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Communicating Through Fashion Authors Name Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4791 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Clothes are a language, a nonverbal method of communication that throughout its code expresses a lot about the wearer to the watcher. Prior to people talking to one another, their clothes makes a declaration that states their gender, age, rank, profession, source and character, in addition to what they are or what they desire to be at a specific instant. An industrialist is renowned in a fine tailored outfit.

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As a communication clothes can vary from usual to unconventional fashions. Clothing can recognize its wearer with a societal group or part that the individual needs to imitate. Observe how noteworthy jeans are to young people. Significance is positioned upon fashion, price as well as brands that categorize them as fashionable. Like a nonverbal communication, the jeans may indicate that they are all elements of the similar group, regardless of how dissimilar they might be communally or rationally. Young girls take the group recognition a move further by sharing clothing. In this manner they share their companionship as well as group uniqueness, just as they share their jargon in creating their own verbal communication (Adams, J. Donald, 1967). However clothes can and does convey more than uniqueness with a group or responsibility. It can as well convey the worth of that group.

Communicating through clothing

For about hundreds of years individuals have place some significance in the form of clothes they wore. Previously people started desiring to be noticeable from the “crowd” and be dissimilar from other people by means of varying their clothes. Several instances of these “standing out” turned out to be exceptionally well-liked and were followed by many individuals. This was the instant when fashion emerged. These days, fashion is occasionally described as a “frequently changing style, preferred for lively rather than practical, rational, or intellectual causes”. However, it is essential to say that at this instant moment fashion has a deeper affect on the life of individuals and own more than just frolicsome reasons for its continuation. Clothes have turn out to be an essential part of self-realization of everyone. It is no longer only an “exterior shield” and a frivolous approach towards it may cause losing a very vital physical, emotional and social aspect of a person’s life. The harmony attained by the mixture of the internal world of a person and his “exterior” makes it very tough to say not even being an expert in this subject that fashion is just as regards of looks. Clothes are essentially a covering intended to be worn on a person’s body. This covering is a requirement, a requirement that is stated by the standards of social behaviour. This “necessity” brings a great deal of range into the lives of individuals and makes their picture more comprehensive. It is not regarding people serving fashion; it is concerning fashion being a slave of individuals. “…Fashion is more influential than any dictator” (Malcolm Barnard 2002)

Fashion as a Sign System  

Fashion is a language of symbols, code and iconography that non-orally converse meanings regarding persons and groups.  Fashion in all its shapes from a tattooed and pierced navel, to the hottest hairdo, is the top type of iconography we have to state individual individuality.  It allows us to make ourselves understood with quick understanding by the viewer.

Adolescent dress is a form of communication

Adolescent clothes communicate messages other than that of belonging and resemblance, for adolescents are working out their own set of standards dissimilar as of those of their parents. Clothing can as well state the mental requirement for adolescents to insurgent alongside their parents and other adults in ability so as to hunt for independence.

The course of personal growth and development in teenage years is a compound one. Protest and revolution alongside parents as well as adults in authority are usually apparent behaviours. Objection can take the shape of pleasure and enjoyment seeking. Pleasure conveys messages of autonomy and independence. The substances as well as activities that are important to the teenager are precious in developing his/her autonomy (Black, J. Anderson, 1980).

One instance of adolescent protest is seen in their choices of clothes. In the 1950’s teenage “greasers” wore leather jackets probably with leather pants in an effort to emerge “rough”. Contemporary teenagers implemented the “Punk” or “New Wave” looks. The “Punk” look begins in England in the late 1970’s. Its emergence combines the conflicting feelings of fury, terror and sympathy for the wounded child. “Punk” dress of boys can comprise black leather jackets, studded jeans, torn shirts and pants held jointly with protection pins, uncovered skin that is injured and scratched, as well as multi-pierced ears. Girls might dress in styles alike to the boys or differ it with slit skirts, tight fitting hot pants as well as sweaters. Hair along with makeup styles consist of: bald heads, hair dyed in vivacious hues, faces greatly powdered, eyes darkly made up and lips painted with garish lipstick. Metal bicycle or dog chains can hang about the neck or wrapped approximately the hips or legs (Csikszentmihaly, Mihaly and Eugene RochbergHulton, 1981).

Adolescent clothes styles of the 1950’s grew out of profitable affluence following World War II. Together with this fact a customer market was engaged at young people who were more indulged and had cash to pay out. Originally adult designers dictated the adolescent styles; but youth began to see clothes in a new manner, as a way of self-expression. They bought just what they were fond of.

