Daily Archives: November 18, 2008

Fashion Camouflage

Throughout humanity’s history, we’ve used clothes for camouflage. I’m not talking about camo gear and leaf markings on your face to hide in the shadows while carrying out some special ops espionage. Although that is the most blatant aspect of camouflage it’s not the most prevalent.

Besides the basics of keeping ourselves warm, we started to wear clothing for a host of other reasons. Ritualistically, masks, accessories and robes were donned to imitate a spirit or element or to make oneself pure or sacred in the eyes of the gods. Along the way standards of modesty and morality came in to play. Genitalia are a vulnerable area on most creatures, and for humans many other connotations are attached, such as virility, power, immortality, continuance of family. Religious aspects and beliefs, as well as just hiding something mysterious and scary (a woman’s womb has often been related to the underworld) combined to cover the genital areas first.

In African countries, other warm climes, and throughout periods of history, women’s breasts were not always considered erogenous, and therefore did not need covering. A period of Elizabethan dress had the decolletage so low that the nipples were visible. But that is more revealing than camouflaging.

Yet, we’ve used camouflage to enhance our bodies for a long time. Elizabethan men wore pads of horsehair to give the right line to their calves under their hose, as well as padding to form the preferred peascod bellies. And then there were those codpieces to make the genitals look way larger than they were. Women wore corsets to slim their waists, or bustles on the backs of dresses to enhance the womanly shape. Shoes of varying heights have been worn to convey status or make a person taller.

We do the same today. Slimline jeans with no pockets to show off the curves and line of a woman’s leg and hip. Padded and uplift bras to make the breasts look larger, men’s underwear (and chaps) that may shape and define the genitals or butt, (some of this for gay culture but not all), tuxes or other James Bond jackets for that sophisiticated, I-have-plenty-of-money look.

Makeup, since at least the Egyptians, has also been used for enhancement or to comouflage plainness, blemishes, birthmarks, or whatever reason was required. Wigs and toupees have been worn for many centuries as status symbols, to change one’s looks, to make it look like a person had hair. It’s not a new thing and most people do look better in clothes because they cover up all sorts of imperfections. Fashion can highlight a person’s good points, change the line that the eye follows so that a person looks taller, broader, slimmer, bustier, etc.

Until we hit the day that we have our own heat generating forcefields, have tossed vanity and modesty to the side and do not need possessions or adornment, I think humans will continue to dress in a myriad of fashions, as well as camouflaging what is not seen as the current trend and fashion for bodies and looks. The realm of phsical changes has its own history, but that’s for another day. We may yet hit again a look where flat chested, twiggy and adrogynous shapes are considered sexy and then the padded bras and fitted clothing will disappear…for awhile.

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