Clothing and its importance in Society
Clothing and its importance in Society
There is a very common saying, “The way you dress, you will be judged.” Some people do not believe this is true, they say is more important your character than your status quo, your thoughts than the car you drive etc. But today, we are living in a very corrupted and materialist world, where those second things like material possessions and appearance are taking first place on people’s priorities. This is because fashion builds the person´s identity. That’s why we should understand that clothing and fashion is important today as it was yesterday and will be in the future. For hundreds of years people have put some message in the type of clothing they wear. Long ago people started wanting to stand out from the “crowd” and be different changing their clothing. Some examples of these “standing out” became very popular and were followed by more people. This was the moment when fashion appeared.
Nowadays, fashion is defined for Malcolm Barnard a fashion reporter as a “constantly changing trend, favored for frivolous rather than practical, logical, or intellectual reasons”. Nevertheless, it is necessary to say that at the present moment fashion has a deeper influence on the life of people and possess more than just frivolous reasons for its existence. Clothing has become an integral part of self-realization of every person. It is no longer just an “external shield” and a frivolous attitude towards it may cause losing a very important physical, psychological and social aspect of a person’s life. This covering is a need, a necessity that is dictated by the norms of social conduct. This “necessity” brings a lot of variety into the lives of people and makes their image more complete. It is not about people serving fashion; it is about fashion being a slave of people. This is something we should pay attention.
The type of clothing completely depends on the person who is wearing it; therefore it becomes a reflection of his perception of himself, which leads us to the term, “personal identity”. The choice of clothing and accessories is as important as identification through the color of hair, height, skin and gender. Clothing nowadays is a media of information about the person wearing it. As every cloth carries a strong message about its owner, every owner “nests” a certain value in it depending on his temperament, mindset or today’s mood. Therefore, the clothing of a person is a mean of communication with the outside world. It is the way of telling people about the “state” of it owner. Communication is also a sing expressed by clothing. This especially touches extraordinarily in clothing or an obvious lack of taste and vulgarity. Malcolm Barnard in his book “Fashion as communication” makes a great work by outlining cultural roles, rules, rituals, and responsibilities that are maintained and constructed by fashion. Fashion is compared to art.
It is like an architect that gives his creation any shape he desires and at the same time is the reflection of the architect’s belonging to a certain social level, a certain psychological condition and so on. The message that clothing contains is basically a way of nonverbal communication with gender, ethical and power aspects. Clothes have an immense impact on the perception of people around and on the perception of the person wearing them, too. A suit can make a person feel more confident and organized, which would eventually change even the gestures and the manner of talking of the person or for instance wearing jeans after a suit may change the conduct of a person to a very liberal and feeble one. The perception of people around can be very predictable in terms of their reaction on a person wearing this or that style of clothing. Fashion is one of the most powerful means of communication, which sometimes may play a vital role in the life of a person.
So, fashion is a very important tool of manipulation while communicating besides its importance in social class, culture, sex and gender relations of people. Clothing is a fundamental part in the image of a contemporary man or a woman. The image is constructed for various reasons and has various manifestations. Dressing has become a way to create, to reveal and to conceal information from the external observers. Fashion has always been considered to have more of a women based orientation. As soon as women realized that experimenting with their clothing might bring them the results they need they became the most interested consumers and the demand on women’s production increased greatly. Women, have a great impact on the development of fashion worldwide. Of course one of the primary messages clothes carry is the social message. Women throughout the time have tried to make the clothing look more luxurious.
Historically the social message has wildly transformed. It is very easily trace in Diana Crane’s book “Fashion and it social agendas”. Nowadays clothing is not an attribute of belonging to a clan, or to a restrained social level though it still can tell a lot about the financial status of a person. A person, especially a women is always greeted according to the way is dressed up. Therefore women may cause desirable reaction by knowing the expectations of the “opponent”. Historically, women wore traditional dresses, which signified their cultural and social status. As for now, traditional clothing has been completely subdued by “fashionable clothing”. Women clothing in the past had a lot to do with emphasizing femininity, neglecting man-like forms of dressing. Women become less ladylike but more aggressive and businesslike. A woman is opposed to a man.
Women have accepted a lot of clothing styles that propagandize masculinity. Of course there still are women that are the embodiments of tenderness and femininity preserving women’s sexuality but nevertheless the general tendency of feminization in today’s society has done its work. Equality at work, business and politics has transformed the image of a woman greatly. It is no surprise to any of the people who at least know what fashion is that the clothes that people wear are usually very symbolic. The symbolism of clothing is another part of delivering the message that a person tries to put into it. Originally, a symbol is a facility that is used to express feelings or belonging to some group of class often dealing with power and wealth. Expression of symbols through clothing is a very popular tendency nowadays.
Symbolism in clothing may point to the profession the person is dedicated to. The perception of symbols is not the same as the perception of the whole clothing image of an individual, because people may interpret the same symbol differently and therefore the understanding of the carrier of the symbol will be completely different. For instance, a man with a tiger on this T-shit may seem aggressive to one person and a Green Peace member for another one. A bird may be a symbol of freedom and somebody can view it a symbol of light-mindedness. Every person has to be very careful with the symbol while visiting a foreign country, due to the double meaning of the symbols that may be offending to the culture the person is in. The goal of every symbol is to share information.
As every person belongs to a definite culture and has the right to reveal it, personal identity may sometimes be replaced by cultural identity. Clothing in terms of culture is to reveal either the historical roots of a person or the roots the group he belongs to. The oriental-followers are easily defined from the crowd by the specific collars and style of dressing they hold on to. Demonstrating a belonging to a certain cultural community is the free right of every person like people that freely declare who they are going to vote for. Talking about culture it is possible to mention that nowadays exist “material culture” that dictates its own ways and code of dressing. The liberation of culture off the borders made the cultural fashion developments increase dramatically. Wearing a cowboy hat may not be a sign of being from Texas, but a sign of political preference.
For instance it is very easy to distinguish a European from a Hindu by the style of dressing or an Indian woman from an oriental woman by the distinctive spot on the forehead of an Indian woman and a veil worn by Moslem woman. Fashion has taken the best part of the traditional costumes of every culture and sometimes this leads to propagandizing a definite cultural group. Fashion and identity are inseparable companions. Fashion with all its symbolism and attributes form an outstanding base for personal and cultural identification. Identity is a necessary process of a healthy personality as it is a part of self-realization of a person that is so much required for finding a place in life of every person.
Fashion has become a tool for achieving harmony with the inner world and a way of revealing or concealing peculiarities. Fashion possesses a specific meaning and the more diverse is the society around us the more fashion-trend will appear and surprise us. As long as it does not hurt people around fashion symbols are acceptable, nevertheless while thinking about fashion and identity it is necessary to remember the ethical side of the issue. Fashion and identity through it still remains a twofold issue but there are a lot of positive aspects one can enjoy and share with other people.
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University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 January 2017
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