The society we are now living is an extremely conscious society regarding body image and the way we are presented to the exterior. We found an obsessive trend on wanting to look like celebrities by having certain items or looks and in relation to that a fear of not being percepted the tight way. As there will be explained further on, we use clothes as a sign of our identity,as a way of representing ourselves and stand out from the crowd and also influence on how we appear in front of others making them clothes a huge part of our non verbal communication. This essay will discuss the ideas behind self -expression and the role of clothes has changed in that mater thought time.

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March 15, Patrick T Reardon 0 Sometimes, a piece of clothing or an aspect of fashion has a very specific meaning. Around the same time, a beauty patch was a clear signal of the party allegiance of an English lady and her husband or father. If she were a Whig, she wore it on her right cheek. A Tory, on the left. A century earlier, the hair length of men had been the measure. Royalists wore their hair long, as in Catholic France.

Puritans, by contrast, were closely cropped and were called Roundheads. Similarly, in s America, the anti-Establishment young men let their hair grow and were called longhairs. Those backing the powers-that-be had crew cuts. Why is a certain style worn at a certain time in history? What does it say about the people of that time? How are those of us living today like and unlike those people? How are we like and unlike each other in our fashion decisions? Social histories deal in general ways with the subject of clothing.

I found my way deeper into these questions through art, specifically through the works of the late Anne Hollander, such as Seeing through Clothes , Moving Pictures and Sex and Suits Lurie, who mentions and quotes Hollander frequently in her book, is a novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Affairs three years after the publication of The Language of Clothes.

Grantly talks, and looks, and thinks like an ordinary man. This is where the poetry comes in. Her view of clothing is impressionistic rather than mechanistic. For thousands of years it has stood for sorrow, sin and death. Sin can be seen as a moral death, but maybe not by the sinner.

The differences can be subtle, or not subtle at all. It comes down to a certain person in a certain situation at a certain time in history with a certain goal in mind. Consider: As [Hollander] remarks, the wearing of all-black or nearly all-black costume can have many meanings. When everyone else is in bright colors, the entrance of a man or a woman in black can have tremendous dramatic impact. Depending on the situation and the style of the costume, the newcomer may seem holy, evil, dangerous, melancholy, grief-stricken or any combination of these.

Dramatic Black A version of this is what Lurie calls Dramatic Black, and she includes in the glossy color photo insert in her book two examples — Madame X, painted by John Singer Sargent in , and the photograph of a woman at the New York nightclub Studio 54 in The result is aggressively sexual.

Yet, beyond that, the outfits are very different. Madame X is in a slinky floor-length gown that, it appears, would fall to the ground at a single wrong move. This was only appearance since it was built over a metal and whalebone corset. By contrast, her fashion descendant at Studio 54 wears tight black leather pants and a rough-and-ready black bodice.

She looks as if she could go a few rounds in the ring with her boyfriend. Madame X, on the other hand, appears much more sexually available. One might call her vulnerable except that her regal stance and stature suggest she has her ways of giving battle. Camouflage Clothing is almost always suggesting a meaning rather than making a straight-forward statement. And the suggested meaning is aimed at a target audience.

No one would be quite sure how to take Madame X if she showed up in the box seats at Wrigley Field. Similarly, what would it mean if the Studio 54 lady walked into a Quaker meeting? Whereas urban clothes tend to be hard-surfaced, like the polished stone and worn asphalt of an urban landscape, rural fabrics are usually soft and fuzzy.

Tweed and wool and homespun repeat the textures of grass and bark and leaf, while corduroy, the traditional rural fabric, mimics not only the feel of moss but the look of a plowed field.

Or, better put, it helped me understand what my eyes had always noticed — that so many American men, particularly those working blue-collar jobs, look horribly uncomfortable at weddings, at least until they can take off their jackets. Lurie writes: The sack suit, as John Berger has recently pointed out, not only flatters the inactive, it deforms the laborious. It was designed for men who did little or no physical work and were therefore tall in relation to their breadth…When physically active men with broad shoulders, deep chests and well-developed muscles put on cheap versions of the sack suit they looked misshapen, even deformed….

For office workers, the sack suit is often a way to blend in, to fit in. Fitting in, though, was the last thing in the minds of those who created the Punk fashions in the s. Here was an assault on the cultural mainstream, and scary to many non-punks. Yet, Lurie reads the message of all those rips and pins and dog collars in an interesting way: In the language of clothes, the Punk style was a demand for attention, together with a cry of rage against those who should have paid attention to these kids in the past but had not done so: parents who were too immature or too exhausted, callous or helpless teachers and social workers, a welfare state that seemed uninterested in their welfare and had no jobs for most of them.

We can be definite or ambivalent about the messages we send with our clothing. As Lurie writes: We can lie in the language of dress, or try to tell the truth, but unless we are naked and bald it is impossible to be silent. Patrick T.


Book review: “The Language of Clothes” by Alison Lurie



The Language Of Clothes By Alison Lurie



The language of clothes


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