There’s a quote from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House that came to mind when I put this dress on. “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!” This Crazy Butterflies for Life dress from Orage Creations got me thinking about freedom – and what it means. FDR talked about the Four Freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. He wasn’t thinking of cancer when he talking about those freedoms, but wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to finally come to a time when the word cancer does not evoke fear, but instead a confidence that it can be treated and overcome? To that end and working for that day, the designers for Fashion For Life, such as Orage Creations Elettra Gausman, are supporting the American Cancer Society’s efforts to combat cancer and create a future where cancer is no longer causes fear.
Angelwing produced three Timeless Angel costumes for Fashion For Life and I loved how they work together. The Light one is all white, the Fallen shows the marks of struggle and the Dark is all black. What I particularly liked is that the white and black were not counter-poised as good and evil since they both wear the same religious symbols, even the Fallen Angel wears the same symbols and is dressed in a stained white dress. Normally I do not wear any religious icons or symbols out of respect for their meaning to the people who believe in those religions, but I liked that the designer did not fall into the white-black/good-evil trap so common in design and language. I thought it worth making an exception in order to highlight this great trio of dresses.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote in “Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” that even language conspires with racism, noting that the synonyms for black were overwhelmingly negative and those for white were nearly all positive. So, too, are the expressions using those words. One of the ways, I work to undo the conditioning of a lifetime is to avoid using the words black and white as descriptors of anything except color in so far as is possible and reasonable. I don’t object when other people use black and dark in negative expressions or white and light in positive ones. That is our language, after all. This is just a personal challenge to consciously avoid that language trap – a way to resist cultural conditioning and struggle against my learned biases. It’s surprisingly difficult. I have been consciously using black and white purely as color descriptors and finding other ways to express phrases like blacklist (ban list or exclusion list) and white knight (rescuer) for over a decade and still catch myself falling into the language trap.
So I am in a foul mood, not a black mood. Bad guys use extortion, not blackmail. People tell harmless lies, not white lies. Of course, black holes remain black holes and white hot stars are white hot stars and the night sky is still black. Those are phrases using black and white as colors, not synonyms for good and bad. Just as an experiment, you could challenge yourself and try to go a week without using black/dark or white/light to express anything other than color. You might be surprised how difficult it is and how much our language is filled with subtext.