Practically Nothing

If little is worn and clothes matter not, is there fashion? Or, will we have another word?

Julia Fox in Alexander Wang out grocery shopping. Photo: Rachpoot.com/Splashnews.com

We call ourselves a fashion blog. But more and more there is treasured little left to write. Fashion is reduced to a veritable nothing. Increasingly, there is more skin shown by wearers than cloth. Fabrics are inconveniences, hindrances, barriers, and, if their use necessary, too opaque. Little bits are a lot simpler. Pasties are easier to design and produce than brassieres! A narrow bandage has more potential than a full-form bandeau. Once-upon-a-time-private parts are no longer completely undisclosed. Free the nipple is very near reality. In fact, if what are worn by many well-followed stars are to be noted, clothing as we know it—with the fundamental purpose of covering (which is sounding oddly dated)—would no longer have a future, or, if we were to be more hopeful, a dim one.

A recent photo of Julia Fox—in head-to-toe Alexander Wang from his recent autumn/winter 2022 presentation—shared online truly made us realise that there is nothing we can say about her clothes: She was not wearing much; she was basically in underwear. Is this fashion? Or, has fashion come to this? Her fans would say she was not entirely nude (she has, of course, worn a lot less). There was the denim blazer, but was that even a jacket worth talking about? Or should we compliment how destructed and crappy it looked? Or that she was carrying a beautiful jurse (jeans-as-purse!)? Ms Fox has, of course, mostly dressed (admittedly, a poor choice of word) like that since she came to public attention for her brief, for-all-to-see affair with Kanye West. And that’s the daunting and unnerving prospect: the near-nudity is here to stay.

As one fashion designer told us when we showed him Ms Fox’s photo, “I am thinking, since so many pop and film stars are flashing themselves for the world, they have, naturally, created a new normal. The public, who looks up to them, will think, if their favorite stars can do it, so can they.” But the question is still unanswered: Is it fashion? The designer replied indignantly, “Of course not, not to me. It is purely styling; it is not Gaultier doing innerwear as outerwear!” A follower of SOTD, who formerly worked for a luxury brand, agreed. She said, “It’s just ludicrous and I think these women wear such rubbish on purpose to get attention. It’s really looney bins and not fashion at all—their own invention of fashion and the press lapped it up.”

“It is purely styling; it is not Gautier doing innerwear as outerwear!”

We have, indeed, been wondering, too: Has the media encouraged this stripping (not merely revealing)? For every star baring herself—from Doja Cat in gold pasties under mere chiffon at the Billboard Music Awards two days ago to Kim K in nude bra and panty for Sports Illustrated’s current swimsuit issue—the press gleefully say they “rock” or—our extreme peeve—“stun”. If readers needed to be told that a certain actress or singer in close to nothing astounds, they already know she is not predisposed to, without the without. She needs the costume of a stripper. In fact, when she “stuns”, there’s a good chance she is as bare-skinned or as bare-breasted as it is legally possible. And that she is satisfying her (insatiable?) hunger for attention than fashion. Why would a lover of clothes not wear them?

The press not negating the lewdness once associated with strip clubs is operating within present-day necessity: The imperative embrace of inclusivity, now considered conducting oneself in a conscionable manner. Julia Fox in a narrow strip of fabric across her chest must be accorded equal opportunity to raves as Thilda Swinton in Haider Ackermann, if not more. Inclusivity is so compulsory in the business of fashion, as well as among adopters of fashion, that the unattired can be free of disapproval. Criticism is unacceptable because it would be shaming. We can’t say Ms Fox isn’t dressed for she can, as we are often reminded, wear whatever she wants, or omit. All women can, including the expectant. There is so little to say about what is worn these days since hardly any is; it’s no wonder more columns go to sneakers or meta-clothes.

