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Change of look, new career: on the power of clothing to transform the image (and career) of celebrities

It’s funny: I’m not too interested in clothes when it comes to me, and yet I love the world of fashion. First, because it is home to some of the most fascinating creative minds on the planet; second, because a multitude of socio-cultural issues converges in the way of dressing. And third, styling is a tool of inestimable value when building (or building) an identity. Let’s say that, in the permanent dialogue between what one is, what one thinks one is, what one wants to be and how one is perceived, garments play a fundamental role, not only changing the way we are seen, but the way we feel and act and, consequently, who we are.

A month ago, the actress Sidney Sweeney alluded to the money that has to be spent on a stylist to remain relevant, a statement that generated various ridicules, but that confirmed the power of the image, even more so now that we are immersed in the digital medium. While we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a good cover helps the book and, in the case of the characters, can even propel and change the course of a career. This is how it happened with celebrities as notorious as Harry Styles or, in his day, Madonna or David Bowie, artists who used textiles to prolong their vision and express who they were. We are not necessarily talking about dressing up. We talk about presenting the version of ourselves that we identify with and aspire to be identified with.

A perfect example of this is embodied by Emma Corrin , a British actress famous for her role in The Crown , a Netflix series in which she played Lady Di. Although Corrin’s career is not long yet, she has starred in a Vogue cover and achieved consensus around her figure: the public senses that she is a person worthy of attention. Much of her charisma lies in what she wears in her appearances, in which she goes for conceptual designs, rejecting the pretty in favor of the weird, the disruptive, the non-binary. As was the case with Tilda Swinton or Timothée Chalamet , her choices reveal a sensitivity that earned her precocious prestige.

Another who is benefiting from that card is Brad Pitt . With the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard throbbing in the collective conscience, doubts fly over the treatment that Pitt gave Angelina Jolie and her children (indications suggest that he did not stand out as good). In this context, the actor embarked on the promotion of his latest project. For the occasion, Haans Nicholas MottHe conceived a series of unstructured outfits, with bright colors, far from what we are used to seeing on the red carpet. The star? An instantly viral brown linen skirt that Brad teamed with biker boots. The movement had a double function: raising a smokescreen and making a declaration of intent. On the one hand, he lost focus; on the other, the beginning of a new era was established. Reinventing yourself through fashion is a classic.

Let us remember the display of clothing with which Lady Gaga invaded the streets every time she released a new album. More subtle is the transformation of Anne Hathaway , which she has been introducing in her wardrobe outfits like Christopher John Rogers , in an attempt -successful, in my opinion- to abandon the boring halo that accompanied her for a while. We have witnessed how Rooney Mara became sophisticated, Jonah Hill subverted preconceived notions, Miley Cyrus became emancipated, Celine Dion was reborn after a duel, Lil Nas Xhe opposed coercion, all through looks. There are those, however, who prefer to remain faithful to a single formula, achieving by repetition to be engraved in everyone’s psyche. Karl Lagerfeld, Fran Lebowitz, Iris Apfel or Anna Wintour herself ; their names are associated with their iconic appearance to such an extent that it is impossible to imagine them without the mask. Because that is the point: from a certain moment, the mask is no longer a mask but a face. The proverb lies: when the monkey dresses in silk, the monkey doesn’t stay.

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