Monday, 8 November 2010

Fin de Siecle - Being Living Art

In a lecture the other day, we touched on the Fin de Siecle, and I havent been able to stop thinking about it. Fin de Siecle has French origins, and translates as 'end of the century' - occuring around the end of the 19th. The idea was that the end of the century - or perhaps the beginning of a new one, would bring about radical change. The expression was applied to a Europe wide movement of youths and artists and dandies. I remember all the excitement around the Millenium; that the world was going to end, technology was going to shut down, aliens were going to come to Earth - people really believed that stuff, and I wonder why. I think theres something to be said for markers, however arbitrary they may be - birthdays, holidays, years. They open new windows of time for us, and a new window of time is almost a fresh start, a new opportunity.

I'm particularly interested in the Aesthetic movement, a part of the Fin de Siecle that held the belief that beauty, aesthetics were the most important thing, above morals and anything else really. Aesthetics rejected rationality in favour of intuition, taking experience over logic. It was a reaction to the Victorian world growing rapidly more scientific, and produced such wonderful artists as Debussy and Oscar Wilde, and such fabulous folk as this...

Flamboyant (and usually rich) men and women attempted to themselves become living works of art, externally and internally. This fashion is still very much alive -

I guess the very statement of fashion is "LOOK AT ME! AREN'T I INTERESTING AND BEAUTIFUL?" Or perhaps, the way we dress is the person we want to be tempered by the person we are? I dont know. Anyway, the idea of being living art was one that fascinated me, and was at least very poetic. Lady Gaga has claimed that her style is dictated by the will to be living art -

She does always look interesting, but I certainly dont always like what she wears. But I dont always like art. Monet does nothing for me, but I cant deny it's great art. Liking it isn't the point - the point is to evoke and emotion, a reaction, and I suppose that is something we can aim to do in our everyday fashion choices. I like to come up with a one phrase descriptor for my outfit everyday - its fun, and it help put all my wildly flailing ideas in place. Today for example, I'm 'the love child of the abominable snowman and Audrey Hepburn'. The other day I was 'Franciscan Monk meets Native American.' The other night, I went out for a meal as 'Parisian spy by day, wonderwoman by night'. It injects fun into what you wear, and isn't that sort of the point? I mean, yeh, clothes keep you warm, and yehh, its the law to wear them in public, but whether you like it or not, your clothes are en extension of you. As the Aesthetics would say, you become your clothes. I think thats fair - if I dress all in black with heels, I behave like a grown up. In a giant knitted jumper and booties, your likely to find me trying out gymnastics on the floor.

The way you dress is the person you want to be, tempered by the person you are. I really like that. You wear what the person you want to be would wear - whether thats an imitation of a celeb, a person you know and think is really cool, or a pure figurement of your imagination. When I was 12, I remember buying a belt because a girl in the 6th form had one just like it, and she was so cool.

I try to treat putting together an outfit like I would painting a picture or writing a song. I think about the message I want to give, I work at it. Its massively obsessive and probably unhealthy, but I have to know what I'll be wearing the next day before I can sleep at night. I have to know who I will be the next day.

Is this something you can identify with? How do you feel about trying to become 'living art'?


  1. This is exactly what I think about when I'm deciding on an outfit or a look I want to go for! Usually I match my clothes too the event I'm going, or the feelings I'm going to be feeling after/during the event. So if I go to a classy classical concert, I want to look sophisticated, a kids movie, I want to look fun, brightly coloured tights, an action movie, I wear my army boots and thigh high socks!

    When I was in my final year of school I had themed weeks where I would wear the clothes appropiate for the theme.. most were boring themes like 'autumnal' but one of my favourites was 'Vampire Death Electro' week. THAT was interesting :D

    I tried to write a post about this sunject ( but I failed miserably.. however you manage to express it perfectly!
    *takes her hat off to you*

  2. Thankyou so much! Vampire Death Electro week sounds absolutely awesome.


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