It’s difficult to express in words how Tilda Swinton embodies style. In her fashion shoots, Swinton presents herself as ethereal, androgynous and with a defiant of “the conventional expectations of feminine emotional expressiveness and legibility”, a property that Jackie Stacey describes as the “flat affect” .
For Swinton, departures from the feminine ideal are familiar. Her role in Sally Potter’s Orlando (an adaptation of Virginia Wolf’s novel), for example, required Swinton to don both male and female costumes. Swinton herself (2009) expresses doubt that gender “really exists”, instead preferring to think of her identity as transformable. In an interview with W Magazine, she describes how she admired her father’s wardrobe: “From childhood, I remember more about his black patent, gold livery, scarlet-striped legs, and medal ribbons than I do of my mother’s evening dresses,” she says. “I would rather be handsome, as he is, for an hour than pretty for a week”.
She brought this androgyny to her role as face of the Pringle of Scotland womenswear collection in Spring/Summer 2010, and then their menswear line the following season (A/W 2010), for which she adopted masculine poses.
Swinton is renowned for her chameleonic performances, but her transformations do more than demonstrate her flexibility as an actor. They express a desire to embrace the beauty and mystery of style, art and fashion without being limited by preconceptions about how she, and her body, might fit. I hope to capture a hint of the ethereal versatility that is Tilda in this collection of images:
1.) Stacey, Jackie (2015), “Crossing over with Tilda Swinton—the Mistress of “Flat Affect,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society (2015): 1-29.
2.) Solway, Diane (2011), “Planet Tilda,” W Magazine [online].