Back to the future: Rewriting fashion history from the Cook Islands
This article engages in debates about the European and capitalist origins of the fashion system and aims to decentre this history from a Pacific perspective. Taking fashion to be a process of novel and transformative display, the article reconstructs a Pacific fashion system that innovatively presents local aesthetics, status and affiliation and re-presents social, economic and political identities and agendas. It examines present-day and historical accounts of clothing and dress in the Cook Islands, starting from a shirt described in 1896; it then tracks forward to contemporary logo T-shirts and back again to suggest an alternate fashion trajectory of bodily self-representation, collective display and distinction. Fashion emerges as an anticipatory social force that produces a multiplicity of meanings that move unpredictably across time, place and systems of representation.