Fashion and Semiotics Essay

1936 Words8 Pages
Ever since their invention many centuries ago, clothes have been used as a way of communicating. The message communicated relies on a number of factors including the social background of both the communicator and the receiver, and the context in which the message is communicated. Although at times the exact message or symbolism one is trying to portray may not be clear, it is evident that clothing has long been embraced as one of the best ways to project one’s desired personal image to those around them.

For many centuries clothing was used namely as a form of symbolising one’s ascribed class and social honour. A good example of this was evident in Feudal European times when sumptuary laws were created in order to regulate and specify
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The way in which this honour was portrayed to the outside world involved elaborate and restrictive corsetry and bulky skirts for the women and patent shoes, gloves, top hats and suits for the men. Such clothing, especially that worn by women, was completely impractical for engaging in any form of physical labour. As a quote taken from Thorstein Veblen’s ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’ eloquently states, the general consensus of this era was that '...apparel is always in evidence and affords an indication of our pecuniary standing to all observers at first glance...dress, therefore, in order to serve its purpose effectively should not only be expensive, but it should also make plain to all observers that the wearer is not engaged in any kind of productive labour...' (

With the birth of industrialisation mass production became possible bringing fashion to the masses. Whilst such an innovation allowed for a cycle of innovation and change and provided a vehicle for the lower classes to dabble in reproductions of upper class fashions, there were still differences evident within the products, which ensured distinctions between classes could be made. Such symbolism included obvious differences in fabric and even sometimes, sewing quality. Other symbols that were highly prevalent in the late 18th century included ribbons and the number of buttons a man wore fastened on his coat or

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