Friday, May 14, 2010


Looking at fashion as communication medium is looking at value sets. What people wear speaks to what they hold important. What does the red coat say? What does it communicate to the world? In Marx's terms, the coat represents use value, to provide warmth, but also more subjective mystical values, like aesthetics and status. The mystical values may mean one thing to the wearer, and another to the world, but normally there is an unspoken, shared understanding. Below a more lavish fur coat on male rapper 50 Cent, sends socially shared messages of indulgence and luxury. It also communicates the more abstract concept of "pimp," which has been built over time through social and media constructions of identity.

Clothing and accessories are signs. They represent values and we instantly understand the connotations. We do not have to discuss a crown to understand that power is suggested. Even in the feathered Native American crown below, we understand a sense of regality. But fashion designers, stylists and photographers play with established codes and enrich the story of human expression. The codes then are not fixed but in constant negotiation.

Some fashion speaks louder than others. This is most obvious in brands and advertising that literally shout verbal messages at the consumer.

The logotype is a fashion sign that sends a strong textual message and marks fashion territory. Brands and logos then are the most obvious form of fashion communication. They are meant to be clear and direct in order to be understood by the largest number of consumers so to increase sales.

The contrast to commercial fashion communication is experimental fashion design, as in Pierre Cardin below.

The message becomes so abstract that the number of people who understand the subtlety of the message decreases. The object still expresses values, though less use value and more mystical, aesthetic value to the point many consider it art. This is the realm of aesthetic appreciation in which chic is negotiated by the leaders in fashion who define the messages in fashion media for a larger audience.

Hidden Glamour

by Ceylan Kırmacıoğlu

Glamour is the impression of attraction or fascination that a particularly luxurious or elegant appearance creates, an impression which is better than the reality and the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, esp. by a combination of charm and good looks. In order to look glamorous, people adorn themselves with different kinds of clothing. In our daily lives it is observed that hidden glamour can be experienced through a person, event or a piece of clothing.

The use of sunglasses both indoors and outdoors is an example of the hidden glamour. Hidden meaning the concealed, obscure and covert helps the people look more mysterious and therefore attract the attention of the others. Hidden glamour creates an attractive environment and an illusion that leads to an envied life.

Jewish Devotion

by Amanda Toohey

Judaism Background Info:
One of the oldest monotheistic religions and was founded over 3,500 years ago in the Middle East. The most important religious document is the Torah. It is the original of the three Abrahamic faiths, which also includes Christianity and Islam, and was founded by Moses. It is a religion based mostly in actions rather than beliefs, however, a main belief is that God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behavior to the world. Everyday acts can become acts of worship.

Orthodox Jewish Attire:
Women tend to cover almost the entire body as a sign of modesty and men tend to wear dark colors & black hats during the weekdays. The only item of clothing that is not dark is the white shirts that are worn while everything else such as jackets, trousers and shoes are always black or navy.

Preference for black is derived from two things:
1st -a decree made by community rabbis in the 18th century where they specified that black outer garments should be worn on the Sabbath and other Jewish Holy Days outside of the home because the rabbis thought that brightly colored clothing could provoke resentment amongst non-Jews thus leading to violence.
2nd -during this time laws required that Jews wore black clothes so that they could be easily identified and because they were seen as non-persons they were not allowed to wear clothes of color

Conservative Jewish Attire:
The most obvious and ubiquitous is the wearing of the skull cap, also known as a kippa or yarmulke by the male Conservative Jews. The skull cap is worn to show respect for God who is thought to live in heaven above us thus they separate themselves from the divine presence by wearing a hat or cap at all times. “What we wear, what we say and how we confront others is reflected in the manner which others exhibit toward us; therefore, the Jew who wears distinctively Jewish forms of attire can be said to seek to be treated as a Jew” Dr. Gerhad Falk

Designer: Alexandre Herchcovitch, above. His Jewish grandparents immigrated to Brazil from Poland in the early 1900s Attended a Yeshiva (Jewish school where classical Judaism is studied) "I was influenced by the modest Jewish attitude of dress, of not showing the body, [however] this goes strongly against the body-beautiful culture of Brazil."

Jean Gaultier's 1993 collection was inspired by Orthodox Judaism

Visible Technology

by Kasha Cabato

Jacques Dequeker

The 20th and 21st centuries have been an age of immense technological advancement. Electricity only has become widely available in the Western world in the early 1900s, which resulted in the introduction of televisions in the 1950s, cassette tapes in the 1960s, the VCR in the 1970s, the personal computer in the 1980s, and cell phones and public-use Internet in the 1990s. As of December 31, 2009 there are 1,802,330,457 people worldwide who are connected to the internet, which is growing at a rate of 11% per year. Due to technology travel, information, and communication have become much more available to the masses, which represents a strong and advanced society. Technology can also be seen as a form of control and order in an otherwise uncertain world. Because of society’s fascination with technology, fashion has made reference to the future and visually displays of new technologies.

