Group 4

The Discourse: The double standards of over-the-top dressing

Who do we choose to condemn for being ‘extra’?


Text: Rukiat Ashawe

There has been quite a lot of discourse recently around dramatic celeb looks, especially at the Oscars last weekend where the stuh-ning Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems went viral due to her jaw-dropping sculptural gown from Lever Couture AW22. Not only did jaws drop, but apparently views were obstructed too — sending the internet into a frenzy as netizens express sympathy towards the people sitting behind her.

The design of the dress created a sort of cloud around her head, which led it being dubbed a ‘stratus cloud’ and in pics and videos posted you can see some attendees peering behind and around her to see the stage. Tems’ cloud dress was thoroughly meme-fied, with many creators reimagining the experiences of the people sitting behind her. The whole thing got us thinking about the situation’s similarities to Tommy Cash wearing a bed to Paris Fashion Week (which we covered in last week’s Digi Diary). Tommy’s bed went viral for its genius, but was noted as a nightmare for attendees at the back.

Yet, Tommy’s bed outfit didn’t receive quite as much vitriol, which begs the question as to why the reaction to Tems has been pretty unforgiving with one netizen even referring to her as a “selfish, rude, diva”. There seem to be a few reasons behind this harsh reaction: first is the growing fatigue for current celebrity culture — the public has never returned to its pre-pandemic tolerance of Hollywood excess. The backlash towards recession-core seems to reflect this pushback, criticised as privileged cosplay of being poor. There are also talks of the Kardashian era being over, which could mean Kardashian-fatigue is starting to take effect across Hollywood  — meaning we might have less tolerance for extra behaviour of any kind.

Number two is straight up misogyny, in particular misogynoir, as Black women are often not afforded the same liberties and grace as other groups, especially when it comes to being bold. While Tommy Cash’s outfit was trolled a little, it was still called ‘funny’ and ‘genius’, while Tems’ was ‘rude’ and she behaved like a ‘diva’. But Tems set the record straight: explaining that she wanted everybody to know that she has arrived, she is here and it is her moment. Some may call that selfish, while others will gladly cheer her on, but one thing’s for sure: we need to keep showing up for the ladies who aren’t afraid to take up space. 

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