Home » Movies » Is ‘The Dressmaker’ The Character-Maker Too?

In ‘The Dressmaker’, a haute couture dressmaker comes to a bland and dusty countryside town. Offering her high fashion skills, she somewhat transforms the resident ladies into classy aristocrats. The onlookers and audience are left just as surprised by their extreme makeovers. Donning their new clothes, their characters as if change too, becoming more confident yet smug. This brings to mind the saying that ‘clothes make the man’. But is it true? Only halfway. It is more like so:

‘… the clothes maketh
the wo/men (who) maketh
the clothes (which) maketh
the women…’

In other words, there appears no clear beginning of who (or what) makes who (or what) – because the influence of one upon the other is cyclical. Was it not Mark Twain who said that ‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society‘? Amusing yet true. This speaks of the other extreme – of how the unclothed and thus embarrassed will find it hard to have even a little confidence, what more smugness or influence upon others! This perhaps resolves the age-old question of whether Existentialism (the belief that the existence of anything precedes its purpose) or Essentialism (the belief that the purpose of anything precedes its existence) is right. Does existence precede essence, or does essence precede existence? The true answer is so:

‘… existence precedes
essence (which) precedes
existence (which precedes
essence…’

This is sort of a ‘Middle Path’, with balance between cyclical Existentialism and Essentialism. Let me call it ‘Exis-sentialism’! So, what are the true characters of the ladies? Is it who they are when without clothes, stripped bare to just be themselves? Not really, for that is just revelation of their physical forms and not minds. If we get Exis-sentialism right, it means there is no true lasting essence of the ladies with or without certain clothing, though the way they behave in any moment under any circumstances does reflect their characters in the moment to some extent. Looking beyond, there is only constant change, of characters as fickle as fashion itself, which is after all deemed in or out by them, the wearers. There is no fixed self-nature in fashionistas, what more fashion!

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