Molded forms left and pixilated print right

Visible technology has made its way into high fashion and media, but this style is can also be found in street fashion with the use of molded forms, geometric shapes, metallic fabrics, pixilated prints, and headphones. Silhouettes that incorporates molded forms look futuristic because they defy the way the body is naturally, therefore evoking connotations of man’s control over nature. Through the use of geometric shapes, connotations of man’s control over nature is also referenced, this way in the form of mathematics and science. Pixilated prints are a direct reference to computer technology and digital images. With the mass popularization of iPods came the popularization of large headphones in stylized designs and colors rather than small minimalist earbuds. Rather than removing them after usage, men and woman seem to be leaving them around their neck as a kind of accessory. These items also directly reference technology through computers and digital music.

Tron Legacy, 2010

View the work of designer Hussein Chalayan here.

Visible Invisbility

by PeiRong Zhou

The juxtaposition of the two contradicting words, with the former suggesting prominence and ease of perception and the latter suggesting concealment and obscurity, brings about a conflicted hegemony of drawing attention to a form, which in theory, would provide camouflage, and a sense of hiding behind it.

Malcolm Barnard discusses in the third chapter of Fashion as Communication the idea of clothing as a form of protection. This could be for physical protection and comfort and specifically in this essay, protection against the harsh elements of fall and winter. Barnard also mentions the use of thick, dark-coloured and stiff clothing as protection against Moral dangers and clothing offering protection ‘against the general unfriendliness of the world’ or ‘as a reassurance against the lack of love’. In the previous chapter Fashion, Clothing, Communication and Culture, he writes about an argument proposed by Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood that garments could be used as ‘fences or bridges’, where fences signify a segegration or isolation, a barrier, and bridges signify a bringing together, a connection.

The Satorialist

Visible invisibility is the term coined to describe the situation when one dresses in a way that suggests a form of ‘hiding behind’ and anonymity but instead, draws attention. The connotative ‘hiding behind’ and anonymity ties into the fences, where there is an idea of distancing and differentiating oneself from others. It also suggests the idea of camouflage and blending in to certain extent.

Left The Satorialist and right Yohji Yamamoto

Submission & Coordination in the Dress of Presidential Wives

by Nina Fernstrom

I looked at messages of submission and coordination communicated in the dress and fashion of women married to men with high professional standings, as exemplified by first lady Michelle Obama and French Presidential wife Carla Bruni.

Being the wife of a high profile person – and at the very extreme the wife of a president of a country – gives you a highly visible yet slightly undefined position. There are certain expectations, or even rules, in regards to your behaviour as well as your image and dress. Clothes are and have for long been used to indicate a certain social status or worth. In the case of a presidential wife and her dress, this is a not only an indication of her own particular role and person but also that of her husband and his identity and values. The difference in dress between a man and his wife is also there to establish the difference in power and status between them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clash of Seasons

by Ece Oney

Dressing not according to the wheather is the key element of this message “clash.” There can be many reasons for a person not to wear the clothing, which is appropriate for that season. There can be people who wants to stand out and grab peoples attention, there can be people who were travelling or wasn’t sure of the weather outside or simply people who doesn’t really care and as long as they wear layers and layers on it wouldn’t matter to them if the garment they are wearing fits to the season or not.

Clashing of seasons is something we can see on the streets commonly whether people try to stand out or adjust they might still have something with their outfit that mixes the seasons. As the clothing code itself consists of contrary combinations the messages people reflects are ambivalent as well. These people doesn’t give that much importance to the use value of the garment that they are wearing, the important part is the aesthetic and the way they feel and look inside the garment. It can be to take attention and to be looked at and trying personalizing their style or it can be because of confusion and the change of the context, even though the messages are different it is a way of standing out in the society breaking the boundaries and showing of your personality. It requires courage to stand out in the society so people who chooses to dress this way intentionally or unintentionally, reminds the people of ambivalence, courage, experiment and style.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gulf Male Formality

by Djinane Alsuwayeh

Kuwait, 1952

“It all began with a thread-” the story of the Arabian men’s traditional clothing is an ancient one, which unfortunately is undocumented, passed on only by generations to generation. It is one of the oldest forms and an integral part of folk culture of society. From the earliest times fine cloth and beautiful adornments have been woven into the fabric of Arabian tradition.

Dr. Wadad Alsuwayeh shows the Sheikh of Kuwait around Kuwait State Monument Design Competition

Influences other than history have developed the Arabian men’s clothing, such as the regional climate, utility, social custom, and cultural needs), achieving a corresponding level of sophistication in the material. All these factors combined led to the simplicity, natural grace and practicality of the everyday garment- the Dishdasha, and the very formal, elegant, intricate detailing on the ceremonial garment- the Bisht.

