Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Couture de la Carnivore (my article published in College Magazine)

"If we don't stand up for our rights, soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones. And I am not a piece of meat." The statement issued by Gaga after her appearance in the meat dress at the MTV Video Music Awards, LA, where she received eight VMA awards.

The controversial dress, styled from off-cuts of beef, not only triggered uproar from animal organizations such as PETA, but from celebrities, fashion critics and fans alike.

The shock began when Gaga appeared on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan in September. Clad only in a meat bikini and fascinator, PETA’s President Ingrid Newkirk responds ‘Oh, Lady Gaga's job is to do outlandish things, and this certainly qualifies as outlandish because meat is something you want to avoid putting on or in your body’ Clearly displeased by the outfit choice, fans are even starting to question the multi platinum selling artist’s priorities; whether or not she has turned from music to statement artist.

The dress, matching bag, fascinator and shoes, debuted at the VMA’s, were designed over three days using 50 pounds of meat. Constant refrigeration was needed, causing it to turn into jerky rather than rotting. The dress’ designer, Franc Fernandez (who has also previously dressed BeyoncĂ© and Xtina), says ‘There’s not going to be meat dresses in the future, this was made for a specific purpose. It’s what it is.’ This is to the great disappointment of the general public.

Whilst many are calling Gaga’s recent venture into bold fashion statements merely an ‘attention grabbing stunt’ others are desperately trying to find feminist or artistic reasoning behind the outfit choice, Laurie Penny, feminist writer, suggests that ‘It's a clever play on women being viewed as chunks of flesh, as pieces of meat, as things to be consumed.’

Those who are astonished and repulsed by the thought of Lady Gaga’s latest attire could be accused of hypocrisy as they are probably wearing leather shoes, a leather jacket or even watch strap themselves. The ignorance is further outlined when we realise how many people don’t like to see raw meat, instead they like to buy it neatly wrapped, or pre cooked when it comes to consuming. In a way Gaga is standing up for animal rights along with those such as Newkirk.

Fashion professionals have also thrown in their two cents, with Andrew Groves Director of BA Fashion Design at Westminster University, suggesting that the attire is ‘Anti-fashion... what she's doing is quite subversive - it's a commentary on the fashion and the music industries... it's very clever. What Lady Gaga is really saying is: 'I'm above all this, but I'll accept your award. She's very, very smart. She understands that it's possible to be popular but not populist. Lots of people really, really, dislike her, but lots love her as well - the dress taps into that because she'll get lots of flak for it, but plenty of praise too.’ Maybe Gaga is demonstrating that the recent decline in album sales due to the popularity of pirate torrenting has channelled her remaining artistic efforts into fashion and appearance rather than music.

In Gaga’s own words, when responding to press questions, she explains that her outfit was open to ‘many interpretations’ but then goes on to describe how homosexuals have been treated by the US Armed Forces poorly after one man was discharged from the service according to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy.

One thing that Gaga and her stylist should recognise is that this idea is anything from original. Season 10 of America’s Next Top Model showed wannabe models experiencing being clad in meat attire, at a slaughterhouse, for a photo shoot at which their own meat bikinis were sculpted. In 1991 Canadian artist Jana Sterback also made a gown from steak which was shown at the Canada’s National Gallery and London’s Tate Modern.

Interpret it how you may, one thing is definitely for certain, she’s got people talking again; but at what price?

If the idea of meat as fashion intrigues you, you can pick up your own (plastic) necklace from, £34.14.

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