Why Do We Study Fashion?
Fashion is the system of production, dissemination and consumption of clothing. The study of fashion is not merely concerned with designers and the clothes they produce; we also have to consider how we consume fashion and adapt it to our own needs. The inherent influences and meanings change with time, social needs, technology and place.
Fashion discourse revolves around certain key terms:
? Clothing – items made and worn to cover oneself and protect oneself from the elements.
? Dress – the use of clothing in a particular manner for specific purposes – e.g. clerical, academic.
? Style – an individual way of dressing which incorporates clothing in a unique manner using a variety of clothes and material in traditional and/or non-traditional ways. Sometimes styles are aligned with particular social groups or subcultures.
Fashion is incredibly diverse and in a constant state of flux, which makes it ephemeral and fleeting. So why do we study fashion? Firstly, it’s part of our everyday life: we purchase or make clothes and wear them every day of our lives. Fashion is a semiological system, a visual lanquage that we use to make statements about our social status, wealth and taste. Even people who choose to opt out of the fashion system implicitly convey their attitude to it.
Due to its visible nature fashion is integral to our identity. In social terms, broad trends in fashion reveal attitudes to class, gender and sexuality. So fashion is integral to our understanding and interpretation of social mores and constructs. For our purposes, fashion is an index of the socio-economic and cultural climate of Britain over the past four decades.
What is British fashion? These are some key attributes:
? Practicality with an irreverent twist
? Flirting with identity – in terms of class, gender and ethnicity
? Effortful casualness
The late Alexander McQueen said, ‘British fashion is self confident and fearless. It refuses to bow to commerce, thus generating a constant flow of new ideas whilst drawing in British heritage.’
Breward, C. et al. (2002) The Englishness of English Dress, Oxford: Berg/
Edensor, T., (2002) National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life, Oxford: Berg.
Ford, M & Legon, P. (2003) The How to be British Collection One, Lee Gone Publications.
Ford, M & Legon, P. (2005) The How to be British Collection Two, Lee Gone Publications.
Fox, K. (2005) Watching the English: the hidden rules of English behaviour, London: Hodder.
Goodrum, A. (2005) The National Fabric: Fashion, Britishness, Globalization, Oxford: Berg.