Monday, April 7, 2014

Mere Exposure - and Unflattering Fashion

I have long been confounded by the staying power of genuinely unflattering fashion.  Inverted box pleats over the belly, shag mullet cuts, poorly-conceived hem altitudes of all sorts, or WAIST BANDS ON BLOUSES (seriously, stop this right now - along with sublimation prints and gladiators).  Why do these things become popular - and how is it some things stay popular?  Sagging, boys:  twenty years now, and counting - when's this finally going to (you should pardon the pun) become un-hip?

Listening to NPR on the way home, a stray sentence that "this happens in fashion" in this story got me thinking - repetition not only takes us out of objective reality (where flattering fashion is clearly definable), but can inure us over time to things that initially we dislike.  When everyone's wearing a bouffant and dead-lipstick, we stop seeing how ageing the look is.  When the Macarena is everywhere, even hating it becomes a habit rather than a fresh sensation.  Music becomes a part of us, and we welcome its associations, the way it removed us from standard time once before, or the way it distracts us from standard time now - and clothes can do the same thing.

Growing up, I'd look at pictures of women in the 60s, and was mystified at how seriously geriatric they looked.  Loni Anderson and Farrah Fawcett were, for me, the first, most stunning example of how transformative fashion can be.  Photos of them from "before my time" (during their early, bouffant years) appeared to me strangely geriatric - and their looks a decade later, seemed to me *younger* looking by far than those early, stiff head shots.

But bouffants were repetitive, and forced their way into standard-issue fashion, though hardly anyone was the least bit better off for wearing one.  They became an accustomed repetition, like the Macarena, like political ads, like snark and extruded "food".

By our mere exposure to anything, we come to accept it, and by repetition, we come to accept it as part of the furniture.  Beloved or not, we can be inured to how ugly double-knit box pleats are on a perfectly nice figure, or what a complete pain in the behind gladiator sandals are to put on and wear, or how irritating That One Pop Song is (I won't subject you to mere exposure to that song title again ...), even as we find ourselves singing it brain-worm style for *days on end*.

Mere exposure and repetition can induce in us the magic of sacred time, as through music - but it has its negatives, and those go far beyond bad fashion.  Mere exposure to some truly awful things blunts their negativity.  But mere exposure to each other can be marvelous.

Go find a new person to expose yourself to - see if it doesn't shift ... well, someone's reality!

No comments: