ART 302: Reading #9: Living Dolls

The female doll or cyborg in particular can also be linked to the search for the perfect body in Western culture, often played out in the idealized images of women in fashion, as well as the ubiquitous Barbie doll. The desire for the right image… alienates womenfrom themselves, turning them into automatons.

What exactly is considered the “perfect” body? Society engulfs this idea of having the perfect body, in relation to the proportions of the Barbie doll. Her market is mainly for young children, ages 3+, and with that in mind, she is what girls will want to look like as they get older, perceiving this as the ideal body all throughout their lives. Women go through extreme lengths to fulfill their desires of becoming “Barbie” like. From non-evasive procedures such as Botox or Filler injections to extreme plastic surgery.
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Designers use of dummies or other inanimate forms of display gestured towards experimentation but also fixed their work firmly in the field of fashion- with its links to industry and commerce- rather than art. For the dummies only made sense in the context of the tradition in fashion of using living women to display clothes, a tradition which draws attention to the commodification of the body through fashionable consumption in nineteenth-century Paris.

The models on runways are required to be a “blank canvas” to designers. They are to be free of any “unique” traits that can interfere with their designs and fashion shows. Designers take this into consideration when hiring models because like that they can mold the models how they desire. They want their designs to be exactly how it looks like on a dress form or mannequin. Designer Maison Martin Margiela showcases his models often (picture above) wearing pantyhose to cover the models faces and give the illusion of a walking mannequin. What kind of example is this giving to women? The fact that we have to look like a mannequin to even be able to consider wearing one of these pieces. Its definitely a problem to have to put models into a pantyhose to cover their faces rather than having them walk and be able for women to relate to them.

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The same visual shock tactic is often deployed at the end of the contemporary fashion show when all the models parade down the runway: fashion, supposedly about individuality, is actually about uniformity. The body which is produced is a disciplined, streamlined and modernist body, in which the outer discipline of the corset has given way to the inner disciplines of diet and exercise.

We’ve all seen the models walk after a fashion show is over. They all walk down in such an organized manner and as if they were in the military. They give the illusion of a cloned “ideal” woman. Tall, thin, and with a uniformed walk. The models go through different obstacles just to stay that thin. Unfortunately, not all women look like these models. The average woman takes into consideration her curves and when she sees these models, she thinks why she can’t be that thin? Then, the mental image of the “ideal” body cannot be shut down and the dieting begins. Getting slimmed down is never a bad thing but if its in an extreme manner, women become blindsided and see nothing but “fat” in their body and become traumatized, then that leads to anorexia, bulimia, etc. Models follow their diet regime because they have to form into the model body. Its no coincidence that all the models at the end of the runway look exactly the same. Some may be taller than other but the “ideal” frame is enforced here.

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ART 302: Beauty & Culture Exhibit

Fantasy versus Reality:

What is the Definition of Beauty?

There is no real, solid explanation of what is beauty. Beauty is not determined by age, size, shape or color. Looking at all the photographs from the Beauty & Culture Exhibit inside the Annenberg Space for Photography really sparked all the different pressures that I’ve felt as a woman, and well as a plus size woman. The “ideal” perception of beauty from advertisements from television and most importantly, magazines really create a huge demand for an unrealistic appearance. Sadly, beauty is determined by society. Even if you are brought up in a culture where beauty is different from others, at one point you might think something within your culture is ugly, and others in your culture may not.

As I saw the photographs of magazine advertisements, I imagine the average consumer falling for these photoshopped images and thinking if they buy the products they’d be able to be “beautiful” as the models in the advertisements are. Consumers fall for this ideal perspective of beauty, even though it is in a fantasy setting.

The real problem here is that women go to extreme lengths to follow the ideal qualities of a perfect woman. Plastic surgery being the biggest “solution” for the ideal nose, perfect lips, or high cheekbones, whether you’re 40 years old or as this image below says, 8 years-old. While looking at the video talking about the Toddlers & Tiaras children at the exhibit, I immediately thought of this issue that occurred recently. A mother was injecting her 8 year-old child with Botox to enhance her features and be able to “compete” at beauty pageants. What type of message does this create for the child, that Botox is the solution to be able to compete against others and have more chances at being successful, based on your looks?

The exhibit captivated me in a way that you have to get through the bottom of why beauty is displayed the way it is, and how it can be changed. I think that ultimately, you have the say as to what beauty is. As a freelance makeup artist, I always get clients who want to look like a certain celebrity or bring out features and hide others because they are “unacceptable.” I always tend to challenge my clients and let them know that I, the makeup artist, only enhance features that they love and not be ashamed of the others. Makeup is seen as a way to cover flaws and to have what beauty is to them but I think makeup makes a confident woman. If you feel confident without makeup, more power to you. But for others who don’t leave the house without makeup because of their dark circles under their eyes, with a little concealer under the eyes, they feel the most confident. And that is what beauty is to me; feeling confident in yourself. You will never be able to change the beauty industry. Models and celebrities are in an ideal world, but for the average person, we should have our own unique beauty ideals entitled by your opinion.

