The Bible of Fashion

Student girls. Picture courtesy by Vogue Magazine.

Student girls. Picture courtesy of Vogue Magazine.

Not sure how many of you are interested in fashion issues and how many are interested in storytelling. Let’s say this audience is a bit like a tailor’s box, quite diverse but nice. We all agree in to enjoy humour and some good knowledge, despite I keep insisting I am no one. Neither, I understand about football, filmmaking or fashion. Shhh… We all know the ones who really understand about those things are the folks at the pubs, they really know if the fault has been of Cristiano or if the football club needs, is to change the Mister. It is an old time history which repeats in all the countries. No need to explain more about it.

However, fashion is different. It was said for a well-known woman in the industry called Coco that elegance is to avoid vulgarity. Maybe she did not say that exactly but it was what she meant. So what is fashion then? To wear the last trend a few people say? To wear a lot of branding clothes even if that means to be completely mismatched on a colourful parade? To do not wear any brand? To wear all in black? To know how to combine adequately everything for the right occasion? To wear expensive items? Maybe cheap ones? Those are all the questions that a not well-trained mind in the fashion or design concept starts to have when they ask for s/he: “What is fashion?” Well, they ask themselves those things and why the ugly shoe trend is back but that is another point classified like trends. Better a post only about shoes, ugly or not.

Applying the logical thinking of the Vulcan method. You could arrive quickly to the conclusion that fashion is all of which is not vulgar but then, we will find ourselves on another paradox: “Which is the definition or classification of vulgarity?” Elementary, that is the main question.

Victoria Beckham for Marc Jacobs. Picture courtesy Marc Jacobs.

Victoria Beckham for Marc Jacobs. Picture courtesy Marc Jacobs.

The problem with certain vocables is, they have implicit cultural issues or ways of to see the world. I tend to always use the same example because it is the easier one: “White colour in Occident means purity which in orient it means grief.” And applying that basic issue you can follow everything with words, translations, concepts…

A woman could wear a suit with a midi-skirt or a short one. She could be extremely smart with that outfit but if you put that image in certain Occidental places they would like to copy her. In other places of the world she probably would be classified as a b* and their ideal of beauty, fashion and smart would be to have the woman covered from head to toe for to do not provoke to no one. Because, we know girls, we are always the blamed and the ones who are the trouble. It is never the other sex.

In other words, what it is fashionable in one place is not in other. For this reason, people need to watch, to learn and to discover to apply those cultural concepts to certain worlds. Please, leave aside the stupid pre-concepts about if it is to impose a view of to see the world or not. Here is about aesthetic, not politics.

Laetitia Casta for Louis Vuitton. Picture courtesy Louis Vuitton

Laetitia Casta for Louis Vuitton. Picture courtesy Louis Vuitton.

One of the first ones in to set clear ideas of fashion and canons of beauty were the painters. From the Roman times until the classic portrait lines were broken, painters and sculptors had the duty of to shape how the world was, society or a loved one. Maybe they decided to make landscapes and people went to their exhibition to can see how was Venice because they could not have the opportunity to travel so far and to be there. They were not only artists. They were the ones who taught to society, without wishing, which were the beauty, powerful, respected, wonderful… Images of their times. Now, they keep for us like a study of the past and history.

It arrived a moment, between the XVIII century and the XIX one that everything became more complex. All that revolution in France, with the politics, the commune… Made divide the society. It started between the artists a dualism and most of them decided to call themselves the “Cursed Poets”. However, this not only had people like Baudelaire between them, if not so many painters and another sort of artists like Gustave Courbet. Those times were hard for everybody but this group seemed to enjoy their time with an excess of alcohol and women’s of plaisir. In fact, most of the artists of this group finished their days at prison, suicide or by syphilis.

On any case, what it was affecting them was reflected in their work. Courbet, for example, started to make all sort of nudity portraits which in our days could even be considered a scandal in certain circles. Watch for yourselves “L’Origine du monde” (1866). At the same time, like their art became more explicit and full of politics. They were excluded even more of certain circles which made them more revolutionary but, seen that if they did not adapt to certain social rules they were going to have it even harder for to pay their vices, they decided to hide those “messages” in normal paintings. And that is the origin of how a non-shaved armpit from a woman became the metaphor of her sex. Not sure why it was needed the metaphor when he had already painted it in real but those guys on that times made weird things.

