Category Archives: School

Culture of Fashion #6: Individual Identity

Assignment: Take a picture of yourself that expresses who you are. Post the photo on your blog and explain in theoretical terms (± 250 words) why the way you dress is an expression of your individual identity.

The impossible is has been asked? Describing your identity through fashion is extremely difficult, especially if you’re still searching like I am. I love fashion and by now I kind of now what I like to wear and what not, although this also changes with time. I choose a picture that was taken in spring this year. I think it shows my identity and my search for some sort of balance in my style and all through life.


I’m wearing a sequin dress from Topshop, a pink blazer with a black bag from H&M and shoes from Sacha. I will try to describe my individual identity through theoretical concepts from Fashion Theory: A Reader.

Dick Hebdige describes style in his article Style through the rise of subcultures in relation to the normal reigning conventions about how to dress. He uses the theories of Roland Barthes and ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’. Hebdige states that his theory can be used to point out the difference between subcultural and ‘normal’ styles. Subcultures use different signs and objects that have a particular meaning and use or display them in a different context and with that, give the objects a different and unusual meaning. It’s also interesting how Hebdige describes how a subculture like punk is characterized by chaos but is actually a very structured force, it cohered as a meaningful whole. This paradox that returns through fashion history is significant in describing my style.

First of all, I don’t know if there are strong subcultures like punk or hippie’s were. I think fashion uses elements of all these different styles and has created something overruling. Elements from hip hop culture, punk, hippie bohemian and other strong forces of subculture have emerged into one big style. It’s difficult as a new generation to set yourself apart in the big world, and I think I’m searching for that balance through the way I dress. I choose this outfit because the dress is my proud and joy, I’ve worn it a lot! I think it’s fun and joyful and that is what I want to bring to everyday life. I want to set myself apart from the crowd by bringing color into the world. It’s all very black, grey, brown and blue’ish and that is just so boring! But there isn’t really a subculture I can relate to in order to force my ideology about fashion in a greater manner. I’m always somewhere in between: not part of a subculture, but to different to fit in in normal styles. Is it maybe hipster? I have no idea, I’m so lost about the whole hipster definition XD What do you think? How would you describe my style by looking at the picture?

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Culture of Fashion #5: Fashion is Change

A Shifting Style in Fashion

The world is always changing. Big changes like global warming develop for years when small changes like putting on a black blazer instead of a pink one take one minute. Fashion can be seen as a representation of the change in our world, of a universal and cultural shift in how we look at the world and ourselves. Fashion changes because we as humans change, whether that is an individual or an entire society.

Elizabeth Wilson described the friction between individuality and mass culture in fashion in her book Adorned in Dreams from different points of view. One statement is particularly interesting when discussing change in fashion: ‘’[…] we may view the fashionable dress of the western world as one means whereby an always fragmentary self is glued together into the semblance of a unified identity.’’[1] You can interpret this statement in different ways by using the notions of the individual as a part of the mass western world, but I think it will be more interesting to discuss how fashion for the masses contributes to an individual identity and what these fashion trends represent. The tension Wilson describes between the crowd and the individual is, I think, characteristic for fashion and life in general. We all want to fit in but also stand out in our qualities and personality. The way you want to portray your identity doesn’t just changes because different trends are featured in stores like H&M or Zara (but they, of course, have an influence) but also changes through the different stages in your life. You won’t dress the same in you teen years as you may do in your thirties. On an individual level there are different changes that involve fashion, but this always relates to a bigger structure in society. A documentary by the Dutch program Close Up relates to the notion of an individual style in relation to a bigger structure of feeling in society.

In the documentary a thirty-something woman talks about how her style in dress is influenced by society and her position within society. She interviews different women who share this style and discuss what exactly causes this style. They come to the conclusion that they want to be more anonymous in a world of digital profiles and social control. Their style is therefore very sober with black, white, blue and brown colors and simple silhouettes that cover the body. They don’t stand out in any way, but form a silent counterpoint against the digital and social control social media and governments use to influence our lives. It is thus a structure of feeling within a certain group in society that dress the same way for the same reasons. The change in emotion and perspective therefore influence the fashion we see on the streets.

