Friday, January 14, 2011

Betsey Johnson's Gun Dress: Yea or Nay?

I love this dress. I've actually had it in my inspiration folder for a couple years, and I keep coming back to it. It's from Betsey Johnson's 1985 collection, and she showed it again for her fall 2008 show to celebrate her 30 years in the biz.

I've always thought this gun print was so amazing and have often contemplated imitating it with graffiti-style stencils on fabric. There's something so badass about the image of a handgun, especially when combined with a feminine silhouette like this one. It makes me think of Bonnie Parker, especially with the long, lean skirt. It balances punk and glam perfectly, and let's face it—it would look awesome with tattoos. As evidenced by this short pink version:
But in a strange moment of synchronicity, I came across this picture on my computer the day after the shootings in Tucson. I'd already been thinking that day about gun laws and the ways we seem to let the mentally ill fall through the cracks. To be clear: I don't know the solutions to these issues, and I'm not saying I know how the shooting could have been prevented. But the images of the guns on the dress struck me as more sinister than I'd seen them previously. Of course, this got me thinking about what we say with our clothes. What exactly are you saying to the world by wearing this kind of dress? That guns are cool? That violence is awesome? Or just that you have a sense of irony about the way you dress?

I know I must sound really bleeding-heart liberal right now, and that dresses with guns printed on them are the least of our problems in the U.S. And it's not really any different from, say, a dress with skulls on it. And I am still leaning toward the dress being badass and a total "yea" and worth taking the time to replicate on my own. I just think it's interesting when the semiotics of fashion breaks down a bit and becomes suddenly strange to the viewer. And fashion has always had a fascination with the play between glamorous and macabre, so perhaps that's all that's at play here.

What do you think: yea or nay?

133 comments:

  1. For me personally I would say nay. Not because the image of a gun in itself is 'bad' but because constantly having pictures and reference to such items around us makes us inured to them. It seems normal. But lets face it, a gun was made, even for self defence, with intention of being used to kill/injure someone. I don't think I can endorse something like that. Having said that, it does look really cool. Could you not make something in similar style but a different print?

    ReplyDelete
  2. For me, there is nothing cool about the image of something used to take lives. I admit I am British and live in a different culture - but for me, glamorising violence is not good.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I find the print nauseating, as well as Rihanna's gun tattoo. Things like these help to reinforce a sort of Tom & Jerry idea of firearms, as if they were just play things. It wouldn't be cutting edge either, these days. I just read an article about American mums carrying hand guns. i think in the 80s the connotations would have been different.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Both of the comments above (jadestar003 and Rosemary) could have been my own.

    My parents never allowed toy guns in the house when we were growing up, nor video games because they dislike how violent a lot of them are. Guns' cultural ubiquity has removed a lot of the 'shock factor', and I really do fail to see how that is healthy.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It all depends in which context you use images. Who says that Betsy Johnson is pro-weapons because she made this dress?
    for example Vlieger & Vandam, two Dutch designers made the guardian angel bag. The wanted to tell something about increasing violence and fear in the society. I love these bags and the Betsey Johnson dress. Either way, you'll make a political statement with this fabric.

    ReplyDelete
  6. British too, so probably a different view than those in the US.

    I wouldn't be too comfortable about it. I'm of the mind that you have to have some sort of consciousness about prints, slogans, logos, designs you wear and be able to back it up with your beliefs and preferences. That goes for whether it's a gun print, swastikas! or something less sinister - such as teens wearing repro t-shirts of bands they've never heard of or pink velour backsides with 'punk rock' stamped across them. Basically anything you display on yourself is making some sort of comment, however subtle. So, it should be something you can stand by in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  7. (Oh, for cultural reference purposes I should probably point out that I too am British, and a Quaker.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm kind of 'meh' about it. I'm not a fan of guns, but I can't get worked up about gun fabric. For reference I'm a liberal American. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. For me, I wouild say nay. I think our culture glamorizes guns. They are a weapon and a tool for the army and law enforcement, and a tool for hunters qand sportsmen/women. Not glamorous or sexy at all. Do we put wrenches or hammers on dresses and think of them as cool? Other tools? Knives? I'd never wear a gun.It tries to make a tool of violence fashionable

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not sure you can equate a gun print with a skull print. Skulls are anatomy. Guns are weapons, and as the other ladies have pointed out, were created specifically for killing. So, this print is not for me, either. But then, I also don't get the attraction of having a slogan printed across the seat of one's pants. Not an area I want to draw attention to (not even when I was a teen)! lol

    ReplyDelete
  11. Another nay, here.

    I think the problem is that what one person considers ironic, or a clever play of contrasting messages can take on whole other levels of meaning once you start using gun imagery. I think if one want to play with that sort of contrast there are a lot of ways to do it without using gun fabric - grown up tailoring with a 'kiddy' fabric, or typically 'feminine' garments with 'masculine' fabrics.
    I love tweaking people's expectations as much as the next girl, but I don't want to send messages (unintentional or not) about gun culture and sexuality.

    (In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I am a Canadian). :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. This turned my stomach the minute I saw it. Are you kidding? My personal distaste is all the skulls I see on what I know are sweet little boys. What happened to camo? Wasn't that macho enough?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm with all the other commentators. While I like the paradox and irony of a "badass" print on a feminine dress, I think there must be a way to accomplish this without referencing guns. I too think that when we reference violence casually we become inured to it. It becomes a sort of tacit cultural endorsement of shooting, and handguns in particular are used almost exclusively for shooting people. In light of the recent shootings, this print sends shivers up my back (and not in a good way).

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have to say no. A great big giant no. American culture may be a little too accustomed to guns, and that might be part of the problems. Handguns were made for one purpose only - to hut or kill humans. And unfortunately, that is exactly what people are using them for.

    Another Canadian here, and I am very proud that gun imagery is not very common here.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have a Rudyard Kipling book with a Swastika on the spine. It dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, long before the symbol was hijacked by the Nazis. And yet, I hide the book at the back of the bookshelf because that Swastika makes me feel uncomfortable and its later symbolism is still too potent.

    I'm European and I'm bemused at this American need to bear guns. Sorry, but they really aren't cool. That said, I have prints that do include guns. Like the Liberty Grayson Perry print with rifles and army jet planes and armed soldiers jostling with prams and dolls and frilly knickers. It's subversive and it's all about context. I also have some Bad to the Bone print, with skulls and cards and Wild West pistols... and yes, I think it's badass. The problem I have with this print however is that's just about guns and glamorises the image of guns and violence.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't think so. That being said, I do have a pair of Betsey Johnson socks that have handcuffs and hearts printed on them--girl does create the provocative prints! Sometimes it gives me pause to wear them.

    ReplyDelete
  17. In college (late 80's) a girl came to class one spring day in a sweet pink print dress with a full skirt and puff sleeves. Not her style at all. The print? Penises. That was cool and, although the phrase had yet to be coined, badass.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Interesting perspectives from the British and Canadian commenters. To add a twist, I'm a conservative American and I own a gun. And I have to be honest to say that dress really turns me off. Guns are dangerous and should only be treated with the utmost seriousness and responsibility. Even if the intent is to be "ironic," this dress trivializes the danger of guns and glorifies violent pop culture imagery.

    That IS a great dress, though. Could you maybe reproduce it with an abstract design instead of a gun motif?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have a Rudyard Kipling book with a Swastika on the spine. It dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, long before the symbol was hijacked by the Nazis. And yet, I hide the book at the back of the bookshelf because that Swastika makes me feel uncomfortable and its later symbolism is still too potent.

