By: Sharon White

It is a well known fact that has proved to be true for ages that people are being judged not only by natural qualities, personal character or educational level but also by the clothes we wear and the looks we have. Clothes are the reflection of our inner nature and condition. In an ancient time there was no distinction between male and female clothes or style, however now we see that there is specific clothes nd fashion for both men and women. Each new fashion reflects the attitudes and believes of the generation it is designed for.

It has been suggested by many critics that clothes can change societys ideas of sex, gender and the roles of men and women. Rouse suggests that fashion and clothing do not reflect already established ideals of gender identity. However some critics propose that fashion and clothing follows strict basic ideas of masculinity and femininity. This essay plans to investigate the different ideas that critics have produced on fashion and identity, and see if Rouses idea of clothing being part of the process can be applied to examples of conventional and inverted fashion. It also plans to look at the argument that by not conforming to gendered clothes of a persons sex, that person has really escaped their gender identity.

It has been suggested that fashion is composed of 3 elements; the principle of conspicuous waste, the principle of conspicuous leisure and the principle of up to datedness where waste does not serve human life. This idea supports the Marxist idea that fashion only appears when society is so well organised that it produces more than the minimum needed to survive thus this surplus is suggested to show itself in the form of fashion where clothing is concerned.

Braudel can be seen to support Rouses theory by his own idea that fashion began by noblemen, squires and the bourgeoisie wearing tunics so tight that they revealed what modesty bids us to hide. The reason for doing this can be seen as a show of male masculinity thus creating an unconscious link between this way of dressing and their power in society as men and as the Elite ruling class. Wilson suggests that it began in the 14th Century with the changing of a series of styles that was determined by the Royal court right up until the 18th Century.

The idea that womens fashion in the 19th Century demonstrates the wearers abstinence from productive employment supports the idea that fashion helps and is part of the process of creating an identify. This can be seen by the fact women wore bonnets, long skirts long hair that prevented and restricted their movement to a minimum, thus the idea that they were dependant on men was strengthened and their position in society.

It suggests that fashion underlines sexuality so when clothes are worn to produced gender bending ideals it makes the majority feel threatened. He also thinks that exaggerated standards of beauty can be disempowering and even offensive. My first example is Christina Aguilera at the Music awards in Edinburgh 2003. The clothes she chose to wear to this event do not reflect conventional ideas of femininity, and for this she has been criticised by the magazine. Her first outfit is a torn tie-dyed dress and seems to be Tasteful due to the fact it is a dress and reflects the gender identity allocated conventionally to it. In total contrast the next outfit is very domineering. It consists of leather trousers a bra and a little lace top. In contrast to the last outfit she wears her hair up as apposed to wearing it naturally. In wearing this she is creating an aggressive masculine image however, the magazine writer has mocked her by saying she has forgotten her top suggesting that what she wears is not acceptable in society as it does not reflect her sexuality. The next outfit creates a strange image for her. We suppose it is a female one as she is in a skirt; however this outfit goes completely against convention and makes the viewer slightly uneasy as we try to guess what identity she is trying to convey. This could be seen as Wilsons idea of exaggerated standards of beauty. In her next outfit her image again has undergone a complete change. She is in trousers which do add an n image of dominance it is toned down by the neutral colour of it.

However the top with it reflects femininity by the fact it has a bow, which is quite a feminine idea or has been allocated female identity. In contrast the next outfit uses the same colour as the previous shirt, in a way that exaggerates femininity. However it is paired with a pair of trouser s that create a very masculine image. The fact that she does not reflect a set gender in her clothes again or the viewer is slightly uncomfortable. In her next outfit seems to create a gothic image that the magazine takes the piss out of perhaps because it does not reflect female gender identity. This is in contrast to the last outfits she wears which do create and conform to the identity of a conventional woman, however the last one in particular is again a very extreme version of this thus the magazine calls it ridiculous.

It can be said then that the clothes Christina Aguilera wears on this night does create a certain gender identity, however whether we as viewers accept her decisions to wear the clothes depends on whether the reflect already existing gender identity in a way which is not excessively extreme. It can also be said that she is trying to escape the false and constricting ideology of feminism. She is in a way reversing gender roles by wearing trousers As we feel almost uncomfortable with women in trousers and taking on masculinity, when men do it we see it an acceptable way of dressing. Women can be seen as attempting to refuse or escape the ideology of femininity by the wearing.

By the fact that clothes create an idea or identity means that there must be the basic idea of gendered clothing to start with. In this view Rouses argument could be seen as contradicting itself. Larrain suggested that reproduction was the continued existence of institutions, practices and products and relative social positions of people. If we see reproduction in this way the idea that fashion must reflect existing gender and sexuality can be seen as equally true. Tilkner 1977 suggests that there is some kind of distinction in dress, however the particular attributes emphasised as masculine or feminine vary widely according to time and place. For example Crawley drew attention to the fact masculinity in Europe is signified by the wearing of trousers, while in parts of Africa masculinity is signalled by the wearing of an apron. There has also been the same idea of different emphasis at a diff period of time for colour too. Steele brought to light the fact that in the 18th Century Pink was worn by boy babies and Blue for girl babies as pink was seen to be a more dominating and strong colour. It was not associated with femininity until the 1920s.

About the author:

The article was produced by the member of masterpapers.com. Sharon White is a senior writer and writers consultant at term papers. Get some useful tips for thesis and buy term papers .


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