October 14, 2019/ Divina Ceniceros Dominguez
Let’s make something very clear: whether we’re conscious of it or not, all humans have an intrinsic need for aesthetic. This phenomenon can manifest itself into something as clear as one’s fashion choices to the foods they eat. Don’t get me wrong, anyone can sport a T-shirt and sweats or throw together a sandwich before bed and call it a night; however, choosing to feel beautiful is a different conversation.
There’s a reason why we dress up for special events and why there are dress codes at certain workspaces. When we look good, we feel good. Similarly, when we eat good, we feel good. But what happens when we look for beauty in the unconventional? What stories can we tell when we challenge preconceived notions of beauty or aesthetic?
One of my favorite ways to answer these questions is through the intersection of food and fashion. Everything from the color choice to the materials used to construct garments paint a different story through each stitching.
Take for example Lady Gaga’s iconic meat dress. Gaga could’ve easily worn any gown from any designer of her choice like everyone else did at the MTV Awards, but instead she chose a dress made entirely out of raw beef cuts. Can you think of anyone who can pull off a dress made out of raw steak? Exactly. But much to PETA’s dismay, this wasn’t just any dress — Gaga was using this garment to protest the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Releasing a press statement or a series of tweets condemning the policy might’ve caught some people’s eyes, but this dress will remain imprinted in people’s brains until the end of time. It got literally everyone talking — Time magazine, The Simpsons and even Weird Al Yankovic.
The riveting thing about food fashion lies in its intention. Every piece is designed for a specific purpose or idea. Like Gaga’s gown, this intention can be political and controversial, but it doesn’t always need to be.
Consider Katy Perry’s California Gurls music video. The lyrics of the song romanticize California as a dream-like, “golden coast”, “where the grass is really greener.” The visuals reflect these ideas and themes with a pastel candyland set, costumes made of candy and iconic cotton candy clouds. She uses the innocent, happy imagery everyone generally has of candy canes and cotton candy to evoke a lighthearted, fun-loving mood throughout the video. I’m sure Katy could’ve shot this video on any California beach, but the usage of food likens California to a magical land one can only dream of being a part of. Thus, California goes from merely a destination to a journey, an experience.
Of course, we can’t talk about manifesting experiences without bringing up the iconic drag queen Manilla Luzon and her take on food fashion. Manilla strategically merges camp themes and old Hollywood glamour to create stunning runway looks like her spaghetti, fruit basket and pineapple gowns. To her, food fashion is a form of self-expression and builds on her personal brand — one that allowed her to compete three times in the world-renowned RuPaul’s Drag Race. These gowns not only separate Manilla from the rest, but remind us that our identity is fully ours — no matter how bizarre or outlandish, no one can take it away from you.
Ultimately, we use art to amplify our voice and our passions. Some might disagree, but art doesn’t always need to strike a conversation or elicit action. Art can be just as meaningful, even if it deviates from controversial topics, by reminding us of what truly matters: our values, our memories and who we are. •
by: Divina Ceniceros Dominguez
graphics: Jessica Wu