Pictured above, Los Angeles artist Brian Drake plays with costume, for a formal summer event. Late last week I was in full costume, relishing the roles we play. Or rather, I play. I hear all the time "You don't look like an artist!" I have an interesting retort, born from an even more interesting place. And for my part in this photo ...I don’t give a fuck. I am wearing this dinner jacket to the party.

It’s All Just Costume
The concept of clothing as costume dates back to the earliest civilizations, where clothing signified social hierarchy, religious beliefs, and regional affiliations. As societies developed and diversified, the relationship between clothing and identity became more intricate, with clothing transforming into a complex language that communicated an individual's position in society. In contemporary times, clothing has become an even more dynamic and powerful medium, with fast fashion, social media, and globalization playing pivotal roles in shaping our perceptions of identity. Clothing now embodies not just our social standing and cultural background, but our aspirations, personal narratives, and the roles we assume in our daily lives.

Theatricality & Identity
The idea of clothing as a costume implies a certain degree of theatricality, a performance of identity through the garments we don. This performance is evident in the workplace, where employees often dress according to their roles, projecting an image of professionalism, competence, and authority. In this context, clothing functions as a uniform, signaling our position within an organization and shaping others' perceptions of our abilities and responsibilities. Similarly, clothing acts as a costume in our social lives, reflecting our various roles and affiliations. From dressing up for a night out to donning a specific subculture's attire, our clothing choices are informed by our desire to convey a particular image or sense of belonging. By wearing the "costume" of a specific group, we affirm our membership and express our allegiance to its values and ideals. We also use clothing as a way to subconsciously enforce or challenge others beliefs about who or what we are as individuals. Let me present an example. I grew up working with my Uncle who was a painting contractor: At the end of the work day, he would go out of his way to clean up and change clothes before going out. Scrubbing his hands, changing his hair, showing and literally transforming himself. He used to say: “I hate looking like I work with my hands for a living.”

Beyond signifying social and professional identities, clothing serves as a crucial medium for self-expression. In a world increasingly driven by image and personal branding, our choice of clothing reflects our individuality, tastes, and the way we want to be perceived. This aspect of clothing as costume is especially evident in the world of fashion, where designers and consumers alike use clothing as a canvas to express their creativity, challenge norms, and make statements about society. In this sense, clothing becomes a powerful tool for constructing and projecting our personal narratives, allowing us to explore and experiment with different facets of our identity. Whether it's through bold, avant-garde ensembles or minimalist, understated attire, our clothing choices reflect our ever-evolving sense of self and our desire to communicate our unique perspective to the world.

I am sure I am not the only artist who has noticed everyone has a preconceived idea of what we should look like. I am quick to remind people who approach me with the so awesome declaration “You don’t look like an artist!” that it’s all a role we play, cloaked in fantasy and glitter. Some people can see right through it. They tend to be no fun. Others play right into it. They tend to be a little more fun. Some say it's a sort of short hand use of uniform, to place an ease of understating of ones role in life. Well ...I like to fuck with that idea.

Clothing as costume in modern society is a multifaceted phenomenon, encapsulating our social roles, cultural affiliations, and personal aspirations. As we navigate the complex web of identity in the contemporary world, our clothing choices serve as a means of expression and self-discovery, allowing us to construct and perform our evolving narratives. I don’t know about you, but I have spent years doing my part. I embrace it, like a millennium New Years Eve party, because that's about how often it comes around in this world. And in case you missed the point: "Success is just failure's masquerade." Enjoy the ball.