Fashion is our binding to the world, the meeting place of the organic and the inorganic. Fashion follows us through hospitality, becomes our personal dwelling place, our very own parergon. The garment enwraps the body, covers the body. Fashion suggests, expects, and allows us to transcend the materiality of our bodies. Fashion moves us and we spin together, we perpetuate together.
In the, “Fashion” section of his “Arcades Project”, Walter Benjamin writes, “Every fashion is to some extent a bitter satire on love; in every fashion, perversities are suggested by the most ruthless means. Every fashion stands in opposition to the organic. Every fashion couples the living body to the inorganic world. To the living, fashion defends the rights of the corpse. The fetishism that succumbs to the sex appeal of the inorganic is its vital nerve (1999).” This ‘coupling’ that Benjamin addresses is of great importance to us here today, for it is within this coupling that we sit and contemplate these words. The ‘coupling’ is the connection between things; the joint that holds fast a piece of machinery or the seam that connects two pieces of a garment together. For that is what we, and Benjamin, are talking about today, a ‘coupling’ and a garment; namely, the ‘coupling’ of the garment in relation to our original garment, our organic body. For, if the garment (in the context of ‘fashion’) is the outside ‘other’ to our own body, then this fashioned (and of-fashioned) garment serves as the structure under which we conceal and reveal ourselves to the world. This garment becomes the point of our meeting, our meeting place. And, in such, we continually swirl around (and within) this changing garment. For, also, this garment is not only a garment, but a center of possibilities and invitations; a mode of access to the other, an identification of the other, and an aesthetic beautification (and sometimes humiliation) of the other. The garment is the ‘coupling’ of the organic body always thru some kind of mode. But, what is this mode of which I speak? What is a mode and what is its relation to the garment?
Mode stems from the Latin ‘modus’ meaning “manner” or “tune.” Mode expresses a particular “way” or “manner” of being, doing, having, and knowing and expresses “arrangement”, “mood”, or, sometimes, “sense”. Mode points us into the realm of fashion (where it is commonly utilized) . Mode in fashion expresses a given way of wearing clothing and constructing appearance. The term ‘mode’ expresses itself in a given designer’s seasonal collection. The mode denotes the similar patterns, fabrics, textures, designs, and overall shape of the totality of the designer’s new collection. For example, Ennio Capasa’s Winter 2002 women’s collection largely contains black colors, leathers (for the belt and boots), high boots, transparent veiling of the chest surrounding by black, and an overall imperialist image. My brief unfolding of Capasa’s mode brings to light the similarities across differences, the main features of a given collection’s design.
Also, the mode comes to us through societal networks as tiny (or enlarged) multi-nuclear cells that conjugate and dissipate through the streets of the city (the metropolis). Wherever people congregate, a tendency toward imitation happens (and, conversely, a tendency toward distinction). In Japan’s Harajuku district of Tokyo, numbers of youth gather weekly to display their newest homemade, or pastiche fashions. In a country where identity is typified through uniform and custom, the youth of Harajuku (and Shibuya, for that matter) display a unique proclivity to sartorial individuation through dress.
Continually thru the filter of the mode, we come to this exterior identification of the garment. But when we begin to analyze the mode (the mood?) of the ‘coupling’ of the garment, we should try to recognize the double usage of the word ‘garment.’
The garment drapes, folds, entwines, slips, and binds around our body. Similarly, the garment wears us as we garment ourselves, actively (and passively) coming to a sense of familiarity and expectability through the fit of the garment. ‘Garment’ can be used as both a noun and a transitive verb. For example, “Yesterday, I wore several heavy garments.” As opposed to, “Yesterday, garmented in luxurious silks, I set off for home.” To be garmented, in the transitive sense brings into being a second sense (mode) of this important word. The garment garmented and coupled my organic body thru the mode. We are moving, and have been moving, toward and within the realm of fashion (another noun/transitive verb usage). This fashioning of the garment (garmenting of fashion) brings us out of (to the forefront of?) our bodies and clothes us with a “new body”, an inorganic body always already pointed toward the other person and always already a moment of hospitality while also our own unique dwelling. The ‘coupling’ of the body with the textile, with the woven, extracts us from sheer animality and places us into a new space, a social space, an identification and, at the same time, an unidentification with the other person, with many other people. Conversely, it is always this ‘at the same time’ that we find the most puzzling, for we (and here I mean we – you and I ((whoever you are)) are always “living from… (As Levinas may want to point us)” this ‘at the same time’, this ‘coupling’ which holds us in place while extending us beyond our bodily situation. The enjoyment of the garment, of its comfort of its imagined projection elucidates this sense of ‘living from…’ we are perpetually engaged in the act of ‘living from…’ as the medium (the dimension) from which we interact with our environment(s). All this and I still have not addressed Benjamin…