    The reason I say this is because I think the symbolism of things does matter and you are quite right to think about the impact of this print. Personally, I'm European and bemused at the American need to bear guns. To all those who use them as status symbols, sorry, but they really aren't cool. That said, I have prints that do include guns. Like the Liberty Grayson Perry print with rifles, army jet planes and armed soldiers jostling with prams and dolls and frilly knickers. It's subversive and it's all about context. I also have some A Henry Bad to the Bone bandana-ish print, with skulls, cards and Wild West pistols... and yes, I think it's badass. The problem I have with this print however is that's just about guns, glamorising the image of them and their use. And that isn't cool.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ooops. Not sure how that double post happened! Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sorry, Gertie, I have to side with the majority here. This print seems to trivialize handguns. I cannot think of a single positive for glamorizing or trivializing firearms. They exist to end life. That is something that should give everyone pause. For the record, I grew up in the American midwest, where we and nearly all our relatives possessed guns. Firearms were kept under lock and key, and the potential danger of these items was impressed upon us strongly and often.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It's a tricky and sensitive issue. What does the dress say to you? Does it say that guns are glamourous? OR is it a statement/observation about how guns have been glamorised?
    If it is a statement piece, is it a statement that you personally would be proud to make? I suppose it's a case of semantics.
    Personally I think the lines are a bit blurred. If it is trying to say something, it's not entirely clear what it is. If it's not trying to say something then it does seem frivolous to use such an emotive image as nothing more than an aesthetic pattern.
    Portia
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  23. Personally, I don't have a problem with it. I love Betsey's sense of humor in her pieces and think the dress is fun and not meant to be taken in a serious way. Her pieces are ironic and playful.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Guns are in no way or fashion comparable to skulls. Each and everyone of us have a skull- inside of us, underneath the skin. Just as bones.
    Guns are very rarely in place, certainly not as an every day imagenary I´d be willing to look at. Guns kill people.
    As an army brat I´d rather find buttload of of other figurines to use as a print.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I grew up in the country which has a sort of gun culture. There were some who felt a gun or rifle made them macho, but overall they were not the majority. Most rural folks did limit their ammunitions for hunting or for protecting their families if need be, because the urban idea that the country is a shangri-la of bucolic peace is incorrect. There are people there who want to do you harm and if you scream you don't have neighbors near enough to hear. (I think this accounts for some of the lower crime rates in rural areas because yes, predators have guns, but ,ah, so does the prey! Predators are usually averse to the possibility of getting shot themselves.) Also, I knew a lot of people who collected guns, or had their fathers and grandfathers rifles. They enjoyed the historicity of the gun.

    What I am getting at is where I grew up guns were somewhat matter of fact, in that I didn't hear a lot of gun glorification. Nor did I hear a lot of fear of guns. It was a tool, that like so many farming machines, could be deadly. Learn to handle it. There was a certain responsibility to the gun. If you weren't responsible with it, people thought you were an idiot.

    Now I live in an urban area and guns are controversial. I hear great fear along side of a Wild West idea that glorifies violence. A lot of stereotyping goes on about the kind of folks who have guns. Urban gun culture is different, much more incendiary on this issue. When I saw the designer dress with guns all over it, I immediately thought, that is such a city kind of outfit. Where guns are edgy. I know a lot of country folks who would gladly don shirts with prints of John Deere tractors or wild deer, but who would never adorn with themselves with firearms.

    Does the print on this dress promote violence? In an urban setting, I think the print does glamorize handguns. In a rural setting, it would simply be "not done." In urban settings especially, where there isn't a lot of deer hunting going on, and where many are using their firearms, not sparingly in the interest of self-defense, but routinely in the service of aggression - naturally in the city this dress would hit some very strong buttons with people, and you would have to consider that before wearing it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I grew up in the country which has a sort of gun culture. There were some who felt a gun or rifle made them macho, but overall they were not the majority. Most rural folks did limit their ammunitions for hunting or for protecting their families if need be, because the urban idea that the country is a shangri-la of bucolic peace is incorrect. There are people there who want to do you harm and if you scream you don't have neighbors near enough to hear. (I think this accounts for some of the lower crime rates in rural areas because yes, predators have guns, but ,ah, so does the prey! Predators are usually averse to the possibility of getting shot themselves.) Also, I knew a lot of people who collected guns, or had their fathers and grandfathers rifles. They enjoyed the historicity of the gun.

    What I am getting at is where I grew up guns were somewhat matter of fact, in that I didn't hear a lot of gun glorification. Nor did I hear a lot of fear of guns. It was a tool, that like so many farming machines, could be deadly. Learn to handle it. There was a certain responsibility to the gun. If you weren't responsible with it, people thought you were an idiot.

    Now I live in an urban area and guns are controversial. I hear great fear along side of a Wild West idea that glorifies violence. A lot of stereotyping goes on about the kind of folks who have guns. Urban gun culture is different, much more incendiary on this issue. When I saw the designer dress with guns all over it, I immediately thought, that is such a city kind of outfit. Where guns are edgy. I know a lot of country folks who would gladly don shirts with prints of John Deere tractors or wild deer, but who would never adorn with themselves with firearms.

    Does the print on this dress promote violence? In an urban setting, I think the print does glamorize handguns. In a rural setting, it would simply be "not done." In urban settings especially, where there isn't a lot of deer hunting going on, and where many are using their firearms, not sparingly in the interest of self-defense, but routinely in the service of aggression - naturally in the city this dress would hit some very strong buttons with people, and you would have to consider that before wearing it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wordpress went blank, I clicked again, and it doubled my comment. So sorry! Gertie, feel free to delete the extra. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. So not my style, but nothing wrong with it. In America, we have the freedom of expression and the right to bear arms. People wear all sorts of other crazy things on their bodies (giant confederate flag belt buckles anyone?), so I don't see the big deal. If you don't like it, you don't have to wear it.... or own a gun either.

    I'm an American and there is a gun in my house (not that I'm that excited about it, but my husband's had six years in the military so he knows what he's doing). Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

    Not really interested in a gun debate but did want to note that someone recently told me that Europeans are much more ok with sex than violence (which I believe considering some billboards and ads I've seen) and Americans are more ok with violence than sex. (Not that I think promoting either is a good thing.)

    I do have a friend who concealed carries who would totally rock this dress, if they ever got around to making it in her size.

    Anyways, that's my two cents. For the record, I'm an American and I don't have any kids (which no one has mentioned yet but I imagine makes a big difference.)

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm going to disagree with the majority of the people here and say go for it.

    I'm (1) fairly liberal, (2) American, (3) a gun owner (hunting rifles, not handguns), and the thing that frustrates me most in the aftermath of an event like the one in Tucson last week (or the one at Virginia Tech a couple years ago, or ...) is that the debate always turns to gun control, when it seems to me the real question is one of mental health care and how it's made available (or not) in this country.

    I'm not saying I understand why people need semiautomatic Glocks for target shooting, but I do think the problem is not that people can get their hands on weapons. Anything can be a weapon. After the Dunblane shootings in the UK, private gun ownership was pretty much banned, and suddenly stabbings skyrocketed -- was that an improvement? The problem is that the people who commit these crimes almost invariably turn out of be profoundly troubled individuals who didn't get help.

    So, I say go for it if you love the dress and the print. Though I maybe wouldn't wear it for a couple weeks, until the shouting dies down.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I see it as more of a commentary on how much guns and violence have been romanticized in our culture. Even I do it. There are three TV shows that I regularly follow: NCIS [a cop show, in which all the main characters carry guns], Castle [another cop show, in which the detectives carry guns], and Eureka [in which the main character is a sheriff - and therefore carries... you guessed it. a gun]. But to make a dress with a gun print on it seems somehow shocking or unusual, when really, it's no more shocking than ordinary television. Think about it. How many cop shows are out there? Way too many. NCIS, NCIS:LA, Dexter, CSI, Castle, Numb3rs, the list goes on. And there are even more shows involving guns that are NOT cop shows. So in my mind, these dresses are a brilliant picture of our culture, the cop-show mindset that a gun is simply an accessory, worn at the hip or shoved in the pocket like any purse or wallet.
    My $0.02.

    ReplyDelete
  31. wow, this is really interesting that there are such strong feelings against this.

