12 July 2010

On Wearing Less


If teen models are denied entry to the book fair, it is perhaps because the notion of wearing less centres on a peculiar moral landscape that differs from the one the majority uphold, hence rendering the book fair a bit more "cultural". Behind such condemnation, there lies a tension between nudity and modesty, a boundary which teen models have endeavoured to obscure. However distinct the boundary between nudity and modesty, the majority have risked inspiring an unfair neglect of the inevitable connection between nudity and fashion and a misguided enthusiasm for coverings. Is wearing bikinis or lingerie more morally offensive than a virtuous McQueen's dress?

While many consider bikinis offending garments, women are also denied the liberty to admire their own physical candour. Rather than allowing them to take pleasure in their physical forms, a naked body should not be conceived as something to unnecessarily parade in public areas or in front of the media as if showing oneself naked is to reveal an area of potential shame. The body must therefore be viewed in a self-hating mood that suggests a state of vulnerability where one is stripped of defences and susceptible to exposing one's weakness, thus rendering the most unfavourable judgement on oneself.

If there is a long-standing tension between modesty and nudity, it is because the notions of covering and revealing are often examined in a paradoxical light. Contemplating the history of fashion, it is not uncommon to recognise a tendency to both reveal and shield our body. Particularly in women's fashion, it strives to maintain its aesthetic side on partly uncovering the body. The modern pioneer of wearing less was perhaps Rita Lygid who was the first one who wore a dress that was bare at the back to the waist in public. As the feminist movement was gaining its gravity in the 70s, the sizes of female clothes shrunk accordingly. We are living in a previously unknown skinnier era where women wish to bring out their feminine side by means of diet. Small wonder why stripteasing is always appealing.

If bikinis and lingeries and the likes are included in the realm of fashion, then perhaps they are often worn to bring out the virtues latent within women: the masculine side, the feminine side, women emancipation etc. They might as well suggest values that women uphold, the kinds of values that they wish to express privately in public. It is a material articulation of who they are or what they want to become. Instead of considering part nudity in an erotic light, it is a manifestation of the "i-confirmation", carrying with them an assurance of their own identities. They are not afraid to reveal their more intimate selves and reluctant to cover up all the weaknesses we ascribe to the species of what we call human, hence fearlessly collapse a private life into its public dimension. Aside from this process of self-actualisation, there also lies the courage for not being laughed and afraid of their bodies being used as physical evidence against them.

The evolution of fashion suggests there is no proper distinction between nudity and modesty today. What is modest in women's fashion constantly involves with the active participation of nudity. It once again invites us to consider the paradox of seduction and intimacy. Bikinis, like other forms of fashion, aim at uncovering the best of women yet retaining a distinctly confusing part of them to be uncovered only by their most intimate partners. They wander at the interval between seduction and intimacy that harbours what is most attractive within a person.

The teen models are not as morally offensive as the majority suggest. Rather than challenging the views of most women's rights organisations, they actually embrace them. Bikinis offer substantial female confidence. They are the epitome of the greatest female achievements. Teen models are feminists in the deepest sense of the term.

W

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