Modern young people of the 1980’s exist in an American culture that varies in time, technological advances as well as social changes from the late 1950’s and premature 1960’s. However some resemblance can be recognized. Adolescents of the mid1980’s do not have the individual memories of the Viet Nam War. They, like their forerunners of the 1950’s, are very young to memorize. A traditional politics exists that supports conventionality to past values. Progresses in the parts of civil rights have moved hesitantly. Patriotism is encouraged with a postponed appreciation of Viet Nam veterans, ten years following the reality. Youngsters are pampered by culture. A huge buyer market of young people attacked with promotion from the media. The significances adore youth. Energetic corporeal bodies sell products ranging as of soda and fast foods to well-liked music stars.

Fashion and identity

The form of clothes totally depends on the individual who is wearing it; consequently it becomes an indication of his awareness of himself, which guides us to the phrase – individual uniqueness. Currently a great deal is being heard regarding individual uniqueness and its significance in the life of every single person on the globe. The preference of clothes and accessories (clothes that is worn or agreed, but not part of a person’s main clothes) is as significant as recognition through the colour of hair, height, skin and sex. Clothes these days are a media of information concerning the person wearing it [Barnard 21]. It is a code; a cipher that requires a decryption so as to appreciate what kind of person is underside it. The current time presents a great range of these “ciphers” and consequently gives people a great deal of opportunities to expose their uniqueness. As each cloth carries a well-built significance regarding its owner, each owner “nests” a convinced worth in it conditional on his personality, state of mind or today’s temper. Consequently, the clothes of a person are a mean of message with the external world. It is the means of telling people regarding the “state” and the”status” of it owner [Barnes& Eicher 125].

Fashion and status

Fashion can propose or indicate position in a social group. Groups with elevated cultural rank like to stay ‘in fashion’ to show their position; individuals who do not stay ‘in fashion’ inside a so-called “style tribe” can danger rejecting. Since staying ‘in fashion’ frequently needs significant amounts of cash, fashion can be accustomed to try to make an impression by wealth (contrast noticeable expenditure). Loyalty to fashion styles can therefore shape a guide of social wealth and a pointer of social mobility.

Fashion can assist to get attention of a partner. In addition to showing various features of a person’s individuality that attract potential mates, keeping pace with fashion can promote a person’s position to such candidates.

“Fashion sense” comprises of the capability to tell what clothes and/or accessories look good as well as what doesn’t. Given that the whole idea of fashion depends on partisanship, so does the matter of who possesses “fashion sense”. Several people fashion themselves as “fashion consultants” as well as charge clients to assist the concluding choose what to wear.

Fashion can function in a different way depending on gender, or it can encourage homogeneity as in unisex styles.

Communication through fashion

Communication through its meaning is believed to be two-sided. So if an individual carries a well-built personal message to the people outside what is the reply from their part? The reaction is the response on the clothing the person it trying. It can be reception or total outcast and a misinterpretation. This particularly touches extraordinarily in clothes (an extremely significant individual identity) or a clear lack of taste and impropriety Malcolm Barnard in his book “Fashion as communication” makes an enormous work by highlighting cultural roles, rules, rituals, as well as responsibilities that are preserved and constructed by fashion [Barnard 13,34]. Fashion is contrasted to art. It is similar to an architect that gives his design any form he wishes and simultaneously is the signal of the architect’s belonging to a various social stage, a various psychological state and so on. One of the questions regarding the communication through fashion is whether the communication owned by fashion is the sign of the interior or outside identity. There are arguments that hold up each of the sides; consequently it goes devoid of saying that fashion is a “polyhedral being” that intersects several interior and exterior aspects of any individuality. The message that clothes contains is essentially a way of nonverbal communication with gender, ethical as well as power aspects.

Brand personality

Brand character is described as “the set of human characteristics related with a brand” (Aaker, 1997, p.347). As said by Johar and Sirgy (1991, p.23) the brand picture building strategy implies the description of a brand character and a user individuality. The match among brand personality as well as consumer personality (ideal or real) is as well an basic idea of relationship marketing studied by Blackston (1993, 1995) and Fournier (1998) which is founded on the self-image similarity notion established by Dolich (1969) and more studied by Martin and Bellizi (1982) along with Sirgy (1982), and along with others.

Brand personality is a significant basis of descriptions, a soft characteristic of image (Biel, 1993, 1997). In accordance with Aaker (1996) brand personality can make brand fairness along with three models: self-expression model, relationship basis model and functional benefit representation model. Brand individuality is additionally a parting factor that is used as a heuristic sign below low motivation, which can as well bias brand, quality information (Chaiken and Maheswaran, 1994).

