The social setup today is changing at a considerably alarming rate. Contrary to earlier times, this sphere is presenting great competition in almost all spheres of existence ranging from gender concerns, social recognition, politics and struggle for survival. All this is geared towards establishing one’s identity and a place in the society. Fashion is one such tool people use to develop and construct themselves in the community for proper positioning to reap from what the society has to offer (Bennett, 2005: 96).This paper recognizes this phenomenon that fashion is a fundamental element over which individuals can customize their characters for self-positioning, fill social gaps, and contribute to the diversity of the social fabric.
Fashion has been a subject of exceptional chronicled and sociological exchange in any social setup. The impression of fashion as caught by the adage, ‘You are what you wear,’ offers a vital stage for a dense costume portfolio revealing fascinating ways in which fashion is part of the solid and representative process coming up with modern self-positioning, identity and social relations. Fashion has become an unavoidable concept in recent decades in societal constructions and reconstructions of individual’s identity and positioning in the verge of filling missing links in the society while addressing passage of time that sees society metamorphose from one generation to another. We represent these Constructions in our day lives, and fashion plays a vital role towards this predisposition as noted by Crane (2000).
People have adopted different fashion styles for various reasons but most importantly are to stand out and define who they think they are, associated with and what they wish to become besides boosting their self-esteem and a control of sense of belonging. Sociologists appreciate the fact that appearance style is an elaborate metaphor for identity comprising natural physical features like the skin, bodily shape and hair texture in addition to clothing and personal grooming practices. And while the latter is more or less susceptible to deviations, fashion styles are disposed to fluctuations creating fluid dimensions of appreciative oneself in comparison to others. However, Clarke & Miller (2002) note that this concept contributes significantly towards using fashion as a platform to self-differentiate from the crowd to create your identity in the society for proper positioning.
The energy and impact that fashion exhibits in the social life is incredibly great as it, to a large extent, enables individuals to define their social standing and identities. The utilization of garments, backups and other substantial stuffs empowers people to outwardly talk their identity, who they might want to be, relationships, and environments they want. This, however, is one social ill that can be directly be associated with fashion in that it can foster discrimination by the entrance of hierarchical positions and prejudice in a profoundly unequal society.
Often, people confuse fashion with clothing; however, Kratzet all (1998) defines fashion as a cultural phenomenon interested with implications and signs that provide instant direct, visual communication about the identity of a person. Identity, in this way, then again, alludes to a type of social portrayal relating the connection between an individual and the outside world. Both piece of clothing and fashion assume a key part in the improvement of sexual orientation personality. Clothing in addition to exhibiting fashion has a myriad of dimensions in purpose like functionality and protection are instrumental in deducing a person’s orientation by mere observation.
Different people have different reasons to express their identity and positioning in the society. These may incorporate issues of societal position like age, financial class, sex, sexual introduction, race, progress, and independence (Miles, 1998). Individuals can easily customize their identity by being creative with fashion upon these facets such that they communicate culturally coded, visual messages about themselves. Bennett (2005) further puts forward that the fashioned body is a lateralization of someone’s personality, sexual preference, and educational achievement amongst other affiliations.
Two 19th century sociologists George Simmel and Thorstein studied fashion and identity in two fascinating dimensions. Simmel’s work is of the view that fashion exhibits broader perspective of power, status and a visual statement of wealth. This notion is strengthened by Bennett (2005, 100) observation that ownership of fashionable items renders different individuals to membership to specific social groups. Veblen further adds strength to this thinking through his theory of exposed consumption. He postulates that when individuals consume fashionable goods, they exhibit awareness about social trends and collectively show wealth hence forming internal bonds within themselves that strengthen their social echelons while isolating themselves from those who cannot afford.
People interact with objects, such as fashionable items as if they are humans majorly to communicate what they believe in and represent. By the virtue that there is direct physical contact and intimacy of fashionable materials and a person’s body, it’s visibly easy to deduce the social identity of an individual. These materials having being carried on somebody’s body are instrumental in creating ‘social contacts ‘with the outside.
