[Editor's note: In keeping with our promise to cover all things pop culture, LFM Co-Editor Govindini Murty will be contributing occasional pieces on fashion and style as part of our exploration of modes of creativity that inspire filmmakers.]
By Govindini Murty. This week on LFM we are celebrating fashion and how it influences cinema and the arts. I will be reviewing several fashion-related films this week and will also be discussing related issues of style and creativity and how they feed the cinematic sense of filmmakers. As an independent filmmaker and creative free spirit myself, I love fashion because I see it as a form of art – wearable art. And just like cinema, fashion is an important indicator of cultural moods and shifting popular tastes.
I find it fascinating that this spring/summer all the fashion magazines are featuring a strong ‘military chic’ trend. American Vogue, Paris Vogue, Elle UK, and Women’s Wear Daily have all recently featured photo spreads with military-inspired fashions. American Vogue photographs the new military chic in a classic, all-American style with cheerful, clean-scrubbed models striding about in a jaunty manner. Paris Vogue, in the decadent style it has made famous, photographs the military chic fashions on a sexy, sultry model posing languidly in the middle of the desert. British Elle, in a photo spread shot by one of my favorite fashion bloggers, Garance Dore, takes military chic to the streets and makes it flirty, youthful, and accessible.
Perhaps the most famous designer though to embrace military chic and take it to stratospheric heights of desirability is Christophe Decarnin of Balmain, who has single-handedly turned around that venerable design house’s fortunes by creating a whole new aesthetic built on structured military jackets with exaggerated shoulders, braiding, and epaulettes paired with skin-tight leather pants or distressed jeans and shredded t-shirts – all in neutral tones of khaki, black, or steel grey. Decarnin’s shredded military-green t-shirts alone run upwards of $1500, while his elaborate, structured military jackets run into the ten of thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, chic women from Paris to London to New York are snapping up his military-inspired clothes, and influential fashion editors like Emmanuelle Alt of Paris Vogue wear his clothes almost exclusively in public.
Khaki, epaulettes, military jackets, camouflage, dog tags. What does it all mean?
Is this new military chic a sign of a resurgent traditionalism, a yearning for order and authority after years of Bacchic hippie excess? Is it a cultural indicator of a new desire for sternness, discipline, and austerity – or is it just that the structured uniform-like outfits look great on women and give them an androgynous appeal that fashion, in its ongoing decadent sampling, loves right now?
In a famously liberal industry that is vehemently anti-war and puts peace signs on everything – and I mean everything (side note: does anyone actually buy this stuff?) – isn’t it ironic that the fashion industry would now be promoting the garb of the men and women who fight wars, thereby implicitly celebrating them and what they do?
Ultimately one comes to realize that in fashion, as in the best films, the politics/ideology/morality lie on the surface as a sort of window dressing to cover up what is essentially an amoral art form. Fashion, like the cinema, is ultimately about beauty, sensuality, and emotion. Whereas the cinema is art that moves and tells a story, fashion is the art one wears to venture out into the world and live one’s own story. Or even if one can’t literally buy and wear high fashion, one can still look at it and admire how it is photographed, styled, and staged – and thus feed one’s visual sense. This is something we need to constantly do as filmmakers (since cinema is, after all, primarily about the image): we must feed our visual sense.
Thus, the new military fashion can be seen in multiple ways: as a resurgence of patriotism and traditional values, or as an arch commentary or co-opting of these values for subversive ends, or as a fetishizing of the force and authority (and even violence) that is traditionally associated with the military (and that the decadent fashion world secretly loves) – or simply as the amused aesthete’s appreciation of all these forms for the sake of the play itself.
Whatever the motivation, as long as we show respect for the real men and women in uniform who risk their lives to defend our freedoms, the new military chic is just fine with me.
Posted on June 29th, 2010 at 1:30am.