Thursday, October 18, 2007

The paparazzi provide us with images of fashion that consistently compete with the shots that photographers take on location and in studios. From this type of photograph, taken on the move or at large events, has arisen an industry that overlaps celebrity and fashion, creating outlets for such images. Traditionally the society pages of magazines like Hello employed such techniques to present an ideal of glamour but now the media has grown to encompass all kinds of photographs and magazines aimed at different demographics. We can reel them off; Heat, Grazia, Closer, all aimed at a specific market. Some are more respectful than others, using different paper, presenting images in a variety of unique ways but all with a focus on the visual image that is editorialised in a specific way. What do we gain from these photographs as consumers, not only of magazines or the aesthetic that pictures present but from the clothes that we see? Is it easier to create styles for ourselves or do people viewing these celebrities, dressed generally in expensive clothes merely give us something to mimic?

I think that the abundance of paparazzi shots on the shelves has allowed people to dress with more originality and feel a confidence in combining their clothes in surprising ways. This seems prevalent among people in their 20's, a confidence in consumerism that allows them to wear clothes that in other circumstances could be a little over the top. Whether that's new is impossible for someone of my age to judge but the awareness that it is not happening within specific subcultures marks it out as different. This is not a group following a trend set by musicians, it's predicated on individuality, not a significant stride away from the everyday but a touch here and there of something a little bit chic. Good quality clothing is more affordable than it was and that lets people dress well but there is also an ability to mix everything up and find things that work. When you see teenagers walk down the street they often look as if they've pulled collections of clothes off shelves that match, the older people get the less they do this. Instead they match clothes to their bodies. The amount of media we consume has definitely opened people up to looking a little sillier and indulging in creativity with their clothing.

It doesn't ultimately matter if Kylie is wearing Gareth Pugh or Marc Jacobs, the subjective judgment in people's heads discounts the designer and focuses on her appearance in a dress. The question for the person gazing at her is definitely based on a comparison of Kylie in the latest photograph and Kylie in the last five shots that they encountered. Most of us have an eye for what we like and as we consume more and more photographs of fashion, see more clothes on other people, we make more decisions about what does and doesn't look good. This is inevitably applied to ourselves, the construct that we are really building is the image of the character we perceive our individual self to be. Part of our thoughts on Kylie's dress are to do with our feelings about the material, colour, cut as it relates to our body and character as well as hers. The paparazzi have made this process quick and easy. Hand in hand with consumer capitalism, which makes it so easy to pick up machine made, mass produced clothing, the process has been completely normalised in western culture. That we judge appearance and relate it to ourselves is not surprising, that we do it with figures that would have once been idols, that we can reduce photos of this type down and forget the enforced glamour is.

The avant garde Russian female artists who were so engaged and entranced with mass textile production certainly never conceived of it as something that would work so well with capitalism. However it is clear that it would be tough for them to argue that it hasn't been an equalising force in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Those photographs though as nasty, reprehensible and disrespectful as they may be make all those icons and idols come down to our level, they give us the choice to dress in any way that we want to, just as all people do because today Marilyn Monroe would be photographed looking really sloppy.

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