Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fashionable Ghosts

Here it comes again, the dreaded seventh month. Burn, money, burn. Eat, spirits, eat. Run, humans, run. Superstitions aplenty, believe them or not, it's better just to be safe than sorry. The Ghost Festival or Hungry Ghost Festival apparently has a Ghost Day, the 15th of the month, which by the way, is today. Ghost Day is when those iron gates of hell are yanked open by the bouncers of the netherworld (sounds very much like a club by putting it this way haha) and the hungry spirits are released to mingle with humans and have their fill where the living has left them food and various other offerings. They are entertained by the ge tai, where performers put up very loud, gaudy and flashy shows for these spirits. The first row is reserved for these special guests so don't expect to see anyone in the front row. If you do, bless your third eye.

The inspiration for this post stems from a very amusing text I received yesterday from a very Catholic and very concerned mom (thanks for the advice), instructing me to go home early because the gates of hell open at midnight.
To which I replied: Those ghosts would not disturb me if I don't disturb them.
Mom: By going home early, you are not disturbing them. Touché. Very classy.
As Catholics, or any other religion other than those that celebrate this festival, these superstitions and beliefs should not be followed. However, in the uniquely Singaporean manner, everyone subscribes to these pieces of advice anyway, from not stepping on joss paper, kicking over food offerings to the relatively ridiculous like not turning around if you hear someone calling your name from behind you in the dead of night. Honestly, that would likely be what I would call Imagination; poised and ready to make life ever more interesting to make up for the monotony of daily routines. Like I said, better to be safe than sorry so I might just make my way home earlier today.

Speaking of ghosts, and thanks to my friend Google, fashion and ghosts or spirits surprisingly do not mix as much as I expected them to. For all the mystery, allure and eerie-ness that the underworld brings to the table, fashion does not take to it too kindly. I assume it's because these things have no positive connotations whatsoever, and probably serve to frighten more than inspire, to scare more than to impress. Then again, I chanced upon this hologram of Kate Moss, presented by none other than the late visionary Alexander McQueen, way back in 2006. The ghostly apparition of a holographic Moss gently wrapped in what seems like metres of tulle and mounds of McQueen magic was mesmerising from start to finish. The fragility and beauty in the dreamy apparition that lasted for a few minutes was more than enough to make a lasting impression.


Ghostly apparitions don't appear often but I did find some and they are gorgeous. Fashion chooses to beautify the eerie, as it beautifies all else, hence it loses its ghastly edge but takes on an ethereal quality, much like what Kate Moss the hologram embodied as opposed to say, Helena Bonham Carter in the Corpse Bride. Fashionable ghosts are definitely more Western than Asian. I'm stereotyping for the sake of simplicity because the spirits of the West are somehow less creepy than the pontianaks, demons and vampires of the East. (Add zombies on the West side of the equation and perhaps both sides are more or less on par now, but zombies are on a whole new level).  Something to go figure.

Katrin Thormann by Alexi Lubomirski, Vogue Germany, July 2010
For Vogue Italia 
Invitation a la dance by Solve Sundsbo
It's the stories about the inexplicable mysteries that endlessly intrigue. If fashion is about story telling then this could be an interesting one to explore. A cabbie, Uncle #1, once told me this story whilst driving through one of the creepiest roads in Singapore, Mount Pleasant road. His friend, Uncle #2 was driving along that same road way before they had proper street lighting. He picks up a girl and everything runs as usual, no funny business. However, when he checked the cash that he was paid, it was joss paper money. Creepy, if your mind is all ready to jump into Tales of the Unexpected but could have been a practical joke, paying the poor cabbie with ghost currency because the passenger was too broke to pay with living dollars and cents. As the saying goes, if your conscience is clear, nothing to fear. Now that is something I fully believe in.


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