in Final Fantasy XVyou’re pushing boyish-haired protagonist Noctis across the town of Altissia only to catch a glimpse of the Vivienne Westwood wedding dress that heroine Lady Lunafreya is about to get married in. As it rains, Noctis, Prompto, and Ignis stare at the Westwood Storefront with their hands on the sides of their black jeans.
“They all look so happy,” Prompto says. “And all because of this dress.
British designer Vivienne Westwood, who died aged 81 on December 29 last year, was the “mother of punk”, a fierce climate activist and a ruthless tease. Her inclusion in Final Fantasy XVThe somewhat notorious product placement was a welcome easter egg for me – her wedding cut played a similar role in Sex in the city film — and the game’s art director, Yusuke Naora, recalls collaborating on the dress as a “good memory,” translation his recent tweet he says.
Like me, some nerdy girls – unconventional fans of what’s been the last 15 years The big Bang Theory it is decided that geek culture such as video games, manga, computers, etc. can better recognize Westwood by the softness of her 18th century inspired clothing. Every time we see it in games, manga, or anime, it’s a fashionable counterculture beacon, something that will hopefully move us toward gaming salvation.
”I think I’m the only one who’s original,” Westwood said New York Times in 1999. “I don’t see anyone doing anything that doesn’t come from me.”
Feeling unique in a traditionally male-dominated space, nerdy girls naturally want to sample this originality. Salon wrote in 2007 that gamers are generalized as (male, I might add) “teenagers unhealthily enthralled by murder and mayhem”. This was during the 2000s at the height of “geek chic” – when heavy black-rimmed glasses, unkempt hair, and T-shirts with Master Chief head graphics demonstrated swagger. Remember when comic-obsessed Seth Cohen inspired guys by being a stealth dreamboat OC?
Girls never had a geek renaissance, but now we can dress in Westwood. We note her V-shaped corsets, like the ones she made in 1990, with muted prints of Rococo paintings by François Boucher across the chest. In 2021, it seemed like every counterculture girl had accessorized with Westwood chokers, three strands of pearls joined by a glittering, majestic Saturn – the logo of the Westwood ball. Today, you can commonly find women using Westwood to create video game inspired clothing or stocking their Westwood accessories in their anime collection.
“I think Westwood’s style is so amenable to video games and anime that it has bold colors, layers, movement, and adaptability,” fashion historian and fantasy author Natania Barron told me via email. “It also feels inhabited. So as customization becomes more and more possible in video games, you can create similar styles that give a real sense of place and tone with a few broad strokes.”
Westwood’s fall 1994 ready-to-wear collection featured colorful models hunter vs. hunter-type of headgear: clown hats with orange pom poms on the tip like a lethargic fish tail. Even her clothes can be wickedly funny, a steam-pressed commedia dell’arte for women who still want to breathe deeply and be unmistakable. In the same collection, Westwood showed a white fur shrug peeled back to reveal a model wearing only a pearl choker, stockings and a white fur diaper underneath as a freak. One Punch Man criminal. Her clothes just don’t fit the mold the stereotypical nerd has created for women in his space – breasts bigger than her head, ideally covered by a ready-to-burst bikini.
But that’s what can make them so appealing. Westwood’s clothing was converted block by block to Animal Crossingand “I think you see a lot of Westwood v Border games, for sure,” Barron said. “The mix of old and new and Westwood’s love of using vintage costumes with new materials just feels so natural to me.”
In the broader sense of nerd culture, you’ll find Westwood in Grimes’ galactic music videos, Skyrim commemorative photo shoot and most of the recognizable fashion in Ai Yazawa’s 2000 manga series and anime Nana. So much so that die-hard fans of the series (myself included) liken buying Westwood to buying “Nana goods.”
When games and anime embrace Westwood’s sassy womenswear, members of the female community will have an aesthetic they can finally identify with. Our options suddenly increase either for The last of us jeans and T-shirt or Bayonetta bondage gear to something more individual. Artistic. And just like Westwood, who famously dressed the Sex Pistols, could be mean in interviews and shaved her head at the age of 72 to protest climate change, silly girls might think we’re punks. At least I think we have reason to.
Geek chic prevailed for several years before geeks attempted to break through the changing and expanding fan identity with GamerGate, “seemingly […] reclaiming the term “gamer” but mostly “embroiled in conspiracy theories” and harassing women in the industry, wrote Stephen Totilo for Kotaku in the year 2014.
Almost a decade later, some things have changed. 48% of gamers identifying as female in the US and rising including gaming spaces certainly point out that “gamer” is a more malleable term, but sexism is a stubborn goat. Being a woman in gaming can sometimes feel like an accidental political one. Westwood’s spoofing of courtly old Britain—corsets, pearls, Saturn’s ring dangling peacefully between the stones around our necks—fits right in. Even though she’s gone, her timeless influence on gaming and geek culture in general can’t be denied.
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