 

ART 302: Final Project Proposal

An alter ego is a fantasy of a person that you create who can be considered as another personality of yourself. An alter ego can be in various different forms, for example if your naturally shy and timid but your alter ego can be outgoing and adventurous. For the final project, I have decided to take on the role of becoming masculine as much as I can while still being a female.

I am a very feminine girl. I always have makeup on, have clean, neat clothes, and like girly things. Like I said in my previous post about gender roles and clothing, I always dress in feminine garments because I feel if I don’t dress like that, I feel masculine due to my height and big frame. I don’t wear tennis shoes/sneakers often, I don’t go out in sweatpants or sweaters, and I rarely leave the house with no makeup and my hair not done. Without my normal clothing and beauty related items, I feel extremely uncomfortable. I want to see how I would get treated and perceived as if I didn’t dress the “right” way a woman should dress. Also, I want to see if people would question my gender because my body is not considered that of a “normal” woman due to me being 6ft and big frame.

I will transform myself in two different ways. I want to split it up into 4 days total of 3 hours each. I will go to places I regularly go to, such as, Starbucks, where I get my homework done, the mall, to the movies, and I’m also considering to come to school dressed like that to see what kinds of reactions I get.

Two days out of the four, I want to dress masculine while still portraying the image of a female. An example of this is Missy Elliott. I will wear male jerseys, hats, baggy pants, and tennis shoes. I will leave my hair out and wear no makeup.

The other two days, I will dress as masculine as I can get. I will put my hair up as much as I can and tuck it into a hat or beanie. I will not wear makeup. I will wear baggy shirts, and pants, along with tennis shoes. I will TRY to conceal my breasts as much as I can under the baggy clothes. I want to portray a man without giving any light to my feminine features.

I will take pictures and videos as my journey to the different places I go. Once I get an encounter where I feel like I am being stared at for long or anything of that sort, I will video record what is happening. I also want to include an interview of an interviewer (one of my friends) asking people if they are questioning my gender or what they think of my outfit in terms of society. I will post these items on my blog at the end of my day in my alter ego.

ART 302: Sports, Religion, and Dress

When playing sports, you usually have to follow a certain dress code to comply with the rules of the game. What if your religious beliefs got in the way of playing your favorite sport? That was the case for Zeinab Hammoud, who’s Taekwondo team was disqualified from the Taekwondo Federation of Quebec in 2007. They were eliminated only for violation of the sports’ dresscode by wearing their religious garment, the hijab because it was considered unsafe.

“In my opinion every individual, no matter their religion, should have the same rights as anyone else in society, I mean, sports was made to re-unite people.” Elham Seyed Javad

After all of the backlash received from the disqualification of the team over a religious garment, Elham Seyed Javad created a garment that was not only dress code acceptable for many sports, but also followed the religious beliefs. She created the garment called ResportOn (http://resporton.com/produit/) that allowed hijab-wearing women play sports safely and comfortably.

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/religion/Athletic-Muslim-Fashionable—a-Tale-of-the-Sports-Hijab-128404463.html

ART 302: Reading #7

Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety by Rebecca Arnold

Four: Gender and Subversion

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“Of course, if women could subvert so-called masculine traits by adapting and adopting masculine fashions, then it was also possible for men to procure feminine styles for themselves, and, as the century progressed, the cries of ‘gender confusion’ by media and academic commentators became increasingly loud. Once the traditional moulds were broken they could not be patched back together, and the masquerade of fashion enabled those alienated from such stereotypes to dress up and invent their own gender identity.”

“In America the conflicting pressures on women during the period were represented in popular culture as well as a rash of pseudo-medical analyses of women’s psychology. Psychologists perceived women as having more power and status than ever before, yet they were still in the thrall of fashion and beauty.  The glamorously deadly neuroses of the heroines of films like Leave Her to Heaven of 1945 and The Lady of Shanghai in 1948, echoed this paradox, since they showed women to be beautiful and desirable and yet ultimately unstable and dangerous. Women were pushed to groomed and seductive, yet punished for narcissism, and their irrationality was an enduring theme that was examined in various forms in the forties and fifties.”

“This defying of constructed definitions by wearing simple basics was a favorite theme, picked up on by brands at all levels of fashion, from Calvin Klein, to Gap and Muji. It combined the inverted status value of the ‘classic’ that had grown in appeal during the 1980s, as an alternative to the myriad options fashion offered, with the desire to avoid restricting definitions that was a feature of contemporary youth culture.”


