Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wide Sargasso See: Multicultural Fashion in Selvedge

I just received PDFs of a new feature story I wrote for Selvedge's July/August folklore-themed issue.  It's about multicultural influence in fashion: both when it's appropriate and when it borders on cultural appropriation.

In the process I researched a new (to me) designer--Stella Jean, who incorporates a winning mix of Haitian and Italian influence in her designs.  Her mother is from Haiti; her father is from Italy.  My favourite look is the large red-check blouse worn under a wax-print bustier dress (see below).  I couldn't help but think of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea when I first saw it, as its exuberant celebration of native culture and colorful energy recalled, for this reader, a young Bertha Mason.
Clothes by Stella Jean
Clothes by Taka Naka
Clothes by Tata Naka

This clothing, a dialogue between colonial and postcolonial cultures, reminds me of the groundbreaking "Madwoman in the Attic" understanding of Jane Eyre--does Bertha act for Jane; does Bertha express the rage and passion that Jane represses?  In these clothes,where Europe meets Haiti, two cultures stand strong and together.  If we took Mr. Rochester out of the equation, maybe Jane and Bertha could have played dress-up together.

No tearing of wedding veils, though.  But maybe they could share a mantilla?

1 comment:

Jen Lawrence said...

What a wonderful article. I remember reading Wide Sargasso Sea in university. Such a visual work and your piece reflects that energy!