Vogue vintage cover May 1917

Vogue vintage cover May 1917. Picture courtesy Condé Nast archive.

That created another confusion on basic terms. In special, in matters of vocables like Vogue which means “style” in French. Because if those artists were portraying prostitutes what they were teaching was the world was that way. When it was not.

Around those times, it started the press, magazines… Which not only were used for to share information if not for to teach too. And it was in 1892 when Arthur Turnure founded Vogue as a weekly newspaper in the United States sponsored by Kristoffer Wright. The Condé Montrose Nast bought and expansion did not come until passed 1905.

But what happened there? Art had really changed. It was not teaching anymore so it was needed something which supplied that. And that became the photography, illustration and press. Years later, it was involved the advertisement campaigns to the equation too. All of those were ideas to copy, to learn and to share. Why? Because most of the human population needs a figure to follow. Some took Queen Victoria or Maria Antoniette and in our days is any top model at a magazine or ad. The human being has not changed in this aspect since the Roman times when men and women dressed like their favourite god or goddess on a temple. And who had said how a God dressed? Who had said what was in fashion or in vogue? Exactly, an artist.

Kristen Stewart for Chanel. Picture courtesy Chanel.

Kristen Stewart for Chanel. Picture courtesy Chanel.

It is for this reason, that maybe when I was studying all of this, a professor told me at the photographic lab that if I really wanted to learn to take pictures I did not only needed to shoot so many times. If not I had to read Vogue, National Geographic or other magazines. Because what it was published on there it was the best. And that was what any student must to have as a goal: “to be the best”. Going back to Napoleon times. He used to say: “It is not good soldier the one who does not want to become a general.” And he was military but then, you study filmmaking and it is checked: the process is like in the army.

One of the first things which the humanity invented was a book. It is a best seller from centuries and it is called the Bible. It has a series of stories which you can believe or not, this is like to believe Star Wars will happen in the future. It is up to you. On any case, those stories are teachings. It is a manual, indeed. A manual which says: “Be good” without to enter in each chapter or detail.

Since that book was created, the human being has written so much more. Still, it is curious to check than when any writer creates a new world that information is called a bible too. The reason is simple: it says the basic rules that your characters will follow in your world. It has those teachings and ethics which they must follow and that is what a Bible is.

Lindsey Wixson for Mulberry. Picture courtesy Mulberry.

Lindsey Wixson for Mulberry. Picture courtesy Mulberry.

For this reason, Vogue is the Bible of fashion. It does not explain or impose what you should wear. Neither it tells you to expend thousands of bucks on an item if you cannot afford it. It is a series of notes made by different new artists which show the new tendencies in fashion, culture and ways of thinking to do not fall in the vulgarity of the times of the old pal Courbet and to start to portrait prostitutes again without any sense. Nudity? Yes. Sexual provocation or appealing? Why not? But one thing is to show a beautiful body like on the Greek times and to appreciate it, idolise it and to want to follow that role model patterns to become alike; and other very different thing is to wish to have sexual relationships with any naked body which will be in sight. That last one, that is vulgarity, which comes from Latin: “vulgus”. That means “common people” but also “used by people”. I think not any good soldier who wants to become general, or any peasant whom would like to improve his/her life would like to be used by others. That is what it is to be called “vulgus” or “vulgari”. Then, read, discover, explore, watch, admire, disagree if it does not fit your taste, your own artist fashion and you do not approve but explain why. It would be then when you will raise your voice to keep learning and to do not be used anymore. Until someone will decide that cadet has learnt enough. Arrived that moment, do not become vulgar again, leaving the ideas of others -even if they are politics- influence you in your world. Because if that happens you will not making your own art or expressing your own voice. You will become a new “Cursed Poet” of this new so fast technological society or new world.