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Lady Gaga and the problem of couture

July 25, 2010

Before I start, I should say that all I know about high fashion could probably fit on the back of a postage stamp, and would consist of the names of a few designers inked in tiny letters. With this in mind, there is something that’s been bugging me for a long time; indeed every time I flick through the pages of a fashion magazine or happen across a photoshoot from one of the major catwalk shows. This something is couture, or more specifically, the idea of designing clothes that no-one will ever wear.


I mean, really?

I understand the aesthetic side of fashion. No really, I do. I enjoy looking at the artistic and often outlandish creations of the high fashion provocateurs as much as the next self-aware gay man. I understand that fashion exists, at least to an extent, as an art form, to be appreciated visually as an untouchable expression of the designer’s artistic interests. But, to be trite and quote Oscar Wilde, ‘all art is quite useless’, and to deprive clothing of its first and foremost purpose — its functionality — seems to me a little strange.

Take as an example that shining beacon of outrageously visual impracticality, Lady Gaga. When she first surged into the public consciousness, I was wary and a little cynical. Now Gaga has ostensibly taken over the world, and yes, charmed even me. Mostly because of her determination to make pop music freaky again. I’ve always liked musicians to have a distinct and bold image (don’t get me started on Bowie, Kate Bush or Patrick Wolf), and that’s something Gaga has certainly established. But watching her music videos, I’m forcibly reminded of this tension between aesthetic unreality and the ‘regular world’ of us lesser mortals. There’s a point where I just have to wonder what the hell the point is. Yes, pop culture should shock and provoke. Yes, image is key to commercial success in many cases. But arguments of aestheticism and l’art pour l’art aside, when did we as humans stop putting on clothes for the sake of modesty or warmth, and start becoming walking Mardi Gras floats incapable of tottering down the streets in our foot-deforming heels?

That's a trip to A&E waiting to happen, surely.

What strikes me as most insane about couture is the money, too. Some of these creations are not even that nice to look at, really. If you were seen walking round Tesco in some of these clothes, the foam-walled wagon is sure to be round the corner waiting for you. So how can the high fashion community justify paying and receiving astronomical sums of money for creating artworks in fabric that no-one can ever, ever wear?

Maybe I’m overthinking this or failing to grasp the very concept of couture, but I think this is going to continue to frazzle my brain until I’m convinced we should all be sewing our wardrobes from fig-leaves again.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2010 3:42 pm

    I agree completely. I love the art of fashion, but sometimes it just prompts a big “WHY???” from me. I mean, why would I pay $1000 for a shirt I can find at Kohl’s for $15? And why would I pay $1000 for a shirt that I wouldn’t WANT to buy anywhere, ever?

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