Fashion and Shame. On Sighsten Herrgård, AIDS, wardrobes and archives
On July 29th, 1987 Swedish fashion designer Sighsten Herrgård (1943-1989) announced on national TV news that he was HIV-positive and had developed AIDS. The TV reporter said that AIDS finally had been given a face in Sweden. Herrgård thereby became an iconic figure in Swedish modern history, not least in its LGBT-history. His face is still well known in Sweden today even though his professional life as a fashion designer in the 1960s and 70s and as a trend analyst in the 1980s is not always remembered.
Before his death in December 1989 Herrgård published an autobiography, participated in a biographical TV documentary on his life and donated his personal archive of clippings as well as parts of his wardrobe to the Nordic Museum, Stockholm. The article shows that these sources to a large extent iterate the same narratives in several areas with one exception: when it comes to AIDS, the donated archive is silent – no clippings, no clothes refer to disease. Also, by conciously choosing to wear suits during his numerous media appearances he tried to wrest control of the media image of himself and of people with AIDS in general. The author concludes that these sources and their lacunas suggest that Herrgård tried to stage the afterworld’s image of himself.
Bearing on the work of Douglas Crimp and Susan Sontag this article discusses the mechanisms of social stigma in 1980s Sweden with a focus on Sighsten Herrgård, a bisexual man with AIDS who also represented the fashion world. It also studies the role of fashion as a strategic tool in the visual representation of Herrgård in Swedish media. Finally, the article aims at sketching out a methodology of how to use wardrobes/clothing archives as potential sources for alternative historical narratives.
2009. no 3-4, 78-103 p.