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."

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