I have always found dressing up to be a stressful thing. My tendency has been to under-do it. I’ve been known to go on dates, important VIP events, and theatre events wearing rags. The reasoning: if I don’t over-dress, I won’t seem pretentious and in the case of dates, I won’t let on that it means more to me than it really does. I think on a subliminal level, I have always realized that wearing something “fashionable” (for lack of a better term) can make you stand out, and I’ve spent my entire life avoiding just that.
This summer, I decided to dress up. I had the urge to do so because of two reasons: 1) an office-mate, Sukhpreet, that I worked with is an avid reader of fashion blogs and I found myself following them with her; 2) a date that I had, which made me self-conscious of my clothing (I wore a ratty old t-shirt and cargo pants, next to his iron-pressed black cardigan, delicate plaid dress shirt, and loafers).
As I began to dabble with fashion, I knew pretty early on that dressing up for the day has nothing to do with trends, being popular, or about social status. The only thing that I have been able to passionately commit myself to is the underlying notion that dressing up is an art. Your body is the canvas and your brushes and oil pants are found in your closet. The act must originate from a clear and fundamental impulse, an internal artistry. Some people may find this assertion to be highfalutin. But I’m not talking about pedestrian trends or dressing up for social status. In fact, choosing the right fabrics, colour combinations, belts, shoes, and accessories can create an extraordinary emotional reaction. Your outfit can in its highest moments create, if only for a brief moment, a common ground to share in: beauty. Which has been my goal every time I roll into the office, bike to meet a friend at a coffee shop, or am out to a late dinner with a special someone. Of course, clothes don’t stand in place of having actual character, but what I’m realizing is that it’s a worthwhile activity that draws on your own internal sense of visual harmony. The outfits that I craft in which I’m working from that place are always the ones that are noted the most by friends and colleagues. They have, as the Chinese call it, qi.
I remember two things that Lady Gaga said with regards to her fashion and visual choices. She was responding to the common criticism that her style and the visuals in her performances are meant to be kooky and flashy for the sake of grabbing media attention. She corrected the interviewer by saying, quite simply, that her choices are based on what she finds beautiful–no more complicated than that.
In a LiveStudio interview, she gives a more political reason behind her aesthetic:
Yes I am. I am a feminist. I reject wholeheartedly the way we are taught to perceive women. The beauty of women, how a woman should act or behave. Women are strong and fragile. Women are beautiful and ugly. We are soft spoken and loud, all at once. There is something mind-controlling about the way we’re taught to view women. My work, both visually and musically, is a rejection of all those things.
Some people criticize Lady Gaga and choose to write her off because they don’t understand her. To those people, I say: “At 24, at least she stands for something, and is actively pursuing it.” Lady Gaga is the epitome of someone, although still young and finding herself like the rest of us in our 20s, who dresses up from an internal instinct, and that is what we see, even if we don’t understand it.
I suppose in some ways I have always been drawn to fashion. I look back at my closet, and realize how incredibly tasteful I was back in my undergraduate career. I look at what I wore last year as I rushed to get to acting class in the morning: a vintage tweed blazer and sweat pants (so that I wouldn’t have to waste time changing for studio class). I was half there. Now, it’s my dedication to expressing fully, head to toe, my personality through my clothes so completely that the qi of my internal instincts live not only in my philosophies but also in this world, tangibly.