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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 11. 1965.

Our Fashion and Us — The Drip-Dry 95% Wool Snake And After

page 5

Our Fashion and Us
The Drip-Dry 95% Wool Snake And After

—Photo courtesy Kirkaldie & Stains and Spencer Digby Studios.

—Photo courtesy Kirkaldie & Stains and Spencer Digby Studios.

Fashion, for several thousand years, has sought to compensate; the human female, who, unlike the ubiquitous snake, is unable to discard its own skin.

Today fashion has international attention, or so we are led to believe.

Hemlines, it would seem, are creeping over Parisian knees. Necklines are square in Berlin, bikinis the rage in the Bahamas, Bermuda shorts the thing in London. Les Yeux have it, and up and down the Bois de Boulogne gamin chic are showing their knees to an adoring world.

New Zealand, to the delight of its clothing industry, is waking from the dark of a seersucker past, to the light of fashion consciousness. Although the average New Zealand housewife can hardly be said to be conscious at all, there has been some inclination for local clothing styles to follow, somewhat belatedly, overseas trends.

The sack, the shift, the mod dress and hula hoop succeed each other in slow cycles. Models make a living in the cities, textile and wool promoters sponsor fashion and beauty shows to stir the group unconscious.

Fashion is confined to the New Zealand female. For the male, traditional virtues of dour sense have not yet been overtaken by the desire to parade peacock like, to pamper the sensibilities of the opposite sex.

The seasonably fashion conscious man is regarded with all the suspicion accorded a transvestite. Mr. Mod is less welcome here than he is at Margate.

For most university students, fashion has a different meaning than to a similar age group in the world at large. Perhaps to dress fashionably is not so much the aim as to dress as cheaply and attractively as possible.

The ball dress is the only widespread concession to fashion, the sloppy black jersey the complete negation of all fashion is supposed to stand for. For the average woman student, hurrying through the task of getting educated, travelled and married—in that order if possible, there is not too much time for anything else. But this has not diminished her ability to appreciate and enjoy life one little bit.

There is in the university, however, a group of fashionable women. The problem of money is often solved by indulgent parents, the problem of boredom is not.

They are often typified by one possession that is valued even above their virtue—the camelhair coat. Preferably imported from Germany. In the student cafeteria they stand out like tulips in an asparagus field. Lacquered hair, sheer nylons, happy laughing faces, and straightened teeth.

They are excessive devotees of the ball—the institutionalised jollity, followers of the irrational fluctuations of necklines and hemlines, waists and breasts, that is fashion—the institutionalised taste. The question that must arise, of course, is whether fashion is a desirable thing at all. It is a product of the high consumption society and a victim of calculated obsolescence of style. It is a perpetually recurring myth of ultimate beauty and taste.

But everybody is obviously becoming more interested in dressing well, after all the duffle coat and black stockings are a form of inverted fashion. The streets of our cities, anyway, are worth roving down with both eyes open at last. Life would be unremittingly grey if everything was justified only in terms of reason and utility. Why shouldn't people conform to increase their appeal?

The Increasing leisure and affluence of the large proportion of Western society has made it possible to create and amplify a desire for more and new clothes, and then to pander to it.

But one cannot criticise the existence of an innate desire for new clothes and new styles. One can only lament the lack of individual thought and taste that goes into choice of clothes.

If a trend is present it might be in the extreme simplification of beachwear, simplification to the limits of the patience of myriads of women's guilds; the simple, almost aboriginal narcissism of modern dances. Perhaps there is a tendency for simplicity in design and thought, fashion requiring even less effort than ever before. Off-the-hook, automated attractiveness, and super-market sex appeal.

At least the snake changed its skin because it Had to.