Is it just a pretty dress? Or is there more that we should consider here?
Over the last two weeks a heated debate has broken out on social media about my handling of this dress project. An American content creator of Indian heritage proposed that it ought to be “cancelled”, leading to a storm of controversy.
Some people felt that the upset was unwarranted – it’s just a dress, right? – and those are the people I want to talk to here. What *is* all the fuss about? Why does Nami Sparrow feel hurt, and why is it important for me to pay attention to her?
There are some very strong feelings on both sides, but let’s step back from judgement for a moment and lean into curiosity. What can be done here – not just with this project, but in historical costuming at large? Is it just a question of identifying and ring fencing things we must not make, or have we just not been thinking creatively enough about how we could engage with difficult histories in a more sensitive and educational way? My conversation with art teacher Mary Gilkerson may indicate a way forward that we haven’t yet explored as fully as we perhaps could.
Am I going to make the dress, or just abandon it all right here? Maybe there are more than two options.
NB. As this video went up I watched Cher Thomas’ video again. I realised how much her ideas last year got under my skin, even though I was too overwhelmed and stubborn to respond to her at the time. I’d like to publicly apologise to Cher, acknowledge her influence on some of the things I started to consider in this video, and fwiw, here’s what she said to me so graciously last year.
PS. Full disclosure – this video was directly inspired by an earlier conversation with Nami and two British POC, and filmed before Nami’s video was released (I was just leaving on a trip abroad as it all went down.) It will not address every point brought up, but you get the overall idea of where I stood on this pre-peer pressure, and what possibilities I began to explore. I remain open to feedback.