Here I will be documenting my journey with The Woollen Mermaid Project. I begun basing my original thoughts around the trend of ‘Shifting Gender Notions’: the idea of having traditional male or female roles obscured or reversed. Examples of fashions in this field might be described as bi-gendered, agendered, genderfluid, gender neutral or androgynous. I found that androgyny and the appeal of mens clothing for women has been popular for many years, only now more than ever, it is inexcusably sexy. I then resolved the concept for my collection by drawing from some of these ideas, focusing primarily on women who dress not necessarily like men, but who encompass those strong or powerful mannerisms commonly associated with men. Be it perhaps, the dishevelled short hair style very common with women now, which initially caused great political controversy in the 1920’s. It was then, when women post World War 1 cutting their hair short like men in a struggle to gain liberation and equality which the war gave them a taste of, became fashionable, sexy and trendy as a statement, disgracing husbands and families. “To wear the new fashions was to embrace publicly the already established cultural meanings of fashion: as a visual erasure of sexual difference (the critics view) and a declaration of independence from pre-war social constraints (the defendants view)” quoted Mary Louise Roberts of the politics of women’s fashion in 1920’s France. Mary Louise Roberts also stated that in reference to the myth of Samson and Delilah in Victor Marguerittes book ‘La Garconne’ (1922), “The investment of the female bob with a kind of virile power doubly inverted the poilu-Samson myth: first because less, not more hair granted power and, second, because women themselves became ‘virilized’ Samsons-rather than shearing Delilahs. These inversions of power and gender in the poilu-Samson myth suggest a link between the bob cut and social anxieties concerning the wars percieved reversal of gender boundaries”.
I became very interested in the idea of women breaking social boundaries by dressing alike to men or testing and challenging society to see them as equal to men through the way they presented themselves fashionably. Tiffany Ludwig says, “Clothing, is an entry into a power-charged conversation.” It got me to thinking also about Punk fashions, anarchy and acts of rebellion. I wanted to focus on the fantasy of liberation as a cultural reality for women. Again, the idea of women feeling liberated by the freedom and expression of how they choose to dress, particuarly those who don’t lean towards optimum femininity. I wanted to express the sexuality of women in a non-traditional sense, but instead in a dominating and powerful way encompassing like I mentioned earlier, strong and powerful characteristics of dress, commonly associated with men. Examples of design elements I would associate with this theme, would be firstly, leather-garments which a motorcycle ridin’ babe would wear(leather obviously would not be used in the final garment, but it is my hope that the design of the final garment would resemble leather), secondly, armour- strong structural elements, lacing, knotting, twisting and tassling, which would depict a warrior woman and thirdly, assymetry-to provide a feeling of blending ideas, beliefs and notions relating to gender.
I called this concept ‘Tough Chic’ because in a modern context the woman who dresses powerfully as a statement is both celebrated and respected and/or despised and ridiculed, and the notion of this is still a very current issue which is easily recognised and understood in society today. This concept would be the theme running through my ten designs which I put together for the design selection stage of The Woollen Mermaid Project. So now, to describe more throughly the woman’s character typical of Tough Chic: she is hard as nails, she is bold, she is strong, she is courageous. She is a dangerous weapon with a rebel spirit. She is the man. She has a ‘don’t mess with me attitude’, she fights her own battles and she is a warrior. She has an obvious yet non-verbal confidence and she will not change for anyone. Nothing stops her, nothing fills her with fear.