It is necessary for fashion and style to be interpreted beyond the cover or what we observe on the surface. This is particularly based on the fact that fashion is a creative design which is characterized by pictures and visual images. Feminist theorists are adamant that fashion dresses and styles should be looked at beyond the monochrome or binary factor toward looking at it as a mix. In particular, items such as metaphors, models and concepts of interpretation are incorporated in fashion with an aim of creating certain false demand for the customers who especially the women who are always on the move to change and have a new look thereby allowing the fashion models, metaphors and concepts to change their value system. Although for a very long time Muslim women have been presented by various writers as being fashionable, there is much metaphor in these materials which propagates the notion that Muslim women as well as the Middle East women are actually labeled as being religious and fashionable. This paper aims at exploring two aspects of fashion, one from the late eighteenth century in the Queen of Fashion book by Weber and a contemporary fashion aspect with the assertion that these fashions are metaphors that label Muslim women on class-based stereotypes.
In interpreting and creating of style or fashion, there is the use of metaphors to create a visual impression. According to Marilyn Frye, patterns are compared to to metaphors (Entwistle & Wilson, 2001). The main issue in using of metaphors is that we have to identify them, then go ahead, and articulate them in fashion or style. It is essential for us to break down a certain metaphor and understand it deeply. This way we are able to understand a certain piece of fashion and pinpoint its downfall or where it lacks.
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In using metaphors, there is a need to look out in the world and place that is in a piece of fashion. Marilyn stresses the need to re-metaphorize the world. This means that in a piece of fashion, we can combine different aspects of metaphors that represent different truths into one piece (Entwistle & Wilson, 2001). This is mixing of metaphors that bring with it multiple meanings and aspects. For instance, taking fashion ceases to become a monochrome and then turning them to an interesting collage can always be interpreted to have various meanings. Such metaphorical aspect of fashion fosters stereotype of Muslim women
In most cases, Muslim women are required to fulfill certain conditions in their clothing fashion. Such conditions include covering the entire body, not too thin for someone to see through, hang loose to avoid the body being apparent, clothing design must not attract attention, and not warring clothes for reputation. While taking of fashion, much of what the present world regard as fashion and would go for is actually what the Muslim culture restricts for Muslim women. In other words, the metaphorical aspects that characterize fashion design for Muslim women are themselves contradicting the expectation of Muslim culture. For instance, Muslim culture considers restriction on dressing design as a measure to protect Muslim women from influencing men lustfully. Ironically, various fashion designs for Muslim women are unique and are therefore bound to attract people’s attention. In other words, in linear metaphor, fashion is only considered to be a circuit of style-fashion-dress if it can be consumed by many people at a specific rate. A contradiction occurs when culturally Muslim women fashion design are not meant to either attract the attention of men of cause them to gaze at the fashion.
It is through mixed metaphors that we get to experience the ambiguity and the ambivalence in fashion dresses. This arises in the use of collages. As for ambiguity, there are mixed messages that are not clear to the perceiver. In addition, ambiguity brings in difficulty in translating the messages that the people view as a new style. Ambivalences entail incorporating emotions in the design. In other words, a mixed metaphor in fashion highlights the ambivalences that are present in society such as the youth versus the aged.
The concept of fashioning Africa is by African feminists. In this concept, the main concern is of how Africans manifest their politics and histories in their dresses and clothing. Here, people wear dresses that are an expression of freedom or the social setting of their African settings (Allmann, 2004). This concept is about how fashion is relevant to people as they express what they feel or in their achievements.
Characteristics of Metaphorical Aspects that Stereotype Muslim Women Fashion
General fashion is perceived to be a means which people can use to express themselves. That is, it is an opportunity for people to experiment based on how they look and how much attention they can draw from the people surrounding them. In this perspective, fashion should represent or speak out for the people. Fashion or designs of dresses worn are meant to be a language of what is going on in the political, economic and even the social sector. Fashion in this aspect makes a statement politically. This concept explores how Islam and Muslims in general restrict their women in their dressing and that everything that they wear represents something.
“Queen of Fashion” is a book by Caroline Weber that is about Marie Antoinette and her life. Weber, as many others is interested in Marie, who started gaining interest in people's eyes from an early age of fourteen years. Weber is different in this book as she focuses on what Marie wore during the French revolution. This design was a means that was to be used to help her gain her own identity and help her be recognized as the Queen of France. The metaphorical part of such fashion lies on the fact that such type of clothing promoted self-expression an aspect that has to attract people’s attention.
