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Fashion and identity

Fashion is a non-verbal language, an identity, a self definition and a self presentation in everyday life. But is an ideology as well, used to construct social and cultural identity. “Clothes are never a frivolity; they are always an expression of the fundamental social and economic pressures of the time.” (Laver 1968:10)

Fashion isn’t just about what you have on the outside, it can be about fashioning the individual. It can’t be expressed by what you wear because you think it’s not appropriate. It’s about also normalising, that’s the thing about ideology; is about the values that ideology said that are important. The values are not universal, it’s all about a particular time and a particular culture.

What about the gender roles and the relationship with social situations? The first thing to say is that the gender is not about being a man or a woman, we’re thinking about masculinity and femininity; those are the constructs, those are the ideas associated with being a man or being a woman in terms of ideology. It’s not what you’re born as, it changes in different cultures and different times. What we see the normal of masculinity now is not what it was the normal masculinity many years ago and the same with femininity.

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But how the constructions have been conventionally linked and differenced? What is masculine by definition and what is not feminine? And vice versa. We have linguistic polarities: male vs female, active vs passive, logical vs sensual, public vs domestic, you know that “the men are from mars and women are from venus” haha. It’s based upon very very long standing of divisions who go back hundreds of years, particular the nation of logical and sensual. Women were supposed to stay at home, remain attractive, sensual and take care of home and kids because men are the authority and the women are just bossy. Women are to be look at, decorative, objectified in one word. Why we always need to think what is appropriate for a man and what is appropriate (or not) for a woman? Fashion can be seen as a significant part of all those gender polarities, that society has build upon and normalised in terms of ideological value but also a difference in terms of hierarchy, in terms of power.

From the beginning of time women were supposed to fight for a place in society and clothing was always a major aspect of their careers. Born in the 1970s, power dressing is a style that allows women to start their influence in a professional and political environment, usually dominated by men.  In 1873 a writer for a women magazine affirmed “A woman, even if she is a simple worker, ought always to be a woman, and to take extraordinary care of her appearance” (Flamant-Paparatti 1984:95) and in my esteem, he’s absolutely right.

You can’t go and work in a corset so women were needed to adopt another style. The well-known Chanel suit was the first professional suit representing a starting point in the way women dressed, and also an encouragement for women to try to reach their professional goals giving them flexibility to fit with their independent and active lifestyles and the most important, to be accepted as equals by men.

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Nowadays we have some main icons such as prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana or Kate Middleton-The Duchess of Cambridge who seems to copy Diana’s style, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and many other. But the Iron Lady’s style “set the rules on how female politicians should dress, which is a conservative, powerful but simultaneously feminine way”, according to fashionista.com.  I really admired her courage and professionalism; she was trying to find a place for women but still playing by the man’s rules, recalling that she has the power and also engaging respect.

 

References:

  • Crane, D. 2000, Fashion and its social agendas: class, gender, and identity in clothing, University of Chicago Press, Chicago; London
  • http://fashionista.com/2013/04/margaret-thatcher-set-the-bar-for-power-dressing

Pictures:

  • http://petitefillerouge-petitefillerouge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/fashion-identity.html
  • http://sequinsandsexdreamsxoxo.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/masculinity-vs-femininity.html
  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2305861/Margaret-Thatcher-style-icon-power-suits-pussybow-blouses.html