February 9, 2016

TALK IS CHIC | Beyonce Knows She’s That Bitch When She Causes All This Conversation

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Like most of you, we also attempted to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday… Who played again? Okay, we only pretended to watch the SuperBowl, while in true millennial fashion, we were on our iPhones watching and re-watching Beyonce’s new music video, “Formation.” If you have not seen it, you should either stop what you are doing right now and watch it here, or you should re-evaluate your life decisions.

GO: “I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress,” is a phrase I really, really wish I could relate to more, but alas I am only reckless in a dress I probably ordered online.

ET: And I wish I could be even slightly reckless enough to consider wearing that red jumpsuit:

music video beyonce formation

GO: Wait, let’s talk about that custom red jumpsuit (and Chanel necklace) and all the style choices that are going on here.

ET: I was initially struck more by the more historical pieces. How does she make the high-neck, white lace dress not look dated, but modern and hot? I feel like a philistine for being distracted from the greater message by all the insanely beautiful clothing. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this video was released during Black History month.

GO: But the thing is that the styling in this video from the dresses and the hats, to the jewelry and the hair just makes a powerful impact. I’m not kidding: I could write a paper analyzing the effects of Beyonce’s outfits on the audience; her stylist, Shiona Turini, nailed the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the clothing.

ET: I can imagine it, “Beyonce’s Zimmerman (specifically look number eight from Spring/Summer ‘16) corseted, lace dress with the almost comical parasol, is a subtle and ironic nod to the Southern fashions of the Civil War Antebellum period.”

GO: Almost all of the outfits have a historical tone specifically, the silhouettes that were worn to represent power in different eras.  The red bodysuit is a perfect example, with the full cap sleeves reminiscent of those from the Elizabethan era.  The choice of red is also important here, but for the sake of length I’ll leave it there. I think all the outfits are stunning but the long black dress with the stack of silver chokers and the black pilgrim hat is the most striking, and so incredibly well thought out. The hat helps exaggerate her head nods, with the strong and heavy jewelry that provides a feeling of restraint, even suffocation.

ET: That head nod scene gives me the chills. It speaks to the dynamic force of fashion and media. You of all people would know, can I brag about you?

GO: Honestly, I just have an affinity for clothes and styling. It’s actually hard for me to watch anything without thinking about the reasoning behind the outfits.

ET: You’re just being modest. If I recall correctly, you’ve styled Alexa Chung for a British Vogue fashion film.

GO: Seriously making me blush, but I’m not that big of deal (yet), I just assisted.

ET: Still, you’ve made me so much more aware of how much thought and psychology goes into styling for a music video or the newly popular genre of fashion film. It’s not just about looking pretty Beyonce could and did do that in a Kale sweatshirt but about dressing to captivate an audience.

GO: Dressing for your audience is so important. I mean, I know everyone says fashion is about self-expression and comfort, and it totally is, but fashion is also an important tool.  How people present themselves plays into how other people consciously and subconsciously intake the information being presented.

ET: I prefer to shy away from politics, but it is inevitable because fashion and politics are closely tied. How many times have public figures been critiqued for what they are, or are not wearing?

GO: Wait, maybe this whole “dressing for your audience” and political fashion have something to do with that strange, recurring dream that you’ve been having you know, the one about Obama coming to visit us?

ET: Still seeking out some dream analysis on that: Obama is coming to visit Cornell and I need to line up to meet him but my closet has been ransacked and I have nothing suitable for such an occasion. Every time I wake up, I am deeply distressed. I think someone is practically screaming “C’mon ladies, let’s get in formation” in the background too.

GO: Ugh, fashion anxiety! Is it possible your closet needs a political upgrade? Maybe you’re looking for the answer in the wrong places. Instead of asking, “What would any other college student looking for a job wear?” you need to be asking, “What would Beyonce wear?” I mean, WWBW is so much catchier than WWAOCSLFAJW…

ET: One summer as a young girl, I did try to emulate Beyonce by perfecting “Crazy in Love” in the mirror and squeezing an excessive amount of lemon in my long curly hair. But seriously, she recognizes that she has a responsibility as a public figure. She is a voice for women, mothers, black people and other marginalized groups  a #flawless voice that people will listen to.

GO: I guess what we are trying to say here is that you can dress with an agenda, and that doesn’t mean you have to be obvious. We’re not suggesting you walk around in a “Save the Whales” shirt…

ET: Or even a pantsuit (The Row makes some chic, sleepcorp-worthy ones though).

GO: But seriously, next time you get dressed think about what effect it will have on your audience and how it works with what you stand for.


We share a major, we share a house, we share clothes. So why not share a column? Eleni Toubanos and Greta Ohaus are both Fiber Science & Apparel Design majors in the College of Human Ecology. Their column is intended to be a conversation between their two unique perspectives as a designer and fiber scientist. They can be found lounging around campus, on their porch sharing a bottle of wine or at [email protected] and [email protected]. Talk is Chic appears on alternate Tuesdays this semester.