    I possibly haven't thought through my opinion seriously enough and also live in england where guns are perhaps a bit more a of a fiction, but before reading the other comments i was going to say although i wouldn't go for the gun dress for myself, (but also wouldn't go for logo tee shirts etc either - just not me) i really like it when you get that juxtoposition of something sweet and feminine with a twist like that. I suppose i am thinking of how cool black nail varnish and skull prints and that sort of goth fashion are on people like nichol richie who is a total princess... or when i see the rockabilly girls with their ultra feminine get up with bleeding dagger through heart tattoos. It's just so cool because they've inverted and reclaimed the image.

    i am often of the opinion that things are better off out in the open and far more dangerous if we shy away from them and let people who use them feel that they are powerful because of this.

    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  32. Guns ARE different from skulls. Literally and figuratively. We are born with skulls; they are a part of our bodies. GUNS are manmade machines that have the ability to destroy skulls. As far as baddassery.... I think guns win, but I like skulls better.... they speak directly to our mortality without any violent connotation.

    That said, I bought a really pretty silver flintlock pistol necklace and I love it. I would LOVE a good skull charm.

    But back to the gun print...
    The gun print is graphically interesting (a great stencil image) and it would definitely look great with your tattoos, but where would you wear it? Work? A cocktail party? Church? Williamsburg?

    ReplyDelete
  33. ps. Gertie, bravo on enciting such a lively debate!!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I just think it makes the model in the first picture look like a)she has no tits and b) the dress is about to fall off. No opinion on the guns.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I don't think you can really compare skulls to guns. Skulls are used to represent a bigger variety of things than guns and a lot of them are more positive. They're used to represent Shakespearean theatre, anatomy, and Day of the Dead stuff uses them to celebrate the dead. I don't think it is easy to come up with positive things that modern hand guns represent. For me it is the type of the gun that is the deal breaker. Modern hand guns are too associated with murder and police brutality. If the dresses were covered in 19th century pistols or 1920s machine guns, I'd think that the dress was pretty cool because the images would bring to mind something entirely different.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I must agree with Rosemary's comment here and say nay. Like a number of your readers, I too am British. However, I do feel that there is rather more to this question than merely a gun motif on a dress. There are a number of clothing items around, in the UK, where the prints have rather unpleasant messages. I am thinking of parents dressing their, often very young, children in printed t-shirts saying "I am a Little Monster" or some such message. It saddens me whenever I have seen this.

    ReplyDelete
  37. This is so interesting, I'm a total liberal American but when I first saw the dress, before I read the post, I thought nothing of it. I guess I saw the guns as an artistic graphic image rather than a symbol for the harm that they can cause if misused.

    But reading this post and these insightful comments made me think! I come from an artistic background so the idea of symbols becoming so powerful is very interesting to me. The print on the dress itself is obviously harmless, they're just drawings, but what happens when a viewer looks at the drawing and interprets it? They viewer brings to the drawing all of the connotations that they associate with the actual object, like violence with guns.

    Ah the power of art!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm torn. I love the dresses and the tension the print introduces (especially the pink one). But on the other hand I do feel negatively about "gun as icon". Yet I don't feel the same way about swords, which are arguably just as human-killing-specific and negative. I think there's a gap or flaw in my reactions, somehow. I would never have a gun in the house (Canadian), but we have several swords, at least a couple of which are semi-practical. I guess the cultural context is different, even if the object itself has a similar function---swords are killing relatively few people around the world these days compared to guns, I think---but that doesn't excuse the inconsistency.

    And by the way we did have toy guns, even cap guns, growing up, and so did my kids. Play is just play.

    ReplyDelete
  39. In America the cat is out of the bag and there is no putting it back in. We can talk about gun control, but frankly it has really been too late to eliminate guns in the hands of private citizens since settlers arrived with guns to kill game and, sadly, Natives. I am a liberal American who went to a Quaker college, so stereotypes would say that I am for every amendment in the Bill of Rights but the second, but I don't think that outlawing guns is the solution to the problem. I seen statistics that only 5% of gun crime is committed with legally owned guns, and in general, a lot of existing gun control legislation is not enforced. If we outlawed guns, then only the bad guys who get them off the black market would have them, and that is not a better situation.

    On the other hand, a girl in my class was killed by a mentally ill person with a hand gun. Two thing I really do support regarding gun control are waiting periods and background screening. If someone can't wait to purchase a gun, then they either need to be in jail or in witness protection.

    As for the gun print fabric, I am not sure whether it glamorizes guns or points out all of the other things people seem ok with wearing that glamorize gun culture, such as camouflage. Honestly, though, I don't know how you could make a dress that would make it clear to all viewers that you were wearing the print as a critique of gun culture. To me, the lack of ability to make the message clear says you shouldn't do it.

    Maybe if you appliquéd or beaded a flashy no symbol (red circle with a slash) in a prominent location? Still, where would you wear this dress? Would it be an art object?

    ReplyDelete
  40. I say nay, though not because the image is a gun. I simply don't like prints that aren't abstract, and I think a print of any identifiable inanimate object on adult clothing is a bit ridiculous (though I do realize that is often the point, and I support it in that spirit fully!).
    That being said, I'm going to go with Sewistafashionista on this one- It is all about context and intent. To me, guns are about self defense or survival; they are a tool to even the playing field between the wolves and the sheep, or to put dinner on the table. I do realize that this is an unpopular stance in some circles, so I apologize if I offend; however it perfectly illustrates my point- context and intent. I would never consider a gun print on a dress as a statement about violence or a glamorization of firearms...I would only consider it a bit childish.
    However, we all need to feed our inner child some, so I say 'nay', but I fully support your right to say 'yea'! If you like it, wear it with abandon and don't worry so much about 'supposed to'.
    ...for full disclosure- I am American, I grew up around guns, I own a gun, most people I know own guns, I've never met anyone who believes guns to be glamorous, edgy, or playthings. I guess education, as in all things, is key.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Maybe it's because I'm an old punk but I like it. To me, it's typical cheeky Betsy Johnson and I'd wear it at the appropriate time and place. I'm not terribly analytical when it comes to things like this. To me, it's only a dress, it's not a pro-violence advertisement.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I say nay- only because I think the dress is ugly. It just doesn't appeal to me. And for all of the comments about glamorizing guns & violence with a dress- dresses don't kill people, people kill people. Let's worry about the violence kids are seeing on TV and in movies & video games first. I was raised in a rural area and have been shooting firearms since I was a kid. My Dad taught us to respect weapons and handle them correctly. I have two in the house right now. And for the record- I am a bleeding heart liberal. It appears we can be more than one thing at once- which is perhaps the artistic statement a garment of this type makes.

    ReplyDelete
  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I'm uncomfortable with something that trivializes handguns, so I'm a nay.

    But I think it may be an issue of "too close for comfort." As a thought experiment, what if it was 18th century canons, rather than guns? Canons also kill (well, killed) people, but it's distant enough that it seems OK and even punky.

    On the other hand, a print covered in, say, mushroom clouds. Total nay.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I've seen this and similar dresses at the Betsey Johnson store near my house and while the image of the handgun doesn't bother me, the dress as a whole does. To me, the whole thing is trying entirely too hard to make a statement.

    I love Betsey Johnson as a designer and most of her designs amaze me, but I think most of her fabric designs are atrocious.

    ReplyDelete
  46. As always, an interesting discussion.

    I think the gun print dress is cool as a stand alone piece just because it looks good and I like that bold style of print although not necessarily the objects (ie. guns) that are printed.

    If you are considering making something similar for yourself you might consider using Spoonflower.com to design your own fabric. You can be inspired by the print and style of the Betsey dress but be original with what you choose as the printed objects. I personally think a dress in the same style with the same style of print with scissors all over it would be quite a fun poke at the Betsey Dress.

    Feel free to contact me if you want help designing or want me to design such a fabric!

