Fashion designer, Peggy Noland’s most recent line of clothing at her Kansas City boutique features a dress with the image of talk show queen Oprah’s head photo-shopped onto nude bodies that vary from skinny to obese. The imagery is taken to the absurd with one Oprah face detailed as a KISS face. There is a list of valid arguments that arise from this design- the use of the female form as ornamental, hyper-sexualization of the black female, feminist comment on body image or the overall absurdity of the fashion industry. For me it all comes down to poor taste.
Noland states in an interview that her “white trash aesthetic” is based on being raised in meth capitol Independence, Missouri. Noland’s design continues a discussion on what defines poor taste. She goes on to explain her “white trash meets high-class” look:
“It’s the same idea, and it’s clearly a little exploitative, that you find a homeless person on the street, and they’re wearing everything they own all at once, and you think, Oh my god, that’s a great style. I’m comfortable with that intersection.”
Noland is not alone in producing “thought” provoking frocks. This past spring, clothier Kitson and designer Brian Lichtenberg came under scrutiny for a line of collegiate football style shirts that highlighted prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Xanax. The description for the t-shirts reads: “Pop this on and you’ll feel better. Doctor’s orders.” Many thought the shirts glamorized drug use among young adults, which is the brand’s target audience. Others had an issue of poor taste in the light that prescription pain killer drug abuse is one of the leading causes of overdose and death in the United States.
Several states that have Kitson stores have asked for the t-shirts to be pulled and the company has refused. Kitson offered a donation from the proceeds of the sale of the t-shirts to Drugfree.org; the organization has refused to accept any donations connected to the sale of the t-shirts. The kicker here is that three pharmaceutical companies filed suit against Kitson for use of their product/brand without permission. The shirts are still for sale currently.
I am all for artistic expression that many translate from the United States Constitution’s First Amendment’s freedom of speech. However, I am anti- drug glorification based on my rearing in an area hit hard by crack cocaine in the late 80s and 90s. I do not in any way find drug use and abuse glamorous or something I would want to promote through what I wear. You will not see me wearing the latest in crack head couture or pay homage to the homeless in my winter wardrobe. As consumers, we have a social responsibility to pay attention to what we are buying and what companies we are patronizing with our money. Power lies within the almighty dollar.
You are free to wear whatever you like in this wonderful country, but you also should be prepared if you are confronted by someone with an opposing view to whatever it is you are vicariously representing through your uber trendy top. There are a few good apparel and accessory lines that support positive causes like FEED, which donates most of its profits to help provide clean water and food to third world countries in need. For my dollar I prefer to spend it on something that will not only look good, but feel good too.