To be certain, we are no prudes. Scanty dress as desirable dress is so omnipresent that anything that does not, in fact, amount to a dress is hardly terribleness of epic proportion. One fashion writer told us, “Nudity, in a post-OnlyFans world, is not sin, it’s just skin. Skimpy clothes is the future. Designers now need to go to school to learn how to make barely-clothes, but we may have soon another word for ‘fashion’. How about unfashion?” Come to think of it, un is a prefix of profound relevance. It’s skimpy too! Just two letters, yet with such descriptive power. So much of fashion today can be described with the simple un and so effectively: unattired, unclothed, undressed, unclad, uncover, unravel, untie, unline, unfuse unzip, unpick, unpin, untack, unsew, unseam, unseemly, unsuited, unfixed, unveiled, unfolded, unfurled, unrolled, untidy, and, of course, underwear and undies. Oh, for sure, unlovely and, definitely, underwhelming.

And This Is Miu Miu?

Rihanna does not need to mimick no runway look. She can, as we have been repeatedly told, wear anything she wants, however she desires, modest or not—mostly not

Rihanna, out for the night, scantily clad, again. Photo: Backgrid

In the duration of her internationally-viewed-and-followed pregnancy, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has exposed more of her body than the average expectant woman. But Ms Fenty, as we have been made aware, is not an average woman or mother-to-be. So whatever she has worn (or not) isn’t standard either, or maternity wear. Her visible stomach is the focal point of most of her outfits, from the first trimester to the present. The outers, if worn, do not provide cover either. Even if you follow the growth of her baby bump, it may not mean it grows on you. Not many women are comfortable putting their enceinte body in near-full display. Ms Fenty has not only been at ease; she has been eager too. And that, for many COVID-era societies of the West, is admirable, if not exactly imitable.

Such as the above look she adopted two days ago when she went out with A$AP Rocky to have dinner at their favourite restaurant, Giorgio Baldi, in Santa Monica. On social media, so many said she looked “wonderful” or “beautiful”, but no one said they wanted to dress like her. At a glance, it should have been an immediately recognisable ensemble, but Ms Fenty has taken considerable liberties with it and a double take would possibly be necessary to identify the brand. She would not wear something as it was intended (to begin with, she picked regular RTW pieces, nothing, as she vowed, from the “maternity aisle”). So this Miu Miu two-piece, part of the current spring/summer collection that is much loved, was given a Rihanna remake (she is, after all, a fashion designer!): The skirt was lobbed off to shorten it. And she dispensed with Miu Miu inner wear for—presumably—her own Fenty undies. The genius here is making Miu Miu as un-Miu Miu as possible.

Adut Akech on the runway in the same Miu Miu outfit for spring/summer 2022. Photo: Gorurway

Media reports were all raves and more raves: “Rihanna Bra & Skirt Set… Deserves All The Fire Emojis”, “Stuns In See-Through Set”, and our favourite—from Vogue—“One For The Record Books”. Some choice words excited journalists used included “glamorous”, “inspiring”, “incredible”, “style-forward”, “effortless”. The beauty of all this worship is that the goddess is, fashion-wise, faultless. Even if there was discernible wardrobe malfunction. Fans and journalists alike noticed her body glitter, her tattoos, even the linea nigra, but no one mentioned one exposure: In some photographs of her in the silvery crystal mesh top (and matching customised-to-be-mini skirt), part of her left nipple could be seen above the top edge of her brassiere that appeared to have slipped down on that side (it isn’t known why her bra was so loose). Or was that insouciant slide part of what Vogue euphemistically called the “risqué look”?

Just because the Miu Miu set appeared fetching on the model (in this case, Adut Akech), on the runway, it does not automatically mean the outfit would look good on the rest of us. Ms Fenty is, of course, a determined woman. Not to be told what maternity clothes are, or not, she is happy to break all rules (is there any rule in her rule book?) and go the opposite way by not covering a—not just the—large part of her body. It is possible that she was emboldened by the frequent rhapsodising of the press and social media. The more she revealed, the more she was lauded and encouraged. The reciprocal flaunts even gained her a Vogue cover. There was really no need to hold back. It is said that Rihanna’s pregnancy is important to expectant women—she empowers them, to the extent that she needs to be immortalised with a marble statue of her pregnant self sitting in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, among priceless antiquities of stone. If any pregnancy can be this powerful—and political?—and public, it would be Rihanna’s.

