13 May 2008

Identity As A Construct -Part II: Garment & Identity

Identity As A Construct - Part I

In her article, “Three Dresses, Tailored to the Times,” (published in Material Matters: The Art and Culture of Contemporary Textiles) Renee Baert describes the link between clothing and identity as part of our repertoire of cultural signifiers, part of our cultural wardrobe that we take out when we want to express a specific identity - “Clothing is a remarkably versatile and exact instrument of cultural expression. Formalized through dress codes that may extend as far as legislative decree – or that may be radically overturned by the more mobile decrees of fashion or by sub-cultural challenges to a culture’s given mores – clothing constitutes a part of the social fabric at both its most general and most personal levels.”

The exploration of garment as an expression of identity is a study fraught with cliché. Fashion is such a manufactured thing. How does one decide if it is a product of a profit-driven capitalist society, or if it is an effort to relieve boredom and monotony? These are questions that Fred Davis asks in Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Davis claims that fashion is a little of both – a profit-driven enterprise and a way that people satisfy an urge for things new and different – and that it often becomes the voice for expressing the shared experiences and conditions that help form our identities.

I read some fashion news - not as much as when I was doing my graduate studies, but enough to know that it is an incredibly strange and perhaps vicious world. Last November I was in Las Vegas for a week or so. My daughter has television (with TIVO) and I experienced a short fixation with Project Runway. It is a good thing that I do not have a television - I would probably watch Project Runway and the Discovery and History channels and lose lots of time and maybe my creative edge (if I have one...). Anyway, I think in another life I would have liked to be a garment designer. Maybe. It does not, after all, fit into a sustainable living lifestyle.

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