Two crucial characteristics majorly considered when studying fashion and identity are sex and gender. Sex and gender are like fashion and clothing- they are dissimilar. While sex is biological, gender is culturally constructed. Women fashions are prone to changes from season to season more than men fashions. This is because, men unlike women, who are passive and considered as better consumers of fashion, are the active sex and they are culturally constructed as creators in society. This phenomenon translates to the fact that men’s fashion has more to do with functionality and practicality which assists them to work and meet their duties as providers.
On the other hand women, fashions notwithstanding capacities and common sense put a more prominent significance on eye-getting bid and plan of the item.
Fashion additionally assumes a noteworthy part during the time spent socialization in sexual and sex parts by chiseling the male and female pictures. This to a large extent helps determine socially acceptable behavior. In the advent of fashion, men who were interested in fashion were considered strange, while on the contrary, ladies putting on manly clothing were socially acceptable. Inevitably, what we perceive first when we meet people is the judgment on sex and gender of a person which in most cases is identifiable from one’s attire (Anderson, et al., 2001:198-208).
Cross-cutting facets that influence fashion and identity are race, ethnicity, and nationality. People are naturally attracted to other people who share similar history and backgrounds. In this modern day times, there has been a rapid migration of people from one place to another. This has innovated world fashions but also expressing people’s origin for communication purposes to those they share similar orientations in foreign lands. For instance, Dodd, et al., (2000:4 pp1 –48) gives an example that ethnic dress is only worn by particular people to distinguish them through putting on fashionable items that speak of an individual’s cultural heritage. Across the globe different countries, cultures and religion manifest distinct notions of either sex, for instance, the national dress characterizes the socio-political idea of the state and political edges making it simple to distinguish the natives from a specific nation. Even though fashion is inherently contradicting and ambiguous in that the fashionable items usually lead to uncertainties of responses and ultimate confrontation by the society, fashion being a creation of culture, under it’s countless of forms manages to transpose the varied concerns that may. Duveen (2001) postulates that such societal concerns arise especially in the crop of new fashion designs leave the members of the society who are not ready to adopt the fashion with “hanging questions.” This is because fashion can be viewed as a representative of hidden desires and fears of the wearer. Questionable fashion trends can raise anxieties among societal members due to the doubtful messages such fashions portray for instance street costume movements or provoke taboos like a man putting on a woman’s skirt.
Fashion, in addition to being a way of self-identity and society positioning, also symbolizes the transitivity of culture due to its liquidity nature. The phases that fashion transits on are usually captured by the passage of time and become the chronological history of fashion, representing different periods individual’s identities and positioning in the society. This process has been on the rise over a couple of decades mainly due to changes in cultural values. For instance, the clothing industry has displayed both unconscious and conscious views of morality, designers and consumer ideology and thus the way of life itself. While form is pretty much socially shallow, it is sociologically noteworthy since it is capable of unprecedented surprises glancing in the past while searching into the future.
Some of the important groups in the society instrumental in the creation and consumption of fashion and identities are the youth and subcultures. Most youthful population, due to lack of many responsibilities, use a substantial amount of their disposable incomes on fashion trends as exhibited in Britain in the 50s when Britain implemented social and political reforms improving people’s standard of living ( Fisher & Loren 2003, pp. 225 –230). With the youth having more disposable income, the fashion industry took advantage since the youth used most of their money on what was trending. The economic boom didn’t last for long creating a generation gap. Young people not exposed to Britain pre-war were exposed to the changing world, and while these youth did not have comparable styles, societies, and methods of insight, this prompted to the rise of subcultures plainly recognizable by their mode of dressing and behavior.
Individuals at any one moment of interaction with others, through fashion they can select the Persona one wishes to assume. Namely one can liberally choose from diverse forms of fashion or better still what favors one more (Crane &Bovone, 2006). Fashion is a fundamental and controllable mode to share on a person’s values, exhibiting deeply rooted emotional and psychosocial stances. Both the community and the directly noticeable nature of fashion renders fashion an excellent platform for studying values that heavily contribute to social construction, identity, and positioning.
