Fashion always played a crucial role in culture and personal self-expression. It remains the main point in characterizing appearance and social status of the individual. As a cult, fashion always was a subject of interest of historical, sociological, and cultural analysis. People always want to have a distinct method to underline their individuality. During the whole history of fashion, its role in personal development remains important and actual. This paper will deal with the concepts and ideas of fashion as an industry and social identity.
Fashion as a Code
First of all there is a need to define the term “social identity”. Turner, during his research, stated that this is a portion of an individual self-concept, which is derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group (Turner 1986). It also predicts actual social behaviors in the groups according to the status and legitimacy in the intergroup environment (Taijafel 1979).
Regarding fashion as a symbolic way to express style and cultural identity, it also makes an impact on other levels of the social ladder. Choosing the look and appearance, person visualizes his or her identity. Nevertheless it can be not so concrete and even artificial. That is why, sometimes, prejudices upon different styles of clothing can generate negative and dramatic views of the society. Teenagers and other social groups have different ways of expressing themselves, and the main reason is to feel unique and belonging to a certain areas and groups of interests. “People, sometimes interact with objects, in this case garments, as if they are humans, sometimes because they want show to others what they believe they represent” (Barnard 2008). That is true that cloth dictates a lifestyle of a person and visualizes his or her attitudes towards every aspect of the lifestyle. It also gives a reason to stereotype a look with distinct views and ideas. It can cause even a chaos in the society on a very large scale. The materials, which are worn and carried on the body, are obvious, and that is how people create "social contacts" involved in the unstable interaction between the body and the outside world (Joyce 2005; Turner 1986). Crave and Bovone (2006) think that dressing itself affects and reflects perceptions and attitudes towards “self” and has distinct characters acting as material objects, due to immediate contact with the body. It also acts as a filter between a person and the whole surrounding of a social world (Crane & Bovone 2006).
Speaking about fashion as a code, one should regard it as a “part of the social processes of discrimination, namely the reproduction of hierarchy`s position and prestige in a deeply unequal society” (Arvantidou & Gasouka 2008). Gender identity and its development fully stand on the social constructs of garment, and fashion is one of the factors of this cause. Fashion industry, sometimes, is considered as a process of social discrimination and reproduction of hierarchy and prestige in one or another society. Most of the teenagers have some difficulties with their own identities. Acting as a part of society, youth tries to dress in the way as the similar crowd or group of interests. Some individuals dress in a different way – to show their uniqueness, but again, basing on the society attitudes and prejudices. Stereotypes and social thinking formulate according to changing fashion and appearance.
The body as a changeable but visible outer limit of the self formulates and operates experience of other people. It interacts with person actions and external environment of the society. Body, due to fashion, is regarded as a part of natural and intergroup relations. Appearance and human body are viewed as a symbol of society and historical period as it is characterized by it. It is better seen on the example of the female body because of cultural symbols preservation.
The traditional national costumes, during all the human history, showed an appearance as a part of social identification. In many parts of the world, women and men express a national idea and way of thinking by means of costumes. Patterns, garments, as well as fabric always meant particular qualities and features of a nation and country. National costumes have been changing on the whole way of the history as has been changing the way of thinking of humans and society. Nowadays, there is a tendency to globalization. That is why there is no need in self-identification as one nation. Multiple national costumes today play only decorative and historical role on festivals and other artistic and cultural events. Nevertheless, mass culture can dictate not only the look of a whole nation but also of an individual in this environment.
Body and appearance are regarded as an individual. With the help of garments, jewelry and cosmetics, person can change the body and his or her individuality in minds of other people. As garment is used to blur the boundaries of the body, it can blur some features in personal characteristics (Fisher & Loren 2003). Every feature has a distinct stereotype, and it varies in different counties and interest groups. Garments are not actual fixed elements that play the role of cloth to cover the body of a formed identity. They mostly formulate social identities that are expressed and naturalized in the body. Cloth and style itself characterize the way of mass to express themselves as individuals.
On the example of Twiggy, we can see how social thinking changes towards human look and ideals. This icon of style in sixties changed human perception of beauty. She showed another way of expressing an identity and acting as a model. Before this, models where more feminine and sexy, but she made a first step in a new way of fashion appearance. Since then, more and more models have androgenic look that attracts an attention of a public.
Fashion reflects and even predicts concepts and ideas of the society. It is a cultural product with thousands of forms. The look transposes different concepts that are implied via whole body of a person that wears it. It leads to a change of concerns of representation of and individual according to the change of his or her look. Fashion can express hidden personality and make an appearance of a wearer artificial. Cloth differentiates social groups according to their status, position, interests, and creeds.
To sum up, it can be said that fashion plays a unique role in formatting of social thinking, leading to peoples’ behavior changing that cannot be underestimated. Person is judged upon the material, jewelry, and cosmetics on her or his body. Stereotypes can lead to an individual status improvement, but also can cause harm. People try to represent themselves as personalities as early as it is possible in order to take place in a particular niche of the society. In another way, a person can be cut of some social group because of his or her look. Certain lifestyles and ways of thinking also depend on appearance; that is why it is important to observe cloth as a part of social development. “You are what you wear” – this quote is true for every aspect of the human life and interactions of social groups. Due to this fact, every person regards him or herself as a part of a society and a part of a distinct environment.
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