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Fashion: A Reflecting Rip in the Fabric of Our Society

21st October, 2009

The trends in fashion today mirror a world in turmoil where injustice, social inequality, environmental peril, and economic woes have engendered feelings of frustration and even hopelessness.

As a fashion clothing designer, Alex Angelino has long been cognizant of the relationship between the inner emotions and clothing choices. Putting together an outfit to wear involves a complex thought process of both the conscience and subconscious mind. Color, texture, materials and style are primary elements, as are the fit and proportions of the garments. In fact, cut and proportion are the two main factors when it comes to expressing oneself as funny, serious, victorious, indifferent, sexy, conservative, etc.

In pre-industrial societies, clothes often reflected occupation and/or religious affiliation, as well as standing in the social structure, but with the advent of ready-made goods in the late Nineteenth Century, consumers began to have options. As Diana Crane writes in her compelling book Fashion and its Social Agenda, as "the construction of personal identity outside the workplace became increasingly important," clothing became "a major tool" to do so, "offering a wide range of choices for the expression of lifestyles or sub-cultural identities" as well as of the individual's emotional state.

Crane continues by offering an analysis of the blue jean as signaling rebellion, adding that when blue jeans are worn with white T-shirt and black leather jacket, the rebellious connotations are accentuated. When the punk movement emerged, such elements as metal studs took the theme further, as did safety pins struck into the ear and eyebrows. As Crane writes: "Abuse of the body and clothing expressed derisive and nihilistic attitudes toward establishment values."

Indeed, generations express themselves with their looks, make-up, hairstyle and accessories, and since the Hippie movement in the Sixties, Designer Jeans have clearly been a tool to express rebelliousness. Today's Hip Hop and teenager trends are no different, the younger generation adding a twist by wearing designer jeans below the waist at a sagging level. The sloppy look that results has angered and worried parents and school officials, leading to the passing of ordinances in various cities around the country which ban the wearing of low-slung pants and fine those who ignore the code. This is a violation of civil and constitutional rights. As a clothing designer, Alex believes these young people are not only making a fashion statement, they are clearly making a social and political statement also.

Certainly, something has gone terribly wrong with our justice system, Alex explains, which lately seems more like an 'injustice system' where justice can be purchased. Attorneys often turn a blind eye or even facilitate pay-offs to judges. Alex himself was a victim of such a scheme. His personal court battle has had a profound effect on his clothing choices and creativity. Formerly, Alex was in suit and tie every day and he was designing formal clothing. But his bitter court experience, affecting him emotionally, shifted his attention away from textures and motifs that represent establishment values and more toward those that represent the anti-establishment. Alex eventually ceased wearing and designing suits altogether, instead wearing and designing jeans. Alex now uses textures, motifs, and styles that comfort him and express his inner emotions.

Looking sloppy by wearing sagging pants satisfies the need to express an objection to what is happening today and to express doubt about the challenges which lie ahead personally and globally. This not only pertains to clothing, but also to contemporary art, music, dance, painting, etc. In fact, as our social justice system has declined in strength and moral backbone, society's contemporary art has grown more aggressive, artists voicing anger.

The discussion of what to do about art and fashion trends should never focus on legislating codes and ordinances against the wearers or the artists, but rather on the social conditions which need to change in order for people to feel more hopeful and ultimately to express themselves differently. Perhaps it is time for everyone to be responsible and to make our voices heard by expressing ideas based on knowledge and wisdom.

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