Mythology

"[A]s a season, spring is both pure and mythical at once; mythical, by virtue of the awakening of nature; Fashion takes this awakening for its own, thus giving the readers, if not its buyers, the opportunity to participate annually in a myth that has come from the beginning of time; spring Fashion, for the modern woman, is like what the Great Dyonysia or the Anthesteria were for the ancient Greeks."549

Roland Barthes related the advent of the spring collection to the myth of the awakening of nature. The motivational researcher Ernest Dichter, too, pointed at the existence of a relationship between the awakening of nature and the excitement among fashion followers.550 If we assume that there is some truth in this observation, how can we link it to the ancient Greek Dyonisian rituals? Can the celebration of the new collections be interpreted as a worship of the ancient Greek god Dionysus? Several festivals in and around ancient Greece had the cult of Dionysus as the pivot of their activities.551 The ritual performed in spring was the Anthesteria. It was performed in the month of Anthesterion, which was approximately February/March.552 This must have been about when Barthes analysed the fashion maga-

549 Barthes (1990:251).

550 Dichter (1964:76).

551 Wissowa (1894:1010-1046).

552 Wissowa (1894:2375).

zines, because it was the March issue that introduced the spring collection.553 However, from this point on, it would be difficult to find parallels in addition to the calendar, but we will try to do so. The Anthesteria is the type of festival that has dramatised the advent of the new harvest/fruit/wine all over the world by a sharp break with the existing order.554 It was a time in which the social order was disrupted, a time of "anti-order"555 The focal point of the festival was the advent of the new wine. The god Dionysus was celebrated with excessive drinking. The wine, drunk from jugs containing three litres of the intoxicating fluid, was to be drained as quickly as possible. The ritual of celebrating Dionysus was created as a negative rite to the normal practices.556 We can now relate the advent of the new fashion collection to this type of festival, to which the Anthesteria belongs. It could thus be said that the advent of the spring collection is also a kind of "grande festa" and belongs to the important rituals of consumer culture. If we continue with our interpretation, the excessive consumption of the new wine can be compared to the excessive consumption of the new fashion, either through fashion magazines or by shopping. In doing so, we exclude the seasonal sale from our discussion - although we are quite sure that it is part of the ritual. So, we will change the time of storytelling to when Barthes conducted his studies. Let's listen to the "myth" of the introduction of the new fashion in 1958:

"The spring collections are here! There's much excitement in Paris. Journalists and buyers are pouring in from all corners of the world to get inspired by the laboratories of fashion. They are here to stimulate their fantasies with thousands of new ideas floating around like opalescent soap bubbles, and with the extravagant new fashion lines that Paris invents twice a year for those who believe in its immortal gift of renewal."557

The renewal of the power of nature is a strong motif in many ancient rites, and this quote from a fashion magazine clearly shows the motif of the renewal of fashion. The modern belief in the renewal of fashion can thus be compared to the ancient belief in the renewal of the forces of nature. And the way all rites

553 The Parisian magazine Vogue introduced the spring collection of the year 1959 In its March issue. See Charles-Roux (1959:97-135). The introduction of the spring collection in the fashion magazines has shifted to January or February today

554 Bremmer (1999:50).

555 The slaves were treated as equals during the Anthesteria. See Bremmer (1999:19)

556 Bremmer (1999:47).

557 Charles-Roux (1958:I-III)*.

Death of have their centres of worship, our Mecca of fashion is Paris. Pilgrims from all over the world come to Paris in order to celebrate the new collections and confirm the myth of creativity. And the priests of the cult point out the significance of the event and its effects on everyday life:

"Dear reader! This is the great month of collections in which new fashion is born in Paris. Your choice, your style, your entire behaviour will depend on it."558

Let us now return from the place of worship to mythology. Although we would be more at ease with our explanation that the fashion ritual is part of the same type of festival as the Anthesteria, we will examine whether it is possible for myths to change or whether they are partially replaced by other contents. Nietzsche was not convinced that this is possible:

"It seems scarcely possible to transplant a foreign myth with lasting success, without irreversibly damaging the tree in the process: the occasional tree may perhaps prove sufficiently strong and healthy to exercise the foreign element through a fearful struggle, but must more usually consume itself in stunted infirmity or in rampant but sickly growth."559

Myths are capable of changing over time. According to Lévi-Strauss, a myth can create yet another myth, and the myth can also survive when it is transferred from one society to another. It is also possible that the formula changes during the transformations, though its "figure" is still recognisable.560 Things become more complicated when the myth is related to a ritual, because the relation of ritual and myth is still not sufficiently clear today.561 The Greek's did not have an all-encompassing category of ritual, as three different types of ritual acts existed.562 The elaborate Greek festivals had a limited number of basic ritual acts,563 the procession and the sacrifice being the most important elements in them. This is why we will try to fill this basic structure of the ancient Greek festival with the dramatisation of the contemporary fashion system.

558 Charles-Roux (1959:VI)*

559 Nietzsche (2000:125).

560 Lévi-Strauss (1978:256)

562 Bremmer (1999:38).

563 Bremmer (1999:39)

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