Fashion statements: communication and culture

2014-07-04T09:02:07Z (GMT) by Malcolm Barnard
Modern, western people are accustomed to the way in which the clothes they wear begin their lives as ‘trendy’ or ‘stylish’, but then start to age, become ‘stale’ and are no longer trendy or stylish. We are used to the idea that clothes come, or go, in and out of fashion and the English phrase ‘old hat’ would appear to describe a well-understood drift from literal to metaphorical usage. Thus, fashion, the idea that what people wear may or may not be the current or latest style, is clearly understood in modern and western cultures. Also, modern, western people are familiar with the idea that the clothes they and others wear are meaningful. Clothes are selected for purchase, and for wearing, according to the meaning we believe them to have, or the messages we believe them to send. A novelty tie or a strappy frock worn to a job interview in the city, for example, ‘sends out all the wrong messages’. The English phrase again appears to give away an entire culture’s implicit understanding of fashion’s communicative function. Both fashion itself and the communicative function of fashion are perceived as being unproblematic and well-understood in modern western cultures, as evidenced by the title of the current volume (...continues).