...These imaginings are important — to visualise, confront and subvert individual and collective desires and fears, and to test out new ideas concerning bodies and their adornment. Importantly, fashion can also hover between states, inhabit liminal spaces, to create clothes and pictures that embrace uncertainty — potentially frightening and exciting in equal measure.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that philosophers and lawmakers historically found fashion so challenging. It can transform the wearer, make them anew and defy carefully maintained divisions of gender, status and class. Little wonder that moralists have decried 'too much' interest in fashion as at best superficial, at worst a dance with the devil. Fashion's supernatural powers pose a threat to strict social and cultural definitions, but in so doing, can open up spaces for enticing experiments with self and spectacle.
Pan — Issue 5 elevates this potential to contemplate the beyond — and presents images and words that show how dress, beauty and art can combine to provide new vistas, at a moment in history when fashion's utopias seem more necessary than ever. If we are confined to home to shelter from a pandemic, we must turn to inner worlds for sustenance. We can escape into lush visions and toy with the uncanny through its pages, transported by a series of commissioned [and curated] pieces that explore the theme of the supernatural. A culmination of Pan's previous topics: Emperor's New Clothes, La Belle et La Bête, Trip to the Moon, Ghost Stories — each created a dreamscape that hovered between real, unreal and surreal, wove narratives of style and art, and brought together writers and artists who used each theme as a prompt to consider tensions between what we see and how we feel. In this issue, Pan constructs a (mostly) visual world to comfort, tantalise and challenge.
Supernatural entails entwined elements:
SURREALISM — faces blurred through movement, strange combinations and playful twists and turns. Man Ray and Cocteau haunt the pages and animate images
half-remembered from dreams.
ARTIFICE — mutable bodies, clothes that redefine the silhouette, beauty that refuses to simply embellish the supposed 'natural.' Faces are not just painted and powdered, but squeezed and pushed, making us see and feel the changes wrought by cosmetics — and time.
UNCANNY — jarring reimaginings of the everyday, metamorphosis and uncertainty. Animals become mannequins become models wearing clothes that are somehow simultaneously two and three dimensional.
UTOPIAS — if our minds are sufficiently freed, then perhaps we can translate these dreams into something tangible — a more sustainable and inspiring world.
We can all become supernatural... even if only for a moment in a dream...
Words by Rebecca Arnold, Senior Lecturer in History of Dress & Textile, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Collage by Vesna Vrdoljak