Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Middle Ages rule!

After the return of the cape I would be delighted to see another Medieval fashion aspect taking today's trendy youth's fancy by storm: The Mi-Parti. Referring to a bi-coloured garment ('separated in the middle') the Mi-Parti first occurred in 11th century fashion. With the wedding of the German Kaiser Otto II and the Byzantine princess Theophanu, more colourful and more precious fabrics entered European costume. Originally the Mi-Parti was worn only by servants and court jesters indicating the subordinate position of the wearer.

Going by Alexis Mabille's last week's Paris Haute Couture show, I believe he'd be delighted too!

Friday, 29 January 2010

The relation of Roland Barthes to Primark's Boyfriend Blazer

As a recent womenswear fashion trend the Boyfriend Blazer, a long, oversized blazer was seen (and partly still is) everywhere on the high street. What is particular about this blazer however, is not its cut or the fact that it is marketed as daywear, but its rolled up sleeves, which reveal a contrasting lining. The sleeves are not only displayed in their rolled-up form, but actually pre-manufactured -held up with a stitch .

Roland Barthes' 1967 The Fashion System (English translation 1983) draws upon the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure's semiology (the system of signs):
Saussure divides language into langue (language) and parole (speech), with langue representing a system of fixed rules, which is independent from the individual, whereas parole is the individual mode of using langue. Applied to fashion Barthes translates this into dress and dressing.
While dress is concerned with social components, like age, gender, class, degree of civilization and location, dressing is empirical and concerned with ‘how’ something is worn, yet for Barthes bears no conscious intention of transporting sociological value. (2006, p. 8-9) As a working hypothesis he put together the following dressing objects (2006, p.18-19):

1 - the individual dimensions of the garment in relation to the size of the wearer
2 - the degree and particularities of how worn-out, scruffy or dirty
3 - pieces or items missing
4 - non usage (buttons not done up, rolled up sleeves)
5 - pure protection. Not formalized (improvised outfits)
6 - choice of colours /except ritualized colours)
7 - circumstantial derivations for an item’s deployment
8 - non-stereotyped acts of usage particular to the wearer
9 - anomalies, or allowances, in the dress object

Now to return to the Boyfriend Blazer and looking at number 4 of Barthes dressing objects above, this reflects the cycle of fashion rather well: A simple stylistic aspect is first featured by a couple of individuals, which at this stage I would definitely classify as dressing in Barthes’ sense. The question of intention becomes interesting yet again. Whilst somewhere down the line the sleeves where rolled up to regulate temperature or to give more freedom of movement, the sole intention shifts to aiming to make a fashion statement. As it is adopted by more and more people and ultimately mass-manufactured, this trend enters dress and would have certainly been dropped by its initiators.

Barthes, R. (1983), The Fashion System. Translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang
Barthes, R., Stafford, A. and Carter, M (eds) (2006), The Language of Fashion. Translated by Andy Stafford, Oxford and New York: Berg

Sunday, 24 January 2010

my ex used to hate this jumper.. I wear it all the time.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Ma pièce préfereé, part IIII

The story of Rosa's jacket.

how you feel. how I feel.

The inside is good and real. The outside is bad and deceiving. Heart, brain and soul forever over appearance. A noble coat cannot hide a rough heart...
..but is what I look like not part of who I am? Am I then most genuinely me when I am naked?
While it governs a great deal of our lives, being too occupied with the way we look has been forever frowned upon. When people are asked about their thoughts and feelings regarding the way they dress the preferred answer would be 'not bothered' rather than admitting to ascribing any significance to it.
In his 1959 Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman compares our public life with being on stage:
When [...] ‘an individual appears before others he will have many motives for trying to control the impression they receive of the situation.’ (p. 15)
‘It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everybody is always and everywhere, more or less consciously playing a role…’ (p. 19)
We might indeed appear genuine in a certain outfit (or no outfit) and fake in another. In any way there is no doubt that the testing out, the engaging in different identities, in different looks is just part of who we are or who we might become in the future. The science of our clothes is not fashion but rather the study of the sum of materialized identity snap shots.

What I have gained from the Dressing Diaries so far is: 1. even the most hated, boring t-shirt, can bear a striking story, 2. 9 times out of 10 'I've just thrown this on' will reveal itself as a blatant lie and 3. you can learn some interesting and sometimes puzzling facts about yourself merely through getting to the grounds of why you are wearing what you wear...
self-expression??fuck that..I believe I only ever wanted to impress that boy..

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Why are we wearing what we wear?

It is certainly a complex construct of different motivation factors that determines a person’s choice of clothing on a daily basis. It is the fast changing ‘grammar’, the flux of the of the sign-language of today’s society together with our own ever-evolving identities that make it an impossible task to come up with an omni-applicable formula: The red jumper might represent love and warmth for one person, it might recall that horrible car accident for another, it might translate into one’s mother’s love who has gifted it at one point or it might remind the next person of a public figure or friend they admire and want to emulate. Even when somebody claims ‘it is just a red jumper’ and it may not consciously convey any further meaning to them (apart from functionality perhaps) this person still cannot escape from people around him or her ascribing meaning to it.
As Simmel (1904) put it ‘the man who consciously pays no heed to fashion accepts its form just as much as the dude does, only he embodies it in another category’

In an attempt to at least learn about my own habits and motives when it come to selecting clothes (that is composing outfits from my wardrobe and not from rails or shelves in shops) I started the DRESSING DIARIES. Every day I record thoughts and feelings about my clothing choices. Just like an ordinary diary this has proven a rather therapeutic tool of self-reflection. You start telling stories through your garments. It is full of surprises, revelations and confessions...