Fashioning the Queer Self

In this reading author Ruth Holliday will research the way identities are performed in relation to clothing and fashion by video diaries of several participants.  Her focus will be on the queer identity and the notion of comfort. Fashion throughout the years has been a way of self-identity.  It has been a way of identifying with a certain culture, a way of finding and being found amongst others.  Fashion is a way of branding oneself.  Ruth believes that “…fashion itself may have provided the most important signifier in the construction of queer identities in the West.” Today fashion is somewhat more androgynous and more excepted amongst heterosexual men, so it has lost its fire for identifying oneself in the queer community.  Ruth discovers through her video diaries that comfort is the key to what one chooses to wear.

What nessacarily defines comfort?  Ruth through her analyzation of two of her subjects defined comfort to be that related to authenticity.  For the queer one finds more comfort in what feels more expressive of oneself rather than that of the hegemonic view of the feminine and masculine behavior and attire.  A lesbian might feel more ‘comfortable’ in a t-shirt and jeans with some tennis because it is truer to one’s identity, she would prefer to be seen dressed this way rather than in heels and dress, she feels more comfortable in her surroundings this way.  On the other hand a transvestite would rather where her 4 inch heels and best dress no matter the physical restrictions because she feels more ‘comfortable’ in her settings.  It is interesting how lesbian feminist have freed themselves from bodily discomfort in clothing fighting against the hegemonic perception of what is feminine, while the queer man has restrained himself to these rules.  Ruth defines this bizarre way of thinking by describing comfort also to that of “…being ‘recognisable’ queer.”

When dressing to hit the town queer whether lesbian or gay not only is the physical comfort important the social aspect is as well.  Fashion for the queer self is a way to become recognizable within their subculture.  This leads to what is referred to as ‘family resemblance’.  Family resemblance is “…anything which is called by the same name but does not possess anyone characteristic in common.”  An example of this is when someone is assumed gay by what he wears and acts when in actuality his not.  This can cause someone to lose their self-identity in order to represent who they feel they are inside by others standards of what they should be on the outside.  This brings us back to the question, what is comfort to the queer?  Through this reading you will discover it is to most queer whether lesbian or gay, the ability to be recognized amongst their subculture.  Therefore Ruth concludes that “…the comfort of identity is thus far from an individual or individualizing state within queer culture.  Rather it is always social, though its discourse may sometimes carry the rhetoric of individualism.”

This is not surprising.  Throughout this book we have learned the power of social influence on fashion.  Whether a straight man, women, or queer dress has been a means of portraying an image.  I find it interesting though that all though fashion is usually described as a way of portraying the individual dressed it is actually the image that harmonically has been defined.  The truth is that fashioning the outer body will never be the key to the actual person it represents but a tool for the wearer.  Fashion is a tool for the person to portray an image that they want based on stereotypical views.




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