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.

Intro to Fashion Studies: Reflection on the Dressing Practice Log

Check our my dressing practice log here: tianlan-dressing-log

Besides the 7 photos that I had provided in my Dressing Practice Log. There are another 2 photos from my closet where I dress myself everyday.

To conclude what I had chosen to wear for the past week, I noticed that I chose a lot of grey and navy garments for my mundane life. I like grey and navy as I have told in my intersectionality maps about my aesthetic subject position. And I have bought tons of grey or navy clothes since they are easy to match and are always the safe choices for most occasions. In other way to say, most of clothes in my closet are navy or grey, so I can only choose from them. It’s like what Susan Kaiser mentioned in her article that most of the time, people create their own “fashion statement” but are ultimately constrained by what is available in the marketplace (Kaiser, 2012: 31), to me, it’s that is available in my wardrobe.

But I was not defined by the color of navy or grey. I admit that, sometimes, they are boring and conservative colors, and when I wore them on the Wall street and compared myself with others, I felt uncomfortable of being underdressed by only just wearing basic sweaters and pants among all these perfect fit suites and sharp cut dresses. Our consciousness of dress is heightened when something is out of place when either our clothes do not fit, or they do not match the situation, for example, when we find ourselves dressed too casually at a formal situation or too formally at a casual situation (Enteistle, 2002: 133-134). So I mixed myself with red cute dress on weekends to liberate the spirit. Also, it can be explained as I was dressing up for the occasions. For instance, if I was going out with friends or go clubbing. I dressed for social purpose. It is as Enteistle had said that our dress does not belong to our bodies but to the social world as well. So all the factors entangled together to act my dressing behavior since self-other relations also emerge as entangled, rather than binary.

However, it’s inevitable to find that my whole week dressing documentations are lack of colors, since most of the time, I picked random things in my closet that were available for me since I was running out of time for school. Like Woodward concluded in her publications, that when women are dressing in a hurry, one of the most important factors in deciding what she wear is ease of access (Woodward, 2007: 44) which for me, the clothes in navy or grey.


Enteistle, Joanne, 2002, “The Dressed Body”, Real Bodies: a Sociological Introduction, New York: Palgrave.

Kaiser, Susan.B., 2012, “Intersectional, Transnational Fashion Subjects”, Fashion and Cultural Studies, New York: Bloomsbury.

Woodward, Sophie, 2007, “Hanging Out in the Home and the Bedroom”, Why Women Wear What They Wear, New York: Berg.

Intro to Fashion Studies: Campaign and Gender – Dolce & Gabbana A/W 2015

Though Vanessa Friedman concluded Jaden Smith wearing women’s wear for Louis Vuitton saying that we are entering the age of wear what you like, clothing norms and traditions have held on to the mass consumers. In the A/W 2015 campaign, Dolce & Gabbana paid tribute to mothers with its signature theme. The ads feature not one or two, but several generations of couture-wearing models – from Grandparents to the newest born babies, entirely dedicated to celebrating motherhood and the love of family by depicting natural scenes at a family gathering. As Susan Kaiser concluded in her book, clothes are public signals about how to read individuals, the A/W 2015 Dolce & Gabbana displayed full skirts and cinched waists with abundant of lace and florals to emphasize the ultra- feminine shapes. And on the textile design, many garments were emblazoned with words in French or Italian “I love you, Mom!” or had children drawings printed on.

However, fashion ads never escapes the criticisms from feminists that advertisement dehumanizes and demeans women- turning them into sexualized objects and proffering unattainable images of beauty that most often, young, white, thin women’s bodies are represented and consumed in hegemonic cultural disclosure. And unfortunately, this campaign partially fits into the definition that were mentioned in Kaiser’s book. For what it worth appreciating, this campaign paid endorsement of women, stated the indispensable position of women in the family and the fashion, truly beautiful with detailed gender coded symbols but not sexually seductive or cheap.

Maybe critics may considers this a little traditional, the campaign is undeniably fun and cheerful. Surely most consumers would notice first and found their engagement to this modern family portrait full of love and unity.


Intro to Fashion Studies: Response to Christoper Breward’s Aphorisms

These two aphorisms come from Christopher Breward- Forward- Introduction to Fashion Studies Research Methods Sites Practices

“Fashion is made manifest in material forms. It demands study in the same way that ancient artifacts are made meaningful by archaeologists: through careful excavation.”

Artifact can be defined as something made or given shape by man, such as a tool to a work of art, especially an object of archaeological interest. Also, in my opinion, the aesthetics and significance of an artifact are usually served as a result from archaeologists’ analyzing of physical facts and historical backgrounds which include size, texture, shape, color, prints or contents; socio-political, historical, cultural context; and its purpose of use. As Christopher Breward acclaims, fashion and analyzing fashion (fashion studies) should be treated the same way as archeology in same respect. “From form to function, from extrinsic to intrinsic”. I think it is a good way to study and research. And the learning process, outcomes can be considerably constructive. But fashion has a wide range, from an H&M cotton tank top to an haute couture dress by Oscar de la Renta, we are all calling it fashion. Are we using the same way to study both clothes? Also, fashion can be a trend, a type of manner, a habit. It’s like ancient artifact is only one of hundreds of categories in archaeology. So the learning method of careful excavation may not be fully necessary with all the “fashion” though it brings meaningful research and understandings. And frankly, careful excavation to any items, products or phenomenon leads to deep understandings. But it depends on whether the subject carries the significance and necessity.

“Fashion can be about confirmation, of self and others, But it is also about anxiety, ambiguity and worry. As an aid to understanding psychological complexities it is surpassed.”

Most of us do care about our appearance and sometimes we can say the wardrobe carry your personality. As we are transferring into an era that celebrates difference, creativity, and uniqueness, clothes has changed from practical asset to a social marker. While we are walking on the street, we judge. By only looking at the fabric of the clothes, we know if a person is rich. And by only looking at the style, we know if he or she follows the trends or she keeps his or her own style. So the outfit begins to define you, represent your personality and affect your social status. It helps you attract friends with similar tastes. Also, exclude some passers-by who think your outfit is disgusting. Then, here comes to the self consciousness, the anxiety of wearing wrong, the desire of luxury products, the addiction of shopping, and other psychological disorders that fashion carries may tortures you. So fashion can be a feeling, of being good and confident, or of being miserable and anxious. I think fashion truly can be studies from psychological aspect as an aid to understand the complexities of the relationship between fashion and feelings. But using the word “surpassed”, I think he considered fashion much too important that it is actually is.