I’ve been wanting to say something about the Stieg Larsson trilogy and fashion, but I’ve been at a loss, because Lisbeth Salander’s gothic punk style doesn’t really feel very Swedish to me. Even if this style isn’t British anymore, but international, it feels wrong to claim it as ours.
But then I started to think about the fact that Lisbeth Salander in many ways is a very Swedish heroine. For one, she is a strong and independent woman, a feminist with a sexual fluidity. We do strong women in this country, but we do them in a certain style. Salander dresses in a unisex way, she’s boyish, both in body shape and style. She shuns feminine clothes unless she needs them as a disguise. She’s not glamorous, she’s gritty. She’s not girly, she likes boxing and riding motorcycles. Her clothing reflects this as she dresses in hoodies or tank tops.
Strong women are nothing new in Swedish film, the most obvious example being the movies of Ingmar Bergman, where confrontations between strong females were a recurring motif.
But all this ties in with a sense of style that is at the heart of Swedish fashion, an empowerment of women – not through sexual display, but rather through dignity and personal inner strength. I’ve mentioned before that Swedish clothes are seldom sexy in that Latin way. Instead we make clothes for clearly independent women – subjects, not objects.
This is why Lisbeth Salander, in all her social awkwardness and subcultural bent, is Swedish in her style. She reflects a need for a look that states independency and self-reliance that is very present in Swedish culture. She might do it in an over-the-top way, but that is the prerogative of fiction.