Thursday, December 13, 2007

Textile Conformity and Dress Camaraderie

The following paragraph comes from Virginia Postrel's "The Substance of Style."

'Today’s aesthetic imperative overturns the simplistic dichotomy
between "rebellion" and "conformity," or "individual" and "mass": The result is selective conformity, an implicit or explicit drive for finer and finer gradations and the looks that identify them. Rather than choose between standing out and fitting in, we conform in some ways and diverge in others, choosing (consciously or unconsciously) a mix of meaning and pleasure, of group affiliation and individual taste. Friends develop what zoologist and author Desmond Morris calls "costume echo," adopting similar conventions of dress and carriage. Morris first identified the phenomenon when he "noticed two women walking down the street who dressed so similarly, they could have been in uniform.'

Clothing serves as a marker of individuality and conformity. The sign of the collective oozes a powerful aesthetic but somehow I think that much more verbal attention needs to be placed on what the subtext of "textile conformity" - as I have termed it - consists of. As Postrel observes, we do confirm openly in some ways while diverging in others. The question I raise is: What is it that we derive out of voluntary dress conformity or lack thereof?


Unknown said...

i would say that 'textile conformity' is more ubiquitous than idiosyncratic ensembles. it's easily observable everywhere.

Unknown said...

and i'm sure i'll be using the phrase 'costume echo' now.

Maggie said...

And the question I raise is: What do we hide with textile conformity or rebellion? Clothes reveal much about a person, but they also conceal aspects that the wearer wants to forget about. Such as their past or what social class they were raised in. What's the difference between shopping at the punk store The Cat's Meow on State St. in Madison, WI vs. Kohl's in Los Angeles vs. Nordstrom in Dallas? Each shopper, I would bet, is choosing a costume to simultaneously reveal/conceal.

B.R. said...

Exactly, Maggie. We reveal much about our identities paralinguistically. And we reveal much by omission as well. "Oh, Max does not do Old Navy or the Gap." That statement reveals much about Max. He is defined by virtue of what he leaves out as opposed to what he does.