Have a read and see what scholar Jennifer Jacquet has to say on the importance of shame in our culture:
“Balancing group and self-interest has never been easy, yet human societies display a high level of cooperation. To attain that level, specialized traits had to evolve, including such emotions as shame.”
Read more about what Ms Jacquet has to say here:
Indecent 10 years before its time
Shameless 5 years before its time
Outré (Daring) 1 year before its time
Smart ‘Current Fashion’
Dowdy 1 year after its time
Hideous 10 years after its time
Ridiculous 20 years after its time
Amusing 30 years after its time
Quaint 50 years after its time
Charming 70 years after its time
Romantic 100 years after its time
Beautiful 150 years after its time
James Laver, “Taste and Fashion”, 1937
What does shame mean to you? What does shame in relation to dress, to fashion signify?
The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning to cover; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Jean Paul Sartre writes that “shame realises an intimate relation of myself to myself. Through shame I have discovered an aspect of my being” and this is integral to the type of shame that we want to explore in the third issue of Vestoj. Shame is personal, but also universal. Shame allows us to see ourselves in the eyes of others, and here its link to dress is at its most potent. We become self-conscious of our fashionable selves, or lack thereof, and the feeling of shame arises when we see ourselves through the gaze of others. Fashion prompts us to judge ourselves and others. It forces us to face up to the shame of not belonging, the shame imposed on others for not dressing the part, the shame of not being able to participate in fashion because of a body type deemed ‘wrong’ or a wallet deemed too meagre.
For us this journey began with Adam and Eve, banished from Paradise by a wrathful God – the beginning of consciousness, shame and also clothing. This then is where our exploration of ‘fashion and shame’ starts; from it we hope to be able to delve into this multifaceted and complex subject matter in as many different ways as there are interpretations of the theme. Help us out here. Imagine, for example, the shame of being turned away at a fashion show or the shame of turning up at an important event and finding that someone else is wearing the same dress as you. Go back to that time when you left the bathroom at your lover’s house, it was the first dinner with the parents, and your flies were undone. Or recall the moment that you, surrounded by friends, got out of the water only to discover that your new bathing suit had become completely transparent. Or maybe you remember when your favourite white trousers decided to turn on you and proclaim to the world that today you got your period. But think also of all the garments created throughout history specifically to shame their wearer: the dunce’s cap, the sanbenito, the coroza, the scold’s bridle, the prison uniform, the Abu Ghraib jumpsuit, the scarlet letter, the yellow Star of David armband – the list is long and shameful. Or maybe shame for you is closer to modesty, what we can or can’t show? Do you suspect that the Victorian woman felt ashamed when her calf accidentally showed through her skirts? Or that the conservative Muslim woman keeps her face and body hidden out of modesty or out of shame? Or what about slaves to fashion – should they be ashamed of themselves? Perhaps this is where the other side of our coin of shame comes in, the side that spells out ‘shamelessness’. Is being shameless something to be proud of? What does it even mean? How do we turn the traditionally shameful into something celebratory?
These are all questions that we would like you all to spend a moment or two considering. Maybe one of them awakens something in you, or maybe fashion and shame means something entirely different to you. Either way, we would love to start a dialogue with you. Please let us know what you think.