Visual Analysis

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A Semiotic Analysis of Four Designer Clothing Advertisements "The technique of advertising is to correlate feelings, moods or attributes to tangible objets, linking possible unattainable things with those that are attainable, and thus reassuring us that the former are within reach". (Williamson 1978:31). Hence the advertisement not only sells the reader the product, but also a future image of ourselves as more desirable, happier etc…. Through the process of being advertised a product becomes a representation of everything the reader desires to become. "What the advertisement clearly does is thus to signify, to represent to us, the object of desire" (Williamson 1978:60). It could thus be argued that the most important concept in advertising is the notion of ‘me’. In order to be successful advertisements need to portray an image of ‘me’ and tell us how to make it even more appealing, attractive, sexy etc. In this way the product is given personality; communicating not only information but also image. Due to the fact that it is through the use of the products advertised that the model signified in the advertisement appears as he/she does, it is the implication, or connotation, of the advertisement that the audience can become as attractive and appealing as the model by using the same products. In the majority of advertisements the models signified always look directly at the audience, making eye contact. One of the main reasons for this is that it evokes the idea, and notion, of looking at oneself in the mirror. In this way the advertisers are again implying how easy it would be for the reader to become the model. Eye contact is particularly useful as a signifier. The eyes have long been a significant communicator of messages and feelings. For example the length of time for which eye contact is held, the position of the gaze etc. these all communicate different sentiments. An illustration of this could be ‘staring’, where the gaze is wide and direct, and eye contact is held for a prolonged period. This is often seen as aggressive and challenging. As with eye contact it can be claimed that clothing is also a very important and useful signifier. Although it is true that the clothes we wear serve, primarily, as bodily covering, for warmth and protection, at a fundamental level, it can be argued that clothes are, in fact, far more than this. Dress provides a signifying system which can be used to communicate messages and meaning about the wearer and his/her attitudes, social status, religion etc. Within the human culture clothing plays an important role as a powerful source of signification. In putting on clothing people are occupied in producing images of themselves. These images are made to suit their own needs and, more importantly, to conform to various ideological and lifestyle codes. In this way, fashion is a "reflection of cultural values and attitudes" (Danesi 1994:157). It is for this reason that, for the purpose of this assignment, I have chosen to attempt a semiotic analysis of several printed advertisements promoting designer fashion houses. The following four advertisements have all been chosen at random from the same issue (March 2000) of Vogue magazine. Vogue is one of a group of magazines aimed at women from any ethnic background, aged between approximately 18-35, who have money to spend on clothes and cosmetics. The main focus of this magazine is fashion and beauty. This said, however, it is important to remember that in most cases the magazine is not only read by the purchaser but often by a variety of other readers, and that "not all the readers will belong to the group of women which the magazine targets, and some readers will be men" (Bignell 1997:58). Messages are rarely read in the way by everybody who perceives them. Often magazines such as this adopt their own identifying slogan which appear on the spine of every edition. For example, Cosmopolitan magazine carries the slogan ‘Smart girls carry Cosmo’ and...
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