Using the two articles, “Labels, Clothing, and Identity: Are You What You Wear” and “Fashion& Social Identity: A cultural Phenomenon” show the connection between one’s identity and fashion choice. The two articles reveal how people’s choices of fashion define who they are in terms of gender, race, nationality, culture, and ethnicity. In my own case, I have noticed that these fashion markers of who I am are deeply related to the context (time and place) and are often used to present more prominently certain aspects of who I am.
According to Kratz et all (1998), “fashion can be defined as a cultural phenomenon as it is concerned with meanings and symbols, thus is an instantaneous mode of direct, visual communication.
Fashion enables us to make statements about ourselves and our identities, with the use of clothes, accessories and/or other physical items, enabling us to visually communicate who we are, who we’d like to be, and what kind of social group we belong to and who we are most likely not to be associated”.
Without saying a word, when people look at the kind of clothes that I wear, accessories, and some other physical items that I put on, it is easy for them to know what group I belong and who I am likely to be associated with.
For example, if I’m going a party and we’re told to wear booty shorts and pint tank tops. On the appointed day, if I show up at the venue wearing my lovely long skinny jean with a pink T-shirt, some people will look at me and whisper questions among themselves asking if I was not aware of the dress code . While some may even be thinking I can’t afford the booty short and the pink tap top, others will actually think of the right reason(s) why I might be wearing a different outfit other than the expected one. However, my reason is neither because I can’t afford the outfits nor because I wasn’t present during the announcement but because my culture forbids me from wearing outfits that exposes my body. This leads to the saying, “show me your friends and I will tell you who you are”.
When you see my friends, you’ve seen part of me if not entirely. That is what my fashion statement says about me. For the past four years ago, there have been some changes in my fashion statement comparing my wardrobe at present to what it used to be in the past. In Nigeria, according to my tradition, ladies are not supposed to wear whatever clothing materials designed for the men. So most of my outfits then were just skirt and oversized shirts and when it’s time for the church, I wore my native dress called “Iro” and “Buba”. In fact, dressings in Nigeria is more conservative with women wearing clothing that covers their arms and legs while some of the more elderly ones also cover their heads.
Nigeria women do wear shorts but only to the extent of sporting events. Men, on the other hand dress casually but conservatively, meaning that trousers and shorts with long sleeved or T-shirts are the norm. For important business meetings suits and the national dress are worn. Some international visitors to Nigeria wear native attires to demonstrate that they have assimilated into the system and they feel comfortable wearing the clothes in company of their native friends. Since coming to U.S.A in 2010, there have been a lot of changes in my mode of dressing to reflect the American styles. I have evolved from wearing an oversized shirts and skirt to a skinny jean and tight tops. My fashion statement testified that I have adapted into the American culture. According to Nonny in her article “Nigerian Fashion: Then and Now”, Nigerians love to be seen in beautiful clothes and looking the very best is part of the culture.
My understanding of this somewhat cultural obsession of looking good at all times is that the way you dress sometimes make it easy or otherwise for you to be accepted and respected in the society. There is still a huge correlation here in tandem with the axiom ‘dress the part and get the part’ and ‘how you are presented, is how you will be addressed.’ If for instance you are attending a business meeting or conference, it should register in your mind that a suit or any other kind of professional dress will be the best. If instead of a business casual you decide to wear a baggy pant or jeans, the amount of respect and attention the conference participants will give you will be lower compared to somebody in formal business attire.
It is absolutely true that clothes do convey a lot of meanings and that will perfectly make sense in a developing country like Nigeria where people that live in an urban area use their clothing to send a powerful non-verbal communication compared to those that live in a rural area. Clothing in Nigeria can also convey group affiliations or ethnic group. For example a female wearing wrapper (called “Iro” and “Buba”) with head tie, or a man wearing “kaba” and “sokoto” with “fila” (all local names) on his head, are identified as “Yoruba” tribal group. Another woman wearing two (up and down) “iros” and a “Buba” with a head tie and maybe with “ileke”(beads around the neck) and a man wearing “Buba” and “Iro”(single wrapper) with a traditional hat on his head, “ileke”(heavy beads around the neck) and a walking stick in his hand, are known “Ibo” tribe.
In conclusion, someone should never be judged based on their personal fashion statement because fashion statement can portray so many things other than the message you are trying to pass across to other people. More so, the type of clothes someone wear doesn’t reveal how brilliant, perfect, and capable the person is. For instance, it’s a career day in school, everyone are expected to dress in an attire of what they want to become in future. Then you see different set of people, one dress in a lab suit, one in a professional suit, another in fire fighter suit, and so on. Those dressings doesn’t show how smart they are, rather it tells what they believe they want to become. Finally, not only do clothing convey a meaning, they actually convey a lot more varieties of meanings.