Dress to offend? Those who like to use their sartorial choices to genuinely upset people just got a great new range of options.
First up, we've got what The Cut termed a "Skinny, Naked, and Screaming" Oprah dress, which is just as confusing and inappropriate as it sounds. Designer Peggy Noland, she of the self-professed "white trash meets high class" aesthetic, created a high-necked, long-sleeved, ankle-length dress that comes in four versions, each printed with a bizarre twist on Oprah's naked body. You can wear a skinny, topless, smiling Oprah; an obese, topless, screaming Oprah; and a "regular-sized" naked Oprah. If that's just not weird enough for you, there's always the topless Oprah in KISS makeup.
Noland told The Cut her thought processes behind the dress that's blowing up the internet:
For me, it originated as kind of the age old [red] carpet question: Who are you wearing? And this clearly is: You’re wearing Oprah instead of a designer. Sally [Thurer, her collaborator] mentioned from the onset of this collaboration that one of Oprah’s most effective qualities is that she’s a placeholder, she’s a stand-in for you with her foibles and her failures — especially with her public weight issues.
Of course, everybody but Noland herself sees just how offensive it is to place a black woman's body — especially a naked black woman's body — on display, for profit. There's a long, painful history concerning sexual exploitation of the black female form that Noland appears to be completely ignorant of, given that she didn't even come close to the addressing the issue during her interview with The Cut. She did, however, mention Oprah's very public struggles with her weight, which the dress... nods at?
But maybe you're not concerned with issues of race and sex. Maybe you're more the type to poke fun at people's disabilities, in which case, Art of Aztec has a shirt for you. It's got the word "RETARDE" emblazoned across the chest, and it's stirring up quite the controversy in Adelaide, Australia.
The Adelaide designers, Renae Beaty and Ema Raw, meant something entirely different when they designed the shirt. Their inspiration, they say, was from a French word that's often emblazoned on their merchandise:
Retarde is a French verb used on our items which means 'delayed' or 'held up' ... We would not knowingly use expressions that might cause offense. Anyone who knows the meaning of the word 'retarde' would not take offense.
But French origins aside, the word is too close to an offensive one to sit well with people. And the chain in Adelaide that's selling the shirt, Globalize, is the one really stepping on people's toes. After a protest outside Globalize this morning, the clothing chain director, Clayton Cross, spoke on the radio about how kids with intellectual disabilities need to "toughen up."
The nature of the world is that child [Ben, a teenage boy with Down's syndrome], like everyone, is going to have a tough life and at the moment all the parents I'm seeing are just mollycoddling their children to death.
A Globalize staff member said that the company would not reorder the shirts. However, the shirts sold out in the the very store where the protest was taking place. As ever, controversy still results in profit.