    Regards,
    Candy
    candyajoyce(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk

    ReplyDelete
  47. I think it all has to do with context. One of the other commenters used the gun dress and Rihanna's gun tattoo as trivializing guns, but I would say those two very different things. As an artist, I've learned certain images have a power to them. To use the Rihanna tattoo as an example, she got that tattoo after she was attacked by Chris Brown very publicly. I'm not Rihanna, but I imagine this was her way of telling herself 'never again' and a symbol of strength. With the dress though, I would say the majority of people would look at it and say 'that looks badass' instead of 'what a feminist statement.' I'm a liberal Canadian and think that guns have a place in the world, but I do think guns have been fetishized, especially in the US. It's a complicated issue.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I'm with Sickofitcindy -- to me it looks cheeky and fun. I am totally pro-gun control and would like to see guns outlawed altogether, but a gun-print dress doesn't turn me off in the least nor do I think it romanticizes anything. It's fabric.

    On the other hand, I have sat through half a dozen coming attractions at the movies, and EVERY SINGLE ONE was about men with guns. THAT makes my stomach turn.

    The gun is a loaded image (excuse the pun) and that's why it's provocative and that' the intention behind making a dress out of a gun print -- to provoke a response. Obviously for a sophisticated urban environment and not, er, Arizona (sorry).

    ReplyDelete
  49. nora I'd be interested in the figures for this quote;

    'After the Dunblane shootings in the UK, private gun ownership was pretty much banned, and suddenly stabbings skyrocketed -- was that an improvement?'

    As a Scot who lived near Dunblane at the time, it caught my eye.

    As handgun ownership here has never been much of an issue (leaving organised crime aside) and knives have traditionally been the problem weapon, I don't see the connection between the post Dunblane handgun ban and knife crime. It has never been an either/or. Knife crime is actually dropping now and the number of gun crimes in inner city areas is sadly increasing.

    I don't want to turn this into a gun debate either, goodness knows it's been done to death on the internet and will not be resolved. I just wanted to query that statement as it was rather close to home for me.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Personally, I think the print is ugly, but not because of the subject matter. Guns are a huge deterrent to crime, and in every state where the carrying of concealed weapons has been legalized, crime has gone down. A county by county study of this FACT was done by John Lott, who wrote a book about it. It has never been refuted. Guns are a valuable self-defense tool for women, as they equalize the disparity in size and strength between men and women. I say, lose the ugly gun print, and learn to shoot one instead.

    ReplyDelete
  51. As a bleeding-heart liberal, and proud of it, and a person who has been held at gunpoint, I would suggest that in today's atmosphere, a print like this would be inappropriate. It would be difficult for someone else to see the dress and interpret your intent as the fabric could be seen both as a protest of violence or support of gun ownership. We are violent culture and seem bent on maintaining that right now. I do support the new health bill which will provide more mental health services, and I favor more restriction on gun control.

    ReplyDelete
  52. the dress is a statement piece, that statement could mean just about anything to the wearer or the viewer simply because of its content. that makes up the "artsy" component in my mind. one of the largest on-going controversies in the US is about gun control. i am a conservative middle-aged american and have seen enough in my life to know that everything is not simply explained away by politics. some of our family are hunters, some are not, but guns are in my house, secure, for protection. i have never even pulled a trigger. i don't touch their guns, they don't touch my sewing machines....i have a professionally trained guard dog. that is all i need.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I would say nay. Guns are something I don't like and a gun motif is something I wouldn't make.

    Gertie, you would love Peach Berserk: http://www.peachberserk.com/wordpress/

    ReplyDelete
  54. I wouldn't wear the dress, but it gives me two big thoughts:

    1) It reminds me of an interesting study about the language men use to describe women. Here's a reference from a Jezebel article: "Michael Kimmel (summarizing Beneke in Guyland) discusses how lots of the terms used to describe a beautiful, sexy woman are metaphors for danger and violence: "ravishing," "stunning," bombshell," "knockout," "dressed to kill," and "femme fatale." "Women's beauty," Kimmel surmises, "is perceived as violence to men" (p. 229)." This dress strikes me as a clever play on that.

    2) The rules about "ironic dressing" apply. The dress only works if there is some other signifier that you don't actually espouse the views indicated by the dress. I often wish I had tattoos or hipster glasses to cut the sweetness of my June Cleaver dresses.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Yea all the way! I think I'll try to make my own via graffiti style also! Before today I hadn't seen that fabric so thanks for bringing it around!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Wow, I'm surprised by how many people went on record as "nauseated" by the gun print! I would wear the crap out of the pink iteration.

    I am a major proponent of taking the sting out of "dangerous" iconography by using it in ironic applications. This is what we do when we laugh with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. If you take everything so seriously all the time, you'll never have room for any joy.

    Jenny's above comment regarding this "bombshell" fashion statement is remarkably perceptive. I like that approach, whether the designer intended it or not. Like you, Gertie, I see it as a juxtaposition between a typically masculine and menacing image against a typically feminine and demure application.

    Art is all about taking our cultural iconography out of context. Like Duchamp's ready-made artwork, when you put the image of a gun onto fashion, it is no longer about violence, it is about fashion by virtue of an artist having put it there. (And good fashion IS art, make no mistake. :) )

    "C'est pas un pipe!" (c'est pas a gun, either... it is a PICTURE of a gun.)

    Uncomfortable context like today's current events make this idea all the more important. What is the hurtful object? Is it the picture of a gun? No. It is all the sad and dangerous socioeconomical context that led to this atrocity. The removal of guns from society doesn't cure violence or mental illness. And the censorship of PICTURES of guns is an even sillier remedy to a very complicated problem.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I personally wouldn't make and/or wear the dress because I'm not a fan of large, all-over prints. Apart from that, it's great.

    Personally, I support gun ownership fully, but think that proper precautions need to be taken, i.e. background checks, gun safety courses, etc. I disagree with those that state "guns are only for killing people" as that glosses over hunting and target shooting.

    I think a healthy attitude towards guns could be compared to a healthy attitude towards alcohol or cars. They are all dangerous in their own way, and need to be treated with respect, not as toys, but when used properly, they can be useful or enjoyable. I think that people should have a basic understanding of all three, even if they choose not to use them themselves. Ignorance never helps anything.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I agree very much with Nora's post above.

    I don't get terribly worked up when I see others wearing gun prints, although I would never wear one myself. I do feel like in wearing any image or logo there's an element of promotion at work.

    My other thought is - the sort of gun in question would also impact my feelings on the matter. Is it a hunting rifle, a handgun, or a automatic assault weapon? In my experience, it's usually the latter two printed on clothing, which is sort of troubling considering there's no other purpose than human harm in the use of those particular weapons.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Meh.

    I grew up in Colorado and Texas, where almost everyone has guns. The only people here who would wear this and think it looked anything but ridiculous are urban yuppies who couldn't shoot the broad side of a barn.

    I agree that American culture glorifies guns too much, but I also think that targeting images like this is an easy way out. I didn't even notice that they were guns at first. If you're going to fuss about something, campaign for gun control or reduced violence on television or something meaningful, not a silly fabric print that isn't even that obvious.

    (American, fairly liberal, Quaker background.)

    ReplyDelete
  60. No, no and no.

    I'm German btw and all of the more or less recent shootings in my country just consolidate my opinion about guns (they're pretty much forbidden here anyway).
    There's nothing cool or glamorous about guns.

    ReplyDelete
  61. The gun print would make me personally un-easy about wearing it. I also would opt out of prints with other items meant to inflict pain, like knives or nooses. I don't really have a problem with skulls because like someone else said I feel that is anatomy, not 'death'.
    But I don't have any problem with YOU or anyone else wearing it.
    Someone brought up the idea of a print with hammers and wrenches on it. THAT I think is a fantastic idea. It mixes the 'rough' with the 'feminine'. Maybe you can find a similarly 'rugged' print or object that you are more comfortable with.

