13 December 2009

Experiments with Fashion and Modesty

WARNING: This post may offend some people. The intention is only to inspire thought and provoke comments regarding the theory of the veil.

In the book The Fashion of Architecture by Bradley Quinn, the work of Hussein Chalayan was featured discussing the concept of sensuality and its association with revealing and concealing the body.

Here is a segment from the book (p. 22-23):

"Exploring the sensuality associated with revealing and concealing the body, fashion innovator Huseein Chalayan has even placed his catwalk audience under surveillance. In 1997 he sent models onto the catwalk wearing black chadors of varying lengths and nothing else, exploring the capacity of traditional Islamic dress to define and de-individuate the body by concealing the wearer's identity. The shortest chador exposed the model's body from the navel downward, while another model roamed the catwalk in only a yashmak. Both enabled the wearers to gauge the audience's reactions while remaining anonymous to the onlookers.

An expert on the social significance of veiling, Fadwa El Guindi points out that, 'dress form and behavior...are not accompanied by withdrawal, seclusion, or segregation'. With vision and mobility among the essential concerns of Islamic dress, the sense of privacy afforded by veiling is comparable to the refuge of a building, yet allows the wearer to wander freely.

Chalayan's inversion connects contemporary modes of visuality with this long tradition, demonstrating this power that masking can provide for a wearer who wishes to see and yet remain unseen."

***the picture was edited in order to avoid posting inappropriate nudity on this site.