Today I’m just going to update you with a little overview taken from the indicative literature review I carried out over summer; the first part of which deals with fashion as self identity.
Fashion is recognised today as being more than just the latest trends in clothing and accessories. Rocamora (2002, p. 342) states that “fashion can provide invaluable insights into [the] sociology of cultural consumption and production”. This is in line with Bourdieu (1996, np) whose research focuses on high fashion and “the consumption of culture”; the idea that fashion is about buying into a lifestyle. Bourdieu’s work has been criticised for its focus on luxury fashion and for being more relevant to Parisian culture and might therefore be considered less relevant when discussing fashion involvement at a more mainstream level, where “fast” and “disposable” fashion is growing in prominence (Entwistle and Rocamora, 2006); however it does contribute to what is becoming a global arena for fashion discussion, where luxury fashion forms a significant part.
… blinding themselves and others to the fact that they hold their jobs partly because they look like executives, not because they can work like executives, (Goffman, 1990, np).
As my research will look at various aspects of identity construction (fashion and online), Goffman’s theories are a good place to begin. Goffman (1990) maintains that identity can be expressed through aspects of everyday life, where individuals seek to control how they are perceived by others by managing their personal settings, appearance and manner.
Kleine and Kleine (1993) explore the relationship between consumption and identity and the differences between the “self as I” which links to thinking and behaviour and the “self as me” which combines possessions, attitudes and beliefs, and social attributes; fashion as a way of expressing identity would relate most closely to the “self as me” aspect of Kleine and Kleine’s research. They also stress the importance of achieving identity-related goals and schema. Schema is an inner repository of knowledge relating to specific identities which enables one to express that identity; this is mostly made up of experience and feedback from social interaction rather than stereotypes, in line with findings from Chassin et al, (1985). Other interesting observations include the extent to which individuals will adopt a number of identities and the subsequent use of “identity salience” which is the value individuals attribute to an identity and this can influence the extent to which this identity is adopted. These themes will be considered throughout the proposed research.
Bourdieu (1984, np) identifies ways of dressing amongst other expressive communication as manifestations of taste and the identity. Fashion is seen as “cultural capital” which can be used to create a “sense of belonging”; this is in line with studies into the construction of social identity online where, particularly in earlier research, users were found to seek a sense of belonging through groups.
Fashion events are a key part of the industry’s lifecycle and are therefore a central arena in which fashion commentary takes place. Communication has become more instantaneous with the advent of online social media and new players like fashion bloggers, with collections being ranked in terms of their coverage on social media.
Fashion events are a core aspect of the industry’s generic lifecycle. Today, a number of cities around the world host “fashion week” events and these form part of the “industry’s calendar”. Singer (2013, np) estimates that there are around eighty of these events in the world today and discusses two types of fashion week: those in the fashion capitals that serve as working events for the industry; and those in which the “spectacle of catwalk shows is treated largely as an end in itself”. In fact there are so many fashion weeks held across the world today, that it is difficult to find a complete list.
Despite its ostensible aim to simply showcase next season’s fashionable clothing, we suggest that LFW’s main function is to produce, reproduce and legitimate the field of fashion and the positions of those players within it, (Entwhistle and Rocamora, 2006, p. 736).
Fashion weeks are acknowledged today as being “an important moment within the life of the industry” (Entwhistle and Rocamora, 2006, p. 736). Entwhistle and Rocamora’s research focuses on a study of London Fashion Week (LFW); an event that they feel embodies fashion as a broader sector. One of the important characteristics that they emphasise is that the event brings together influential people within the industry, representing designers, journalists, buyers, models, celebrities, stylists and students. This is in line with Bourdieu’s (1996) field theory which focuses on culture and power and concurs that an event such as LFW is about much more than just showcasing the latest fashion collections; it is concerned with “position taking” (choices which individuals take to signal their position) and “habitus” (lifestyle and values of social groups). This theory will be considered as part of my research, particularly in terms of identity construction, the role of the actor, and to help evaluate the intended message.
Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. J. D. (1996). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Chassin, L. et al. (1985). Self-image and social-image factors in adolescent alcohol use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 6.
Entwhistle, J. and Rocamora, A. (2006). The field of fashion materialised: A study of London Fashion Week. Sociology. 40(4). Pp. 735-751.
Goffman, E. (1971). Relations in public: Microstudies of the public order. London: Penguin.
Goffman, E. (1990). The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin Books.
Kleine, R.E. and Kleine, S. S. (1993). Mundane consumption and the self: a social identity perspective. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2(3). Pp. 209-235.
Rocamora, A. (2001). High fashion and pop fashion: the symbolic production of fashion in Le Monde and the Guardian. Fashion Theory: the Journal of Dress, Body and Culture. 5(2). PP. 123-142.
Rocamora, A. (2011). Personal fashion blogs: screens and mirrors in digital self portraits. Fashion Theory. 15(4). Pp. 407-424.
Singer, M. (2013). It’s always fashion week somewhere. [Online]. Available at: http://www.style.com/trendsshopping/stylenotes/011413_Global_Fashion_Weeks/. [Accessed on: 16th Mar 2013].