Welcome to this, my first blog. As a deeply interested observer of all things dress and fashion, several things attracted my attention this week including nudity, glamour, and stripes.
Last week we saw four naked men in one afternoon.
Late Friday afternoon somebody in our office shrieked and in a moment everybody in the office was at the window. A group of young men were spotted cavorting on the campus lawn, stark naked in the weak Dunedin sunshine. These nude male bodies frolicked in front of the gothic stone backdrop of Otago University clock tower, performing for a small camera crew. Their slim young bodies were pale against the green, no tanning lotion to be seen. Their gestures were at first protective, either modest or cold or both, but soon they dropped all attempts to cover themselves and they ran about exuberantly, their dark triangles of public hair clearly visible to our naked eyes. Some were amused, some were embarrassed, some were just grateful they were young.
Everybody wanted to explain it. Was it International Naked Day? Some of the office silverbacks thought they were making a film clip for a TV sports show, an explanation that seemed most likely. But it made me wonder. Nudists can join a club, but where is the fun if nobody minds? Surely the intoxicating pleasure of nudity comes through doing something bravely unconventional, something socially shocking yet really harmless, and the liberating acceptance of your own body which follows, born of the absolute necessity of carrying it off. Maybe this is Gokâ€™s trick too.
Nudity in a public place is a state of undress, a display of the absence of clothes. We are naked in the shower, but nudity is the display of it. This we rarely do. The TV show based on the idea of looking good naked (thank you, Gok Wan) relies on this extreme, where it is all about confidence and making the most of what youâ€™ve got, about accepting your own body as it is. Once you have done this there are only two reasons left to hide: respect for authority or consideration for the aesthetic sensibilities of others.
‘Looking good naked’ thankfully doesn’t have anything to do with the appearance of those bits which anyway remain hidden in these shows and let’s leave it that way, thank you. A little mystery is a great mercy, and anyway it is good to keep something up your sleeve, as it were.
Coinciding with World Loud Shirt Day, World Nudity Day on Friday seemed like the perfect opportunity for more displays, but I saw only one small bunch of nude boys. Some local student pubs were offering cheap (not free) drinks for anyone taking their kit off, but I had better things to do on Friday night. Nobody I spoke to saw even one naked girl.
Now why is that?
Glamour meanwhile was sadly lacking in the glamour event of the Spring Social Season: the Qantas film and television awards last weekend. A bit like their planes perhaps, this show failed to fly. Unwatchable really. All I could manage was a quick flick across to see what they were wearing. Dreadful! They were either trying too hard to be someone else or they didn’t try at all.
Is New Zealand just culturally too far from the Red Carpet Queens of Emmy and Oscar to do glamour? With the notable exception of Robyn Malcomb, there was zero style and zero glamour. Worse, a certain heavy handedness was evident. I sensed not murder but Auckland stylists behind this disaster: what were they thinking? That grey petal dress! Antonia’s ghastly gangster baby doll look! Wake up, New Zealand celebs! Famousness and money are not enough, honey. Fashion leadership takes flair and imagination yes, but also skill and knowledge. I mean self knowledge, fashion knowledge, dress knowledge. Forget about looking good naked, these people canâ€™t even look good dressed up.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Star Times has overturned the world as we know it, yet I almost missed this vital news item, hidden as it was on the bottom of page 10. We were given the shocking suggestion that science is not only willing but able to take over the task of telling us what to wear.
How did we manage for so long without them? Why did we ever imagine dress to be an art, often ambiguous, always context dependent, and only ever partly in the eye of the beholder? Science brings Rationalism to fashion, freeing us poor deluded women from fashion tyranny and lies. (Why did nobody think of this before?)
A so-called perception expert in the UK (with the conveniently common name of Dr Peter Thompson) has exposed ‘the myth’ of slimming vertical stripes and fattening horizontal ones. He claims it works the other way round, that horizontal stripe scan actually slim you by 6%!
He goes on to describe women as slaves to ‘fashionistas who don’t know what they are talking about’. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black. Anybody here ever worn a wide stripe around their largest circumference and not felt like they looked kilos heavier? And felt and looked slimmer wearing that other dress with the long straight lines? Is this because we are just stupid? I say show me your experimental design, Dr Thompson, and I will show you where you totally messed up. I expect it was somewhere in your definition of perception. Or maybe your definition of fashion. Or women. Or fashionistas. Or all of the above.
Science has joined the ranks of missionary liberators of women from stupidity, a mission as absurd as it is familiar. Quick, give that man a needle and thread! What will he come up with? And let us see what he is wearing.