    ReplyDelete
  62. I vote nay.
    I like the shape of the dress and if it was not guns printed on it I would make it. I don't know what the gun symbolizes, but it is all about cultural context.
    I think one of the differences of ownership of guns between europeans and the us folks, broadly speaking, is that a gun/rifle/shotgun is for protection of yourself and your family, while in europe the gun is seen as a hunting/sporting equipment. Also in regards to the laws. I don't know that much about the laws in the us, but it seems to me, from tv shows (which do not tell the whole truth) that if you own your gun legally, then it is perfectly okay to shoot a burglar in your house. Here, in Denmark at least, you would be up on manslaughter charges, since, selfdefence only entails just as much force as needed to get out of the situation. The courts might rule it self-defence later.
    For the record, I am from Denmark, and I am for strict gun-control. A gun or a rifle is a tool for target-shooting or hunting, not for self-protection. We have 5 million people in Denmark, and about 60 murders a year, only about 6 of those done with handguns.
    What I am trying to say is that the message that you are trying to get out with this dress might be misunderstood.
    Tania, from foggy cold Denmark

    ReplyDelete
  63. For me, nay.
    I'm Dutch so I'm not at all used to the gun-culture of the US. I don't often have to think about guns and I'm very glad of that. I'm a liberal and proud of it.

    I also don't agree about gun print being just like skull print. Not only are skull prints part of fairly long popular history about folklore pirates, they also tie in with the centuries old tradition of 'memento mori' imagery. Even at the most basic level, a skull print is about the phenomenon of death itself, gun print is about violence and killing. That makes a huge difference.

    And I agree with all those who wrote that, in wearing something like this, you would contribute to its image (that goes as well for logos, slogans and fur). No matter what the intention was behind the design of this dress, or how it was received back in 1985, or even your own irony about it, if you, today, were to go out in a glamorous dress with guns printed on it, that look would help make guns seem 'cool'.

    ReplyDelete
  64. I say I think the gun print is just that, 'a print', and was made for the graphics. Sometimes a piece of fabric is just a piece of fabric. Whichever you decide on I think will be adorable on you, so I hope you can relax about it and have some fun.

    ReplyDelete
  65. My vote: I wouldn't be shocked or offended to see someone else wearing this print, but I wouldn't wear it myself.

    I like the look of the print, but I generally think guns are unnecessary and shouldn't be treated as something ubiquitous and normal or as something cool and edgy. If the graphic were something similarly "tough" like - I dunno, tools or auto parts, I'd definitely consider making something with it.

    For the record: American living in England.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Gertie, you know what I think is bad***? Your eschewing our society's informal, too-casual dressing in favor of red lipstick, updos, full skirts, and heels. You're already bad***, girl.

    A gun fabric dress would be too much. Sewing one's own wardrobe is subversion aplenty!

    ReplyDelete
  67. I am in the minority here, but I recreationally target shoot. I also live in an impoverished neighborhood, so I am also aware of the issues of gang violence and gang culture in that context. These are some of my culteral points of reference.

    I don't find either of these dresses attractive, and it's largely because of the gun print. I don't see it as glorifying violence (or if so, certainly less than some rap artists). But that's just me. The overwhelming number of comments to the contrary demonstrate something different.

    So, my question is, when did "badassery" become something to aspire to? When did being tough, or dangerous, or deadly become something we admire? Why aren't images supporting intelligence and discernment and fair play/justice similarly touted?

    If this image is supposed to be ironic, then I guess my question is ironic of what? These are feminine/sexualized dresses with guns on them, so what are we making fun of here? The violent part of the image or the feminine/sexualized part of the image? Or some kind of visual double entendre invovling sex and violence?

    I wouldn't want to talk to anyone wearing either one of these dresses because they are the adult equivalent of a small child getting attention by flailing on the floor.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I think the gun print is kind of like a face tattoo. Either you're the kind of person who'd sport one or you're not. It'd be delusional to think that it wouldn't inspire certain prejudgments or assumptions in the minds of those seeing it.

    A provocative print today would perhaps be guns juxtaposed with ballot boxes. If you really want a conversation piece, you could work one up with crosshairs and the outline of the state of Alaska.

    ReplyDelete
  69. American=Yes
    Liberal-Yes
    Gun Owner-No

    This print really bothers me. I don't think that displaying guns in a whimsical fashion is a good idea.

    Guns don't kill people, people kill people? Well, a gun locked up in a gunsafe is not going to kill people until a human being decides to pick up the gun and use it against another human being in violence.
    I vote Nay on the gun print.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I doubt that the sight of the dress worn by anyone would or could insight violence. I don't think a dress 'even made of meat' says much politically or socially. I think it is more artistic. Which art can try to make a political or social statement, however, the reality is the people that view the art already have an opinion and usually only seek out art which mirrors their views--

    ReplyDelete
  71. I'm going to go against the majority and say yay. Why can't we take the dress for exactly what it is, a print of a gun, and like it without reading into it and dissecting its "meaning?" I mean, I've never seen this dress before, so if "glamorizing" guns is the issue, wouldn't we be talking about this in 1985 or 2009 and not two years later?

    And I don't know who said it earlier, but I've seen fabric with knives on a junior's hoodie at a JcPenney a few years ago, and that I take offense to purely because of the age group. But fabric with tools on it could be cute...

    ReplyDelete
  72. I say yea, and agree with the "sense of irony" bit.

    ReplyDelete
  73. To quote Nick Cage in "Wild at Heart"

    "this here jacket(dress) represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom."

    The gun, much like the gun print dress is an exercise in personal freedom. So unless you plan on using the dress to strangle someone, I say go for it.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Everyone has so much interesting stuff to say on this subject - good discussion here.

    Personally, as for guns in particular? Meh. It's a bit dated. If you're going to do it for yourself I'd branch out; what elements about the prints make it good for you otherwise?

    I bought my boy a bright mustard colored shirt with an exploded diagram of a motorcycle engine schematic on it, and have been jonesing after fabric of that sort ever since. The machismo line work over a bold color looks fantastic with tattoos, but the message is inert.

    (Since we're all giving background information, I'm Texan cum Georgia)

    ReplyDelete
  75. Not sure where I stand on the "wearing a sign of violence " argument ...one posted said where had camo gone for little boys ...isnt that representing the whole military /violence thing ?? but anyway if you are going to print it yourself how about putting something on it eg no guns /stop violence or have the gun barrels with an exploding end re cartoon styls....for disclousure perposes Im Australian...we have a gun ban here people still get shot but do I support it yes...

    ReplyDelete
  76. Crikey Aphrodite, I also was living in Scotland not too far from Dunblane when that shooting occurred (and lived there for several years after, too) and there was definitely talk about the rise in knife violence correlating with the decrease in gun ownership in the years after the shooting and the subsequent gun ban. Googling dunblane + "knife culture" brings up quite a few archived news pieces about the issue.

    My point, though, is that anything can be a weapon -- a kitchen knife, a floor lamp. As I said, it seems to me that the real problem is not that American gun laws are too permissive, but rather that troubled people are not getting treated (and flagged in the background checks when they go to purchase guns) because they haven't done anything terrible yet.

    I'd much rather the national debate turn to issues of mental health care and how we can do a better job of providing it, because that would also do much to help reduce violence.

    ReplyDelete
  77. I'm channeling Queen's "Killer Queen" - She's a Killer Queen
    Gunpowder, Gelatine
    Dynamite with a laser beam
    Guaranteed to blow your mind
    Anytime

    Rather than guns, how about needle and thread or sewing machines?

    ReplyDelete
  78. I don't have a problem with having a dress with guns on it per say, but I personally wouldn't wear one.
    Here's why: I read in Time Out NY mag that going to the shooting range is the new popular thing for "hipsters" and I think that this gun print is trying too hard to be edgy and shocking. For context I am a native New Yorker. If I saw someone on the subway wearing a gun print dress or shirt with a gun on it, I'd probably think a bit negatively about them. Not because I think they will do me violence, but because I think that they are either trying too hard to be hipster/edgy, or that perhaps they are actually a member of the urban gun violence culture.

