Fashion Beast

May 27, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

beastFashion Beast by Alan Moore, et al.

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Recently, I stumbled across some newer Alan Moore material that I hadn’t read. Of course, I picked it up, and I started with Fashion Beast since all of his Cthulhu stories were all interconnected. I figured this would be a better, more self-contained place to start.

Of note is Malcolm McLaren’s name on the cover. For those of you who don’t know, he’s the man who created the Sex Pistols, partly as a means to sell the clothes he featured in his boutique. Seeing his name on the cover wasn’t a surprise, really, knowing that he was attached to fashion, but it came as a surprise that he came up with this story.

Moore writes a foreword telling a little about the history of the story — McLaren wanted to create movies, and had some ideas that he wanted to have fleshed out by a comic book writer, which is how Moore became involved — but it’s hard to tell how much of the story was his, and how much Moore put into it. It feels very much like a Moore work, so my guess is McLaren had an outline that Moore used as a foundation, but the foreword doesn’t answer that question.

The story was written in the 1980s, during the Cold War, and a lot of the fears of that era are ensconced in the story. It focuses on Doll, a hat check girl who gets fired and then winds up being the model for a famous designer, Celestine, the designer, and a young androgynous character who is responsible for dressing Doll. The three of them serve as a dysfunctional dynamic against the backdrop of nuclear winter. Ultimately, their story is one of revolution, using fashion as the means for that revolution. It winds up being very strange.

Since this is an Alan Moore work, the story includes a few speeches on the purpose of fashion, all of which are well-reasoned and convincing. They reminded me a bit of the speech that Meryl Streep’s character gives in The Devil Wears Prada, when she talks about the effect of fashion on other aspects of our lives, though this story predates the movie by several years. I’m the sort of person who, for the most part, doesn’t care what he looks like (though I at least try to match most of the time), but even I can see that side of the argument. I can even see the connection between fashion and revolution, like how the bikini and the miniskirt made such an impact on society. But I can’t make the connection between fashion and how the story ends. I don’t even know how one causes the other to happen, at least in the context of this story.

Maybe we’re not supposed to know. The effects of fashion on society can take time, so maybe we don’t yet have the full picture, but what I struggled with the most was how, in the midst of a nuclear winter, anyone even cared about fashion at all. Moore effectively uses clothing as a thematic element in the story — in one scene, the common people are having to disrobe and burn their clothes because they can’t change their clothes often, and they wind up accumulating radiation and posing a hazard — but he also shows us news crews that are still obsessed with what this new designer is creating. Is it a statement on the media and how they focus on unimportant stories when people only want to hear about the important things? And is the ending supposed to be a reflection of the public’s awakening to what’s really happening?

I actually like this book, in part because it made me think, but I don’t love it. It hearkens back to when Moore had a command of the comics genre, and reminds me of when he was at his peak with Watchmen and Swamp Thing. Maybe it’s due to my lack of interest in fashion that it doesn’t have more of an effect on me, but it just didn’t capture me like I was hoping it would. At the very least, it doesn’t disappoint.

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