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The Tyranny of Fashion

Oct 22, 2006
On the 14th of October, in the Year of Our Lord 2006, my family and I attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Annapolis (see www.rennfest.com). We feasted, we drank lemonade, we attended a merry joust where the brave warriors deigned not to fall off their horses because of insurance clauses. We had a grand old time for nigh on three and a half hours browsing rows of hideously expensive shops, and watching revelers eat gigantic turkey legs. And I was jealous.

Yes, jealous. Jealous, piqued, downright displeased; straying dangerously close to the venial sin of covetousness. What stimulated my dark mood of horribly green envy? It was fashion. Fashion that I couldn't wear as I shopped in Wal-Mart, as I strolled down the streets of Any City, USA, as I worked in an office or attended a conference. Yes, indeedy, I was downright disgusted that I couldn't wear the magnificent, handsome, glorious fashions of the Renaissance in our so-called modern society where anything supposedly goes.

I am a victim of the tyranny of fashion. When I go to a conference or a business meeting I must wear a ridiculous tie that should have been invented by a hangman. My business suit must be suitably drab without a hint of brocade or embroidery. Loud colors are not allowed, unless one is a billionaire or a pimp. Billionaires can wear what they want because their fortunes set them apart from the rest of us mortals. Pimps are equally defiant, albeit for different reasons. Of course, even billionaires and pimps would be declared "very strange" if they walked around in medieval clothing.

Since I'm not a pimp, and am not yet a billionaire, I'm stuck in the vast landscape of dark suits and boring conventionality. But why? Who made these stuffy rules? Why must we be ruled by conventions set by self-appointed arbiters who look down their long noses and declare what is in and what is out? This is tyranny that is so clever that most of its victims don't realize that they have lost their freedom to express their own creativity through their clothing. Fearful of being out of fashion, they submit to wandering through endless racks of identical clothing in stores that dare not rock the boat.

Frankly, I would like to be able to wear any outfit I wanted to; whether it happened to be from the Renaissance, or from any other period of history. It's true of course, that many of history's fashions were ugly or ridiculous. We can gladly skip such travesties. Watching the film "The Way We Live Now", based on the novel by Anthony Trollope, I remarked to my wife that the bustles on the rear of the women's dresses made them look like centaurs or perhaps a certain type of bug. Very unattractive and best left in fashion's dust bins.

But that day at the Renn Fest I was reminded once again of the vibrancy of color present in many of the fashions that men wore in earlier periods of history. Deep reds and blues; brocades; embroidery; piping, and all types of intricate designs that made their coats and clothing interesting. What would my friends say if I showed up at a business meeting wearing a cavalier's brocade coat? Would anyone hire someone dressed like that? Of course not. And that makes me mad. I call now for an end to the Tyranny of Fashion! Let fashion be ruled by individual taste and style, not the editors of fashion magazines or the oligarchy of haute couture designers.

Yet, the fashionistas would have no power if we, the victims of their tyranny, had a lick of sense. We have found the fashion enemy and it is us. I admit, I confess; I actually wore a leisure suit jacket in the seventies. I went unshaven, with the few chin hairs that I had, when I was a teenage hippy. And yes, indeed, I now submit every day to the Tyranny of Fashion that I detest. I am not yet brave enough to arrive at the office wearing a medieval doublet and a feather in my hat. Perhaps someday I will.

However, you will never see me walk to a podium and give a speech wearing onion pants and tights. Never, never, never, I say unto thee.


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Peter Falkenberg Brown
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