To kick off the interview series for Fashiopolitics, we interviewed Francesca Granata in advance of the launch of her new book, Experimental Fashion: Performance Art Carnival, and the Grotesque Body. In this interview, Dr. Granata explains the etymology of the word “grotesque,” from the Italian grotto for “cave” into contemporary English for the bizarre and fanciful. Building upon ideas of literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin and cultural theorist Mary Douglas, Dr. Granata demonstrates that the grotesque in fashion is something that crosses the bodily borders or other binaries of normality (e.g. gender) and something that is also perceived as threatening.
In her research for Experimental Fashion, Dr. Granata specifically looked to fashion design and performances by the likes of Leigh Bowery, Rei Kawakubo, and Martin Margiela that challenged the naturalized boundaries and borders in bodies and in fashion as embodied on the body. In her own words, “the proliferation of bodies-out-of-bounds in fashion [in the 80s and 90s] was influenced by feminism’s desire to open up and question gender and bodily norms and particularly the normative bodies of fashion. It was also tied to the AIDS epidemic and mediated the fears of contagion and the obsessive policing of bodily borders that characterized the period.” Our conversation weaves in and out of topics as diverse as celebrity pregnancies to hipster normcore to fat-shaming, all in connection with who has the ability to be excessive in fashion and to engage in the grotesque.
Moreso, we ask, why is it that shaming of the excessive body and attire is so contagious?