What Not To Wear Goes to Salem
No doubt you’ve been hyped up about the new season of “What Not To Wear” on TLC, especially when you heard they were off to Salem, MA to fix a Witch. What? You’re not hyped? Well, it’s understandable. The show takes people who don’t care about how they look and glam them up by throwing away all their old stuff and making them buy new things. Seem shallow? Perhaps. But the people always seem to come away learning something, while Stacy and Clinton remain the experts on everything. I suspect that most of the actual teaching goes on off-camera, and most of the juicy judgment gets put on the air.
But I love me some Witches on TV, so I had to watch. The show aired last Friday and I wanted to digest it a little before I talked to y’all about it.
So we have Leanne, a full time Witch, psychic, and mom who loves the pointy hats and corset look, and when she’s not dressed in pleather dresses from Hot Topic she’s wearing pyjama pants. Now, I am absolutely not dissing her here. I too have owned pleather dresses, velvet skirts and corset tops that I purchased from Hot Topic. And at this very moment I am wearing pyjamas…and have been all day. So I absolutely get where Leanne is coming from. In fact, I LOVE her pointy witchy hat and want one of my own. Do I have style? No way!
The part that gets me is when they “purge” her closet. Stacy couldn’t understand why any woman needed striped socks ever. Or why a vampyre-y dress was good for a Witches Ball. I knew she was throwing away a long-collected pallet of black. I know how much she’s paid for some of those things (which, by the way, they don’t really make in sizes most people can actually wear). But I was on board with Stacy and Clinton, especially when Leanne was open to change.
I loved Leanne’s Pagan philosophy behind her transformation, and I think she definitely took it in the spirit it was intended (and who says no to free clothes??). She discovered that the magic and mystery was inside of her, and that her clothes were a mask that pushed people away. She asked how she could be a Priestess if she didn’t accept everybody, yet she purposefully gave them a reason not to accept her? She got it right on the nose.
But part of me misses her stripy socks. I wonder what she’ll wear at the next Witches Moot or Dark Moon rit. I’m at this moment taking a class on cultural diversity and ethnicity, which taught me that everyone, even white people, have a cultural identity. I know it is wrong to stereotype, but when I saw Leanne in her stripy socks and velvet corset, I knew she was one of mine. No doubt a little more out-going than some Pagan folks I know, but she was totally embracing the Witch identity. I adore her for that. Would I come to her for guidance and advice? That I’m not so sure.
With her new look, I still register her as “one of mine”–after all, you can’t fake luscious hair like that and not be a Witch. She looks happy, and that’s what counts.
Still, I can’t help but think that when Stacy and Clinton threw out her stripy socks that they were dissing our culture. I mean, we really do have a culture. Guy with long hair and a goatee? Check! People with velvet capes? Done! Kilts? Filk music? Drumming? Fairie wings? Laughter? Loving the earth? Loving each other? We have our own attitudes and beliefs about the world. We have our own fashion style. We interact with each other differently than we interact with muggles (or cowan’s if you are old fashioned). These things give us pride. But, again, do I take spiritual advice from these people?
I think in the end I look up to people who bridge the mundane with the magical, who are individuals and professionals. I expect them to have grown out of the monochrome wardrobe, and the “dress to scare” approach to style. Creating in and out groups based on how you look is teenager stuff. Adults to me are practical, wear pieces because they like them and look good in them, and are appropriate to the situation. Of course, Pagans are fortunate enough to have situations wear pointy shoes and striped socks are appropriate, but an elder knows that a PTA meeting is not the time or the place.
As a new religion, we are still in the process of creating and establishing our identity. Sometimes fashion goes our way, but mostly it doesn’t. I’m all for proclaiming an identity through clothing, but it is hard to be taken seriously when you go to the grocery store in your pointy hat. I mean, where are we going with this? What does it mean to us? We’re already cultural outsiders without making it harder for ourselves. While there is no need to simply blend in to the dominant monoculture, we still have to learn to negotiate within it. I think there is more power in being subversive and covert, than in being loud and obvious. When you look kinda like they do, they’ll have no idea that you are working to make the monoculture more environmentally friendly and accepting of differences. I’d rather get a TV interview because I had good content than because I was sensational looking. Over in Salem, that’s what they are selling, but I hope the actual Practitioners are looking beyond their own skins.