ART 302: Reading #6

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Reading: The Fashioned Body by Joanne Entwistle
(quotes are taken by the reading, unless stated otherwise)
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Does your dress follow traditional gender rolls?
I believe that my dress does follow traditional gender roles. In this day and age, my choice of dress are fully approved by the “traditional” gender roles. I believe the way you dress, based on how you style it, makes you have a feminine look or masculine look. I personally own pieces that might be considered by society as men’s clothing but I still wear them regardless.
“While a distinction between sex and gender is useful in that it denaturalizes common associations between the characteristics of the body and the characteristics of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’, many contemporary feminists are sceptical about the possibility of drawing a clear line between sex and gender.”
How does your gender influence your apparel choices?
Gender does influence my apparel choices. I love wearing feminine tops. I feel very plain with a t-shirt on or a basic knit top. I think the reason behind this is that I have always felt that I have a masculine-like body since I’m so tall and have a big frame so I always try to incorporate a very feminine piece in my outfit, whether its my shoes, blouse, or cardigan because of this reason. If I wear something TOO basic and plain, I feel masculine-like.
“Clothing is one of the most immediate and effective examples of the way in which bodies are gendered, made “feminine” or “masculine.”
In what ways do you dress outside of your gender?
Women are expected to be in feminine garments, such as dresses, skirts, heels, and blouses. In my case, I love wearing jeans. Pants are traditionally a male garment but women began to wear them as well. I wear jeans or any type of pant almost 90% of the time. The other 10%, I do reserve that for special events where dresses or skirts are needed. Another piece of clothing that is considered a male garment, a blazer, is something I wear all the time. I love my blazers! Dressing them up or down always finished a outfit for me, considering its a male garment, I sure love them.
“The body is so frequently invoked through clothing that we tend to take for granted that the jacket worn by a man exaggerates his broad shoulders and decolletage emphasizes a woman’s throat and breasts.”
“I’m not trying to put all men in skirts, I just want to give them the freedom to wear a skirt if they want to.” Jean Paul Gaultier speaking about his Fall/Winter 1985 Collection

ART 302: Reading #5

Beauty and Business by Philip Scranton

Natural vs Enhanced Beauty

We all have different perceptions of femininity and beauty. What might be unattractive to you, might be the most beautiful thing to another person. Sadly, our health issues and society might put us in a position where the social perception of beauty is considered unattractive, unfeminine, and sometimes unacceptable. When it comes to women getting a mastectomy, they feel like they’ve lost a sense of femininity and beauty. Losing a breast to them is correlated to many different extremes. For example, the fact that if they’re single, they have already lost a chance in finding a mate, and if you’re married, you wonder if your husband will find you “attractive” without a breast. These are things that society has triggered into these women into believing that in order to keep a man, you have to have two, full, healthy breasts.

A  way for post-mastectomy women to feel “normal and feminine” again, breast prostheses were created in 1872 by Frederick Cox. He took a chance to see how widely accepted these prostheses would be and after receiving many patent applications, they discovered that the market for these medical prostheses was evident. They were marketed as to”fill bodily depressions caused by the removal of female breast and pectoral muscles.” Catch phrases like “Restoration of the female form is what advertisers would promote. Also catch phrases as “a sense of balance,” “realistic appearance” were psychological advertisements would make women post-mastectomy want these prostheses right out of the surgery room and if they would not get them, they would be considered unbalanced and unattractive.

Also, through the years, a phenomenon with the enhancement of the female form was occurring. In 1940s, breast forms were seen more as for augmenting the breast rather than using it as a prostheses. This relates to the idea that using a breast form that would augment your breast size would produce a “new, attractive figure.” This created a sense of beauty emphasis of the breast prostheses, unlike the medical usefulness that was why it was created originally. Cosmetic emphasis really created an issue where these prostheses were used for post-mastectomy women who used them as a “healing process” and a way to feel balanced and having these prostheses to enhance breasts you already have created a rift among medical advantages and beauty advantages.

Cultural assumptions of the 1950s implied that breast prostheses offered a woman a means to restore a normal physical appearance after breast cancer surgery and thereby improve her mental health.” Its amazing how a medical advancement can have such a great impact of women who have suffered breast cancer and have lost a breast over it. The prostheses can be seen as positive and negative but in perspective, if it makes a woman feel better about themselves, it is truly up to them if they wear it. Now, if society and this artificial perception of beauty has psychologically convinced these women if by wearing the prostheses, they can “cover up” and “hide” the negative side of having a mastectomy, then it should be a matter of embracing what you have and not being ashamed of it and covering it up with an artificial breast. Feeling beautiful should not be what you see on the outside, but rather what feel from the inside.