To assess brand personality, investigators possibly will use dissimilar methods frequently referred to in the literature: personification techniques (Lannon, 1993), the Zaltman’s

Metaphor Elicitation Technique – ZMET (Zaltman and Higie, 1993) or the IMPSYS model (Heylen, 1990; Heylen et al., 1995).

More lately, Aaker (1997) created a measurement scale – the Brand Personality Scale. She recognized five brand personality dimensions as well as 15 facets: sincerity (down to-earth, honest, natural and joyful); enthusiasm (bold, forceful, creative and modern capability (dependable, clever and thriving); complexity (upper class and delightful); as well as ruggedness (outdoorsy and rough).

Self-concept and brand personality congruence

The idea of self-image similarity states that customer fondnesses are decided by a cognitive matching among consumer self-image as well as brand image. Johar and Sirgy (1991) recommended two choice routes to influence: a) self-congruity, defined as the match among the product’s value-expressive attributes (product-user image) and the audience’s self-concept; b) and efficient congruity, described as the match among the beliefs of product practical attributes (presentation related) and the audience’s referent attributes.

Self-congruence is the major route used in what Rossiter as well as Percy (1987) turn to as “transformational advertising”, in contrast with functional congruity which is regularly used in “informational advertising”. Fashion clothing is a product category with higher levels of conspicuousness and product involvement, implying that self-congruence is the dominant persuasion route.

Clothing is a non-verbal communication form of the individual personality and selfimage (Thomas et al., 1991). The symbolic, self-expression and socialisation roles of fashion clothing brands (Belleau et al., 1992; Elliot, 1994; Shim and Koh, 1997) also enhance the relevance of the study of the influence of self-image congruence upon brand choice.

In this paper, the brand/product image concept is replaced by the brand personality dimension which is the anthropomorphic component of brand identity (Aaker, 1996).

Self -concept and brand personality congruence and advertising response

Levi’s All Duty was the brand with highest self-congruence score and it was also the most valuable brand (see Table III). In general, youth subjects preferred brands with Excitement personality. Guess (ESo) was the brand that obtained the highest buying intention, while Nike (EC) was the most preferred brand, probably due to its print ad that obtained the highest attitude toward the ad score. Salsa (E) in turn, was the Portuguese brand perceived as more congruent to the respondents; Peter Murray’s print ad was favourably evaluated, while Lanidor was the brand most preferred. As expected, significant positive correlations between self-concept and brand personality congruence and advertising response measures were found (see Table IV) which supports hypothesis H1. We also verified the existence of a significant correlation between involvement and self-congruency thus validating hypothesis H2.

The respondents confirmed the expected brand personalities of excitement brands like Diesel, Sisley, Fashion Clinic, Cheyenne, Buzz, competence brands like Massimo

Dutti, Boss, Alto colection, sophistication brands like Trindade, Calvin Klein, and the ruggedness brand C.Tapiocca. On other hand, some brands (Levi’s, Guess, O’Neil, Portugal Radical, C111, Nathan Road, Springfield, Peter Murray and Salsa) had a higher excitement score than expected. This will allow brand builders to analyse pictorial material from these pre-tested brands, considering them as benchmarks in terms of brand personality. From the brand builder perspective, the results should help the understanding of antecedents and consequences of brand personality processing, as proposed in several branding models (Kapferer, 1991; Blackston, 1993, 1995; Keller, 1993; Aaker, 1996; Fournier, 1998).

Influence of demographic variables (sex, age) and involvement

Self-concept and brand personality congruence is also significantly influenced by sex. For some brands, perceived as female brands, like Lanidor, Acetato, Fashion Clinic, Calvin Klein or La Redoute, girls self-congruence is naturally higher. The inverse occurs with a male brand like Coronel Tapiocca but with a less significant difference.

Although they were perceived as male brands, some competent brands whose ads only had a male model, like Rosa & Teixeira, Alto Colection or Boss, were more favourably judged by girls. On the other hand, the print ad stimuli of an ES brand with female models (e.g. Sisley) were more favourably judged by male youth in terms of excitement score, competence score, and attitude toward the ad, cognition of the ad and brand equity. This could be explained by a significantly higher involvement experienced by male subjects.