    I found sewistafashionista's comment to be extremely interesting. I did not grow up with guns and I am in favor of gun control for urban areas because unlike the country, where you perhaps would go hunting or have a gun to protect your property, here having a gun won't protect you as much as it will increase your chances of participating in gun violence. That is just my two cents. Like sewistafashionista said, when guns are a regular and accepted part of your life, you wouldn't wear a gun print because it wouldn't make you look edgy. I see hipsters wearing clothing with John Deere logos or auto mechanic shirts, and I think they are trying too hard. It is only "hip" to them because it is not their everyday reality; I'm sure an auto mechanic would not find wearing his uniform ironic. Anyhow, sorry for this long comment, I think it turned into an a commentary on hipsters instead. If you like the print, wear it! Everyone's going to have different opinions about it, but after all, you can wear whatever you want.

    ReplyDelete
  79. I wasn't planning to go into this, as it's not really part of the debate. However, it kind of bothers me. The comment: 'Guns don't kill people. People kill people.'

    People kill people, you're right. Is that an argument against gun regulation?? Is that a reason to let people have such effective killing instruments as guns??
    Now that's a line of thinking which really worries me.

    ReplyDelete
  80. I like it, it is pretty badass.
    its not like your gonna be protesting at pro-gun rallies while your wearing it. So theres nothing really political about it.

    i think its fun.

    ReplyDelete
  81. If you go to art galleries a lot, you see a lot of gun imagery. Young contemporary artists seem to think that guns are subversive, but if everybody uses it, it's not subversive, is it?
    On clothes, it just seems too gimmicky to me.
    I'm French, if that's relevant. No body is really afraid of getting shot in the streets here.

    ReplyDelete
  82. I'm also a Brit, and for me its a nay.

    I appreciate I'm coming from a different cultural perspective. I believe in personal freedom and if you like it and want to wear it, I think that's fine. I certainly wouldn't be offended if you wore it in my company.

    However, if you're asking if the gun print is somehow glamorising violence, i think theres no way of getting away from the fact that it is. The very fact that its used in a high fashion environment, makes it cool and as you said yourself badass. I can't see any irony in this particular use of the print. Pretty much all use of gun imagery in films and popular culture does to an extent glamorise it.

    The use of guns to cause violence and death is another complex issue. Mental health status of the offender, access to guns and gun laws all play their part. We're certainly not immune to gun crime in the UK. I agree with Crikey Aphrodite that the rise in knife crime here is linked to a much different phenomena which is the rise in gang cultures in some areas and ease of access as an offensive weapon. I believe that the Dunblane massacre was perpetrated by someone who was in a gun club and had been background checked, so I dont see that stricter laws would have prevented it happening. That said guns are not easy to get hold of in the UK and there's less gun crime as a result. I believe that many more gunshot wounds are caused as a result of accidental shootings, in which ease of access to them obviously plays a big part.

    Sorry for the ramble, love the blog by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  83. nora, On searching I can't see any direct links. Yes there was a rise in knife crime in the years afterwards which has subsequently gone on the decline again thankfully. However the only way that could be related to the handgun ban is if handguns were widely owned by the law-abiding prior to that, and therefore a supposed deterrent removed. But they weren't. Only a small minority interested in 'sport' shooting owned such a thing. And of course a level of criminal who wouldn't care about a ban anyway. I have never encountered anyone who owned one. Therefore how could a ban on handguns in a non gun-owning country affect knife crime?

    Knife crime is a huge problem here and has been for a century. It's escalated due to an increase in drugs and other social reasons. And yes, it's an easily accessible weapon that we all have and is easily hidden. But I'd rather a thug at the other side of the street had a knife than a gun to be honest. At least I can hopefully have the benefit of distance.

    There has been an increase in gun crime though. More illegal weapons coming in and more modified and altered replicas.

    I totally agree that more attention should be paid to the treatment of mental health problems and less people should be allowed to slip through the net of background checks.

    Of course, to return to Dunblane for a moment, Thomas Hamilton had a license. Despite being known to the police. His background should've sent up enough red flags to prevent him getting a license in a society that wasn't gun friendly even prior to Dunblane. But it didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Guns aren't violent, people are. Guns aren't evil, people are.

    The dress is badass.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Another thought: what if the dress calls attention to the fact that people get shot every day? What if it's saying something about how violent people are? What if it's just making people think about that?

    Maybe I'm naive.

    ReplyDelete
  86. I actually read this just after it was posted but I didn't comment because I couldn't work out quite what I thought about it. Like a lot of commenters, I think context is important - wearing it so soon after a major shooting incident would be a nay. The dress isn't my personal taste and I have to say I would never wear a gun print because guns aren't something I would associate myself with, ironically or otherwise. That being said, I do really like the juxtaposition of something that might be seen as 'tough' or 'macho' with the feminine shapes and I can't believe that wearing this dress would ever incite gun crime so there's no reason for anyone to stop you wearing it if you like it. So, after the ramble, I'd say it's a yea, with several caveats: not when gun-control debates are at a high, only in a situation where people would know you weren't trying to make a political statement about guns and if it fits with the rest of your style (I actually think you'd be one of the few people who could pull it off).

    Since we're sharing, I'm British and would probably be described as a 'bleeding heart liberal' (not a phrase we really use here but I do seem to fit the lable). Oh, and completely off topic, but in reply to Stephanie Lynn, I think there is a difference between being OK with violence and being OK with sex, since there's nothing inherently bad (and lots of things that are good) about sex!

    ReplyDelete
  87. I actually saw Betsy Johnson a few weeks ago at the Atlantis Paradise Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. She looks EXACTLY in real life like she does in pics. Just a funny side note. Love your site :)!

    ReplyDelete
  88. Crikey Aphrodite, I didn't say there was a causal relationship between a spike in knife crime and the gun ban, but that there was a correlation. There was an increase in knife violence after Dunblane; if it's gone back down again as you say then that's a good thing. I moved back to the US in 1999, so I don't know what the crime statistics are like now.

    I think my point about anything can be a weapon, and a violent person doesn't need to get a gun to cause mayhem, is still valid, though. And I still think that "I love that dress" and "I love that print" should determine whether someone makes a dress inspired by Betsey Johnson's "gun" dress.

    ReplyDelete
  89. I like Betsey Johnson, but this is not my taste. I have a wine velvet dress with beaded fringe by her and had a black cotton jacket with pink fabric rosettes. Romantic, frou frou, twee, depending on your taste. Hardly guns.

    I think the print's OK (I'm not crazy about it), but I think it would look better made up into a camp shirt and heavily accessorized with irony. But that would be predictable, which is why Johnson chose a strapless.

    So I would say, "No," but I think I've disclosed my biases. I would never wear it, because I take myself fairly seriously, and I don't think guns are cute.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Margie RedLips, Matroskin:

    I've actually never seen Rihanna's gun tattoo, although it sounds typically idiotic. I found "nauseating" her tattoo that's in bad French.

    I mean, really, could you try checking with some actual French speakers before branding your neck?

    ReplyDelete
  91. Nay. I found the gun print to be cliché and immature.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Well, this is a super interesting question, isn't it? Thanks for posting it and thanks to all the folks who have commented so far.

    I grew up in a Latin American country as a part of the ruling class (yes, I use those words purposely). Everyone I knew carried guns, my father included. When my sister and I were little girls, my father started teaching us to respect guns, to clean then, load them and shoot them safely. Safety and respect being the operative words in that experience.

    I haven't touched a gun since I left home some 25 years ago (now a US citizen) and sometimes think it's time to get me to a fire range for a gun safety class. Not that I intend on carrying a gun anytime soon...but I think it's a valuable skill to have...especially in this day and age in the US.

