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Lumps and Bumps and The New World Order
Blah blah blah joke about the "lumpenbourgeoisie" blah blah...
Hi! In my first-ever, now archived post for Human Repeller, I wrote about Ugliness in fashion as per Angelina Jolie’s infamous rash guard look in Hackers, dad sneakers, and the like—clothing designed to highlight, with cheeky perversity, the relative beauty of the wearer: “If I look this good in Crocs, imagine how good I’d look in red bottoms!” is a facile example.
I contrasted this model of Ugly clothing with the collection that irrevocably absorbed me into the fashion world: Rei Kawakubo’s fall ‘97 show “Lumps and Bumps” for Comme Des Garçons, which I believe presents us with a new way of considering not only fashion, but our understanding of what a human body “can” or is “supposed” to look like.
“These looks tick most of the boxes of “ugliness”—they obscure the idealized forms of the rail-thin models, they bulge like tumors out of spots of the body that are “supposed to” remain dainty and unperceived like shoulders and thighs, they are ostentatious in their deviance from a conventional silhouette. This deviance, apart from other “ugly” clothes designed to engender a perverse beauty in the wearer, reveals beauty as encapsulated in the garment itself, the wearer becoming irrelevant.
Clothing like the lumps and bumps of CDG’s collection isn’t about aspiration at all. You are barely meant to notice the models wearing the clothes, though one can’t ignore that they are all tall and thin as is the wont of any high-fashion show, especially in the ’90s. However, instead of viewing the models as the primary source of the collection’s aura, you can visualize the garments as living, Cronenbergian creatures in symbiotic (or parasitic) relationships with the creatures underneath. They exude presence and perversity in and of themselves – the wearer doesn’t need to look like Angelina Jolie in order to be endowed with ineffable presence by the garments. They don’t give the wearer something to prove, they simply prove themselves. It’s a banal tragedy that these pieces have never been replicated in a more accessible form so this universality remains unexplored.”
— Human Repeller, circa 2020
I now realize how much of my love of this clothing that proves itself, announces itself, and objectifies itself is built upon a few factors:
Sometimes, I’m feeling lazy, but still want to be perceived as someone conscientiously butting heads with societal convention through dress, as is my edgelord M.O. More seriously, it’s an important facet of my gender identity, political identity, and social identity to project visually my low prioritization of arbitrary norms and to invite and welcome others who might see my fit into doing the same. Yet, I can’t muster the energy to curate a challenging, provocative fit, so slapping on a one-and-done lumpen shift dress is the move before resorting to an inoffensive sweatsuit.
I’m autistic, and having sculptural, tactile buffers between me and the world is physically comforting (even allistic people can appreciate the utility of having a pillow built into a shoulder).
Michaela Stark uses her clothing to create body shapes that have been relegated largely to abjection by normative society, as seen below, demonstrating their genuine, as-of-yet un-commercialized beauty. I think wearing clothes that create silhouettes completely off the board of trend or tradition, evoking body shapes historically considered “disfigured” or “undesirable” and allowing them to be obvious in their own beauty not predicated upon convention or trend is an immense release, not only for the wearer, but for anyone who spots the wearer in the look. To see a bloated, twisted, confusing figure, discard the inherent negative value judgement those characteristics have been saddled with, and recognize the look’s impressiveness as indicative of a path towards liberation from body norms, which I think is SICK!
Lumps be made with garments as tools, using flesh as material, as seen in Michaela’s work. They can be used to extend and emphasize certain body parts to a cartoonish degree, usually referencing historical trends (remember the recent pannier resurgence? Lesser known [and less likely to reappear] are the fake potbellies 17th c dudes would wear to show they were rich enough to be well-fed)—Zoe Gustana Ava Whalen does this flawlessly. Lumps can also create completely new bodily extensions/connections, not necessarily referencing the conventional form of the human body, leaning toward animalistic, alien, or otherwise magical.
I tend to gravitate (because they require the least styling effort, haha) toward the latter two, lumps and bumps that exaggerate with levity the body’s natural shapes, or that create an entirely new conception of what “body” can signify. It’s also really funny how people react when you actively eschew their conception of “flattering” in order to look like a sprouted potato.
All that said, here’s a shoppable, 70+ item (whew) starter guide to the Subtle, the Sweet, and the Serious Business approaches toward incorporating lumps and bumps into your wardrobe. I hope you have a nice time down there!
Big note: I HIGHLY encourage and would LOVE to see lumpy DIYs. This is probably the easiest kind of look to DIY, no matter how bad you are at sewing, you can literally hot glue a thrift store pillow to the inside of a thrifted jacket, protruding from the shoulder or hip, and call it a five-dollar day. If you want any ideas, or want to DIY me something (I’ll comp you a lifetime bonus sub ;)), hit me up!
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Thank you SO MUCH for your support, whatever you are able and willing to do to help is extremely valuable to me and I’m honored to be a small part of your life on the web.
Note: I might earn a commission if you purchase items using some of the links below, which costs you nothing and might actually save you a few bucks in some cases, so thanks if you do, and please let me know what you copped!
Neutral colors, especially fleshy ones to keep that Cronenbergian flavor
Bumps that are cogent within an otherwise non-bumpy outfit
Bumps you can wear to the bodega
Lumps that can be generally understood as “of this world” without losing their abject factor
Note: The above top is by friend-of-HR Yoshiki Hishinuma and my size and it’s perfect and please, someone, surprise me with it…. please
Romantic or suggestive lumps
Potentially even lovely
Red and pink (or both?) lumps
Femme side of lumps
Tons of panniers
Slouching, floating, curling, blooming
Overall, the most overtly erotic side of lumps
“Flattering” is revealed to be as hollow as it’s always been
Lumps that threaten to become sentient and consume the wearer
Lumps that can’t be ignored
Lumps that speak to each other in secret code
Bumps that are awkward and think it’s funny to make people feel awkward too
Bumps with their own lore and agendas
Lumps that will change your life
A lump wrote this blog post xx
Lump to it, bumpheads!