Sunday, October 28, 2007

The aim for a fashion theorist, as with everything else, has to be to understand the subject from a starting point of unity. There has to be one concept to work from and to me that appears to be cultural construction. How do people construct themselves through their clothes? What impression does clothing leave the spectator with? What can we do with our clothes to make the best possible version of ourselves?

We begin with basic consumerism, fashion as functioning across tiers of availability. In the UK we begin with markets that sell clothing that creates false labels and emulates high end fashion so fake Burberry, fake sportswear. Then we get to the High Street, which holds a number of tiers from Primark to H&M, Marks and Spencer, Urban Outfitter, Warehouse, Jigsaw, Juicy Couture, Karen Millen, Agnes B. Then ready to wear designer clothing such as DKNY, Chloe, Paul Smith, Ferretti and then couture, a dying art that is made by a limited number of design houses such as Chanel, Givenchy and Versace. There begins an understanding of how the industry works. From that point on a fashion theorist has to conceive of how these different tiers of the fashion industry can be mixed together to create a more equal view of fashion theory and from there a broader concept of fashion theory can begin.

To understand fashion it is necessary to look at its history with an abstract eye, fashion is full of patterns that revolve around the human body and the various ways in which society is framed. Even now there are condemnations of social class that take place through the perspective of clothing choice. Look at the word "chav" which is so prevalent in the British media and on close examination you are left with "I do not like the way that person dresses. I think they are inferior because of their clothes". Ignorance of another groups social structure equates with judgement of their clothing but it's also a comment on money and the social background and choice and privilege of the person uttering the comment. They are probably on the outside of the social group they are criticising and do not understand the neccessity to dress like someone elses peers despite possibly having done so themselves in the past. Why is this important to fashion theory? Well it provides an explanation for some of the odder mainstream, wide ranging clothing choices. Dick Hebdige wrote about this phenomenon in The Meaning of Dress but it tackles a very limited period of history. Can we not extend the idea of dress and clothing beyond small groups of people. Why were corsets worn so widely for such a long period of time? Why has the suit proven an enduring fashion item, a fashion uniform if you like? These are the questions that a unified theory of fashion should seek to answer, we should move beyond subculture and gender perspectives and discover clothes as more than function, as an item that allows us to construct ourselves in culture beyond our peers and the dictates of designers and consumerism.

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