    That being said, I wouldn't wear that print or any other like it. I agree with all those who've bemoaned the culture of violence in this country but that is not the reason. From a purely aesthetic view, I think that, with very rare exceptions, are ugly. I have so many choices in prints, why would I choose something I think is less than gorgeous?! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  93. Gun violence and law-making aside, I think the print is tres-passe and obvious. Sense of irony? Where? It looks like someone trying too hard.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Imagine wearing that to a party where you meet someone who has had a relative or friend who was shot. Clothes are wonderful, and fun, but I would never want to wear anything that would remind someone of a horrific event in their life - there are so many other ways to be outrageous with clothing. BTW, I am British too.

    ReplyDelete
  95. I too don't like the idea of the image. I also don't like skulls on clothing. As mentioned by 'Lucy' all of these things are for shock factor. Shock factor seems to sell and people think it makes them different. It is like putting very sexy images on little girls clothing. People say it doesn't matter, but in the end all of these things are done to cause an emotional response when viewed. I don't believe it is a positive response. I too am more conservative and from Australia. I don't believe shocking others for the sake of it is a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I agree with those that said portraying such a destructive object in a playful way can be destructive itself, but unfortunately for me it's much more shallow than that. A gun print only makes me think of a pseudo-subversive teenager who just walked out of Hot Topic. I understand Betsey's aesthetic and that this dress was designed way before the trend I'm referencing, but still.

    When I want to feel badass, I just throw on some leather boots and heavy eyeliner... but that leather's a whole other debate, I suppose. :/

    By the way, way to spark an intriguing conversation, Gertie!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Definently a huge YEA! I love Betsey Johnson and I dont think gun fabrc has anyhting to do with saying that your for or against guns I think its just some super awesome fashion fabric!

    ReplyDelete
  98. It's not bleeding-heart liberal to notice the normalisation of gun violence in popular culture: from super-soaker water pistols and handgun-print fabric to the proliferation of cop shows on TV.

    Gun imagery doesn't appeal to me and I think it's sad how inured to it people have become.

    ReplyDelete
  99. I would say nay on the gun fabric because I feel like it's just become such a problem there's no way to distance it from the violence anymore. And I don't think skulls are the same because even if they represent death, I guess, skulls are a natural part of human anatomy and play a useful role in the body. As people have mentioned, handguns were only invented to shoot other human beings, and while that is always a bad thing, I think it has become a very sensitive topic in recent history (school and workplace shootings, war, etc.)

    ReplyDelete
  100. Nay. Without even making the connection to what happened in Arizona recently, I cannot think of one thing that makes guns cool or fashionable or I don't know, hip to put on a dress or any other attire. They're ugly and part of an ugly culture.

    Like another commenter said, if it's something I saw out and about I doubt I'd be angry or anything, I just def. wouldn't wear it myself. And I AM a bleeding-heart liberal.

    I don't really see a gun print as being the same as a skull print, either.

    ReplyDelete
  101. Chill. It's just a dress.

    ReplyDelete
  102. as a middle of the road independent thinking American, i have to say nay. our worlds have changed. our associations with weapons in general are seeping into every facet of our lives. therefore, NOT into my clothing. a few comments have identified the problem, specifically. i am, by profession, a mental health professional. this is our new frontier. current laws and restrictions have created, condoned and enabled the population to go almost unnoticed, marginally served and sometimes untreated. therefore, arizona, virginia tech and many others across the world. if a gun had not been used...perhaps a little C4? would you wear a nice little pencil skirt with diagrams of C4 explosives and connecting wires printed on it? just saying...don't mean to rant. sensitive subject this week. love the blog Gertie, we are passionate people.

    ReplyDelete
  103. I love the pink dress. I have no problem with the fabric. I own many guns and enjoy shooting. Obviously, I'm one of the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" group. I DO NOT condone the murders in Arizona. My prayers and sympathies are with all those families affected by this horrible action.

    ReplyDelete
  104. The guns gotta' go....
    I don't believe there is anything fashionable or sexy about a woman built like a 14 year old boy wearing clothing decorated with images of guns. We ARE making a statement with what, how, and where we wear our cloths...otherwise there would be no market/fashion industry. And we should remember, it is just that, an industry. There is no delicate way to put it..those 'creating' fashion are not usually lovers of ladies, they are lovers of money.

    ReplyDelete
  105. Can I add a P.S. to my post of a few minutes ago?
    I'm an old, Catholic, white woman...but guess you figured that out already!

    ReplyDelete
  106. My first thought was "what gun?" I didn't even see it. Next it just made me think of Americana. I love the idea of Elvis without being a big Elvis fan.

    I totally get the idea of it being badass, though. I was in the Army and was a total pacifist, bleeding-heart liberal. Then they gave us an explosives demonstration. It was thrilling in a can't look but can't look away way.

    There are so many things that give us those feelings and I think that this is one of them. Like reading Lolita. Great compelling writing but very disturbing subject. Dare to like it? Try not to.

    ReplyDelete
  107. I'm not American, so I don't "get" the whole gun thing. That's a really sexy dress, so using a gun print says the wearer thinks guns are sexy. I don't think they are, but as I mentioned before, I'm not American.

    ReplyDelete
  108. About two weeks ago I would have thought 'no big deal'. But I've read something in the meantime about how through the use of images and other methods, things become OK and seen and acceptable. It makes sense that the more we see of something and the more that people potray things as cool or sexy or exciting that they take on elements of that and the dangerous or socially undesirable elements are played down. But then, if you get caught up in that... you can go too far too! Thanks for providing today's mulling over point!

    ReplyDelete
  109. I had to really think about this, because I do like the juxtaposition of the ultra-feminine silhouette with the aggressive, macho print. If I saw someone wearing that dress, though, my first thought wouldn't be "Badass!", it would be "Hot Topic." You can go on about gun culture in this country if you like, and a lot of people have made valid points about that already, but at the end of the day, in this culture, this dress is just not that clever anymore. My first thought on how to improve it was big-ass wrenches, but I'm sure you could come up with something better that would be cute and genuinely subversive.

    ReplyDelete
  110. Yup, sex can be wonderful. Killing other humans can never be wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  111. I too am a huge fan of juxtapositions but hasn't it become part of the trend/American culture to glamorize the taboo? I understand designers want to be shocking or create buzz: sometimes to create discussion over sensitive or controversial topics and sometimes just for the sake of shocking (Madonna, bless her, anyone?).
    Personally, I would say nay. Mu opinion, like many others, is that by making light/glamour/art of serious cultural issues sometimes can do good but more often desensitizes by making the taboo the norm.

    ReplyDelete
  112. I think the dress is quite obviously conveying a sense of irony. A gun print on a girly dress? How could someone take that seriously.
    Agreeing with Peter in that the dress is more of a provocative art piece as opposed to mainstream media trash.

    ReplyDelete
  113. Nay.... for a few reasons. I like guns - BTW. But I do not like people that use guns to shot and kill other people. (I am an American Conservative)

    ReplyDelete
  114. Nay. I've seen guns on t-shirts, jewelry, tattoos, etc. for a few years now, and I just don't get what's cute about it. If it's supposed to be ironic, I don't get it. I guess the irony of the Betsy Johnson dress is the juxtaposition of the gun (aggressive, "masculine") with the traditionally feminine cut.

    I think the use of gun imagery in fashion is just an example of meaningless edginess. It's supposed to look like a statement, but it's really not saying anything. But, I'm a bleeding heart liberal, so what do I know.

    ReplyDelete
  115. A skull is entirely different to a picture of a gun - for one, guns are designed to take lives or injure, but there is no indication of how a skull came to be in that state (it could have been from a peaceful death - reminds us of our own mortality, mexican day of the dead etc). Think about how it would look if the print consisted of other weapons that have not been glamorized by the media - knives, nooses, needles. Tacky and insensitive.

    ReplyDelete
  116. Emmi, I might consider a New-Look cut covered in nooses. At least that's interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  117. I think this is a very emotional reaction from ppl during a sensitive time. However I think it's extreme to condemn an ironic kitsch print of guns on bright pink background as the source of gun crime. The real issue behind weapons of any kind is the person who uses it & their mental state - that is the crux, not the weapon. Guns dont go around shooting, ppl do.

