Katy Perry dressed as an egg

 

My interest in costume and culture arose as an extension of my research at the University of Hertfordshire, where I have been a contextual studies lecturer since 2004. A key source of interest for me is that studies infashion frequently draw upon issues of identity. Identity is fluid, and dressing is a matter of identity construction. Clothing is the means by which we create and express our sense of self. The wearing of clothes provides us with an opportunity to transform ourselves: to appear smarter, thinner, cuter, richer, more mysterious.

While many clothes announce our identity, others replace it with one that is false or incomplete [1]. This separation of costume and self is a theme that runs throughout my blog. As posts have show, clothing can be viewed as a mask. It conceals the reality of the body beneath.

Christie Davies [2] has proposed that costume can provide a “shield from one’s own morality”. It becomes a vital tool in de-individuation by “removing personal identification”, and consequently also removes “personal responsibility”. In the notorious masquerade balls of the 18th century, the mask enabled escape from moral integrity [3]. For children in Halloween costume, it absolves them of responsibility for their mischief.

There are costumes that move beyond de-individuation to dehumanization, removing not only personal identity but also its most basic components – those that make us human. These are costumes modelled on inanimate objects, which strip the wearer of “humanness”. Dressed as inanimate objects, I’ve seen a couple wearing white decide to interlock in imitation of a plug and socket and teenage friends wrapped in rainbow colours line up like a row of Crayola crayons. Here, Katy Perrypresents herself onstage as a fried egg.

Katy Perry celebrates her 24th birthday by dressing like an angeled egg

 

We can also find references to inanimate objects in surrealist fashion. However, there is an important distinction to be made between garments that feature objects as ornamentation, and those that fully adopt an inanimate identity. Alexander McQueen’s skull-print scarf did not present the wearer as a skeleton. Agatha Ruiz de la Prada comes closer to objectifying her catwalk models. Her autumn/winter collection featured a garment in the shape of a durian.

Agatha Ruiz De La Prada: Milan Fashion Week Womenswear A/W 2009 - Runway

 

In these costumes, wearers are dehumanised; apparently stripped of elements of human identity. Inanimate objects have no self-awareness or self-expression. This is perhaps what makes such costumes liberating. Humanity carries with it huge risks and responsibilities. If we have personality, we are at risk of being disliked. If we have free will, we risk making the wrong choices. By temporarily escaping our human identity we also escape the burden of responsibility that being human entails. While we are in costume, we are unaccountable for our actions. Dressed as an egg, Kerry Perry can be as silly as she likes. She is free to defy expectations.

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