EDITORIAL: Fashion is becoming part of Bendigo brand - but what does it say about us residents?

Fashion is fast becoming part of the Bendigo brand.

Following the success of exhibitions dedicated to the wedding dress, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, Bendigo Art Gallery this week opened another show focussed on fashion design.

The costume designer: Edith Head and Hollywood is, like its predecessors, sure to attract a crowd. 

Also in Bendigo this weekend was a vintage clothing fair that showcased garments from the city’s 19-century goldfields. 

Amid the boom in fashion tourism, it is worth considering what else our penchant for apparel tells us. 

Of course, the clothes with which we decide to adorn ourselves have practical applications, least of all protecting our modesty. 

But clothing is also an outward expression of a person’s identity, a billboard telling passers-by what makes one tick.   

Consider recent controversies about the most common form of identity-forming fashion: uniforms, particularly schoolwear.   

Anti-LGBTI campaigner Cella White, who claims her son’s school said boys could wear dresses (a claim the school denies), is incensed about what such a policy would mean for the way kids conceive of their gender. 

Similarly, the Victorian government’s mandate all schoolgirls be given the choice to wear pants wrinkled the brows of more conservative commentators too.  

Think also about Pauline Hanson’s railing against the burqa, an item of clothing she fears could be used to conceal someone’s identity (though, paradoxically, a garment she felt comfortable enough to wear in Parliament). 

When we display an interest in – or consternation about –  people’s wardrobes, what we are actually showing is a fascination with the human experience.  

Those who challenge the norms of fashion shake up people’s understanding of the world – and of themselves.