My Magic Fashion

"[Thus] religious or magical behaviour or thinking must not be set apart from the range of everyday purposive conduct, particularly since even the ends of the religious and magical actions are predominantly economic."617

Here, Max Weber gives us a preliminary idea about how "magic" action is "rationally" involved in contemporary life. So, the conclusion we draw from this quote is that both the production side as well as the consumption side probably use magic action for economic reasons. It is hard to find magic instructions in merchandising literature, but merchandising pioneer Paco Underhill tells us where to look for magic practice:

614 During the Anthesteria, the slaves had equal social status. See (Bremmer 1999:19)

615 This description is based on photo material we found in the archive of a big department store in London.

616 Miller (1998a:107) relates the sacrificial meal to the family and not to the community of shoppers: "Feeding the family then stands for the modern act of consumption in an analogous relationship to feeding the community in ancient sacrifice

617 Weber (1978:400).

"To the extent to which there is magic, to the degree to which there are tricks, it's mostly in what we call merchandising."618

This quote is taken from a book that investigates why we buy. Do we buy because merchandisers have put a spell on us? This explanation may be a bit too simple. Baudrillard argues against such attempts at making out merchandisers as magicians:

"Comparing advertising to a kind of magic is really giving it too much credit, however."619

But in this discussion on how magical the merchandise practice is, one should also ask how the consumer feels when he is confronted with the question of magic. Dichter presents a point of view that comes from motivational research:

"Even the most conservative man has, in a forgotten corner of his mind, a deep understanding and a sympathetic smile for the tales of wizardry, sorcery, and mysterious powers."620

We will thus conclude from all this that a sense for magic action exists both on the side of merchandising (for example window dressing) and on that of the consumer. As a next step, we will try to connect the belief in magic to the field of fashion. The main application of magic action lies in all the purposes that make future development uncertain. Bronislaw Malinowski points out this aspect:

"Further, we find magic where the element of danger is conspicuous. We do not find it wherever absolute safety eliminates any elements of foreboding. This is the psychological factor. But magic also fulfils another and highly important sociological function. As I have tried to show elsewhere, magic is an active element in the organisation of labour and in its systematic arrangement."621

This reference to hunting could be easily transferred to fashion when it is done under the premise that fashion is

618 Underhill (1999:200)

619 Baudrillard (1996:192)

620 Dichter (1960:302).

621 Malinowski (1954:140)

Death of also unsure to some extent. What colour will be next? What will the consumers buy? And so on. Groys underlines this element of uncertainty in the system of fashion:

"Fashion is, in fact, radically anti-utopian and anti-authoritarian. The fact that it constantly changes means that the future is unpredictable, that it could not escape historical change and that there are no universal truths that could totally determine the future."622

Baudrillard develops this condition and points out a possible dangerous end. His description awakens the suspicion that a degree of magic is needed to hold together a system that is hard to control.

"The astonishing privilege accorded to fashion is due to a unanimous and definitive resolve. The acceleration of the simple play of signifiers in fashion becomes striking, to the point of enchanting us - the enchantment and vertigo of the loss of every system of reference. In this sense, it is the completed form of political economy, the cycle wherein the linearity of the commodity comes to be abolished. There is no longer any determinacy internal to signs of fashion, hence they become free to commute and permutate without limit."623

We will now interrupt our discussion on the relationship between magic and fashion because, if we follow Malinowski, it is already clear that fashion needs some magical control. Magic entails a doer, the action and the imagination.624 The magician is the individual who performs the magical action. Mauss points out that magic acts should be strictly separated from social practices.625 Fantasies of magic are related to magical actions.

