Fashion & Semiotics

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For centuries individuals or societies have used clothes and other body adornment as a form of nonverbal communication to indicate occupation, rank, gender, sexual availability, locality, class, wealth and group affiliation. Fashion is a form of free speech. It not only embraces clothing, but also accessories, jewellery, hairstyles, beauty and body art. What we wear and how and when we wear it, provides others with a shorthand to subtly read the surface of a social situation. Fashion is a language of signs, symbols and iconography that non-verbally communicate meanings about individuals and groups. Fashion in all its forms from a tattooed and pierced navel, to the newest hairstyle, is the best form of iconography we have to express individual identity. It enables us to make ourselves understood with rapid comprehension by the onlooker.

Rôles and activities are closely linked to what people wear. People are affected by their rôle-set, which includes boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, friends, husbands, lovers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, relatives, employers, customers, clients, work mates, business colleagues, peer and age groups.

The people with whom a purchaser interacts affects the final purchase and this applies to any fashion dominated item from interior furnishings to choice of cars. Likewise the purchase of fashionable clothes, fabrics, or accessories becomes a visual currency and speaks volumes silently. The tools of fashion provide the signs and symbolism that function as an information service for the rôle-set.

People are so aware that others make judgements about them through their clothes and accessories that many run up huge debts to appear to belong to a particular lifestyle. Frequently the rest of their rôle-set are doing likewise. Members of the rôle-set often encourage them. Only individuals with a strong sense of self identity stick their necks out and admit to wearing items that others might consider dubious or...
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