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Essay Writing Fashion's Role in the Construction of Social Identities

By Kimnovak May 13, 2013 1332 Words
Fashion always played a big role in culture and personal identifying. It remains the main point in characterizing appearance and social status of the individual. As a cult, fashion always was a subject of interest on historical, sociological and cultural analysis. People always want to have a distinct way to characterize themselves within their appearance. During all the history of fashion its role in personal development remains very important and actual. This paper will deal with the concepts and ideas of fashion as an industry and social identity.

First of all it is a crucial need to define the term “social identity”. Turner during his research stated, that this is a portion of an individual self-concept which is derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group. (Turner, 1986). It also predicts actual social behaviors in the groups according to their status and legitimacy in the intergroup environment (Taijafel, 1979). Regarding fashion as a symbolic way to express style and cultural identity, it also makes an impact on other levels of the social ladder. Choosing the look and appearance, person visualizes his or her identity. Nevertheless it can be not so concrete and even artificial. That is why sometimes prejudices upon different styles of clothing can generate negative and dramatic views of the society. Teenagers and other social groups have different ways of expressing themselves, and the main reason is to feel unique and belonging to certain areas and groups of interests. “People, sometime interact with objects, in this case garments, as if they are humans, sometimes because they want to show to others what they believe they represent” (Adelman, 2008).That is true, that cloth dictates a lifestyle of a person and visualizes his or her attitudes towards every aspect of the lifestyle. It also gives a reason to stereotype a look with distinct views and ideas. It can even cause a chaos in the society on a very large scale. The materials which are worn and carried on the body are obvious and with these, people create "social contacts" involved in the unstable interaction between the body and the outside world (Joyce, 2005;Turner, 1980). According to Crave and Bovone, dressing itself affects and reflects perceptions and attitudes towards “self” and has distinct characters acting as material objects, due to immediate contact with the body. It also acts as a filter between a person and the whole surrounding of a social world (Crane & Bovone, 2006). Speaking about fashion as a code, it should be regarded as a part of the social processes of discrimination, namely the reproduction of hierarchy`s position and prestige in a deeply unequal society. (Arvantidou, 2008). Gender identity and its development fully stand on the social constructs of garment and fashion is one of the factors of this cause. Fashion industry sometime is considered as a process of social discrimination and reproduction of hierarchy and prestige in one or another society. Most of teenagers have some difficulties with their own identities. Acting as a part of society, youth tries to dress in the way as the similar crowd does or a group of interests. Some individuals dress in different way – to show their uniqueness. Stereotypes and social thinking formulate according to changing fashion and appearance. The body as a changeable but visible outer limit of the self, as it formulates and operates Experience . It interacts with person’s actions and external environment of the society. Body, due to fashion, is regarded as a part of natural and intergroup relations. Our appearances and the human body are viewed as a symbol of society and historical period as it is characterized by it. On the example of the female body it is better seen because of cultural symbols preservation. The traditional costumes, all along human history, showed an appearance as a part of social identifying. In many parts of the world, women and men express a national idea and way of thinking. Patterns, garments as well as fabrics always meant particular qualities and features of a nation and country. National costumes changed the way of history, as it changed our way of thinking and our society. Nowadays there is a tendency to globalization. That is why there is no need in self-identification as one nation. Multiple national costumes, today play only decorative and historical role on festivals and other artistic and cultural events. Nevertheless, mass culture can dictate not only the look of a whole nation but also of an individual in his environment. Body and appearance are regarded as an individual. With a help of garments, jewellery and cosmetics a person can change his or her body and his or her individuality in the mind of other people. As garment is used to blur the boundaries of the body, it can blur some features in personal characteristics (Fisher & Loren, 2003). Every feature has a distinct stereotype and it varies in different counties and interest groups. Garments are not actual fixed elements that play the role of cloth to cover the body of a formed identity. They mostly formulate social identities that are expressed and naturalized in the body. Cloth and style itself characterizes mass way to express themselves as individuals. On the example of Twiggy we can see how social thinking changes towards human Looks and ideals. This icon of style in sixties changed human perception of beauty. She showed another way of expressing an identity and acting as a model. Before this, models where more feminine and sexy, but she made a first step in a new way of fashion appearance. Since then more and more models have androgenic look that attracts the public eye. Fashion reflects and even predicts concepts and ideas of the society. It is a cultural product with thousands of forms. The look transposes different concepts that are implied via the whole body of a person that wears it. It leads to a change of concerns of representation of and individual according to the change of his or her look. Fashion can express hidden personality to make an artificial appearance of the wearer. Cloth differentiates social groups according to their status, position, interests and creeds. To sum up it can be said that fashion has its unique role in formatting social thinking As it leads to changing people’s behaviour. A Person is judged upon the material, jewellery and cosmetics on her or his body. Stereotypes can lead to an individual status improve, but also can make harm. People try to discover themselves as personalities as early as it is possible, to take place in a particular niche of the society. In another way a person can be cut of society because of his or her look. Certain lifestyles and ways of thinking also depend on appearance that is why it is important to observe cloth as a part of social development. “You are what you wear” – this quote is true for every aspect of the human life and interactions of social groups. Due to this fact, every person regards him or herself as a part of a society and a part of a distinct environment.


Adelman, 2008, Reviews: Gender Matters: Malcolm Barnard, ed., Fashion, London and New York, Routledge

Arvantidou Zoi 2008, Fashion, Gender and Social Identity, Department of Sciences of Pre- School Education and Educational Design, University of Aegean, Rhodes, Greece.

Crane & Bovone 2006, Approaches to Material Culture: The Sociology of Fashion and Clothing. Poetics, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 13 rue Cassette, 75006 Paris, France

Fisher & Loren, 2003, Embodying Identity in Archaeology: Introduction, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, Cambridge

Joyce, 2005;Turner 1980, Archaeology of the Body, Annual Review of Anthropology

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. 1979, An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations, Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Turner, John; Oakes, Penny 1986, The significance of the social identity concept for social psychology with reference to individualism, interactionism and social influence, British Journal of Social Psychology, London.

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