Friday, March 1, 2013

What is Fashion Theory?

Fashion impacts our lives on a daily basis more than we realize. When each and every one of us walk in to our closet to randomly pick out an outfit, put it on, and walk out the door, there is a whole theory behind why we picked that particular item, the process we went through and the physicality of how we wore it.

Most people may not give fashion or trends a second thought, but fashion is a complex phenomenon that should not be taken lightly.

Throughout history, sociologists, economists, philosophers, psychologists, linguists, semioticians and many other professionals have researched the idea of fashion in great detail. German sociologist George Simmel, who wrote Fashion in 1901, discussed the question of fashion's place in modern society. Simmel argued that fashion operates simultaneously to affirm individuality even as it establishes group identities. He furthermore added that fashion speaks to the common desire for personal distinction while also creating classes of people who seek the same form of separateness. Simmel moreover, explained fashion as a product of social demands.

So according to Simmel, when we approach our closet to wear something, we are not just picking out an item from the unknown with our eyes blindfolded, but that our behavior is shaped by a structure. Most of us don't walk out the door in our pajamas or night gowns. We understand and accept that there is a code of dress that we have to follow within the society we live in. We choose an item that will allow us to fit in to society, and become part of a group. But that does not mean that we all wear the same clothes that are exactly similar, the world does not wear a uniform. We each have a unique sense of style that portrays our personality, our status, our lifestyle, and even our level of education. Thus our clothes are not just pieces of fabric that cover our body, but they tell a story.

According to Simmel as participants of fashion all of us are caught up in the binary opposition of "conformity" and "individuality". We want to obey the rules of dress in society by belonging to a group, confirming it, yet we also want the choices we make to portray our individuality and our own unique styles. 

Fashion theory looks in to how and why we dress the way we dress, which factors shape our dress, and fashion as a complex phenomenon that shapes the way we live.

On our blog we give fashion advice and share a multitude of information about fashion and hijab. We would like to take this idea in to the next step,to  a more intellectual discussion of fashion as a system in which we are participants as Muslim women. Fashion is identity. As hijabis our hijab is a big part of our identity, and the way we dress is part of a whole ensemble that is coded with meanings, symbols, words, each carrying its own sociological, economical, psychological baggage. We are each units in a program that is waiting to be hacked and decoded.

Hope you join us in our journey of decoding fashion theory.  

Elif Kavakci for HijabiTopia

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