Above the everyday Dishdasha and below the ceremonial Bisht

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Evening Formality

by Andrea Gutierrez Coello de Portugal

Each individual's clothing expresses meaning. Dress and ornament are elements in a communication system. "They recognize that a persons attire can indicate either conformity or resistance for socially defined expectations for behavior." Fashion allows people to modify personal things, enabling the individual to have desires for group identity and individual expression.

Clothing also makes people sometimes feel as social objects by being in a situation in which they obtain the social response that they desired. This topic speaks about the kind of clothes someone has to wear in occasions like cocktails, dinners and formal parties in the evening, and the feelings people get by wearing these clothes in those certain events.

The first thing to take in mind for a systematic understanding of clothing, images and meaning is by defining the basic construction of the communication discourse system. This makes it easier to identify the language and vocabulary of the images. As defined by Ferdinand de Saussure, language is "a system of signs and symbols that exists prior to and outside its use by a given individual." Images are signifiers that carry meaning and value, so the meaning of the clothing worn by people can be analyzed. Like Flugel suggested "styles of dress and elements of appearance act to summon distinct feelings that enhance role performance. One's sense of importance is increased when different parts of the whole, body and clothes, fuse into unity. This style expands the proper self." Flugel called this visual image confluence. A formal code mandated wearing certain specific elements of dress to show the social position and its rights and responsibilities. "Those wearing such clothing arouse a set of expectations for behavior in both themselves and the audience."

"Clothing signs make visible the structure and organization of interactions within a specific social context." In evening formality the seductive attire is very often used. For women to feel sensual the specific attire is very important, but it has to look formal, elegant and classic at the same time. The symbols of class status which identify the positions within the social institution is also a important factor of this topic. "Goffman gave the example of the wearing of clothing associated with high social economic class. The decision to wear such clothing is personal. It is worn in the hope of acquiring social prestige."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Northern European Alpine

by Lisa Blom

Swedish folk costume and Swiss folk costume

In Europe the high and white Alps, with the corresponding north and cold Scandinavia a climates that forms a cultures in this cases agricultures, getting the resources from the flora and fauna to make the clothes. Both have folk-costumes with similar cuts but the focus was on Austria and Switzerland with their (as Ploner suggested) highly promoted “eternal alpine identity –rooted in nature, rich folklore traditions.”

Maria, Sound of Music, opening scene

While the musical Sound of Music shows a beautiful picture emphasizing the old and traditional, we looked at editorials where they mix and match the prints and accessories with a more modern point of view without losing the feeling of authenticity.

Elle editorial in Luzerne, Photo: Oskar Falk

Edelweiss product, Madame magazine.

To show this alpine identity the garment are an essential part. On the street both younger simplified versions of the alpine knit and dirndls are seen as well as a classic loden coat.

Gala Gonzalez of Am-Lul in a retro Alpine sweater. Man at Saut Hermès, Paris.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rock Chic

by Mathilde Jansson

A style that I have, for a long time, people wearing on the street and in editorial is leather jackets, boots, layers of worn-out t-shirts and shirts, hats, converse, skinny jeans, studded belts etc. Clothes that lends the wearer attitude and somehow they fill the air around them with coolness. It is not only young people that you see wearing this style but even the older generation who where young in the 1950’s and 60’s, men as well as women. It is a Style that I find is closely related to Rock music, where this style is commonly seen and worn by artists.

In this essay I will look into where this style was born, who are the big influences, how it has been carried forward and developed and where we can see it today. To explain this style further, we will go back in time, back to the 1950’s where this style started. In 1954 Marlon Brando starred in The Wild One with his crew of motorcycle riders. They were all dressed in black leather jackets, jeans and boots and Marlon Brando became a hero inspiring the young audience.

This image of Marlon Brando as the young biker became the popular image of a classic American rebellion. The image of the biker slowly went from a villain as they were seen as in the 1940’s to becoming a hero for the younger population, carrying values such as rebellion and nonconformity. It was a way for the young to differentiate themselves from the older generation.

Furthermore, this youthful rebel American also became a ground for the musician’s choice of clothes. They expressed themselves not only through their music but their style was equally important for their image and for their opinions to be perceived by the audience.

Debbie Harry

As Josh Sims wrote in his Rock Fashion “Fashion helped rock stars define their rebellion, revolution, teen angst, sex and theatricality, and thus helped define it to their fans.” They created the style they wanted, often vulgar or extreme or reworked from another style. Like The Beatles for example, the started out as greasy rockers all dressed in black leather jackets. When the 1960s came, they cut their hair in mode style haircuts and introduced slim neat suits in to the rock style. As soon as an artist change so does the audience.

