top of page

Clothes: Identity, Armour or Uniform?

Ever since Eve bit that damn apple and discovered shame , humans have been covering their nakedness in different ways, for all sorts of different reasons.

Pared back to it's simplest form, clothes are just cloth , cut and assembled in a style. As an artist, I cannot ignore that making clothes is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, taking 2D flat cloth ( like paper) and turning it into a 3D form ( origami). Somehow , in this process, the flat cloth becomes imbued with meanings , that stem from man made cultures and oppressive systems like Patriarchy.

If you wrap the cloth around your bottom half in the West , it means you are female, especially if that cloth is pink.

This stuff intrigues me.

Pink is just a colour.

A skirt is just cloth wrapped around the lower half of the body.

To assign meaning to this , to me , starts to really become absurd. But these meanings can have deep and sinister consequences.

To illustrate this, let me tell you a true story.

An 18 year old young woman had been exploring her creativity for some time. She had been dressed by her mother for all of her childhood and now it was time to explore her own world and identity. She started by raiding her step father's old clothes and had fun trying on suits and hats and observed how these 'power' clothes made her feel. She liked it so much she saved up her part time job wages and bought her first purchase : a black fedora. She would wear it at every opportunity and felt so deliciously different. A clown in the travelling circus offered to swap with her and asked her to meet at his caravan. She didn't go, preferring her new hat to his rather battered bowler. There was also something else... but she pushed that feeling aside. It brought back uncomfortable twinges of memories of being prey. She didn't like that feeling and it made her think of the time she was on the train in that pretty dress and the man had exposed his penis to her. Now she wore her blue workman's boiler suit almost everywhere. She had embroidered a huge butterfly on the back and painted her face to match it every time she wore it. It was a ritual much better than make up. She felt good that the butterfly was on both sides of her. It made her feel safe somehow.

She found herself at art school and really explored the world of self expression. It was Cape Town 1983 , and she found herself in the strange place of being one of the very few punks in the city. The other one was called Maurice, a very privileged boy , who's mother would fly him out to London and kit him out at the brand new edgy shop in the Kings Road called Sex... Maurice would wander around the streets of Cape Town at night , eating every free sugar sachet he could find but looking the part of a London Vivienne Westwood catwalk model. The young woman , on the other hand , contented herself by scouring the local thrift shops for ballgowns and wedding dresses that she would wear with army surplus and DMs. With her home done hair dos in various colours and face painted to match her clothes, she found a strange safety and solace. This 'punk' uniform had the wonderful effect of being a bullshit filter. After her history of abuse at the hands of predatory men, this way of dressing gave her a safe space to be her and hold her own space.

One day she decided to test this out. She raided her mums wardrobe and pulled out her mums most bland clothes: a beige pleated calf length skirt, a modest blouse and a cardigan. She put these 'imposter' clothes on and applied natural looking make up and blow dried her hair. She swapped her DMs for some heels and went out to the local pub where she would often frequent, dancing by herself and being left alone.

She didn't last long there. As soon as she walked to the bar to get herself a glass of water, she found herself surrounded by men all offering to buy her drinks. She refused, grabbed her water and went out to dance. She was unable . The uninvited hands were all over her body and she ran out of the pub in horror, took off the heels and ran home barefoot, to the protection of the 'weird garb'.

That girl was me. Ever wondered why I wear the clothes I do?

Instead of being prey, my clothes set me out as something other, and therefore anyone meeting HAS to consider my humanity first should they want to get to know me.

The Kimonos that I make are imbued with Goddess energy. I take up space in them. I demand to be acknowledged as an individual. It's my armour , my soft and beautiful armour.

102 views0 comments


bottom of page