How surprising to find that the London Fashion Week was awash with strong, solid blocks of color. Deeply reminiscent of the superheroic comic book coloring of previous decades, I had to embrace this trend.
Last weekend at Emerald City Comicon, friends and colleagues kept commenting on my clothing. In view of all the imaginative costumes that were at the convention, I was surprised to attract attention. This isn’t the first convention I’ve been to where people photographed me, asking “who are you dressed as?” thinking that I was in some sort of costume. The answer is always “I’m dressed as me.” and it really isn’t that outlandish.
As teenagers, my friends and I used to look at the couture fashions of the runway and try to copy them with thrift store finds, not realizing how over-the-top the runway fashions were created to be. Walking down the grey North London streets in our own versions of high fashion, we would wonder why people looked at us, oblivious to why we stood out. It never occurred to us that those extreme designs were meant to be toned down for every day wear and in retrospect I suppose our attitude to fashion has something to do with growing up watching the original punk generation blow people’s minds a little. It made fashion seem like a kind of performance art or social gaming, a way to embrace our inner fantasies and super-hero selves.
One of the things that I first liked when I went to a comic book convention was how much more adventurous the clothing was. People dress up and not only do they not seem to mind looking strange, but they actively seek it out. I liked being the most boring dresser in the room, or at least not sticking out like a sore thumb. When I first started going to comic conventions, I felt freed up, since whatever I wore, it was a lot more modest than the half-naked Wolverine‘s and Emma Frost‘s, and certainly less colorful than the Spider-Men and Wonder Women. Still, this weekend woke me up to the fact that fashion is trying to compete on the color saturation front.
When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, my visit coincided with the London Fashion Week. Visiting my childhood friends, we took a glance at the magazine reporting of the events and were stunned to see a riotous barrage of color. Wonderful, clashing, solid colors were mixed with bold, almost Letratone-looking patterns. From my point of view the look was pure, old-school, comic book superheroes. This was a full-on homage to the flat coloring of my favorite comic books of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Following the excellent 1950’s / Mad Men influenced fashion of the last couple of years we can now see an evolution of that style, the fruition of which is a more aggressive use of bold colors and shapes, embracing the influences of the ’60’s and ’70’s. I didn’t expect to be able to enjoy the fashion world this much again, but I’m on board and I like it. Almost unintentionally over the last 3 years, I’d been trying to add splashes of strong color into my relatively monochromatic wardrobe, so although I didn’t set out to dress like a pop-art comic book, it just sort of grew from my personal taste. Perhaps with my taste, this has been somewhat inevitable and I was unconsciously expressing my love of the comic book medium on some level. It isn’t so much that I’m fashionable, more that I’m accidentally not completely out of sync with what is going on.This gave me all the encouragement I needed and after returning from London, I turned around 3 days later and flew to Seattle with a suitcase filled with aggressive colors to wear at Emerald City Comicon.
The minute I walked onto the convention floor and a gentleman asked who I was cosplaying, I realized that the bold colors might be more unusual off of the runway than I’d thought. Had I taken it too far? Was I once more being too literal in my interpretation of fashion? By the end the three days of convention I had so many interesting conversations which began with a “That’s a very bright color!” comment (and who might otherwise never have had a reason to initially talk to me), that I deemed my choice a success. I had fun to wear something bright and it seemed to make other people happy too.
Growing up, both of my grandfather’s were tailors and I often watched them dress people in extravagant ways. It all seemed like a costume to me and perhaps because of my profession today, I’ve always just seen it as another way to play with people’s expectations. Unfortunately, like any business, the high fashion industry is built on emphasizing peoples weaknesses, praying on insecurity to create spending when there is no need. However, if you can step away from the nonsense and insanity for a moment to simply enjoy the idea of clothing as a form of creative expression, then you start to see the links with the superhero comic book industry. Both are visual mediums which are based on creating costumes for people which instantly express their intent and character. Increasingly, fashion seems to be moving towards the aesthetics created by the superhero comic book world, and not in some kind of tacky, overt way, but more in the general tone and feel of recreating that kind of idealized world of play and endeavor in our own reality.
I look forward to everyone mixing red, blue, green, purple, orange, etc. The freedom to dress in wild and fantastic colors is one we can all enjoy, whether super powered or not.
Postscript: Heavy with irony, I sit her wearing my beat-up, monochrome pajamas while writing about experimenting with comic book-influenced fashions. Too ill to get dressed, I’m burned out from flying to London and Seattle in the space of two weeks, but I’m still glad that I did. The things I saw (and wore) were a great experience (in both places), but now I’m extremely happy to be able to retreat to my studio and write in the jedi-style comfort clothes I wear when I’m alone. Ultimately I suppose it is all about balance, “all things in moderation” as they say. While I do advocate enjoying some self-expression in fashion, it is good to have days where I don’t give a toss how I look.