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17. Glamour's Silhouette: Fashion, Fashun, and Modernism

Judith Brown


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470658734.2013.00018.x


Extract

For fashion was never anything other than the parody of the motley cadaver, provocation of death through the woman and bitter colloquy with decay whispered between shrill bursts of mechanical laughter. That is fashion. And that is why she changes so quickly; she titillates death and is already something different, something new, as he casts about to crush her. (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project , 63) Browsing once at Paul Smith's—the upscale men's fashion boutique—I held up two ties and asked the clerk for an opinion. The “fashion forward,” he helpfully suggested, might choose the skinny tie, thus pointing me away from the wider one considered classic in the slender memory of the fashion industry. Fashion forward : in this winning, even modish phrase, is inscribed both a paradox (the forward must go backward to an earlier tie-time) and an inaccuracy. For fashion has no forward, but only a present, a present that asserts itself with what Roland Barthes (1983) calls the “absolute, dogmatic, [and] vengeful present tense in which Fashion speaks” (273). Fashion, of course, casts its gaze backward, but only with a glance that is murderous in intent and whose inclination is “the same as that of vendettas”: “Fashion's today is pure, it destroys everything around it, disavows the past with violence, [and] censures the future” (273, 289). Why, one might wonder, does fashion speak ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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