Hansen,( 2004:33, pp. 369-92) points out that fashion, though not directly blessed by dominant societal values, attitudes and other situations in which people seek their self-identity, it contributes massively to the growth and diversity of new dimensions of values important in constructing the identity of those who adopt it. Different fashions as earlier stated in this paper symbolically communicates the societal identity, more so on how a person seeks to paint his/her picture for the society to read. For example, the Japanese Lolita fashion is one of the most popular styles from the Eastern regions. Gothic Lolita, a subculture of the larger Lolita fashion, has been popular among people obsessed with the Gothic dressing style that emanated from the Victorian way of mourning. Most of the clothes are mysterious, uniquely dark, and with obscure patterns. The primary communication of the Gothic Lolita seems to be that of a serious select group that wants to stand out from the rest of the shiny world that would have otherwise preferred colorful clothing.
Consumption of fashion at a seemingly constant rate by individuals has aided in cultural production. People have to a large extent ascribed to fashion goods with meanings and symbols, and therefore there exist constant construction of both the male and female image. Individuals then customize and communicate their identities in individual ways. By the virtue that individuals are all human, different and distinct from one another, fashion offers us a platform over which we can viciously express ourselves to gain some sense of belonging (Pisut, & Connell, 2007, pp. 366–379).Fashion, therefore, can be looked at as one of the factors aiding self-actualization and smothering individualism. Bennett (2005) effort to show that fashion can be an important tool for communicating identities and positioning in the society through visual statements is therefore unanimously abiding.
Wetherell (1996) concludes that with this clear understanding of fashion and identity, it is vividly evident that with the adaptation of fashion, individuals can successfully portray various facets about their identities. This social process in which individuals can communicate their identity and their positioning to the outside world is the identity construction. Often, individuals find it a challenge to express who they are and are borne to become using words. Fashion and appearance style offer a golden chance to articulate a statement about our identity that could have been difficult to express in words. Identity ambivalences also bring on board a greater challenge since it’s possible for one identity to blend into another; for instance, gender into sexuality. Overall, identity ambivalences give a good platform for ongoing inspiration for fashion change, and therefore giving fashion a chance for individuals to construct and position themselves in relation to other society members.
Anderson, L.J., Brannon, L.E., Ulrich, P.V., Presley, A.B., Waronka, D., Grasso, M. &
Stevenson, D. (2001).Understanding Fitting Preferences of Female Consumers: Development an Expert System to Enhance Accurate Sizing Selection, National Textile Centre Annual Report, pp.198-A08.
Barker, C. (2000) ‘Youth, Style and Resistance,’ in, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage.
Bennett, A. (2005) ‘Fashion,’ in, Culture and Everyday Life. London: Sage.
Clarke, A. & Miller, D. (2002) ‘Fashion and anxiety,’ Fashion Theory, 6, 2, pp.191-214 Crane, D. (2000) Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in
Clothing,Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dodd, C., Clarke, I., Baron, S., & Houston, V. (2000). Looking the Part: Identity,
Meaning and Culture in Clothing Purchasing —Theoretical Considerations. Journal of
Fashion Marketing and Management, 41 –48
Duveen, G. (2001). Representations, Identities, Resistance. In K. Deaux& G. Philogene
(Eds.), Representations of the Social. Oxford: Blackwell.
Fisher, G., & Loren, D. (2003).Embodying Identity in Archaeology: Introduction. Cambridge
Archaeological Journal, 13, pp. 225 –230.
Hansen, K.T. (2004).The world in dress: anthropological perspectives on clothing, fashion and
Culture, Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, pp. 369-92.
Kratz, C., Reimer, B. (1998). ‘Fashion in the Face of Postmodernity’, in, A. A. Berger (ed.), The
Postmodern Presence: Readings on Postmodernism in American Culture and Society. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.
Miles, S. (1998) ‘Consuming Fashion,’ in, S. Miles (ed.), Consumerism as a Way of Life. London: Sage.
Pisut, G., & Connell, L.J. (2007). Fit preferences of female consumers in USA. Journal of Fashion Marketing, 11, pp. 366–379.
Roche, D. (2000). A History of Everyday Things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Russell, W. Belk, (Eds.), The Routledge companion to identity and consumption, Routledge Wetherell, M. (1996). Constructing Social Identities: The Individual/Social Binary in Henri
Tajfel’s Social Psychology.In W. P. Robinson & H. Tajfel (Eds.), Social groups and identities: Developing the legacy of Henri Tajfel. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.