    ReplyDelete
  118. I think it's a completely personal decision and there is probably no right or wrong answer. I just give you enormous credit for considering the issue - and for inviting a discussion about it on your blog. Thank you:)

    ReplyDelete
  119. I think it's ultimately up to everyone to decide for themselves but the more we use images of guns, violence etc, the more we become immune to these issues. Violence shouldn't be glamorised, well I don't think so anyway...
    I recently had the choice between using a Tshirt with a gun print on it, or using another Tshirt that was really boring in a fashion parade, and as the fashion parade was promoting fair trade, ethical, eco-friendly fashion, could not in good conscience use the gun printed one, even though it was certified sweatshop-free. Had to go with the boring, non bad-ass but morally responsible option instead.
    Maybe if you could somehow make the print so that it was obvious the "guns" were actually water pistols, it would be OK?

    ReplyDelete
  120. I am British but I am not against the right to bear arms. Swiss men who have completed military service are obliged to keep a gun (for defence of the country) but they don't shoot people quite as often as Americans (to put it mildly). That indicates to me that America has a cultural problem, not a gun problem.

    Personally, I think the admiration of the "badass" just about summarizes the problem. It is not "ironic". It expresses fear of and contempt for the sensibilities of your neighbour. It is strongly related to gang culture and is a type of ill-directed "rebellion", a projection of your own insecurities onto those around you, and a posionous acting out. It is something you should grow out of by late adolescence. It is a cultural problem, not merely an individual problem when it becomes as common, acceptable and even admired as it is in the US.

    Of course, not everyone is like that in the US, and other countries are not free of such behavior, but since the US dominates the internet and media it is most visible there.

    In the US I have met some of the politest, most considerate, most community-minded people, but it seems that, as Jung said (I believe) every light has an equal shadow. The love of "badass" is all shadow.

    ReplyDelete
  121. Oh sorry, just spotted the "don't post anonymously" instruction. That was me - Hatty - of course, in the world of makebelieve that is the internet, it has no relation to who I am, but if it makes you feel happy.

    Also, BTW, my best friend was gang-raped and shot dead (bullet to the head, execution style) a few years ago. It wasn't in the US, it was in South America, but I really wouldn't like to meet someone wearing that dress who thinks it's funny/ironic to be "badass".

    ReplyDelete
  122. I put guns in the same kind of imagery bracket as machetes and syringes. Personally I think there needs to be a lot more to it than simply being used in a feminine style. I'm not a fan of the first dress, but I do like the second. Something about the hyper-glamour of the short puff skirt, the bright pink, the unrealistic style, added to the Disney mouse-ears, yet set in an alley. It says to me that those things, unrealistic expectation, are as violent/dangerous as the gun imagery. That said, it is the dressing/staging that appeals to me, so while I like the image I mightn't like it worn regularly.

    I'm undecided. I have a tshirt with a single gun (in pink) shooting out stars (geddit?), but have myself self-censoring in what places I'm willing to wear it. So, I dunno. And for the record, I'm Irish, even our regular police don't carry guns, but my father was a hunter. It's improperly handled guns that scare me.

    ReplyDelete
  123. Gun print? Use it as a lining (like most other prints that get anywhere near my bod) and call it concealed-carry for the irony only flaunted when I choose to flaunt. Nobody is forced to look at my linings. The dress itself though--someone already said "Hot Topic" and that is sadly true.

    ReplyDelete
  124. I personally wouldn't buy any fabric that had guns on it, or other weapons. Having also said that I won't buy clothes for my sons with negative comments on them either "Little Monster", "Here Comes Trouble" , girls obviously get "Princess" etc.

    I am British, and hate seeing guns etc. We have been a reactionary country with our gun laws, and they have got tighter over every rare incident that has happened. We have never had school massacres perpetrated by students unlike the US and a few other countries. Stabbings have not sky rocketed as someone said after the Dunblane incident. That seems to be a gang related issue. Also you are more likely to survive being stabbed than you are being shot.

    The British public cannot just go to a gun shop/ supermarket and buy bullets and guns. Gun owning is highly restricted, and luckily in the UK to have a gun licence issued you need doctors' references.

    This is a cultural thing, but perhaps we are all going to far in cheapening the authority that a gun ultimately has.

    ReplyDelete
  125. You know, having read this post after the shootings, my first thought was nay. Then as you went on, I remembered how much I love 40's noir, and I thought, yea - it's kind of kick a$$... and it does look great with tattoos. So, I don't know. I love the glam and the dangerous, but I've lost a friend to a shooting and it's not cool in real life.

    As an aside, I think a dress like that with cigarettes smoking would be fabulous, but I'm not a smoker, either. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  126. I just think it says the wearer has a killer sense of style! (sorry- i couldn't resist!)

    ReplyDelete
  127. Since you are making the fabric print yourself, you can always make it like the "no smoking" signs and put the circle with the slash over the gun. That would def. make a statement.

    ReplyDelete
  128. I love the print on that dress, and I think you should make it just as it is. As a New Zealander, living in a country where it is against the law to own a pistol, unless you are a member of a shooting club and it is for target shooting. I see the pistol as being an icon of North America, the Western imagery I guess particularly inspired this. Why not wear a dress covered in pistols, when you live in a country that sees the right to bear arms as a personal freedom, rather than a risk to the safety of its own population. You can knock em dead in that dress.

    ReplyDelete
  129. My first time posting to you. I like your blog, enjoy reading it. I just happened to see this link and was curious. The dress is alright (I think they could have fit it a touch better, looks low), I like the cut, but can't wear strapless much. I love the color and the general placement of the print. The question isn't really do I like the dress though, it's would I wear a gun print and what does that say?

    Personally, I'd totally wear this dress. I like conversational starters and certainly would get response from this! Guns don't kill, people do. And usually only in service to their country, or if truly disturbed and after they have turned from seeking help (perhaps because no one took them seriously or help is just not easy to get).

    ReplyDelete
  130. Cooperated with model Chantal,Betsey Johnson created a very successful

    brand-Johnson Betsey Johnson Series.
    Betsey Johnson Earrings Betsey

    Johnson,the style of American, girlish, dramatic is always consistent

    with Amercian laides' taste. The design of Bestey always go with the
    Betsey Johnson Necklaces and they

    are filled up with the American girls'flavour.Now the
    Betsey Johnson Rings johsonjewelry is

    sweeping all over the world.people will never feel boring about the

    style.

    ReplyDelete
  131. I still own a skirt from this collection. Thinking of selling it on ebay. I loved it in the 80's.

    ReplyDelete
  132. Wow! What a great debate. I came across this after googling "betsey Johnson gun dress" because I own one and was linking it to my blog, vivdvoltage.blogspot.com, I immediately became enthralled with the strong opinions.

    Obviously I am on the yea side of the fence. To me the print is badass/punk and the multi colored guns/bullets (on my version) make it whimsical and cheeky, in other words, Betsey Johnson to the core.
    Clothing, style, fashion, whatever you want to call it, is a form of art and up to the interpretation of the viewer, so I support all those who vote nay. My gun print dress is not going to incite riots or inspire a tot to bring a gun to school. In fact I feel that the majority of people (americans) are to wrapped up in getting from point a to b to even notice their surroundings, and if they do notice my gun print dress, I think doubt they give it a second thought.

    Jenny's comment about the language men use to describe women's beauty as lethal and how this dress plays up on that is very insightful.

    Fangaroni's comment left me feeling perturbed. To say that once hipsters grasp onto a style and cause it to become a "trend" means I need to abandon something I identify with is ridiculous. When you stop doing something you love because it is "trendy" or "hipsters" have taken to it you're still letting the masses control you and your choices.

    Gertie, I am so happy I stumbled across your blog. It is intelligent and as a sorta seamstress, very helpful. I'm looking forward to delving in deeper.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake