The Dream Energy of Society


This week I have drawn the connection between fashion and its ‘magical’ potential.  Magic has traditionally had connotations of witches (both good and evil), bearded wizards and in the most contemporary sense, Mr. Harry Potter. If I were to say that forms of dress had the power to influence the course of events through ‘mysterious’ means, that would surely infer that by wearing our lucky pair of jeans, sneakers or say, silver glittery and crystal Miu Miu brogues, our clothing has the animate power to change the future.  Instead, for me, what is more poignant is the fact that the relationship fashion has to our psyche goes beyond what colours we like or shapes we deem physically flattering on our body.

The memories and associations stored in the folds of our clothes have the potential to unlock our deepest desires, unleash new energy and reignite prior glory (be it the feeling of youth or the skinny jeans you wore one night when you were feeling particularly sexy).  I think that this is something I subconsciously I think about when I go shopping and fall in love with something, whether it is the scent of a perfume or the cut of a coat.  Yes, the purchase and exchange of money inevitably implicates one in the process and allure of consumerism, but what it ultimately means to me, beyond the possession of a status symbol, are the possibilities embodied by the object.  The potential to change my mood, communicate parts of my identity and eventually connect me to past memories and emotions with its eventual use.

Elizabeth Wilson, one of the pioneers of the field of fashion studies, draws attention to the constant discussion of fashion in society as trivial, frivolous and ultimately an expression of society’s consumerist ideals. BUT, as Wilson beautifully phrases, “over time our clothes accrue to themselves the residues of use and memory, residues of desire, of hope and occasion”, highlighting the ways in which fashion is not merely a function of protecting our bodies or being manipulated by marketing and social media ploys.  Rather, it can be considered ‘the dream energy of society’, a most accessible means with which to explore and affect our mood, self-perception and fantasies for the future.

So the next time you reach to throw on that ‘go-to’ T-shirt you wear every third (if not second…) day, consider whether it is purely for convenience and routine…or perhaps whether this garment has taken on ‘magical’ properties beyond its base function, providing feelings of control, of comfort, a connection to the past and vehicle for the future…

x becca

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