Dress Needs: Reflections on the Clothed Body, Selfhood, and Consumption

When the word fashion comes to mind, I think of high-end retail stores, Fashion Week, toothpick thin models with gaunt faces, haute couture, New York, Paris, and fame.  In reality, fashion is a subject that might seem unnecessary to some and essential to others.  For some people, fashion means putting on the first thing they see before they dart out the door.  For others (like myself), it means coordinating and accessorizing what you’re going to wear for the day based on the weather, location or occasion.  What does fashion mean to you?

What fashion means to me…

I found it interesting that in “Body Dressing”, the course textbook for Art 302 (Social Aspects of Fashion), fashion has been traditionally seen as unimportant unless it was from a moralistic point of view (Entwistle and Wilson 1).  This type of thinking is old, approximately sixteenth century old (Entwistle and Wilson 2).  However, being clothed is a distinct human form of consciousness, it divides humans from the animal world  (Entwistle and Wilson 17).   The first humans to use clothing dated back to 170,000 years ago.  We were conscious enough (then) to understand the significance of clothing.  Although it was not as fashionable as it is today, it provided warmth and protection from the second-to-last Ice Age.  See the article pertaining to the first humans to wear clothing here.

What Neanderthal “fashion” might have looked like…

Clothing does not only provide protection but it also reflects our class and other social stratifications (Entwistle and Wilson 17).  For example, the color purple has not always been a color just anyone can wear.  It was traditionally a color associated with royalty and nobility.  Shortly after reading this information I reflected upon my hometowns basketball team, the Sacramento Kings.  I always thought it was odd to choose purple and white for their team colors.  It makes sense now!  Purple is a color of power, class, and rank.  (Insert “aha” moment).  Can you think of other types of clothing that reflect our social class?  See more information about the color purple here.

Another interesting point is, the way we dress is a non-verbal form of communication or language.  Take for instance, if I were to have stayed up late studying until the wee hours of morning (like I’ve done many times), the way I dress for class is the last thing on my mind.  The end result would be minimal (if any) makeup, sweatpants, hoodie and running shoes.  On the other hand, if I went to bed at a decent hour, planned out what I wanted to wear, and gave myself enough time to get ready in the morning – I would look and feel like a million bucks.  Subcultures such as hippies and punks have also used their dress as a language (Entwistle and Wilson 2).  They both communicated that they will not conform just through their way of dressing.  What other forms of fashion can be used as a language?

Singer Janis Joplin used her clothing as a language…

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6 thoughts on “Dress Needs: Reflections on the Clothed Body, Selfhood, and Consumption

    • The color purple does have some meaning but is not limited to royalty and nobility. For example, The Red Hat Society, a organization for women over the age of 50, dress in red and purple. Needless to say, these ladies are very easy to spot.

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