This is kind of interesting. Don't mind the typo's. It's off of a bad scan from a class of mine. Kind of a metaphor for the piece really
From "Marketing Dreams, the Political Elements of Style" by Stuart Ewen.
Each week on USA network television in 1984, a taut-faced woman named Elsa Klensch hosts a programme titled 'Style'. While the prime focus is on the new designer collections, and transports us to major fashion shows around the world, there is more. Some features centre on the homes of the people in the world of fashion design: castles in the countryside near Rome; converted farmhouses in rural Connecticut; fabulous playpens overlooking Paris. Still other items deal with the daily lives of people employed in the world (one dare not call it industry!) of fashion. We follow a tawny Milanese mannequin through her regular two-hour body and facial treatment at Sergio Valente. We observe a busy New York model, roller-skating and taking tap dance lessons; sharing her intimate longing to 'make it' in the musical theatre. Accompanying commercials blend right in, telling us of the slimming value of Tab cola, or of the way that Henry Grethel clothing will lead us into accidental an anonymous romantic encounters with beautiful women -or men -in elegant hotel rooms.
We see that style is about beautiful, mouth-watering surfaces; but we see more. Beyond displaying surfaces, the uninterrupted message of the television programme is that style makes up a way of life, a utopian way of life. The people we view apparently inhabit a universe of infinite bounty. They wear dresses costing thousands. They live in castles. Their encounters with interior designers lead to unrestrained flights of fancy. Their desires, their fantasies, are painlessly translated into objective forms. There are no conflicts. There is no mention of cost. There is no anxiety about affordability.
If this way of life is marked by a succession of material objects, it is a life which curiously seems to float beyond the terms of the real world at the same time. This is essential to the magic of style, its fascination and enchantment. Part of the promise of style is to lift us out of the dreariness of necessity.
At the other end of the tunnel of television, however, sits the viewer: cheaper clothes; no castles, bills piling up; no stranger to the anxieties of desire placed within the constraints of probability. The viewer sits, watches, embedded in the finite terms of daily life. From this vantage point. the viewer is engaged in a relationship with style. It is a relationship which offers a pledge, a pledge repeated across the panorama of American consumer culture again and again. Everyday life in its details (clothing, house, routine objects, and activities) can, through the sorcery of style, be transformed. Without ever saying so explicitly, the media of style offer to lift the viewer out of his/her life and place him/her in a utopian netherworld where there are no conflicts, no needs unmet; where the ordinary is -by its very nature extraordinary.
So we see something else. If style constitutes a presentation of a way of life, it is a way of life which is unattainable for molt, nearly all, people. Yet this doesn't mean that style isn't relevant to most people. It is very relevant. It is the most common realm of our society in which the need for a better way of life is acknowledged on a material level, if not met. It constitutes a politics of change, albeit a 'change' that resides on the surfaces of things. If the 'life-style' of style is not realizable, it is, at the same tim~, the most constantly available lexicon from which many of us draw the visual grammar of our lives. It is a behavioural model that is closely interwoven with modem patterns of survival and desire. It is a 'hard to define. ..but easy to recognize' piece within our current history.
Precisely because style deals in surface impressions, it is dIfficult to concretize, to discern its definitions. It forms a chimerical, yet highly visible corridor between the world of things and human consciousness. Yet investing profane things wIth sacred meanings is an ancient activity, a universal preoccupation. This, in and of itself, does not define style; nor does it situate style within the particular conditions and contradictions of contemporary life. It is within these conditions and contradictions that we proceed toward an understanding of the role and power of style within our lives.
Within our modern consumer society there are three general arenas in which style plays a conspicuous role. First, style has become a critical factor in definitions of the self. As one enters, or falls into encounters with other people -intimates and strangers ~like -style is a way of stating who one is: politically, sexually, In terms of status and class. Style is a device of conformity, ,or of .opposition. Style conveY5 mood. Style is a devIce by which we Judge -and are judged by -others. It is worn on the surfaces of our bodies; it organizes the space in which we live; it permeates the objects of our daily lives; it is often mistaken for subjectivity. To 'have a lot of style' is an accolade of remarkable personhood.
Second, style has a major impact on the way we understand society. Social institutions are continually mediated by the mirages of style. In the process, substance becomes unrecognizable. Large corporations, employing the lives and energies of thousands, and often exerting power on a global scale, invest millions to cultivate a palatable corporate image and style. Politicians, up to the president. rely on Ktyle to build and maintain 'democratic' constituencies. Style overlays the world of goods. Style places an aura around the world as it is, and offers an influential rendition of what many see as 'social change', as history.
Last, and firmly rooted in the previous two areas, style has come to comprise a basic form of information within our society. Style is a powerful element of consciousness about the world we inhabit. Insofar as this information is ephemeral and emerges from a lucrative trade in surfaces, it fosters a state of ongoing confusion. At the heart of this confusion between evanescence and substance, lies the way we comprehend reality itself.
These three arenas of style -self, society and information have developed dramatically within twentieth-century American life. They are underpinned and continuously shaped by vast industries whose basic product is style. Together they compose the political contours of the contemporary moment. The rise of style, however. can not be comprehended in its own terms. While it is common to present history as an endless parade of changing styles, a catalogue of surfaces only conspires in a process of mystification.
I consider many that are totally immersed in an adherence to style become nothing but the cover of a book. There is no effort to see the content as they have said it all on the surface. If the cover is properly trendy, then there is no need for them to work on their content.
I for one am proud to report I have not a shred of personal style.
However, when he began the final point of style as a means of information, I thought to myself "this is nothing new. This is nothing pre-consigned with 20th century American life. This is the way it has been all through human history."
quote:Originally posted by J E B Stuart:
I grow very weary at times being a style-setter for so much of the world. During those moments, however, I have to quickly remind myself that such is my lot in life. Hence, I carry on. Amen.
Yes JEB, those string ties of yours do something to me