Alice Morin (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 (CREW), France). Fear and Fantasy as Motive(s) in American Fashion Magazines in the 1960s and the 1970s

Fear — of the unknown or of an articulated enemy — anxiety, anguish, are central to the construction of the great American narrative, bringing the country together as one. As cultural products, fashion and the fashion press integrate elements of this narrative into their content and discourses.

Rebecca Arnold pointed fear as a driving element behind fashion and fashion images’ innovativeness all along the 20th century (Arnold 2002). The 1940s saw, in a context of postwar consumerism, prosperity and socio-political consensus, the rise of a specifically American fashion. American fashion first imposed itself as a business system, with the boom of ready-to-wear. Then it became a creative force to be reckoned with, through the emergence and promotion of American designers such as Betsey Johnson, operating in boutiques, American figures of the counter- culture such as Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, who had their own stylists, and, later, international household names such as Halston or Bill Blass, all giving birth to a proper American fashion scene. These upheavals to a decades-old system over which Europe, and especially Paris, had been reigning, took place while the US were under pressure from within, with political protests and social movements, and from the outside, with a Cold War still in its hot phase.

The two most prominent American fashion magazines, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, championed this American scene in an enthusiastic, albeit ambivalent way. Indeed, in the 1960s and 1970s, when American fashion confirmed its prime place in their pages and in international commerce networks, the tension between fantasy and fear was palpable in their photographic productions as well as in the accompanying texts. This paper proposes a case study of how both elements operate in mir24 25 roring ways, at the same time answering and feeding each other in these magazines’ content.

First, it examines how the climate of panic in the 1960s, due to socio- cultural uncertainty and unrest and a still vivid nuclear threat, was met with unabashed inventiveness in clothing and in their staging. It particularly focuses on the buoyant, excessive photographic series and on the articles and paratext along them, which came out as remarkably future-oriented. This ensemble, which can be seen as a form of escapism, put forth, for the first time, a carefully crafted “world of fashion”. Detached from realities and prone to agitation, sometimes to cruelty, this closed circle of fashion avant-garde proved to be fertile ground for the interweaving of fantasy and fear, whether in the leitmotivs it favored or in the ways it has itself been represented since.

Secondly, this paper turns to the 1970s and observes how the status quo was progressively re-established in images and in text, in photographs and articles. Both embraced a more bourgeois, smoother aesthetic and discourse, while the casual, practical and glamourous “American style” was at its peak. However, such a toned-down shift still allowed for a fruitful dialogue between fear and creativity, with fear (of the social changes operated but also driven by the necessity to maintain the political, socio-economic and cultural model of consumerism) paradoxically making way for new modes of expressions, be it in writing or photographic practices, while fantasy manifested itself in refined lifestyles. Of peculiar interest is a new sensitivity, manifested through a more intimate way of staging preoccupied with subtle details, through varied yet still unattainable women role models, as well as through injunctive and concerned articles.

Thus, this paper will look closely into the historical intertwining of fear and fantasy, of external and internal pressures, of images and text, of macro-history and cultural aesthetic productions, to conclude to a productive tension at the core of fashion images-making in context. The fact that this is especially palpable in moments of fear makes this modus operandi all the more topical today.

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