Consumerism, Art, or A Little Bit of Both?

The amount of 100 dollar bills on this shirt probably amounts to how much this shirt cost.

The number of 100 dollar bills on this shirt probably equals the shirt’s cost.

I love fashion. I don’t know why I feel a bit of shame admitting that; as if it’s a big deal that a young girl could like clothes is a shameful thing to admit. Maybe I hesitate to admit this about myself because I fear people will view me as shallow. I would be just another empty headed white girl who fancies clothes more than anything else, but it’s not like that for me. I just love clothes simply because they are pretty. If that makes me shallow then so be it. I honestly don’t see a difference between admiring clothes and admiring art. Some would even go so far as to say that fashion is art and to some extent I would have to agree. Fashion embraces some of the same elements that art does: form, color, movement, and texture. Avant garde fashion with it’s flamboyant style and outlandish designs resembles the experimental  nature of modernist art. Minimalist art can be seen in color blocked clothing and graphic tees exhibit the same characteristics of pop art. If art and fashion have such a close connection than why is one viewed as a worthy subject to be discussed in intelligent debate while the other is scoffed at as being superficial?

These are the sorts of thoughts that passed through my mind as I walked the streets of SoHo. Luxurious high end boutiques lined the streets and illuminated the evening with their vivid fluorescent store lights. I was in awe at the finely dressed mannequins and the equally polished store clerks that manned these boutiques. Most of the stores I did not recognize but a few were familiar: Tiffany & Co, Chanel, Burberry, and Michael Kors. All of these shops had one thing in common and that was their ridiculous price range. A single dress from one of these shops would cost me my entire college tuition. I admit that my statement is an exaggeration but the sentiment still stands. These were undoubtedly the kind of stores where if you had to ask the price then you couldn’t afford the product.

After seeing all these shops I had to wonder if their products counted as art or was there a more cynical motive behind the Burberry coats and Michael Kors purses? Money obviously has a hand in SoHo. To deny that would be unreasonable. Those who shop in SoHo have the income to afford the overly priced clothing and accessories while the businesses reap the benefits. What is happening in SoHo and in many other shopping districts is consumerism at work. Purchasing designer named products seems less like artistic self-expression and more like materialistic desire. I have the suspicion that those who buy Chanel purses do so not because of the quality but because of the name. They spend the money because they can and because possessing these items acts as a status marker. It’s a cynical opinion of the fashion world and a lot less of a romantic expression of art, but it’s the realistic truth. Is it a bad thing? I don’t know, but it is a good debate for another time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Consumerism, Art, or A Little Bit of Both?

  1. Great debate here, Lindsay! I think I’ve probably said this to y’all before, but that juxtaposition of culture and consumption baffles me here. It’s so readily apparent in storefronts like this or in places like Times Square. Perhaps that conflict/juxtaposition is what makes this the great American city. Nice post.

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