States of Undress

Back in May, buried in the What I’m Watching section of a Friday Finds post, I gave brief mention of a show that I had, at the time, only seen once or twice. I posted the title with a link but no description of what it’s about or just how great it is; so, I’m certain that very few of you followed through on finding out more. Which, is really a shame, because this show is pretty effing awesome. So, I’m bringing it up again. States of Undress. Go watch it!

Hosted by slash artist Hailey Gates – model/actress/journalist/former editor of the Paris Review/seventh generation Los Angelino – the show explores politics, culture, activism, conflict, human rights, day-to-day life, and more through the lens of fashion. Though fashion alone is enough for me to tune, it’s about so much more. Trust me, watch just one preview and you’ll quickly see it goes well beyond glitter and gowns. Not that those aren’t also part of the show. But, any possible presumption of this being fluff tv will quickly be distinguished when you watch her sit face-to-face with Abdul Aziz, an Islamic cleric at the Red Mosque in Islamabad known to be strongly aligned with Al Qaeda.


The show is on Vice, so I expected an edgy component from the start. Though, even I didn’t expect it to be quite so hard-hitting. The first six episodes cover fashion weeks in China, Palestine, Russia, Venezuela, Congo, and Pakistan. The most stark realization I had in watching them was just how little global news is reported in our country. There are certainly sources, if you seek them out. But our daily news cycles focus far more on our most raucous political candidate and Kim Kardashian’s ass than Venezuela’s murder epidemic or the polarized politics of Putin Youth.


Fashion is explored on commercial, community, and underground levels. Two episodes feature segments on designers of found material clothing – Congo and China – both very different but equally interesting takes on designing with what you have to design with.

The hunt for “what’s beautiful” takes Hailey to a manufacturer of “ideal” mannequins in Venezuela, where she also highlights a cultural obsession with plastic surgery stemming from the quest for pageant gold. Pageants, considered the country’s unofficial lottery, breed generation after generation of desperate contenders literally willing to risk their lives for success.


In the Congo, where shapely figures are the rage, women can’t resist the lure of homemade injections to prevent them from being too skinny. Of course, as with many quick fixes, there’s a dark side to this industry that leaves many disfigured.


Each episode comes with its dangers. Some medical, others environmental – some to the locals, others to Hailey. But she takes them all in stride in search of the riveting and revealing stories behind the, often rogue, runway. Believe me when I tell you that I haven’t even scratched the surface on telling you the storylines. Seriously… Go. Watch. It. I’ll just be here crossing my fingers for a season 2.



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