In my dating life I can’t tell you how many men I’ve encountered especially, like, young men and they’ll straight-up say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in real life,’ and that’s what you want to hear…
– Dita Von Teese
This quote from Dita reminds me of something I read in book or an article but I sadly cannot remember where I read it. The writing was talking about Cleopatra and the type of woman she was. The book said that when Cleopatra was seducing Julius Caesar, she decided that in order to capture his interest and successfully seduce him, she wanted to make herself into a grand, majestic creature of beauty and mystery. And so, when giving Caesar a royal tour of the Nile, the Queen had a grand vessel, three stories high decorated for her with all the opulent linens and luxuries ancient Egypt had to offer. Cleopatra dressed herself in elaborate makeup, clothing, and jewels. Caesar could not resist.
As legend has it, Cleopatra crafted herself to be larger than life, a goddess. When I think about how I would like to reinvent myself as I build my wardrobe, the story of Cleopatra and the words of Dita Von Teese immediately come to mind. I want to be larger than life, almost unreal, something ethereal.
The only trouble is these are such intangible traits and they can come in many forms, whether that is a vintage pin-up style or the ancient opulence of Egyptian, Roman and Greek deities. But, I can’t very well go about living my life in floor length linen robes accented with peacock feathers and I don’t believe pin-up style to be an authentic expression of who I am or who I want to be.
Something important that I have noticed when I think of women who are, at least in my mind, larger than life is that they come from a different time or place or class than I am in now. Cleopatra comes from an ancient land far away and the Old Hollywood glamour of vintage starlets originated out of the recent past. (But it is the past nonetheless.)
I also look to the future. The sci-fi, 60s Mod inspired style of Star Trek has always fascinated me. I believe the most common term for this style is known as “Spaceship Corporate” on Pinterest and throughout Reddit’s female fashion forum.
I think of Padme Amidala in a galaxy far, far away and her soft, flowing rainbow pastel gown which seemed to be barely there. There are other outfits too- the yellow corseted dress with delicate, hand embroidered flowers, the pale sky blue two piece outfit she wears while accompanying Anakin to Tatooine, the steel blue nightgown with beaded detailing she wears during her pregnancy, even the animated rendition of her in a strapless purple gown that I’m sure she used the Force to make it stay up; it defies gravity.
Then I look at the decadence of the 80s and 90s and I am inspired by the lavishness of Naomi Lapaglia in The Wolf of Wall Street and it was her head-to-toe black, vintage Versace outfit accented with gold that sparked my fascination with Versace, vintage in particular, that I’ll never be able to find, let alone afford to wear.
I remember the richness of the costumes in American Hustle and the sultriness exuded by the two spectacular female leads.
I am reminded yet again of that gorgeous red dress worn by Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and also of the the silver metallic gown she wears at the museum gala.
And finally, there are the impeccable designs of Alex Perry that are more like art than clothes and which I long to wear, and I would, could I afford it.
Perhaps this is another reason why I can never find clothes I like in stores. Becoming larger than life requires the personification of ones self. Unlike pretending to be a false version of yourself, you are instead crafting a persona and you grow into it; maybe it’s a bit like saying “I want to be *this* when I grow up.” It’s like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight- when you watch that movie, you are not watching Heath Ledger acting as the Joker; you are watching the Joker being the Joker.
Deciding to become larger than life is probably a bit like that but hopefully a lot less tragic. You get to create a character for this movie we call life and you are the costume designer, the script writer and the director of your movie. And you get to be this character. That is why I cannot find clothes I truly like.
I am not looking for clothes. I am looking for a costume.