On Getting Dressed, Hunter-Gathering and Making Ourselves in Caves

We make ourselves in caves. We just want to drag our things into a dark space and sit with them. We dress up in our best clothes to sit or stand in the dark of the gig venue or cinema and enjoy a ritualistic flashing of lights and banging of drums. Freda Kelly, The Beatles secretary, remembers the Cavern smelling of piss from the often over flowing toilets and rotting fruit from the grocers above. And yet emerge the immaculately suited or leather clad Fab Four. They knew what they were doing. We all made ourselves in the caves of our teenage bedrooms. In various dingy, dark, cheap places where you are afforded time and space. It is endlessly fascinating then, how wide the gap can be between what people think/perceive/ imagine they look like, and the reality of how others see/ read them. We often assume others will make the leap and connect the dots without us putting in quite enough attention to detail.

Bill Cunningham says ‘Fashion is civilization’ without it we would be cave dwellers. Its a politicised thing I think, to wear clothing that has been acquired/ come across/ given to you/ been too good-er deal to refuse. Even if this causes a slippage or incoherence in our semiotic reading of a persons outfit and by extension, creation of self. What you wear is never exactly what you would have chosen. Right? Nor should it be. Maybe you don’t know what you would choose. Who said fashion had anything to do with choice? Who said style had anything to do with fashion. Susan Sontag said ‘its one thing to listen to punk rock as music, and another to understand the whole S&M-necrophilia-Grand Guignol-Night of the Living Dead- Texas Chainsaw Massacre sensibility that feeds into that.’ Same with fashion right? Its all about the subtext.

Sometimes people just seem to get it so right, and more regularly before that homogenising minimalist international context-less look of fashion online (think Norm-core). The passages in Just Kids in which Patti Smith describes her clothes and delicate sartorial decisions are quite moving. Smith is so thrilled when her new Dylan like hair is complemented by Warhol at that tin foil cave, studio 54. And Viv Albertine, a real life cave girl, declaring her passions as ‘Boys, Clothes, Music’, yeah clothes are super important. Oh! to be a fly on the wall when Jarvis Cocker and Chloe Sevigny were briefly dating and therefore getting dressed in the same room together. The double bluffing. Both trying to outwit each other. Both knowing each other really cared about fashion but were probably just to cool to show it. Maybe they spoke about clothes, maybe they didn’t. Jarvis said in i-D magazine in 1993 that charity shops are a modern day stand in for our innate suppressed ancestral urges to hunter-gather, and bring our spoils back to the cave. Two hunter-gatherers from either side of the atlantic, who never had to get a real job. (Not that they knew at the time of dating that they would never have to get real jobs, and could forever reside in the worlds of their own creation.)

Kim Gordon says Chloe Sevigny ‘dresses in subtext.’ They would both ‘get it’ when Kurt Cobain dolefully explained to camera his sadness of no longer having to hunt for treasure you cant afford in thrift stores, after you’ve hit the big time. Kurt lost touch with his inner cave man. Chloe maybe not so much. A nocturnal creature herself, dressing for the darkness of the club and reviving the 1890’s muse for the 1990’s, proving as an actress in Gummo that if fashion is your job then when you’re naked, you don’t have to be unemployed. Jarvis recently returned to the cave (an actual cave for a fashion shoot) for Another Man, and wrote a poem. He says ‘This is the real sound of the underground (cos it is, y’know actually underground) No outside influences whatsoever.’ What a great idea. Get back in the cave and start again. Remake yourself. You don’t need the internet. Take a bit of time to really think about it. No mirrors. No sharing. Poverty is the birth of creation and all that. Jarvis and Chloe. What a great moment. One famous for her boyish androgyny, the other for his innate effeminacy. I bet they just threw on the clothes from the hotel floor during that particular whirlwind.

Cor.. so you’ve come out of that dark cave and you look so great, so human, so deliciously pre-internet, so ready to move home with your mum because you are scared of the millennium bug like Chloe. And I just wanna snap you on my disposable camera with the flash on, your hands in front of your face, like Jarvis snapping the crowd at Glastonbury or like Mick Jagger in the back of a police car. Because you are so rock ‘n’ roll.

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On Getting Dressed, Hunter-Gathering and Making Ourselves in Caves

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