"Each ritual contains a representation of how things happen and of the specific process which is to be influenced by magic."626

This comment by Horkheimer and Adorno clearly points

622 Groys 1992:45)*

623 Baudrillard (2004:87).

624 Mauss (1999:52).

625 Mauss (1999:52).

626 Horkheimer/Adorno (2002:5)

out the question we must ask ourselves. What does the fashion industry want to influence? We will answer this question in the context of our assumption about the Dionysus rite. We assume that fashion wants to perpetuate the myth of creativity in the same way as the ancients wanted Nature to return with full force in spring and give power to the fields. Every half year, fashion must be reborn with new creative power. Ronald Grimes detaches magic from archaic beliefs so that we can connect it with the merchandising activity of our research on the show windows:

"Magic as used here does not refer to other peoples' rites but to ours as well. It is not a pejorative term but a way of referring rites that aim to effect. The word refers any element of ritual understood as means to an end. If a rite not only has meaning but also works, it is magical. Insofar as it is a deed having transcendent reference and accomplishing some desired empirical result, a rite is magical."627

Magic does not work for its own sake; it is legitimated by a system.628 The treatment of the mannequin will be our example in analysing the magical act of window dressing. The dressed mannequin has sacred ancestors.629 Statues dressed in real clothes were placed in temples and churches, and they were used in processions as well. We can thus show that there is a tradition of using statues for magical purposes. Hubert and Mauss give two examples of magical treatments in relation to spring rites:

"In one of the Mexican festivals, to represent the rebirth of the spirit of agriculture the dead victim was skinned and the skin was put on the victim that was to succeed it the following year. In Lusitia, at the spring festival, in which the "dead one" the old god of vegetation is buried, the shirt from the mannequin that represents it is removed and immediately placed on the May tree; with the garment, the spirit is also removed."630

The above two examples show a magical action in which a skin or garment is used to transfer the vitalising power from the dead victim to the new representative of life. The practice of

627 Grimes (1995:48-49).

628 Douglas (2000:150).

629 Parrot (1982:14).

630 Hubert/Mauss (1981:73-74).

Death of magic is based on the concept of metaphor and metonymy. The metaphorical relationship is given when A is treated as if it were B (to throw something into the water in order to make rain). We can speak about a metonymical relationship when A is treated as if it is a part of B (the crown as a part of the king). These two principles are similar to Frazer's concept of magic. The law of similarity can be compared to the metaphorical relationship, the law of physical contact relates to the metonymical relationship.631 Umberto Eco explains the two forms of magical action in the context of the use of signs:

"In both cases, one demonstrates the magic of signs that stand for something: the image is the metaphor, an imitation of the thing. The object that belongs to something else is its metonymy; it is part for the whole, cause for the effect, container for the content. One has power over things through their signs or through other things that one sees as signs for them."632

The mannequins of today do not represent gods, but the ideal of a beautiful body according to the latest fashions. Taste has changed continually over the decades. Mannequins always represent the types of models used in fashion photography and for the catwalk of the respective time. The mannequin in the show window represents the commonly shared belief in beauty. During the seasonal sale, the mannequins are often naked or dressed in a "ritual dress" made of poor materials, such as packing paper. This signifies the state of the victim being sacrificed. The body of the mannequin loses its customary role; it no longer represents fashion. The naked body of the victim only has a presence.633 This is the state during the sales. The re-dressing of the mannequin in spring echoes a couple of rites, which work with the magical action of dressing the sacred statue in order to show that the god has been resurrected.634 And as the god is fashion, fashion will rise with new power through sympathetic magic.635 This is the end of the biggest sacrificial ritual in our consumer culture. We have to wait for another half year until we can attend it again. And as it is natural that rituals transform

633 Fischer-Lichte (2004:255).

634 Specht (2000:165) gives the example of Odysseus, who returned from his adventures like a beggar. His social status was recovered when he was re-dressed in appropriate garments. His power was renewed by a product of female labour, anc not by that of male labour such as weapons.

635 Frazer (1993:386).

during this period, we will have to see how it will change in the future:636

"But it is the imagination of the creators of myths which has perfected the elaboration of the sacrifice of the God. Indeed, imagination has given firstly the status and a history and consequently a more continuous life to the intermittent, dull, and passive personality, which was born from the regular occurrence of sacrifice. This without taking into account the fact that by releasing it from its earthly womb, it has made it more divine."637

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