Changing Fundamentals: from Masquerade to Mimikry

Thinking about the future of fashion itself casts a different light on the underlying idea of Peut-Porter.  It considers the impact of technologies on the fundamentals of fashion instead of pointing out cultural future notions incorporated into our apparel. There are two ways fashion handels our bodies: restraining and covering what we don’t like to show is the usual approach. With the possibility to change the shape of our bodies by plastic surgery and by facilitating nanoparticles or bacteria to alter our looks, the body itself turns into a fashion item and the fundamental idea of covering fades.

Trends like the bagel head, where saltwater is injected into the forehead so it turns into a massive bump might still be an exception, yet it is at the same time predicting that body modifications are gaining ground. Considering that fashion is often essentialy seen as masquerade¹ and one can’t avoid asking how this task might evolve in a future foreshadowed by cybernetics. Literally taken, the word ‘masquerade’ implies placing the self behind a surface, creating a specific illusion in the eyes of fellow beings. undoubtedly, fashion has the powerful ability to point out our position within society.²

It appears fashion was invented in order to help us fulfill a role, just as costumes support an actor’s play. Consequently whilst our outer self influences the way we are percieved it also morphs the inner self, evoking a response from our environment which either supports or opposes the demonstrated character. these bilateral reactions blur the border of outer and inner self and ostensive subjectivity turns into intersubjectivity.³ Hence the notion evoked by the term masquerade renders fashion as a merely applied surface and doesn’t do justice to the actual process. Mimikry on the other hand describes a biological feature amongst species who imitate the look of another species, gaining advantage of their effect. There where several moments in history when we altered the given shape of our body, for instance by wearing corsets and more recently, by using plastic surgery.

Considering these techniques as the first step towards turning fashion from masquerade into mimikry, one could as well say the borders between our inner and our outer self are about to vanish. our identity is a ductile matter and we constantly improve the possibilities to influence its shape. the actual subject – the human body – melts into and serves the concept of fashion which once was predominantly represented by items like clothing. An article in Wired titled Don’t Die, Stay Pretty states that “a growing number of scientists agree that humans are poised for a breakthrough in longev- ity and what might be called “human repairability” – a new era that will not only raise the maximum age, but also deliver unimaginable new methods for preserving and even redesigning our own bodies.” 

We started to measure our body for reasons of uniformity and functionality and the proportional results have influenced how we dress and subsequentially who we are as individuals. But future technology will allow us to twist the point of origin. Bioengeneering and its ability to alter our genes renders even aesthetical surgery old fashioned. While we are about to not only change our outer selves but our inner selves (quite literally referring to our genes), the relationship between our garb and the body will become increasingly interwoven until dressing oneself will not be a necessity any longer. As a result, the basic rules of fashion are not only influenced but un- dergo a dramatic change which I’d like to illustrate in a simple exam- ple: Body treatment doesn’t suit the concept of mass production and won’t have the same impact on a variety of persons. thus, the fash- ion system would no longer rely on industrial machine production but would be rooted in medicine, science and individual treatments. However, fashion happens on the most different levels and not only the rather practical performances like its application are changing.

In particular the term Masquerade is closely linked to the concept of gender – a constant companion of our way to dress. Joan riviere has understood Masquerade as a mainly feminine symptom. She described women having to protect their femininity over their being equal to men in “Womanliness as Masquerade” (1929) as she writes “I shall attempt to show that women who wish for masculinity may put on a mask of womanliness to avert anxiety and the retribution feared from men.” This is just another remarkable role fullfilled by our clothes and with shifting basic ideas of fashion even the question of gender classification will maybe undergo a drastic change.








¹ “Perhaps the most straightforward motivation behind the incorporation of con- temporary Characters into fashion shows is the element of masquerade, or ‘becoming’ someone or something else altogether. It could be argued that this is the very essence of fashion, to culturally construct the self.”

Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox, Not A Toy, Fashioning Radical Characters (Berlin: Pictoplasma Publishing, 2009), p 10

²“For the sociology of fashion, fashion has not only to represent the structure of democracy, but also the natural order of society. It is to bring sameness and differen- tiations ideally to expression and de facto to reproduce the divisions into classes and sexes.”

Barbara Vinken, Trends And Cycles In The Fashion System (oxford: Berg, 2005), p 15

³ “Because individuals do not accomplish this exploration [“who I am” and “who I am becoming”] completly by themselves – because they think about others as they get dressed, and because they rely on feedback from others – individual processes of subjectivity become collective processes of intersubjectivity when individuals engage, influence, and percieve one another.”

Susan B. Kaiser, Fashion And Cultural Studies (London: Berg, 2012) p 30





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