Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dandyism, Fashion, and Art

In this second of a four-part interview on foppery and dandyism, Sir Frederick Chook, a romantic, transcendentalistic, overly brainful fop, the author of FrillyShirt (http://www.frillyshirt.org/) and inventor of leopoard oil, talks about the relationship among dandyism, fashion, and art.

4) Any particular fashion styles particularly associated with dandyism?

"Across foppishness as a whole, it matters less what is worn than that wearing it is considered a valuable pursuit - something artistic, something worth developing in their life. Dandyism in particular, well, I might call it "fashionable menswear, only more so" - their checks more checked, their ties more tied, their pressed lines more pressed. King Edward VII is a good example of this menswear-pushed-to-the-extreme - and speaking of extremism, he was a probable Nazi sympathiser to boot. Fascists' neckties aside, foppery covers many traditions - chaps in velvet and lace stand out, of course, but someone who really cultivated the cardigan could as well claim the name."

5) Why are dandyism, foppery and clothes-horsing around prickly subjects?

"Believe it or not, there are still dandies in the Brummellian tradition who get a bit narky about anyone else using the term. They're not all bad, but if you look, you'll find they're just some of many with very forthright opinions about the right way to dress up. Don't dress too ostentatiously, don't wear anything old-fashioned, don't wear dark colours, don't wear bright colours, don't wear this style of coat or that style of collar, don't answer back, respect your elders, God save the Queen, etc., etc. Folks to whom dressing is an act of social conservatism; a preservation of standards, in which fun and creativity play no part."

6) How do the arts fit into the dandy persona?

"It's true, the old chestnut, that to some, life itself is a work of art. Of course, given how difficult it is to find two people who would agree on a definition of 'art', that might not help us much. I have my own take, following my Transcendental leanings: that art is the creative process which brings together who we are and what we experience, "realism, spiritualism," and the "aesthetic or intellectual," as Walt Whitman put it. In other words, art is knowledge, art is thought, and nothing we do can but be artistic."

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