The Strange Love For F-Words On Clothes

Is one particular profanity the new cute? Or, worse, today’s logomania?

Warning: This post contains language and illustrations some viewers might find offensive

By Ray Zhang

There are worse things to wear than ugly clothes; there are rude clothes. But what makes our clothes unmannerly? Or, in the case of the South Korean disc jockey Deejay Soda’s track pants, “offensive”, so much so that she was asked to leave a plane, and, allegedly, made to strip before others at the departure gate? Why would an inanimate article of clothing, secured to the wearer, cause transgressions, social or moral? Most of you would take the stand of the “silent majority”: We live in a conservative world. And there are always children around. But I don’t mean clothes that show more than half of the wearer’s private parts (in the case of Deejay Soda, she was completely and impenetrably covered); I mean those with words, in particular one deemed crude, uncivilised, hostile, gross, low, insulting, contemptible, vulgar, obscene, and good ’ol offensive. I mean, fuck. No offense intended: If I am going to write it, I might as well spell it.

I don’t know why, but, of late, I have been seeing people wearing this particular four-letter world, without asterisks—and the like—between the first and last letters, on the visible parts of their clothes (not just reading about them). The word fuck is not any more offensive than buttocks exposed below the frayed hem of crudely cut off shorts. Well, not. We can’t go to a woman and eff her off for shorts that are too short just as we can’t tell her her sweatpants are too offensive (unless you are a staff with United Airlines?), for as long as they are already dressed in that manner and as long as they are able to leave their home with no objection from family members, and are not arrested until the point we meet them, they are allowed to dress-speak as they like. To me, asking why there are those who like using ‘vulgar words’ or wearing them is like wanting to know why clothes are (now) so trashy. Or why some pregnant women like wearing next-to-nothing. The time has simply come.

Does it all semaphore something more pervasive? Frankly, I don’t know. I hope not. But if those shorts I mentioned were once derided for being indecent, but have survived and are now so much a part of our national dress; along with just-as-skimpy slippers, I expect fuck-in-place-of-Gucci as all-over print, in spite of the absurdity, would enjoy a higher adoption rate and get even more popular. But is the word only more appealing to those who choose to wear them because they are still, in many quarters and, no doubt, in our society, an expletive—one that has a repugnant ring, made more so when the utterer emphasises the F, as if it must only be said with a capital letter? Or, is wearing clothes with the F-word some defiance of youth or a badge of emancipation?

Some people tell me that “fuck you” is better than a slap, or The Slap. It does not cause physical pain, they insist. In fact, it can be uttered silently and the target of the profanity could still make out what is merely mouthed, no respiratory fluids involved. But these days, when the word appears with astounding regularity on social media, used by young and old, is it still really that detestable? If so, why has it then become such a choice word in speech and in text? If not, its visual presence can still cause enough offense to render a plane journey intolerable? I am not sure if it’s really the word or the world that riles people. After all, we do live in an angry world. In the case of Deejay Soda, the repeated pattern that comprises the F-Us, laid out diagonally, could be some rage against whatever or whoever was around her, contempt for everything that’s thought to be contemptible to her and deserving hostility, even when her strike-first was worn innocuously as trousers. If anyone can wear their anger on their sleeves, why not on trouser legs? I recall, after reading her posts, JD Salinger, who wrote in Catcher in the Rye, “I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another ‘Fuck You’ on the wall”: The key word, “another”.

