Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bloody Fabulous Update

(From Vogue Italia 2009, picturing Nina Ricci's famous heelless shoes) I am currently reading submissions for Bloody Fabulous, and as happens with every new anthology, there is always a new set of issues. To be fair, I anticipated the majority of what is happening this time around: namely, people are trying to fake knowing about fashion. And it shows.

Firstly, fashion is not about labels. There is a reason a person dressed in a bunch of labels without rhyme or reason is called a fashion victim. Fashion is an industry that doesn't sell you beauty or sexiness or any of those things; fashion industry sells you change and the promise of self-reinvention and your new, better self emerging from the ashes; it's a promise of shapeshifting, of drag, of disguise and escape. And every successful fashion house knows it, and their label tells you what they are selling -- which disguise. It's a language, and you can fake it no more than you can fake speaking French. If you just throw a bunch of label names on the page, it looks off -- as if you blurted random foreign words and expected people to understand you. So: what labels your character wears should tell us something about the character. The fewer labels the better, since it allows for a better definition without too much product placement. There is a reason it's called The Devil Wears Prada, and not The Devil Wears Tom Ford's Gucci.

Speaking of: yes, we all saw that movie. So the chances of me accepting a story about a fashion editor who is super mean to her assistant are close to zero. Chances of me accepting more than one of those stories are actually zero.

Secondly, fashion and style are not the same although they are related. Style is all about how a person puts together their guise. To paraphrase Ru Paul, we all wear drag: we put together our clothing in such a way as to tell other people what we envision ourselves to be, what image we want to present to the world. Style is being fluent in this language -- that is, knowing how to put together a persona, as well as being sure of WHAT persona to present, whether to keep it fluid or to develop a uniform. People who do not care about fashion and style are not fluent (and that is fine, not every form of expression is mandatory); they dress for comfort and don't give it a second thought. But when you're writing about fashion, you are talking about people who are at the very least interested in style -- that is, they know which persona they cultivate. And this part is not about labels as much as it is about the lines of clothing and the silhouettes.

So when writing about people who are (or try to be) stylish as well as fashionable, it makes sense to give some thought about how image is put together. Not the labels, but the lines -- is it nipped in, girly, foofy, masculine, androgynous, eclectic, avant guard, approachable, forbidding, tailored, flowy? Knowing what selves your characters present to the world is knowing their aspirational self, or their armor. And if you set up a contrast between the true self and the projected self -- well, that's conflict right there.

And finally, it helps to know how fashion industry works if you choose it as your topic. As in, where do the models come from? Who makes runway samples? What are tailoring vs store samples? Where fabrics are sourced? Who are buyers? etc etc. Of course, not every story is about fashion industry -- there are many about people of personal style, of significant clothing, of disguises. But for all that is sacred, if you write about the fashion industry, do your research in the same way you would research history or science or any other industry -- thoroughly. If you think it's too trivial to research, or that no one will notice, you do your story no favors.


Carla Richards said...

Are you still accepting stories for the anthology then?

Fish Monkey said...

The deadline was yesterday, but sure, I'll look at a late submission.

Shirin Dubbin said...

After reading your post, I wish I had written the story I had in mind to submit. I get the same responses to my love of fashion and style that I do to my love of comic books. People who don't understand those art forms tend to think they are meaningless and, as you said, it shows in the way they're presented. Joel Schumacher's be-nippled Batman for instance (style and comics gone amok).