Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Performing Femininity -- Harper's Bazaar Singapore

(All photos are from Fashion Gone Rogue)

So this is an interesting spread from Harper's Bazaar Singapore, called Valley of the Dolls.

 As the title suggests, much of the photography deals with a fairly dainty version of femininity -- high heels and nipped in waists, with bright hair and short skirts compounding the image of almost childlike women:

They're dressed in costume calculated to convey the sense of fey and otherwordly. "Whimsy", as often portrayed by fashion magazines, often bears these descriptors -- fawnlike, childlike, fey, dainty. And this infantilizing and objectifying tendency often makes me uncomfortable, and this spread wouldn't be worth talking about if it was all it did. However, side by side with these images, there are other ones:

I'm really digging the contrast between the candyland, Katy Perry femininity and the androgynous looks put next to them. In this valley, women are both Ken and Barbie -- and, even more remarkably, all models here are in drag. The juxtaposition between very masculine cuts and the colored wigs and heels suggests that both are actually performances of gender, fluid and expressive -- femininity here is not depicted as an innate quality or a societal demand, but as a costume -- a disguise.

Yes, the clothes here are amazing, and yet this editorial strikes me as much more than that -- the transgender culture seems to have trickled into the mainstream enough for the fashion editorials to warm up to the idea of gender as performance. Until now, we saw Marlene Dietrich in man's clothes, and that was what a woman in drag remained -- subversive, sure, and yet iconic enough for even Heidi Klum to replicate it. 

But the admission that femininity is just as much of a performance is an interesting one, and certainly unusual in the industry that has been peddling the very traditional notions of what a woman should look like. And as long as we can accept the mutability and fluidity of both gender and clothing that communicates it (at least partially), I really like it. 

Even the pantlessness (Dolce&Gabbana -- of course.)


Collette Osuna said...

Very cool photoshoot....I saw your link in IFB....great blog:)

feministified said...

Ohmygoodness. I love this. I'm so glad you commented on Citizen Rosebud!!

I keep thinking of Judith Butler's “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution"!!!

Must KIT.

Fish Monkey said...

Feministified -- why thank you! I do appreciate this.