Booklook / 2
ISSUE 2 - SHIRT
Booklook – Wearing is Publishing is Reading
A set of garment-magazine hybrids that unfold hidden stories about fashion and garments.
The reader of a fashion magazine casually scans, browses and flicks through its glossy pages. They jump through the content, constantly interrupted by advertisements and opening the magazine in random places. They encounter flat images and short snippets of text which are sometimes about garments, but just as often are not; they address the fibres of dreams instead of fabrics. The magazine, found in living rooms, bedrooms, waiting rooms, beauty salons and shops, is held in hands and laid on laps - the supple and heavy pages following the form of the reader’s upper legs. The paper feels cold, the text promises “Ethereal, elegant dresses that will have you dreaming of summer escapes”.1
Although hinting at garments, fashion media offers us no actual interaction with a real, material garment. Apart from the occasional T-shirt folded into the plastic wrappings of a magazine, such as a white T-shirt with the word Vogue on it, there is no material garment in a magazine or online fashion platform. There is no real woven texture or stretchy knit touching your skin, no holes to put your head, arms or legs through. In fashion media we, as ‘readers’, interact with fashion through looking at garments, not through wearing them. Even though fashion is seen as inseparably connected to material garments and bodies, fashion in media takes the shape of images and text. Or like Barthes says: image clothing and written clothing, instead of real clothing.2 This de-materialized and disembodied form of fashion, representing garments instead of being them, makes it easy to circulate fashion; it fits in your (digital) mailbox, on your apps, on your mobile phone and computer screens.
The lack of the material garment in fashion media is not only a literal absence. In the images, and especially in the texts, we can detect the ‘loss’ of the material garment as well. Although many images and texts in fashion media depict garments, they are focussed on the looks or visual style of the garments instead of their real materiality and our physical interaction with them: “Multipocketed trousers have never looked more desirable.3
The written garment (the text) especially, freed from the practical and aesthetic restrictions of the real garment and the photo, easily evades material reality. It often describes the look of a fabric or the ‘feel’ of a look, not the depth of the pockets, the smell of a fabric and the sound of a zipper. Instead, the text creates new meanings and symbolisms that are not present in the garment or photo itself. It invents and explicates feelings or values that we are supposed to associate with a garment. Take these examples from the magazine Porter: “So, wear that ‘wow’ dress whenever you want to if it gives you strength”4 or “Channel Ipanema’s laid-back spirit of adventure with sizzling swimwear and beach essentials to bring surfer style to hot days.”5 According to these captions, dresses can feel like ‘wow’ and give you strength and swimwear can be ‘sizzling’ and channel a ‘laid-back spirit of adventure’. The media’s focus on looks, style, symbolism and feelings easily dismiss and ‘cuts through’ the connections with the real act of wearing, the interaction of the body with the material garment, and the garments’ situatedness in daily life, with all its particularities.