Yellow by Palmwood
5 min readJun 28, 2020

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” — Bill Cunningham

You pick this shirt, not that one. Toss a scarf around your head and flip back with a practiced flip of the hand. Shimmy up those skinny jeans, and pair with chunky neon yellow streetstyle soles. Every day, we make these small but meaningful choices. Consciously or unconsciously, they define who we are and the character we want to play in the world. We use clothing to build our costume. The Business Professional going to The Very Important Meeting. The Modest Girl With a Quirky Artsy Edge. We shift between identities seamlessly as we change outfits behind the scenes of this great play.

Far from simply shallow, fashion becomes liberation and expression.
We become who we choose to be.

Fashion protects us, defines us, and connects us. It takes only a fleeting glance in a crowded room to find each other — with markers of a like-minded tribe of beliefs and values. The laissez-faire moppy-haired skater kids, the elegantly buckled gold Gucci loafer girls gossiping in the corner. We are what we wear.

Across the ages, across cultures, across continents, fashion has evolved effortlessly in response to shifting context — helping us celebrate new values, symbolize what matters, and provide solace and sanity in times of change. From the radical-at-the-time notion of women trading skirts for pants, to today’s embrace of cozy loungewear as we all nestle down in our quarantine sanctuaries, fashion embodies our shifting societal mindsets.

Today’s mindset? Safety.

Now, we all have a new costume piece to add to the mix. The mask. The role fashion walks in a delicately tightrope between protection and expression is visible more than ever. But this is hardly the first time these two ideas have danced together.

The history of fashion is the history of the questions it’s asking, about what matters most to society.

So, let’s curiously wander questions of safety across time and cultures, shall we? How has fashion changed in response to ever-evolving notions of what “safety” means in all its forms — social safety, emotional safety, physical safety, and even spiritual safety? What wild methods have we concocted that balance both protection and creative expression? How can simple cloth become a psychic barrier, shielding us in a protective cocoon?

How can I shield and protect my identity?

The Future of the Past. I am your Mirror.@sekigan

Can I choose a new face to the world?

Fashion for Bank Robbers. @husseinbazaza
My Identity is Not Your Right. The Age of Electric Eclectic Remix. @AbrarKhan
”The third of three, the last of seven, a winter mystery.”@iwajlaklinke
“Incognito” by @noma_design_studio Makeup, jewelry, and hairstyles to trick facial recognition cameras.
Fashion for Bank Robbers. by @marie.rime
Bandit Fashion: Identity as Risk
Makeup, jewelry, and hairstyles to trick facial recognition cameras. @CVDazzle

How can fashion invoke safety from the God(s) or convey my respect?

Ngar Ball Traditional Masquerade Dance, Nigeria @phyllisgalembo

We are all niqab is now. How might the rise of safety facial wear change perceptions of spiritual and cultural facial coverings?

The Rajneesh intentional community & the protective “Colors of Sunrise.”

Charles Fréger — Wilder Man. Photographer Charles Fréger traveled through 19 European countries to capture a variety of Wilder Mann, or “Wild Men”, in a spectrum of Pagan festivals. The festivals are a way for humans to usher in spring and celebrate life. “The animals bring fertility — freshness,” Fréger explains. “They shake death away.”

How can I use fashion to disappear?

Right: Full Body Sweater. Easily the best thing to happen to an innocent ball of yarn. Left: Camouflage Ghillie Suit:
protection from the wilds
Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion.

Can invisibility provide safety?

Wearable Privacy Shell: protection from the outside world.

Become the blanket. In a time of global hibernation, we’re all melting into our homes. IDEO Designer Bea Camacho crocheting herself into a white carpet with white yarn.

How can clothing symbolize my need for space and enforce safe distance?

Crinolines, by design, made physical contact nearly impossible. This large, voluminous skirt, which became fashionable in the mid-19th century, was used to create a barrier between the genders in social settings. The bigger your skirt, the higher your class status.

Goth and antisocial fashion, inviting you to leave me alone and go away.

Primary school in Hangzhou invites children to design their
own “1m hats” to enforce social distancing measures.

Plague doctor fashion: During past epidemics such as the bubonic plague, doctors wore pointed, bird-like masks as a way to keep their distance from sick patients. YOU WILL NEVER CONVINCE ME THIS ISN’T AN ART PIECE AS MUCH AS PROTECTIVE GEAR. Someone had quite a bit of fun imagining this.

Biotech fashion that protects against “the male gaze,” changing form when someone stares you down.

Issue no.1: Safety

By Mitch Sinclair

Join the conversation at @_palmwood_



Yellow by Palmwood

An intersection between design, policy, culture, education, and society