decision. The woman is a wonderful performer and seems to be a decent person and quite lovely with or without makeup – a thing she can decide to put on her body or not. And her no makeup decision has created so much backlash it’s astounding. It’s just makeup, and as she says, “do you, boo!”
Why should it be anyone else’s choice but yours to decide if you should or shouldn’t wear make up or decide how you should or shouldn’t dress?
Does your character define your fashion, or does fashion define your character? Is there a balance? Is there a line? If you dress in a hoodie, chains and baggy jeans, are you a thug? If you dress in a short dress and fishnet stockings, are you a slut?
Coincidentally, as I write this on the subway, a young street performer has started stepped on the train to perform. A young black man, in a cap, branded t-shirt, drawstring sweatpants, pulled up socks and sneakers. When he walks down the street, people may think he’s one thing because of his style. And now, he’s performing – a beautiful piece on the violin. Perhaps the image of a classical instrument accompanied by graffiti shirts and caps don’t match to some people. But, why not?
Maybe the answer is somewhere between character and characterization. Or between perception and persona. Maybe there is no answer. At the end of the day, as Ms. Keys has said, maybe we all should just “do you, boo.”