Fashion Redefined at The Barbican

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Sometimes, the distinction is thinly veiled, à la Christopher Kane’s floral print Crocs shown at Paris Fashion Week. It seems fashion designers have always danced the line between good and bad taste. And it is always the more questionable stuff that gets us all talking.

Within my lifetime, while I indeed had to get dressed in the decade that taste forgot AKA the 1980s, I was thankfully far too young to be responsible for my own sartorial decisions, and most little girls look cute in a polka dot ra-ra skirt, right?

However, I look back to the early noughties, with its plethora of diamante, bizarre bleached denim, Juicy Couture tracksuits, handkerchief hems, embellished cargo pants, ALL the oversized logos and bejewelled thongs (as if sawing your derrière in half wasn’t painful enough without a plastic gem thrown up there for good measure) and thank the fashion Gods that I emerged relatively unscathed (mainly due to Instagram not being invented).

What’s interesting for me though, is that having taken a quick glance at some of the items featured in the show, I’m not actually at all repulsed by any of them. Perhaps no surprise really, considering my borderline obsession with leopard print and love for double denim.

So I guess the opulent installation invites us all to think about what constitutes ‘good taste’ and to celebrate our differences. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that something one considers to be ‘vulgar’ is because it’s not to your taste – but the very same item could be coveted by somebody else, or in years to come.

There’s also an element of ‘showing off’ that’s inherently linked to the vulgar, isn’t there? Often tied up with luxury and privilege – although undoubtedly, it is evident that money can’t buy you sophistication and class. A timely arrival, so soon after Kim Kardashian was robbed at knife-point after posting a picture of her million dollar jewellery collection on her social channels.

I’m left wondering what actually makes something vulgar in the first place, and why it is such a sensitive and contested term? I’ll have to head to the exhibition on one of my Artist Dates to ruminate on this some more.

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