IN Final Fantasy XVyou push the protagonist Noctis with a boy band through the city of Altissia just to catch a glimpse of the fashionable Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, in which the heroine Lady Lunafreya was supposed to get married. As the rain falls, Noctis, Prompto, and Ignis stare at the Westwood Storefront with their hands on the sides of their black jeans.
“They all look so happy,” Prompto says. “And it’s all because of this one dress.”
British designer Vivienne Westwood, who died at the age of 81 on December 29 last year, was the “mother of punk”, a tough climate activist and an incorrigible prankster. Her inclusion in Final Fantasy XVThe product’s somewhat infamous advertising was a welcome easter egg for me – her bridal fashion played a similar role in Sex and the city movie—and the game’s art director Yusuke Naora remembers the collaboration on the dress as “good memories,” translation his recent tweet he says.
Like me, some geeks—non-traditional fans of what’s been in the past 15 years Big Bang Theory decided geek culture like video games, manga, computers, etc.—may better recognize Westwood by the softness of her 18th-century-inspired clothing. Every time we see it in games, manga, or anime, it’s a beacon of counterculture fashion, something that will hopefully push us towards the salvation of gaming.
“I think I’m the only one who’s original,” Westwood said The New York Times 1999 “I don’t see anyone doing anything that doesn’t come from me.”
Feeling unique in a traditionally male-dominated space, geeks naturally want a taste of that originality. Salon wrote in 2007 that gamers are being generalized as (I would add men) “teenagers with an unhealthy fascination with murder and mayhem”. It was during the 2000s at the height of “geek chic”—when heavy black-rimmed glasses, messy hair, and Master Chief graphic tees showed tailoring intent. Remember when comic-obsessed Seth Cohen inspired guys by being an invisible dreamboat OC?
Girls never had a geek renaissance, but now we can dress in Westwood. We note her V-shaped corsets, like the ones she made in 1990, with muted prints of Rococo paintings by François Boucher across the chest. In 2021, it seemed like every counterculture girl was decked out in Westwood necklaces, three strands of pearls joined by a glittering, majestic Saturn logo — the Westwood Orb. Today, you often find women using Westwood to create video game-inspired outfits or storing their Westwood accessories among their anime collection.
“I think what makes Westwood’s style so adaptable to video games and anime is that it has bold color, layering, movement, and adaptability,” Natania Barron, a fashion historian and fantasy author, told me via email. “It also seems to be lived in. So as customization becomes more and more possible in video games, you can create similar styles that give the right sense of place and tone in a few broad strokes.”
Westwood’s fall 1994 ready-to-wear collection featured colorful designs Hunter x hunter-type of headgear: clown hats with orange pom poms on top like a lethargic fish tail. Her clothes can also be wickedly funny, steam-pressed commedia dell’arte for women who still want to breathe deeply and be infallible. In that same collection, Westwood showed a white fur coat taken off to reveal a model wearing only a pearl necklace, leggings and a white fur nappy underneath, like a bizarre One Punch Man criminal. Her clothes don’t easily conform to the mold the stereotypical geek has created for women in his space—bosoms bigger than her head, ideally covered in a ready-to-shoot bikini.
But that’s what might make them so appealing. Westwood’s clothing was transferred block by block to Animal Crossingand “I think you see a lot of Westwood in the Borderlands games, for sure,” Barron said. “That mix of old and new, and Westwood’s love of using historical costumes with new materials just feels like a completely natural fit.”
More broadly, you can find Westwood’s geek culture in the Grimes galaxy music videos, Skyrim reminiscent of photos and most of the recognizable fashion in Ai Yazawa’s 2000 manga series and anime. Mint. So much so that die-hard fans of the show (myself included) have equated buying Westwood with buying “Mint goods.”
When games and anime embrace Westwood’s sassy women’s clothing, members of the femme community get an aesthetic they can finally identify with. Our capabilities suddenly grow from any a The last of us jeans and a t-shirt or Bayonetta tie equipment to something more individual. Artistic. And just as Westwood, who famously dressed the Sex Pistols, was mean in interviews and shaved her head at 72 to protest climate change, geeks might like to think of themselves as punks. At least I think we have reason to.
Geek chic prevailed for a few years before geeks tried to crack down on the changing, evolving identity of fans with GamerGate, “allegedly […] reclamation of the term ‘gamer’, but mostly “embroiled in conspiracy theories” and harassment of women in the industry, wrote Stephen Totilo for Kotaku in 2014.
Almost a decade later, some things have changed. 48% of gamers who identify as female in the US and rising inclusive gaming spaces certainly suggest that “gamer” is a more malleable term, but sexism is a stubborn goat. Being a woman in gaming can sometimes feel like you happen to be a politician. Westwood’s spoofing of courtly, old Britain – the bodices, the pearls, Saturn’s ring hanging placidly among the stones around our necks – is a perfect fit. Although she is gone, her timeless influence on gaming and geek culture in general cannot be denied.
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