The style of rock musicians has changed with the decades and with fashion, style evolves and artists find ways to try to look individual. But I feel there are always elements that remain within the style of rock. Like leather jackets, skinny jeans, boots, shirts etc. Like the clothes that Marlon Brando popularized.

There are a lot of iconic rock musicians that are worth mentioning, like Elvis, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Freddy Mercury, Lindsey Buckingham, Steve Nicks and modern artist like Liam and Joel Gallagher of Oasis, The Kooks and Nina Persson of The Cardigans are just some examples. However, what I have just described as rock fashion has not fallen away from rock music: it is still closely related to music. The people that I have interviewed for this essay, a lot of them my friends, have all had the same answer to the question if music important for you and the way you dress, all of them said yes. A lot of them said that there were no specific artist that they had held as a style icon, but the ones that did most often said a rock musician from the 1960s or 70s such as Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, Bowie or some of the contemporary musicians such as John Mayer and Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Pete Dorherty amongst others.

More or less, music tends to group people together. People with the same taste in music seems to group and create somewhat of a subculture, where their world circles around music and you gather at the same clubs or bars to see specific DJs. Values, priorities and visions are shared therefore a common way of dress is normal if not unconsciously obvious in the sense that you think alike.

Redefining Masculinity

by Katherine Wang

Photo by Hedi Slimane for Vogue Hommes Japan

Throughout time men have been known as the warriors of society. From historical rulers and leaders to modern day CEOs and father figures, males have been conditioned by society to be tough, aggressive, and dominating. These traits, among others that come to mind when imagining your cliché, mythical superhero are what defines masculinity. There are variations of how to portray masculinity among different cultures that would easily cause the Western male to question his sexuality. Western society had strictly defined the line between male and female identity through the tailored suit to rugged jeans. However, until recently, the fine line that so clearly separated the genders had become progressively obscure through daring gender-identity exploration and new forms of presentation that really pushed the envelope of masculinity.

Photo by Karl Lagerfeld tribute to Helmut Newton featuring model Baptiste Giabiconi

Jean Paul Gauthier SS 2008, Silver metallic skirt draped in Egyptian style

Image credit: The Sartorialist

Feline Enticement

by Lauren Yi

There is a consistent appearance of animal prints from leopard spots, snakeskin, and tiger stripes, especially when designers took a walk on the wild side for pre-fall 2010. Whether it’s an accent accessory or a full-on statement, cat inspired prints have been in constant existence and allow women to achieve a sleek, sexy, and powerful look.

As stated from Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the adjective feline has two definitions:
1. of relating to, or affecting cats or the cat family
2. resembling a cat as: a) sleekly, graceful b) sly, treacherous, stealthy
Enticement is a transitive verb that means to attract artfully or adroitly or by arousing hope or desire. Together they communicate the following values:

We see these messages translated through fashion worn from everyday people on the streets to celebrities on the red carpet. World re-known singer Rihanna, is a perfect example of a strong, sexy, hot female stealing the spotlight from all. Her origin in Barbados gives her an exotic and unique difference from other American singers, while she also relates back to her wild side through tight clothing of leopard and cheetah prints. Her song Rude Boy which is a Jamaican and animal themed video, portrays a bad girl who wants a man to meet her physical needs and “get it on” with her.

The relation of cats as a sexy dark creature also stems off of the famous comic character, Catwoman who is a mysterious burglar and jewel thief, revealed at the end of the story to be a young, attractive woman.

Scholarly experts recognize these values represented by cat-print clothing as well. Elizabeth Rouse claims the same belief in her writing Why do people wear clothes? (pp. 123-125). She includes quotes from theorists Rudofsky and Lanver who reinstate the idea that these clothes serve to display the body and exhibit it in order to gain admiration.

It seems that man’s and animal’s clothes serve much the same purpose – sexual selection. Only the roles of the sexes are reversed. In the animal kingdom it is the male who infatuates the female with his gorgeous garb. She falls for his looks rather than his strength and aggressiveness. In human society, this is not the case. She has to track and ensnare the male by looking seductive. To prevent the male from escaping, she has to keep him perpetually excited by changing her shape and colours by every means, fair and foul. In the traditional battle of the sexes, dress and its accessory arts are her offensive weapons…It is universally true that it is the role of the female to attract, and to be chosen on the criterion of her attractiveness, and that clothes are a key factor in this process. Their views rest on their theories about ‘human nature’ and ‘instincts.’ “

Although there are several designers who have used cat prints in their collection, Roberto Cavalli signature look is a sexy woman in wild cat print in all of his many brands.

Jil Sander is a minimalist German fashion designer who represents the binary message of conservative minimalist. Her trademark look, a contemporary, somewhat odd, New Look was originally intended for women conquering executive positions in the 1980s and consists of cut pantsuit, a slim blouse and a form-fitting coat made of luxurious fabrics in plain grey, beige, blue, black or white. She designs for women whose values would be: