For the fashion conscious, even death is a sartorial celebration. A project in Singapore now offers individuals an opportunity to showcase the clothes they wish to wear for their own funeral!
A wetsuit, a mermaid costume, clown attire, a T-shirt of the Liverpool Football club and an imperial Chinese robe are among a range of outfits chosen by some of the 23 people participating in "The Last Outfit", a photo project in the island city-state.
"Dressing is a way of life and even at death, our clothes can be a statement of who we are," says Lee Poh Wah, CEO, Lien Foundation, a philanthropic house which has partnered with Singapore daily "The Straits Times" for the initiative.
The project, an extension of the "Life Before Death" initiative of the same foundation seeks to remove the taboo of death and enthuse people to view life and death differently.
"Each exit outfit is one that best expresses the subject's unique life. Their outfits and candid attitude have given us a fresh and fun perspective on how to deal with death. If there's something like funeral fashion, they are setting a trend by wearing their souls on their sleeves," says Poh Wah.
Eight photographers of the newspaper captured the passion behind each subject's reflection on his or her own mortality.
"We are glad that our subjects were willing to put aside their superstitions and participate in this project. It wasn't easy to convince people to talk about death, much less photograph them in their last outfit," says chief photographer Wang Hui Fen.
"We hope that through this project, the stigma of death will be reduced. People need to understand that talking about death is not going to kill you," he says.
For 46 year-old cancer patient Madam Foo Piao Lin, one of the subjects of the project the final curtain call came early. The Last Outfit project fulfilled her last wish by outfitting her in a chenogsam that she had always wanted to wear.
Rather than leave it to chance or for others to decide, Madam Foo took responsibility for her final affairs before passing away on August 1, 2011.
"There can be brilliance in the shadows of death. Her family was fortunate to be part of her good-bye plans," says Lee. Other subjects in the project shared Madam Foo's plucky attitude. They not only donned their last outfits with bravura, they saw it as a fitting way to proclaim a last hurrah to mark their final epic.
"These are the most elaborate costumes we have for our performances. When we die, we want to be remembered as performers," says part-time Chinese opera singers, Koh Goh Eng and his wife, Lam Chin Shin.
First conceived as a local campaign in Singapore in 2006, "Life Before Death" has evolved as an ongoing social experiment that harnesses unconventional online and offline initiatives to break the taboo of death and to foster 'die-logues' or conversations on end-of-life matters, according to a statement released on Asianet.
The initiative works with diverse partners to reach a wider global audience through social media, films, photography, cartoons and art, enthusing the public to view life and death differently.
A recent project, "Happy Coffins", allowed people to personalise coffins for themselves or a loved one, and by so doing, overcome the stigma of death.
An international feature documentary film that examines the global crisis of untreated pain will is set to be released by the end of 2011.
The film shot in 11 countries profiles palliative care professionals at the frontline as they seek to improve care for the dying. It uncovers the diverse cultural perspectives on pain, death and dying.