On the contrary, Muslim women dressing fashion are designed for modest purposes and not attention getter at all.
Marie was of Austrian heritage, and she had to reform to fit into the French culture. From an early age, the people of France gave Marie a makeover of her appearance to become ready for her future husband. This makeover was from her hair to her teeth. She also had to be taught on how to behave and walk in public (Weber, 2006). The French people also taught Marie Antoinette how to wear uncomfortable clothes and still maintain her calm in public.
Marie discovers fashion and she start to make statements using fashion. In a society that restricts women in their behavior, she manages to make statements with the use of her fashion. Marie through her dressing found followers, especially women who were always eager to copy styles that she wore. She was able to rise above rules set up by traditionalists and nobility so that she could express what she felt.
Metaphors are useful in helping to understand the aspect of the dresses that Marie wore. This is so especially for the poufs that she used to wear on her hair. These poufs were so vast and lengthy that one could not miss them. The poufs though were metaphorical as she sometimes wore vegetables and fruits because she was passionate about gardening. These poufs sometime left people wondering of what they represented. The poufs bore ambiguity, and it was difficult to tell for sure what they represented, but they did create a new fashion style.
The poufs and dresses were as a collage they represented different aspect all in one outfit. They were ambiguous, as people could certainly not tell what they represented. On the other hand, they were full of ambivalence as they portrayed Marie's feelings and emotions and her resistance to the set of rules set out among the French (Horwell, 2007). The poufs helped Marie stand out and be visible. This was so in a place where many did not pay attention to her because of not having come from a French heritage.
Similar to the concept of fashioning Africa, Marie wanted to make her political impact through what she wore. A common example of this is the pouf she wore of ships that represented that she supported the French involvement in the American war. It was through fashion that Marie was able to make her voice and thoughts be heard. On the contrary, it was uncommon for the Queen of France to be involved politically especially when she had not borne any children.
On the contemporary society, I choose the work of Rei Kawakubo, a Japanese designer. Rei is popular for her use of black and grey in fashion. Her fashion stands out especially in Japan. It has a mix of patterns (Breward, & Evans, 2005). The patterns have been used as metaphors to help to create fashion that is representative of the metaphorical found in today's society. As for the concept of fashioning Africa, Kawakubo fashions are empowering the Hiroshima community in their own fashion style.
Metaphorism in the contemporary society displays in 'traces'. This indicates the presence or the lack of a certain aspect in a fashion dress. It means that it can be in a certain dress, or it can lack. The 'trace' aspect though has shown several possibilities this brings out the mix that feminists are adamant about using. This has influenced the work of many designers in today's world including the work of Rei Kawakubo.
The metaphors are quite helpful in understanding the fashion in the Queen of Fashion, especially due to the different aspects of the poufs that Marie wears, as for the contemporary society the patterns are less and do not contain as many details. The concept of fashioning Africa is where dresses and fashion are representatives of political expression. This concept has helped in understanding of Marie Antoinette’s fashions, but these concepts tend to fall short when it comes to the fashion of the new society. This is so especially because in today's world countries are more politically liberated as well as their cultures and people. This concept has not been widely represented in the work of the designer Rei Kawakubo.
As for the metaphors: those of ambiguity and ambivalence. Ambivalence picks up from ambiguity it is when people exhaust the metaphor of mixed messages that they turn toward understanding the emotions behind such fashion. Fashion by Marie begins with the metaphor of ambiguity, where she wears things that the society received with mixed reaction and ends in ambivalence. It is later that we are able to understand the ambivalence behind the dresses and hair of Marie Antoinette.
The modern fashion is different to that of the past as it tries to incorporate aspects of the past, present, and future into their work. Therefore, the use of metaphors and concepts in the modern fashion broadens (Breward & Evans, 2005). This is apparent in the work of Anne Piaggi, whose fashion of collages is popular. This, in turn, changes fashion from the single narrative to visual of many ideas and representations.
In conclusion, fashion needs to be interpreted by the use of metaphors and concepts. This enriches the fashion and eliminates the possibility of a style not understood and appreciated. These metaphors have been helpful in understanding the fashion of Marie Antoinette and that of contemporary designers such as Rei Kawakubo. Although, in interpreting of fashion, the metaphors and concepts may fall short and capture the essence of style and fashion. It is worth noting that the use of a mix in interpreting of fashion in the past and today's society is paramount.