English’s favourite bad word is not born recently. Thought to be of Germanic origin, its use in the English language, as I understand it, began around the 15th century, possibly earlier. Contrary to what supporters of its open, ardent use tell me, the word is not abbreviation of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, or similar, and always involving forbidden pleasures of the body. Wherever that came from, I have no idea, but acronyms were not popular before the 1930s, if used at all. Old England was not post-independence Singapore! Still, fuck survived—through war, economic hard times, changing word trends, and definitely pandemics. Its longevity also proves its versatility. From disgusting interjection, it has become useful verb and noun, with attendant adjectival and adverbial forms. Even punctuation! Its use here so publicly and, in particular, textually has a fairly recent history, as I see it. I was not aware of its expanded adoption until I read the blog posts of Xia Xue in the mid-2000 (or thereabouts) and then later on, the forums of Hardware Zone. I also remember a friend telling me that when he was in the army, and a sergeant barked “fuck you” in anger, he merely replied, “don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Printed on clothes, the practice goes even further back. The first time I saw the word on a T-shirt, it was implied. This was in the mid-’90s and the faux-French British high-street brand, French Connection, was rebranded as FCUK (in 1991). When I saw the items sold here and guys (mainly) were buying and wearing brandish with the evocative acronym, with relish, I was impressed that the sale of said garments did not somehow contravene some law insulating people from public nuisance (it was not until 2014 that we had the Protection from Harassment Act [POHA]. Foul words, including fuck, when directed at any individual, I was told, “constitute abusive and insulting behaviour”). In the UK and the US, there were, initially, calls to boycott the brand, but few actually took heed. FCUK knew well what its targeted young audience wanted. A buddy of mine said then, “but it is not spelled out, what!” Trolls today would post, “we can overpower them with fashion”! Tempered and euphemistic representation continued with the fashion website Go Fug Yourself. Why? “Because Fugly is the New Pretty”! That moved on to a T-shirt from Vetements autumn/winter 2016, and the full-on “YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE (yes, in full caps)”. Fuck won. But really? For me, that will be the day when Anna Wintour wears F-Us in place of pretty florals. Better still, at the Met Gala.

Illustrations: Just So

Shirtless Under A Suit: The Timothée Chalamet Effect

Mediacorp stars know an imitable styling idea when they see one. Applause?

Just a suit: (from left) Jarrell Huang, Desmond Tan, and Chung Kun Wah. Photos: #红星大奖2022/Instagram

By Lester Fang

It is hard to be the first. I mean to be a trend-setter. On the red carpet. At the Stars Awards. Okay, I am not going to censure what they wore last Sunday, but it is hard not to notice (or turn a blind eye to?) the trends that the clueless hosts pointed out or the fans of Mediacorp stars said they could make out. Most obvious among the guys, if you did not already detect, was going shirtless under a suit. That was so distinctly Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars last month that my first reaction—and second and third—was, “oh, no!” Could this be the reason why the annual Star Awards takes place after the Academy Awards—so that Mediacorp’s big and not-so-big names could get some sartorial ideas for their red carpet?

Local stars looking at what their Hollywood counterparts wear on the red carpet are like regular folks looking to influencers on social media to conduct their otherwise mundane lives: It happens. I am not sure, to be honest, how fashion-aware our TV stars really are (how did Elvin Ng [黄俊雄] go from last year’s Alexander McQueen to this year’s Versace is really beyond me). Or, how much they admire the style of Hollywood superstars that they feel confident enough to emulate them. Variety Tweeted shortly after the Oscars presentation, “no shirt, no problem, if your are Timothée Chalamet”. We are all aware there is no equivalent in Medicorp. There should not even be.

