Intro to Fashion Studies: What is Fashion?

When I thought of Fashion, I thought of Prada’s campaign that were printed in the magazine and getting switched seasonally; I thought of street style pictures that I saw online with celebrities wearing their stylish clothes and Hermes Birkin, holding a cup of coffee and proudly waling on the street; I thought of myself dressing up in the latest trend and going out with my girlfriends and getting drunk in the city lights. There were lot of images flashing into my mind when I thought about the word “Fashion”, concluded as the concept of “visual and material interpretations”. (Kaiser 2012: 1)

Earlier in this week, a neighbor who shared an elevator with me asked me about the Canada Goose coat that I was wearing. He asked me “I’ve heard about this coat, and what do you think of it?”

“Well, you know, it’s a nice coat, and a nice brand. Actually, I’m just trying to fit in as well as to stand out in my school. Because everyone there has nice coats, you know, expensive coats, and I thought winter is coming, so I got this. And frankly I was enjoying when my classmate gave compliments on my coat. But you know, it’s just a coat. I don’t think it worth $1000. $500 could be more reasonable.”

“Umm, I was just wondering that does it really keep you warm as it said?”

“Ahh, yes, it does. Sorry I misunderstood.”

I felt so awkward when I realized I literally quoted a sentence from Kaiser’s book to answer my neighbor’s casual question on my coat. But at that moment, I realized that I did have more perceptions on fashion and my “fashionable behaviors”.

Take this coat case as an example of what I think of fashion. I realize that the reason I buy this coat is very complicated. Because I do only buy an object and its warmth, I buy, according to Susan Kaiser (2012) mentioned in her book about Robert Williams theory, people also buy social respect, discrimination, health, beauty, success, power to control your environment. (Williams 1980: 47). And this buying behavior is absolutely the consumption part in fashion industry. But as we were told not to use binary thinking to analyze fashion, we can see that this behavior is also entangled with psychological and cultural influence of the brand as well as my subject formation- “who I am and who I am becoming” (Kaiser 2012: 21). It can be related to the habitus (Bourdieu 1984), and it also can be the historical, cultural, and economical influences. And now, when I think of fashion, images, and theories come to my mind like an overwhelming flood.

Kaiser, Suan.B. 2012. Fashion and Cultural Studies. London and New York: Bloomsberry.

37 thoughts on “Intro to Fashion Studies: What is Fashion?

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