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?