ART 302: Reading #4

Status, Power and Display

from Fashion, Desire, and Anxiety by Rebecca Arnold

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S T A T US

“Members of the upper class fought to maintain status by asserting their superior taste and financial strength, through elitism of couture. However, the esclating power of images has meant that previouslt excluded groups now seek to create “imagined” status for themselves through construction of styles which mark out their own territory, immune to the taunts from their supposed betters.”

S O C I A L   P O W E R

“Dress can be used as an indicator of group identity, including all those who adhere to particular tenets of taste and style, but this necessarily excludes anyone who does not adopt the groups dress codes. This can apply at street level, where sub cultural groups create visual identities that reflect their ideals in opposition to those in both the mainstream and other contemporary subcultures. It can also be seen at high fashion level where, for example, wearing couture brings with it connotations of elitism and wealth that exclude those unable to afford such luxuries.”

S Y M B O L S  O F  P O W E R

 “This healthy cocktail confers a strong sense of sexual power on the fur coat. In both pro- and anti-fur advertising, the notion of women is invariably conflated with that of wild animal. While this may undermine the moral stance taken in the images created by the anti-fur organizations. it adds to the appeal of real fur for many women (and, significantly, many men), created an aura of unbridled sensuality, the fantasy of power tinged with the cruelity of the kill. Andree Collard wrote in Rape of the Wild, that the fur industry is eager to connect hunting, fur animals and women, arguing that women are ultimately made submissive in this role; “In reality, she is the prey being bought down. She and the fur animal – one alive and the other dead — are one and the same. Even when man does not actually hunt animals, his success is still reflected in the kill.”

ART 302: Reading #3

Fashion, a Strategy of Desire: A Roundtable Discussion by Roland Barthes

Fashion is more than just designing clothes and fashion shows. Fashion has become one of the most innovative industries ever since major manufacturing begun. It is seen as an industry where the new gets old fast, where trends come and go, whether its a small modification of the current trend or a drastic change.  Women are inclined to follow the trends and to dress themselves accordingly. Fashion and history as well as surrounding have always had an environmental effect on fashion. Upon reading this discussion, I picked up a couple of questions that I asked myself throughout the reading.

  • Do men designers have a tendency to dress women in an appropriate manner or do they truly do it to “disfigure” women, based upon the doubt of one of the philosophers? Or do men designers have a wider sense of “freedom” when it comes to designing, in comparison to women designers?
  • If fashion is influenced by social surroundings, in what way do they tie into them? Is there a benefit to the “surrounding” by creating a garment influenced by it?
  • How is fashion correlated with “narcissism” and “erotic values”? Do we tend to dress ourselves in a vain way? Or do we dress ourselves with an erotic state of mind?

ART 302: Reading #2

The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures by Jean Baudrillard 

Chapter 6: Personalization or the Smallest Marginal Difference

  • “All the contradictions involved in this theme, which is basic to consumption, can be felt in the desperate gymnastics performed by the language it is expressed, in the constant attempt to achieve an impossible, magical synthesis.” Page 87

Consumers are often led to believe that everything that is advertised is a necessity. We watch commercials of these fabulous women, with fabulous lives and we believe that a world like that does exist if you buy the product they are offering. In leiu of purchasing the item for personal satisfaction, we don’t realize that the product advertisement is offering the idea of an idealistic world. Sadly, the advertisement industry exaggerates their products and the average consumer falls for their mindless trap.

  • “It is by coming close to your reference ideal, by being ‘truly yourself’, that you most fully obey the collective imperative and most closely coincide with a particular ‘imposed’ model.” Page 95

Everyone has an inspiration. The inspiration is used in our daily lives as a model to live by. Before we take that inspiration, we look at ourselves for flaws or undesirable social aspects. From there, they are corrected by the most ‘trendy’ aspects of a person, and are applied to yourself. For example, if you are a trendsetter, you take inspiration from a unique, unknown source. From there, people start using that trend for themselves because they saw you as different and unique. The trendsetter is the ‘imposed model’ in this case and the people who follow it, do it because they have accepted themselves as followers.

  • “The modern woman is called on to choose and to compete, to be ‘particular’ or ‘demanding’. All this is, of course, in keeping with a society where the respective social, economic and sexual functions are relatively intermingled.” (Page 98)

Women are used to competing with other women. I, as a woman myself, am always looking to better myself. Before you try to better yourself, you have to compare your ‘flaws’ with other women. Then you exceed those flaws through an exaggerated advancement for better or worse. From there, you are judged if you don’t have everything in life. Women have the hardest situation in comparison to men. Women are expected to have everything in life, and more. Beauty, fashion sense, career success, a wife and mother, all make women want it all.