Let’s talk about fashion vs. costume. According to Mirriam-Webster, Fashion is defined as ‘a popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior’. Whereas Costume is defined as ‘a set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period’. What is interesting about this of course, is that fashion trends, become costumes, years later. Decade-centric halloween costumes are examples of this. While taken to an extreme, looking like a 50’s pin-up, a hippie or an 80’s fitness instructor are costumes, adapted from fashion trends relevant at the time. Many of the fashion trends of the last few centuries however, have reflected the changing social and political views of the time. Examples? The invention of denim as a sturdy textile for miners, railroad workers and cowboys in the mid 1800’s. Shorter hemlines and hair, and boxy shapes in the 20’s to reflect women’s growing equality with men. Loosey-goosey shapes and lack of shaving reflecting the rebellion against the Man and hippie counterculture during the Vietnam War.
If fashion eventually becomes costume, what will the costume be for dressing for the ‘aughts? Seriously, I’m asking you. Skinny jeans and a striped tee? Maybe with a trench coat on top? What are the ideals now that we are dressing for, or against? I think the first item I’ve seen in a very long time is the Pink Pussy Hat- in direct contrast to the ‘Make America Great Again Hat’. Both of these items carry the weight of political and social change, and evoke incredibly strong feelings from either side.
Other than that, what do we have?
Now let’s talking deeper about fashion vs. costume, about how a costume makes you feel. Something changes when you are invited to a costume party, as opposed to a regular party. You are transformed, internally and externally. Everything is funnier, you may act different- maybe it’s part of your costume, maybe it’s not. A new identity has the ability to make everything more fun. It lightens the mood! Suddenly, you have instant conversation topics “omg, where did you get that hilarous wig?” “Nice toga, are those your children’s bedsheets?” “Wow how original, a slutty bunny…”. Through all of this conversation we lose the awkwardness of pretending to be ‘ourselves’ because now, we are pretending to be someone else, if that makes sense. We’ve all dropped our guard of trying to be cool, because you know, we are hiding behind our costume.
Why can’t fashion be like that? When I go to a party/wedding/bar now, you find everyone wearing variations of the same thing, as if worried that standing out and being pegged as different or weird is a bad thing. Why is that? Is it because all fashion is the same? Not at all. Is it because we want people to focus on us, instead of what we’re wearing? Sure, that sounds convenient. But I would argue that fashion is the best, easiest, and first way to show who you are. Similar to a costume party, it’s telling if you have on a common outfit, a revealing outfit, an embarrassing outfit, an outfit that makes you think, or maybe something relevant to pop culture. So shouldn’t we all be wearing clothes everyday that are our best expressions of us? Maybe it would lighten the mood a little, even give us some topics for conversation other than the political battle or the Kardashians. Unless, you are wearing your pink pussy hat around- I’m sure that will definitely start a lot of good conversations! In 20 years when your children are going to a costume party, how will they interpret this decade, this generation?
How did I get on to this fashion vs. costume conversation? I don’t know. I guess I looked at the images of me above and thought… hmm that looks a little like a Miss Cleo Halloween costume. But then I thought… well that’s cool. I distinctly remember the Miss Cleo fraud with the Psychic Readers Network, and her voice became so iconic that it became it’s own prank call game. We would call people and then press on the computer to hear her say different things to the recipient, like my favorite “Yawr a Librah, arntcha darlin’? in her distinctive Jamaican accent. Don’t remember? listen to this for a GOOD laugh.
See what I mean? Anyway, I hope that the next time you dress, you think about the story you are telling, what feeling you want to express, and what your style says about you that day. Think of fashion as being your confidence- your costume- to be whatever you want to be for one day only. Make a political statement, a gender statement, an ethnic statement, a slow fashion statement, a nineties pop culture statement, whatever you want! But promise me you will make a statement!