Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do We Read Clothes?

One of my recent audio/pop culture pieces is on the textuality of clothing and how clothing could be read.

I compiled a few questions which I asked a number of people in my email and phone address book. The contributors come from different walks of life and I found their answers most helpful. I am posting some of the answers to the first question of the survey:

Question 1: Is clothing "text"?

1) Dad: It is a text. Clothing serves as a commentary on form. And, let's face it, it's not just in architecture, where both form and content are important.

2) Mom: It is a text. The form reveals much about the content.

3) Uta: Clothes are even more prominent than language. You notice one's style before that person has a chance to open her/his mouth! It also shows one's intentions i.e. respect vs disrespect.

4) Benjamin: Clothing is an immediate communicative symbol. It is used to express style or merely express conformity. Ideally, I'd only wear Orvis clothing. If that doesn't say anything about me...?

5) Nola: Both. Attends to the sense/reason paradigm.

6) George: Absolutely darling, and it speaks volumes about you, your perception of the world and how you relate to your audience ( you know, when i don't give a 'flip' about them, I just wear flip-flops).

7) Joanna: Ahh, the question. Roland Barthes tried to make a semiotics of fashion. He was determined to prove that each style gesture "said" something that could be decoded. He gave up. Perhaps he gave up too soon.

8) Dorothy: I generally read clothing as how comfortable people are with their bodies and their needs at the moment. If they come to a meeting casually dressed, I assume they are not trying to impress with anything other than their abilities. If they come to a meeting dressed up, I assume they're trying to impress or the situation requires business dress.

9) Carrie: Yes, because clothing says a lot about who the person is. brand/designer, ironed/wrinkled, preppy/punk/emo/average/prude....

10) Paul: Clothing is text. Like when people look at me they know they're looking at a minimalist.


Anonymous said...

It is a text to me. Based on the cover i can decide if I want to read it or not.

B.R. said...

Hmm. Right. I like this.

Anonymous said...

The few texts that are worth reading are more likely to be in certain areas and urban centers, wouldn't you agree? For example, Manhattan folk, some at least, are more likely to dress a certain way than folk in Des Moines. Much could also be said about conformity and clothing.

Anonymous said...

Btw, when are we (and by 'we' I mean, you and I), going on a Ben Sherman trip? I need to get some new things and a little bird told me you approve of their '07 line. I agree with Kate, when BS is mentioned, that should signifiy what you often refer to as 'economy of speech.'
My bias is also amply featured here. Ha-ha.

B.R. said...

Definitely, soon. I have been thinking lately about their choice of color. Do you know why Ben Sherman opted for the British Navy colors? Did some research but didn't quite detect the 'why.'