However, there they were: Baring their chest as Mr Chalamet did, but, reversely, in white. So excited with the prospect of seeing the barely exposed torso of everyone’s favourite actor and Bioskin Most Charismatic Artist awardee Desmond Tan (陈泂江)—shirtless under the Alexander McQueen neo-redingote with zips in front and the rear, where darts would normally be—that the highly excitable, rapid-talking co-host Seow Sin Nee (萧歆霓) squealed in delight: “我觉得你最吸引的大概是你的腹肌… 我看到了 (I feel that your most attractive [part] is probably your abdominal muscles… I see it)!” Whatever she did see, she was so gleefully pleased, it was as if she won a lottery. Unlike Mr Chalamet, Mr Tan was strategically buttoned up!

So were the other two shirtless ones: singer/songwriter Jarrell Huang (黄俊融) in a Q Menswear double-breasted, completed buttoned, and Yes 933 DJ Kenneth Chung (钟坤华) in one unnecessarily belted. They were not only covered, they were securely covered. They were in white too, as if the “colour of purity” could temper any suggestion of unwanted sexual inducement. This was, after all, family entertainment! And all of them had something in common too. Or, in common with Mr Chalamet: jewellery for the neck and sternum. Yes, if you follow suit (oops!), do so right down to the accessories. In the past, wearing a T-shirt under a blazer, as Xu Bin (徐彬) and Brandon Wong (黄炯耀) did, was considered too casual, even disrespectful. But last Sunday, just that simple extra layer was, for some, way too much.

Come Right Up, Walk Right Through

There is no more Trace Together entry scans. Go in and out of malls as you please. One big leap towards ‘freedom’?

Doors at malls are all open. There is no more one entry point and one exit. From today, shopping malls do not require visitors to scan in, or scan out. No one will stop you to make sure you do. TraceTogether is over! Life may not have entirely returned to pre-pandemic days, but this is, where going shopping is concerned, as close as it gets. We are not sure if the footfall at malls has increased (possibly too soon to tell), but when we visited the few always with a long line of visitors getting in, we noticed that there were more people than we expected, even for a Tuesday morning. Will the riddance of entry “hassles” of the past two years prompt the return of more shoppers?

Around noon, at the ION Orchard Basement 2 entrance that faces the exit of the MRT station (now back to a two-way flow), the traffic did not look more daunting than usual, as most visitors were able to hurry right into the vast entryway. Not a hint of what crowd-control measures were in place before: The temper-provoking retractable metal barriers that forced visitors to go through an up/down, up/down course before hitting the “checkpoint” were nowhere to be seen. Now, in that considerable expanse, under which a massive video screen of fake foliage and sky projected a cheery day, one felt free, if not freedom. When we asked an MRT staff, what exit that was—so that we could tell the people we were meeting where to wait, she said, “Tell them to stand outside Channel (sic), lah!”

Similarly, at the opposite side, going into Wisma Atria was a breeze. This entrance is not only a way into the mall, it’s also, for many, a conduit to adjoining Takashimaya Shopping Centre—and further. Without restrictions now, the freer access seemed to make the number of entrants look small. Was the entrance this wide? No physical evidence was left here that would remind us of the queues we encountered each time we had to go in. But a small notice on a signage stand, easily missable, was erected next to the busy-looking store Skechers. The text above an illustration of a masked man read, “PLEASE WEAR A FACE MASK AT ALL TIMES WHEN INDOORS”. TraceTogether-free, a lithe little lass in a whisper of a dress floated in, barely masked up. No one was there to ensure she did, properly.

The conspicuous absence of the TraceTogether QR codes and oblong devices on which to tap electronic tokens was met with delight. “At last,” squealed a uniform-clad student when she saw that the coast in front of her at Wisma Atria was clear, and the token in her hand redundant. TraceTogether was not a popular token or app, nor a tracking tool. Many people we spoke to couldn’t wait to be rid of it. Some likened carrying the token to be being strapped with an ankle monitor. Even when it existed as an unobtrusive but battery-zapping app, it found very few fans, except, possibly, the developers at GovTech. TraceTogether may not be required for now, but we are—no matter how easy it is now to enter a mall—living in a surveillance society and engaging in a surveillance economy. Peace.

Illustrations: Just So