I think we can describe a lot of changes in fashion this way, which I do all the time on my blog. It is a way of describing how the Zeitgeist is reflected in fashion. Wilson also says something about this in the article Explaining It Away where she actually states that too often though, the relation that of course exists between social change and styles of dress is drawn out in a superficial and cliché-ridden way.[3] I think this statement is true but too out of context and also kind of cliché. We have a categorizing nature and because we didn’t live in the twenties, we can’t describe all the little social changes that influenced the way people dress. Wilson uses the flapper dress as a cliché symbol for the twenties, but it is a cliché for a reason. It’s therefore important to acknowledge the fact that all history is categorized and generalized. Knowledge of history is important because it is another way of looking at the present, which is more important in my opinion. Why do we love the big, furry coats now? Why are heels no longer in fashion? These questions are important to answer because the social changes that are happening now can be described through fashion and, in the most perfect scenario, create a perspective of society and what it needs. Fashion is change because society changes. Society changes because the world changes and our perspective that we have on the world changes. Fashion is not only beautiful but represents the change people want in life.

[1] Elizabeth Wilson (2007) ‘Adorned in Dreams: Introduction’, in: Fashion Theory, A Reader. Malcolm Barnard (ed.) New York & London: Routledge. p 395

[2] Doc 25: It’s in the Sky. Domogala, Sarah. (2013) Nederland:  AVRO Close Up.

[3] Elizabeth Wilson (2007) ‘Explaining it Away’ in: Fashion Theory, A Reader. Malcolm Barnard (ed.) New York & London: Routledge. p 15l

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Culture of Fashion #4 Materiality of things

For this assignment we had to find some images that would show the theory of the materiality of things. We will be discussing how clothes are invested with meaning and how this value relates to people who wear them. What association comes up when you see someone in jeans, or in a fancy dress with ruffles? And can we see clothes as objects, can they have a life of their own when we insert them with meaning (connotations) when we purchase them?

1. Diesel advertisement 2013: In this picture we see a white woman, naked with tattooed arms under a Middle Eastern veil, made of denim. Tim Dant discusses the example of the blue jeans in Consuming or living with things? as a particular type of clothing that has a specific and diverse connotations. In the 50’s/60’s you maybe were rich enough to just buy jeans and wear them as leisure wear (clothing for free time) or wear them to work, which is the original wearer of denim. It was also the first item worn by both men and women in the same style and silhouette. Denim has a very liberating and western feel (just look at old Levi’s advertisement, full with wild cowboys!), which is used by stylist Nicola Formichetti in this advertisement as a statement for equal rights for women (although I don’t think this was ever a official statement). If it is his place to make this statement, that’s a whole other question. But by combining the connotations of the fabric and use of the veil this advertisement is very controversial and interesting in how we see women, identity and how this relates to clothing and even different sorts of fabric.

2. The second image is an older advertisement (date unknown) from Stein & Blaine Inc. It emphasizes the identity of the clothing itself, which is interesting. ”Lets Talk About the South and Clothes the South Will Talk About!” shows that Stein & Blaine wanted to represent the American Southern identity and claim they’ve achieved that by just making clothes. It doesn’t matter who wears the clothes, if you wear it you’re wearing the South. Dant obviously disagrees with this notion because he states that ”the idea that humans interact with objects (clothes), sometimes as if they are human and sometimes because they reflect back something of who we think we are.” The clothing is just South because we give it that meaning, it is not by definition a representation of the South.

3. I have chosen the third picture because I thought the clothes play a significant role in the picture, even more then the person wearing it. We see a woman with a hairy, furry coat over her shoulders. The texture, the material of the coat is very significant because I feel it has a world of connotations on its own. I think it relates to a feeling you can have and that the coat can protect you in a way. Furry coats are very in right now and it’s also fashionable to wear them around the shoulders with you arm under the coat. Dant speaks about the social function of clothes but I think it’s also a intrinsic function that clothes can represent your state of mind. Maybe the social function can be found in the way we all want to be teddybears and cuddle our way through life? I know I want to!

