Documenting Fashion


Fashioning Astrology

May 23, 2014 by Katerina

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Detail of ‘Come Meet Me in the Middle of the Air’ by Marta Brysha (www.martabrysha.com). Photograph by Peter Whyte. Materials: embroidery and feathers on silk dupion.

Fashion and astrology, an ancient practice of divination that assumes a link between cosmological phenomena and human lives, in many ways form a natural complement because they are both seasonal and cyclical. The characteristics of each zodiac sign also correspond to fashion’s division of women into types. The latter is a marketing device used to appeal to the consumer’s desire to have a distinctive sense of identity within fashion’s endless variety and fluctuations. Fashion features that typecast by complexion, age or body shape often focus on bringing the physical body more in line with the fashionable ideal. Conversely, astrological typecasting, where style advice is based on mythical traits rather than empirical facts operates on an imaginative, experiential level.

In the process of astro-fashion, stylists and astrologers often promote the appearance of nearer stars: celebrities. The Australian astrologer Mystic Medusa (http://mysticmedusa.com/) uses fashion imagery to illustrate cosmological phenomena on her blog. She argues that ‘certain models and celebrities act as Muses, channeling the public imagination… they (give) out projections, like uber-Jung archetypes’. In Mystic Medusa’s experience the most potent style icons have Neptune, the planet of imagination and dreams, and the zodiac sign of Leo, the attention-seeking male lion, in prominent positions of their birth chart.

Coco Chanel, a conscious Leo, was one of the first women to typecast herself astrologically. As her biographer Justine Picardie has observed, Chanel’s affinity with her sun sign infiltrated her aesthetic: lion motifs were embossed onto her buttons and jewellery, and she named her most famous perfume Number 5 after Leo’s position in the Zodiac. Arguably, for Chanel the lion’s embodiment of leadership and majesty was a foil for her promotion of these conventionally masculine qualities through fashion.

Nowadays, the Chanel model and Leo, Cara Delevingne promotes the lion’s extrovert audacity with her abundant golden mane, cutting-edge designer clothes and a lion tattoo on her index finger. Delevingne’s Instagram profile juxtaposes snapshots of male lions pulling kooky grimaces with her own playful poses. Like Chanel, Delevingne draws upon her sun sign’s symbolism to project the image of a tomboyish fashion leader, but also projects her wild nonchalance.

Although Chanel and Delevingne have used astrology as a means of self-differentiation, stylist-astrologers in magazines have often encouraged readers to emulate a celebrity-type. Thus, for Librans like myself, the harmoniously erotic aspects of our ruler Venus are mediated through Gwyneth Paltrow’s flowing neutrals or Dita Von Teese’s saucy coordinates. While Aphrodite of Knidos had the idealised proportions of c.400 BC, the pixel-perfected media images of Paltrow and Von Teese form modern approximations of the Venusian type. Although the comparison to a media idol with the same star sign ought to be flattering, it can also feel stereotypical and emotionally inauthentic.

Mystic Medusa argues that while there is ‘a grain of truth’ in these celestial-terrestrial star identifications, being stylistically ‘in tune with your astral DNA’ comes from a fuller knowledge of your birth chart. She maintains that dressing for your ascendant, the zodiac sign and planets rising on the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth, which determine your physical persona, is more effective than dressing for your sun sign. Thus with dreamy sea planet Neptune in steely Capricorn in my ascendant my cosmically auspicious look should combine formal and ethereal elements. While I’m positively uncomfortable in anything too structured and boxy, I love black for its simplicity and am something of a mermaid with wavy hair and a penchant for pearls, scalloping and hour-long showers.

It may be that astrological insight reinforces what I already know about myself and my style, but it also evokes the feeling that the pearls, aquatic motifs and little black dresses I have always loved are uncannily appropriate for me. If the scientists are right, and we are made of star dust, why should we not have the option of dressing in a way that enhances our stellar material makeup?

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