It was that time of the year, when Brown students took a break from the usual stress of their classes to think about their outfits for the upcoming "holiday" season. No, it was still not the season to be jolly, but rather the much-anticipated "All Hallows' Eve." In between the talk about midterms and the ever-increasing pile of unfinished readings to be done, ideas for Halloween costumes took over the normal, everyday conversations of Brown students. Even Facebook became an open forum where people asked their fellow 500-plus friends for advice on whom they should dress up as or how to put their inventive ideas ro work — the answer to most of which is a flood of links to ehow.com.
Two years ago, an invasion of Sarah Palins — or a considerable percentage of Brown females dressed in professional attire — took over the line outside the tent for the "Wriston Rising" Halloween party. But this year, the Halloween inspiration was elsewhere: in the new self-proclaimed queen of the media, Lady Gaga.
Perhaps it was because Halloween became an impromptu festivity for me here at Brown — one that required little thinking and not an exhaustive number of hours of preparation — that I wasn't ranking highly on the creativity scale when it came to picking a costume. Nevertheless, the thought of dressing up as Lady Gaga sparked my interest. After all, it did not seem incredibly hard to mix and match random garments and pair them up with a platinum blonde wig to get the Gaga style going on. I kept imagining all the possible combinations of costumes that could pass the test for Lady Gaga — anything from the bubble dress that she wore on the cover of Rolling Stone to black, metallic and asymmetric ensembles thrown together — until a distinctive image took hold of my mind: a snapshot of Lady Gaga in her now iconic yet infamous raw meat dress.
On Sept. 12, an outraged American public watched as Lady Gaga took the stage at the 27th Annual MTV Video Music Awards to receive the "Video of the Year" award wearing pieces of raw meat strewn together as a "dress." Despite the myriad of indignant responses from PETA and other organisms of the media, the most sought-after Halloween costume is — you guessed it — Gaga's meat dress. Although butchers have cautioned against wearing meat for trick-or-treating purposes — giving reasons as diverse as the questionable state of hygiene of raw meat to the practical difficulty of sewing pieces of meat together — the meat dress is already too much in vogue.
Quite recently, the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York's meat-packing district presented its own take on Franc Fernandez's (the now notorious mind behind the meat design) dress: a Gaga-inspired version of the meat dress worth $100,000 (and available for purchase). For those whose can't take that fast-cash out of their accounts, there are certainly other alternatives: the DIY method of buying individual cuts of meat (roughly a $250 investment) from local butchers or the knock-off approach of frying strips of bacon and assembling them, as a New Jersey woman suggested on The Huffington Post.
The bottom line is this: Sadly, there was little to be done to prevent Gaga aficionados from donning the "walking charcuterie" look this Halloween.
At a very basic level, I don't see why it should be too much of an issue when people tend to over-esteem their favorite Hollywood stars and their "bold" fashion choices — it's natural and, for the most part, harmless. Yet, I believe that the Lady Gaga Meat Dress/Fashion Statement/whatever you want to call it has transcended the register of mere admiration. True, her dress might be the absolute sensation now — the most-talked about garment and originator of the eponymous Halloween costume — but the consequences of falling into this trap are much more serious. By paying homage to Lady Gaga's meat dress in this sort of grotesque act of mimesis, we are putting at risk our own capacity to judge what is admirable in an artist and what is downright reprehensible. And just because Lady Gaga happens to be a "fame monster" at the present moment does not mean that we should glorify and further imitate every single one of her actions.
Her extravagance and postmodern glamour are an undeniable staple of our pop culture, but they can also blind our critical eye and lure us into buying these deluded definitions of coolness. So for Halloween, I'd stick to the witch costume, no matter how trite and uninventive it might seem. It's classic, easy-to-do, Gaga-free and will forever remain in style.
Lucia Seda '12 is a comparative literature concentrator from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She can contacted at
lucia_seda (at) brown.edu.