How Does Fashion Shape Social Identities Essay

1362 Words Jun 7th, 2013 6 Pages
How does fashion shape social identities?

In my essay I am going to investigate the meaning and the relationship between these two words: fashion and identity, particularly in relation to social status. Fashion and identity both represent a complex notion, especially when we talk about their association. Nowadays, if we pronounce the word ‘fashion’, which has become one of the most common words in our society, we immediately think of clothes; what people wear in the streets or what the majority of people wear, or what the latest styles of clothes are that are in the stores. Originally, the concept of fashion emerged in Europe in the fourteenth century when the changing of styles of the clothes began to speed up. As Laver confirms:
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Social position was largely hereditary, and there was little opportunity for social mobility’ (1989:79).
Indeed, in that era, social position could be recognized by the way of dressing. Only the rich could wear fashionable garments, thus the clothes differentiated the upper class society from those of the lower class. The distinction could be represented by the different colours or types of fabrics that the garments were made of. For example, relating to the fourteenth century, ‘Taffeta, a most expensive new material, was only worn by ladies of the highest rank. Noblewoman also wore the new soft narrow cloth of wool. [...]Cloths of gold and silver were worn by royalty and scarlet by nobles [...] Gold and silver tissue for royalty, new bright tan, and flame colour for nobles of high rank, also scarlet, murrey [...]’ (Bradfield, 1938:37). Jewellery, like buckles or brooches set with precious stones, was obviously worn by the upper class. Therefore, not only can dress communicate per se, but the additional physical adornments as well.
A dress is part of our clothing, a non-verbal means of communication. But clothing, or dress, does not mean only the items of clothes themselves. Clothing includes our appearance as a whole, everything that can be seen on us - may it be the state of the hair or the colour of the nails - tells something about us. ‘The dress of an individual is an assemblage of modifications of the body and/or supplements to the
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