The body, the garment and the Kantian sublime in fashion

2017-07-27T12:34:54Z (GMT) by Malcolm Barnard
This article concerns the ways in which Kant’s account of the sublime may be used to explain fashion. It uses examples from designer Rei Kawakubo and theorist Elizabeth Wilson to introduce the argument that our everyday experiences of the body, the garment and fashion are actually experiences of the sublime. In order to make this argument, the article places these experiences in a western philosophical tradition by considering Hegel’s early-nineteenth-century account of the relation between the garment and the body. The article then argues that Roland Barthes’s account of Erte’s alphabet-drawings is a critique of Hegel and Wilson, and that it presupposes Kant’s idea of the sublime. The article provides an account of Kant’s sublime in the Critique of Judgement, written in 1790, relating it back to his account of the schematism in the Critique of Pure Reason (written in 1781). The conclusion is that the experience of the sublime, of the inadequacy that is necessarily involved in the application of concepts to intuitions or in the subsumption of intuitions under concepts, is found in all experience and thus that fashion is always constituted by the experience of the sublime.