Suzanne Collins’ popular 2008 novel and subsequent film adaptation The Hunger Games, is speculative fiction largely aimed at teenagers. Despite this, a more mature reader might pick up on the social commentary offered within the plotlines. At the time of publication, a golden age of reality television, you might interpret Collins’ novel – where teenagers participate in a violent, televised competition – as a critique of shows such as Big Brother.
But now there is another, seemingly innocuous, element to Collins’ book to consider in 2023 and that is the fashion of the ruling class. In the wealthy Capitol, they wear colourful and impractical clothing whilst the poor wear sturdy clothes built for utility at best and rags at worst. Of course, this, like most other parts of the novel, is an exaggeration designed to entertain: but, in a time of global economic crisis, we might seriously start to question our culture’s obsession with celebrity fashion.
The place of avant-garde fashion in our current society was most recently called into question last year when the theme of 2022’s infamous Met Gala, held in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was announced as “Gilded Glamour.” Harkening back to a time in America’s history that saw huge advancements in technology and industry, “Gilded Glamour” intended to showcase the clothes of the Gilded Age (1870s-1900) with a modern twist.
Not only were the organisers criticised for celebrating a time of prosperity whilst Ukraine endures Russian invasion, but also because much of America’s economic success at this time is notoriously marred by huge wealth disparity between the rich and the poor.
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This is not the only time the Met Gala and its attendees have been confronted on their ignorance concerning economic issues. In 2021, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the Met Gala in a dress with the slogan “Tax the Rich” emblazoned across the back in a jagged red font.
To get a place at a Met Gala table, tickets can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $300,000. But, as an elected official, Ocasio-Cortez was invited free of charge. This led to questions about her character as she presents herself as a voice for the American working class, yet attends an event populated by the elite in a dress she claimed on Instagram was borrowed.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a pointed statement at the Met Gala, wearing a gown emblazoned with "Tax the Rich" in blood red https://t.co/iHHT042y88 pic.twitter.com/vaxMYP63Sl
— Bloomberg (@business) September 14, 2021
Whilst some praised Ocasio-Cortez, others from across the political spectrum were quick to highlight the disconnect in her appearance at the Met Gala and her message. Writer David Hookstead asked on Twitter: “If (AOC) hates the rich so much, why is she attending an event that only the wealthiest in America can afford to attend?”
Another user tweeted: “She’s not radical, not a socialist, not fighting for working people, or any sort of fighter against the status quo,” going on to question Ocasio-Cortez’s political integrity in light of criticism levelled at her.
The Met Gala has always been a fusion of art and fashion so it’s unsurprising to see the eccentric outfits modelled by celebrities on the steps of the Met. It might even have become an annual ritual to scroll through article after article of “who-wore-what” to decide for ourselves who was best dressed, who was on theme. But avant-garde and experimental fashion, along with its price tags, is slowly creeping more and more into the public mind.
The relevance of avant-garde fashion
Fashion house Schiaparelli hosted their Spring 2023 collection at Paris Fashion Week and it wasn’t so much the models on the runway that got public attention, it was the attendees – Kylie Jenner of Kardashian fame among them – that garnered the most publicity. Jenner’s dress featured a disturbingly life-like lion’s head on the shoulder of a skin-tight black dress and other celebrity attendants wore whole Schiaparelli outfits retailing for $22,000. Arguably it was singer Doja Cat who intrigued the most in her entirely red outfit that featured 30,000 Swarovski crystals to cover her skin.
Doja Cat was covered in 30,000 Swarovski crystals for Paris Fashion Week. 😳 pic.twitter.com/LRBJ0NCWzx
— Complex (@Complex) January 23, 2023
In times like this, you can’t help but wonder just how much cultural value this kind of avant-garde luxury fashion has.
According to UNCTAD, 2023 marks one of the lowest economic growth rates in recent history. We are living in a time where inflation is higher than it’s been in decades, a time of rising poverty and lack of job recovery.
Why are we not angrier at celebrities in expensive, often ridiculous outfits?
Repetitive articles detailing celebrity fashion exposes their willful detachment to everyday struggles. Perhaps for some it is a much needed reprieve to look at beautiful people wearing things they could never afford and decide it looks tacky or unflattering.
But this is pointless because celebrities wear their clothes as status symbols, too far removed from the reality of everyday life. More and more often it feels like a slap in the face, or like a suggestion that if we cannot afford bread, we should just eat cake instead.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Front cover of Vogue magazine. Featured Photo Credit: Laura Chouette/Unsplash