Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Lines Get Fuzzy: On Labels, Fashion, and Strega


Last week, the lovely shortcuttothestars said that she felt uncomfortable with the idea of calling herself a mori girl because her version of the style veers so far away from the Japanese aesthetic. She also mentioned that she wanted to figure out a label that fit her style so she could stop worrying about whether her clothing was goth enough or mori enough.

And then, in her efforts to find a label that would work for her and others who feel the same way, strega fashion became a thing, somehow.

It has actually taken form rather impressively, like a witchy Athena burst fully formed from the forehead of the online community. It has a vague definition. It has a Tumblr tag with people trying out the look. It has debates on the name and whether it is offensive to the Italian pagan community.

And, of course, this got me thinking about the way that we label clothing styles.

Why Labels?

Ostensibly, labels become a thing because we want to classify what we're seeing. We wanted to find a word to describe this thing that we're wearing and to find other people who are also interested in the clothing styles we seek out.

And that's awesome.

I loved the moment when I realized that there was a word for the things I wanted to wear. I loved being able to go online and push a button and find other people dressed in a similar style. I still love that I can search for a name on the internet and find the fashions I want to look at.

When Good Labels Go Bad

Labels are also kind of terrifying when you think about it. Because fashion is as it is, styles splinter into substyles. Lolita splinters into sweet, gothic, and classic, which splinter in turn into substyles like bittersweet, sailor, country. Goth has splintered into so many substyles that a cybergoth and a romantigoth would seem to be unrelated but for the general darkness of aesthetic. Every splinter has its own ins and outs and they become increasingly difficult to classify as you go deeper.

That's kind of terrifying, especially when you're just getting into a style.

Labels are, of course, also a source of "that's not..." arguments. I mostly eschew labels for my clothing because of those arguments. Are my frills too retro to be Lolita? Are they too goth to be mori? Are they too simple to be dolly kei but too weird to be true vintage?

Also terrifying.

Labels can bring about a fear of fashion miscegenation, if you forgive the coining of a term. Instead of finding a label and using it as a starting point to finding a fashion unique to each wearer, labels suddenly become about defining what can and cannot be done because it might skirt the boundaries of a style.

The Thing I Love About Strega

 I really love that the vagueness of the lines between styles is built right into the definition of strega. You want to be witchy? You're welcome here. On the dark edge of mori girl? You can totally be strega. Dolly kei achieving high levels of witchiness? You, too, are welcome. Folklore inspired goth looks a thing for you? Come on in.

I really like the freeform nature of that because, as the lines between fashions get fuzzier, people fence their styles in more (especially in the western world). I see experimentation increasingly discouraged, and that's a shame.

I love it when styles offer the freedom for self-expression, and I love that when strega became a thing it very intentionally encouraged experimentation and a lack of firm rules. That's important to me because, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what style I'm wearing; it matters that I like it and am wearing it to be true to myself.

And will I take some inspiration from strega fashion? Definitely.

Some days, myself is a witch.


  1. I know exactly what you mean! In the end all of these ideas came from different ways of just being yourself. And I love strega fashion too :)

  2. an actual witch I totally love this!