Abstract: Throughout history, wild and domestic animals have had several functions in various forms of representation: they have occupied central positions in literary works (as anthropomorphised animal), they have been used in painted and photographed portraiture, in film and theatre, and in fashion imagery. Animals – alive or dead (and if dead, then most often in parts) – have been used to indicate social, economic and gendered status, and they have been used as allegories communicating political and social meanings. In addition, they have often been used as pure objects of fashion conveying notions of gender, exoticism, eroticism and danger.
The animal trope, then, is perpetuated across the entire terrain of representational media, and their relation is formed by a pendular desire moving between love and fear. While our wanting to become like an animal and our over-empowering love for them is portrayed as romantic, our fear of the animal, and of becoming animal, forms the truly horrific in many narratives. In the first scenario, it is a matter of becoming one with the loved Other. In the second, it is a panicking fear of becoming the Other, and in this becoming, losing one’s humanity and losing control.
This pendular desire between loving, longing and fear persists in fashion imagery too. Here, women models in particular are portrayed as being one with the animal. No matter their size and their wildness, the models emerge as half-animals themselves. While such representations are often/typically misogynist and sexist, in this article I seek to re-read the juxtaposition of women models and the animal in fashion imagery through the lens of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s (1980/1996) notion of ‘becoming-animal’. Through this prism, I argue that fashion imagery of ‘animal’ women can be reread as a powerful representation of female inclusion and freedom.
Key words: ‘becoming-animal’, fashion imagery, Deleuze & Guattari, feminist practice