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Culture of Fasion Ass #1 Discussion Points

For the third assignment in the course Culture of Fashion, we had to read different texts about why people wear clothes and how fashion developed through the years. We’ve discussed the texts during class and had to post at least two discussion points regarding the theory.

– Thorstein Veblen states that there is something like ”native taste”, which indicates some kind of essential good taste). I think this is a big discussion point because it brings up all kinds of discussions like the nature/culture problem. Is native taste something we are born with? If so, there actually could be something like native taste. However, I think that culture (all the things we learn in our environment and education) is an essential part in developing a good taste. In this discussion point, you also could argue that good taste totally depends on the time you live in. Something that would be considered good taste 50 years ago would unlikely to be considered good taste now. What do you think?

– Lipovetsky calls “logic of inconsistency” one of the most significant features of fashion. But what about the trends that come back every so often? Isn’t fashion, at least in the last 10 years, an reconstruction and rediscovery of silhouettes, colors and fabrics that we’ve seen already?

Culture of Fashion #2 A History of Silhouettes

For the second assignment in the course Culture of Fashion I had to read several chapters of the book Fashion Theory| A Reader and after that, I had to choose two images of contemporary silhouettes. I choose two images from the webshop Zara because I think they represent trends in silhouettes for both men and women.

Agnes Brooks Young describes in ‘Fashion has its laws’ different cycles surfacing in the development of fashion since the 19th century. She divides them into three cycles by looking at three types of skirts that were fashionable during 178 years of fashion development. The bell-shaped skirt and the ‘backfullness’ skirt, two types of skirts, are mainly seen in the 19th century. When the 20th century makes it’s entrance, we see these types disappearing while the tubular skirt is still in fashion. This skirt, unlike the other two types, follows the natural lines of the figure. In the 1920’s we see this simplification even more with Chanel inaugurating the ”poor style” which includes the simple black dress. Gilles Lipovetsky calls this the democratization of fashion in ‘A Century of Fashion’, which means that fashion of the day became available for a big group in society.

In the female silhouette, chosen of the webshop Zara, we can see this simple silhouette in all its glory. The black dress has a zipper around the neck which goes into a collar. The top of the dress looks very sporty, like it is almost a vest. This is also a trend in the 1920’s, where the idea of lightness and energy of sports are transported to a new aesthetic ideal of femininity (Lipovetsky). The dress is long and falls over the knees and most of the leg. The fabric accentuates the body and follows the lines of the body. This is also an element of the tubular skirt. The dress doesn’t show lots of skin, which I think is really a trend in fashion right now, but also looks comfortable and movable. It shows a perfect simplicity that so much resembles the spirit of the 1920’s: feminine in a comfortable yet covering way.

Opdracht 1

Young illustrates (small) changes in women’s fashion every season but she doesn’t discuss the male silhouette. From what I’ve seen in fashion history, male fashion has always been kind of the same. Especially the latest fashion trends for men relate to the beginning of the 20th century idea of male fashion. You could argue that the role of women changed drastically in the past hundred years, but the role of the male wearer has been very constant. This silhouette has one connotation for it’s wearer: the businessman. I think a case can be made that the use of the suit is a reintroducing trend for the man as a dominant figure (after years of female emancipation). Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass argue (‘Renaissance Clothing….: Introduction’) that ”clothing is a worn world: a world of social relations put upon the wearer’s body”. With this silhouette, which shows no skin and really portrays it’s wearer as a businessman, we could say that the fabric and silhouette symbolize a certain status within society, which resembles the idea of clothing and fashion during the Renaissance according to Jones and Stallybrass. The suit has a status of it’s own and empowers the wearer. In this case I think the silhouette is modern because it is really narrow around the body and shows almost a sober version of the suit in all black, including the shirt. This creates a new dimension within the suit and with that, a new role for the businessman.

Opdracht 1.2

I could talk about this for much longer because I really think both images represent huge changes in fashion and in society. Maybe in another article, but for the Dutch readers I can refer to the article I wrote about ‘The New Man’ in Allop Magazine.

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