Fear and Clothing: Unlocking the coat
A weekly column on the vagaries and charms of fashion
I come from a family who left the keys hanging outside the front door. Both sides of my family did this. This is significant. One side of my family lived in Athens. I remember visiting my great grandmother in her apartment in a working-class part of Athens. In the Refugee Apartments, for people who had fled Georgia in the 1920s. The key was on the outside of the front door.My other grandmother lived on an island, Samos. The key was on the outside of the front door. The entire village was welcome. At any time. Kids, friends, the local lunatics (enter better/less offensive word here). All welcome. They would sit in the courtyard and shoot the breeze. All generations, all together, any time. Often late into the night, under the moon and the vines, sitting on little low-slung stools, drinking her homemade Vin Santo.The implication, even in a mega city like Athens, was that your home is my home, we are all connected and most importantly – I trust you. That is why my key is waiting for you outside my front door. I was thinking about this the other day. I tend to give all my friends the code to our gate. The key is on the outside of the door. I am in the key continuum. They have all arrived at various points for a little drop-in visit – sometimes inopportunely – my man was having a shower (that caused some nervous laughter). But the implication is your home is my home, we are all connected, I trust you.In a world that feels increasingly beleaguered. Under threat. Not trusting. And deeply polarised – that key, that code becomes all important. Fashion has a tendency to reflect stuff that is happening in society. For the past few seasons big, gigantic, polarising coats, padded to the extreme and built to protect us from the outside world have become the norm. Coats to isolate you and protect you from the elements, dangerous elements – whether the weather be fine – or definitely not.
There is no shortage of examples in recent and less recent history of how all these walls, security blankets, protective coats against the dangerous elements really mean nothing – they are just very flimsy ways to protect you from invasion, chemical or digital.I was watching the Thebe Magugu show on Tuesday night at SA Fashion week. He did some interesting things with the coats. He was rethinking them. They were there, but not there – reinvented – deconstructed. There were attempts to change the idea. Coats not as armour, just as elements in a general dress code. Where is the key?
However many walls and doors and gates you set up, someone can always get in. May as well leave the key outside the front door. Locking it has no real value – I prefer it when everyone feels welcome.