What is Fashion?

Trimis la data: 2003-10-28
Materia: Engleza
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For centuries individuals or societies have used clothes and other body adornment as a form of nonverbal communication to indicate occupation, rank, gender, sexual availability, locality, class, wealth and group affiliation. Fashion is a form of free speech. It not only embraces clothing, but also accessories, hairstyles, beauty and body art. What we wear and how and when we wear it, provides others with a shorthand to subtly read the surface of a social situation.
What is Fashion?
For centuries individuals or societies have used clothes and other body adornment as a form of nonverbal communication to indicate occupation, rank, gender, sexual availability, locality, class, wealth and group affiliation. Fashion is a form of free speech. It not only embraces clothing, but also accessories, hairstyles, beauty and body art. What we wear and how and when we wear it, provides others with a shorthand to subtly read the surface of a social situation.

Fashion as a Sign System
Fashion is a language of signs, symbols and iconography that non-verbally communicate meanings about individuals and groups. Fashion in all its forms from a tattooed and pierced navel, to the newest hairstyle, is the best form of iconography we have to express individual identity. It enables us to make ourselves understood with rapid comprehension by the onlooker.

Fashion as a Barometer of Cultural Changes
How we perceive the beauty or ugliness of our bodies is dependant on cultural attitudes to physiognomy. The accepted beautiful female form that Rubens painted is subliminally undesirable nowadays, if we are to be thought beautiful in a way that the majority accepts in the 21st century.

Today an inability to refashion and reshape our bodies whilst constantly monitoring the cultural ideal leaves us failing the fashion test. Those that pass the fashion test invariably spend their lives absorbed in a circle of diet, exercise, cosmetic surgery and other regimes. This includes the rigors of shopping in search of the ultimate garb.

The Need for Tribal Belonging
Our reluctance to give ourselves a regular makeover through diet, exercise, and consistently conscious use of specific dress styles infers that we have the personality flaws of a weak willed human. We become in the eyes of fashion aficionados somewhat inadequate and imperfect in the fashion stakes.

Thus we strive to keep a culturally satisfying appearance so that we feel better, whereas in fact we are striving to stay in the tribe, whatever type of tribe that may be.Group affiliation is our prime concern with regard to fashion. As long as some group similarity is identified within the group, our personal fashion whether current or dated can belong to any tribe. It is the sense of belonging marked by how we fashion ourselves that gives us the tribal connection.

Rôles
An innate characteristic of human beings is the desire to strive for differentiation. The removal of Sumptuary Laws and rigid dress codes has enabled the individual to use fashion as a means to identify clearly the many different rôles that a person plays in any one day.
Sociologists borrowed the word 'rôle' from the theatre because, like actors individuals play many parts and each part has to be learnt. Rôles are continually learned and rehearsed and relearned. They are also shared, because like the actors on a stage, fluid interaction only occurs if all the performers know the behaviour expected.

Class Stratification
The Edwardians were experts in the art of rôle play. They had had sufficient time to readjust to the new patterns of behaviour established by the Victorians.
The Edwardians were socially stratified into those who wore tailor made clothing down to those who wore other people's cast offs. The poor simply looked poor, because their raiment betrayed them. Whilst the rich and nouveau riche displayed their wealth through an iconography of signs and symbols that enhanced their body image in the eyes of those that saw themselves as socially inferior.

Rôle Set
Rôles and activities are closely linked to what people wear. People are affected by their rôle-set, which includes boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, friends, husbands, lovers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, relatives, employers, customers, clients, work mates, business colleagues, peer and age groups.
The people with whom a purchaser interacts affects the final purchase and this applies to any fashion dominated item from interior furnishings to choice of cars. Likewise the purchase of fashionable clothes, fabrics, or accessories becomes a visual currency and speaks volumes silently.

The tools of fashion provide the signs and symbolism that function as an information service for the rôle-set.
People are so aware that others make judgements about them through their clothes and accessories that many run up huge debts to appear to belong to a particular lifestyle. Frequently the rest of their rôle-set are doing likewise. Members of the rôle-set often encourage them. Only individuals with a strong sense of self identity stick their necks out and admit to wearing items that others might consider dubious or passé.

Occupation, Status and Purpose of Clothing
Those with high status occupations will wear the clothes they think others expect them to wear. They will not wish to experience rôle conflict by wearing the incorrect clothing. It is from the clothes a person wears that we get our first impression of personality. They provide mental clues to a person's status and occupational rôle, as well as being a means of conforming to peer group expectations.
Clothes also have the utilitarian function of providing both protection from the extremes of the elements, keeping us warm or cool or safe. They also act as an aid to modesty or immodesty as the wearer so desires.

The state of a person's clothes is synonymous with self respect and is a sign of respectability. It also adds another sign that the person has sufficient status in society to maintain at the cost of time and money, laundering, dry cleaning and repair. To be respectable some expense has to be incurred in the maintenance of cleanliness and neatness.

Veblen's 'The Theory of the Leisure Class'
Thorstein Veblen the US economist who wrote the book The Theory Of The Leisure Class in 1899 maintained that Dressing for status as an outward expression of wealth is indeed functional, by the very fact that such clothes prevent the wearer from engaging in manual labour. Also because of their restrictive design they need the assistance of others to dress the wearer and keep clothes in pristine condition.
Veblen devoted a whole chapter of his book to ' Dress As An expression

Of The Pecuniary Culture'.
He wrote '...our apparel is always in evidence and affords an indication of our pecuniary standing to all observers at first glance...dress, therefore, in order to serve its purpose effectively should not only be expensive, but it should also make plain to all observers that the wearer is not engaged in any kind of productive labour...

Foremost in Veblen's mind must have been the fashions of the 1890s a decade that gradually favoured increasing conspicuous consumption by the rich. A century later the vogue for power dressing in the 1980s saw excessive indulgence and conspicuous consumption in fashion. Fashionable behaviour was the epitome of conspicuous waste, but the purest form of relief in a stressed, angst ridden society.

Status Symbols
One of the most favoured forms of semiotic distinction is fashion, because fashionable clothes, accessories and body adornment are easy for others to observe at glance. Incidental items, particularly branded specific handbags footwear, jewellery, accessories and new hairstyles act also as important status symbols.

First - a fashion is approved by others.
Then - it is copied because of competition.
Finally - it is replaced as it becomes commonplace and has ceased to fulfill its function of being distinctive.
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