The Collective Consciousness: Look At My Outfit We’re At War

This is part of a presentation & reading I’m giving tomorrow at a panel on The Internet as Author @ IU in Bloomington. Also the whole world is heaving up. Ready your wardrobes for the Revolution.

The Collective Consciousness: Look At My Outfit We’re At War

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2011 RTW


The fashion of the moment is a sign of the times. The times descend upon the popular imagination like a status update. Collectively, the identity is subsumed, made new. Refresh. The page knows how to auto-update. Refresh. One need not make a change one need only to get changed.


A fashion statement is a declaration of intent. To be so earnest one must forfeit dignified in favor of fast-action. If today the news is dismal I wear a grey dress because of the crisis my status is a sad song by The Arcade Fire so what. So five-hundred + hype my look it becomes the uniform of a generation. In every nation tights are the same.


The language of fashion is pure representation. A ruffled blouse is a ruffled blouse and means a ruffled blouse. It is not the blouse itself but one’s decision to wear it which signifies. To wear a ruffled blouse in Libya while there’s a war it means what? It means look at my outfit we’re at war. To want to look lovely while the world is ending.

Alexander McQueen, Fall 2011 RTW


Fashion takes place in the public space. Such spaces are defined by the scope of visibility. The most effective display allows for instantaneous see & say, as in , I AM IN AMERICA LOOK AT MY RED DRESS REBELS I AM ON YOUR SIDE.


In The Fashion System, Barthes says that Fashion Time is “festival time,” that “festivity is tyrannical, it conquers time” (Barthes, 250). Fashion Time is time and its afterlife, the moment of the outfit & its temporal death, the vampire bite of a photograph, an undeath that endlessly cycles through the collective consciousness as Fashion continues to infect itself with a constant rebirth. Fashion Time is of and outside of time but never in Time.

Betsey Johnson, Fall 2011 RTW

So Fashion evokes a conscious temporality, there is a reflection of something perceived to be actual and inside of time – a garment, its display – the reflection is internalized by the collective consciousness as it sees itself wearing the moment. The costume becomes evocative of the moment. Thus the eighties are shoulder pads & hairspray & neons & plastics. The nineties are ripped flannel & midriff. Now we have seen ourselves in every conceivable outfit. The reflections have been chopped up & recycled; Fashion now is reappropriation of the sign. The garment is absolute but recontextualized the narrative shifts.


“the first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard. (30)” – Andre Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism

An outfit is a sentence, composed of subjects described by adjectives; the subjects act, they hang, drape, fit, they are worn & displayed, photographed, translated.

Hermès Fall 2011 RTW

An outfit bursting out of the collective consciousness is a dictionary of outfits, a database of reflections or texts of time.

To translate these sentences or to play a game: cut them up, make a word bank. The surrealist parlor game gone autodigital. One is playing with the Collective Consciousness. Cut up and rearranged, translated. The signs are reappropriated to make new bodies haunted or infected by the moments of each garment, its various reflections and transmissions.


Between Fashion and the Language of Fashion there is liminal space. It is in such a space that time is removed from the equation, for the liminal space is necessarily untethered from time, as Victor Turner notes in The Ritual Process. Because the Language of Fashion is not inside of time it is a liminal being. Therefore it need not adhere to a socially constructed and temporally bound concept of Reality, and can create an entirely new moment simply by recycling its own reflection.


The Collective Consciousness <— FULL TEXT

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