Based on experts and researchers evaluations, for each brand personality dimension, two Portuguese brands, two foreign brands, and one Portuguese brand with foreign name were indicated this strategy is designated as foreign branding by Leclerc, Schmitt and Dubé (1994);

Researchers also defined a “miscellaneous group” which included a direct selling brand (La Redoute), a retailer brand (Modelo), a sports clothing brand (Nike), and a brand extended to clothing category (Coronel Tapiocca), and Zara, which was the market leader retailer in Portugal; Each subset had one brand of each personality type and a brandof the “miscellaneous group”;

Fashion clothing brands oriented to the youth segment of the market for both sexes and with their own stores or franchising system were preferentially selected; Brands with web sites were preferentially selected to allow further digital image treatments. Print ad stimuli were collected from magazines and catalogue front covers and modified to A4 format (see Figure 1);

In order to avoid bias caused by thestimuli presentation order (Buda and Zhang, 2000), or the primacy and recency effect, the researchers made 30 books (6 books by each brand subset) with different presentation orders. This procedure assured that each brand was presented in all possible book positions (from first to sixth)

Impact on outer perception

Clothes have an immense impact on the perception of people around and on the perception of the person wearing them, too. A suit can make a person feel more confident and organized, which would eventually change even the gestures and the manner of talking of the person or for instance wearing jeans after a suit may change the conduct of a person to a very liberal and feeble one [Hollander 58]. The perception of people around can be very predictable in terms of their reaction on a person wearing this or that style of clothing. Fashion is one of the most powerful means of communication, which sometimes may play a vital role in the life of a person; it especially concerns the cases of getting a desired job. Therefore fashion may not only carry a message, it can also create a “pseudo-message” that is required by a situation the person finds himself in. This can be simply proved by analyzing the reaction of the people on the street on people wearing different types of clothing. The preference is always given to people dressed in “business style”, personifying their dignity and seriousness in everything. This is one of the primary reasons that even the smallest companies make wearing a suit one of their requirements for their employees. The customers feel more confident in such “consultants”. So, fashion is a very keen tool of manipulation while communicating besides its importance in social class, culture, sex and gender relations of people.

Men, women and fashion

Clothing is a fundamental part in the image of a contemporary man or a woman [Crane 47]. The image is constructed for various reasons and has various manifestations. Dressing has become a way to create, to reveal and to conceal information from the external observers. Fashion has always been considered to have more of a women based orientation. As soon as women realized that experimenting with their clothing might bring them the results they need they became the most interested consumers and the demand on women’s production increased greatly.

Women and clothing

In spite of all arguments fashion remains possessing an ambivalent entity. Women, have a great impact on the development of fashion worldwide. Of course one of the primary messages clothes carry is the social message. Women throughout the time have tried to make the clothing look more luxurious. Historically the social message has wildly transformed. It is very easily trace in Diana Crane’s book “Fashion and it social agendas”. Nowadays clothing is not an attribute of belonging to a clan, or to a restrained social level though it still can tell a lot about the financial status of a person. A person, especially a women is always greeted according to the way is dressed up. Therefore women may cause desirable reaction by knowing the expectations of the “opponent”. Historically, women wore traditional dresses, which signified their cultural and social status [Guy& Green 76]. As for now, traditional clothing has been completely subdued by “fashionable clothing”. Women clothing in the past had a lot to do with emphasizing femininity, neglecting man-like forms of dressing. Analyzing the way of dressing today it is necessary to say that”fashionable clothing” has made a great “kick” to femininity. Women become less ladylike but more aggressive and businesslike. A woman is opposed to a man; it is no longer an “addenda” to a male, but a force able to contradict him and to compete with him. Women have accepted a lot of clothing styles that propagandize masculinity. Of course there still are women that are the embodiments of tenderness and femininity preserving women’s sexuality but nevertheless the general tendency of feminization in today’s society has done its work. Equality at work, business and politics has transformed the image of a woman greatly.

Men and fashion

Throughout the history starting with the Middle Ages men’s fashion has changed a lot. If the era of Renaissance was characterized by increased femininity in men’s clothes, the end of the twentieth century became the moment of maximal revealing of masculinity for men. Nowadays, identity has brought a lot of specific changes in the perception of a contemporary man. An open manifestation of sexual orientation has brought the image of a feminine man into fashion. The adaptation of feminine tendencies into men’s fashion is transparent. Men tend to choose practical clothes as casual clothing and suits as their “working uniform”[Hollander 43]. The whole image of a man is not brusque and rough anymore. It has become more flexible and soft. The construction of a man’s wardrobe starts with choosing from the variety of images offered by culture and class today. The gender boundary is gradually “wiped” off. Nevertheless, clothing remains the primary criterion of the evaluation of the opposite sex. While being very liberate towards the type of clothing of other men, they demonstrate especial criticism towards women’s clothing. This happens due to the variety and abundance of women around. Analyzing men’s fashion is like dealing with a complexity. This complexity is constantly changing and adjusting to the surrounding of tendencies.

Symbolism of clothing

It is no surprise to any of the people who at least know what fashion is that the clothes that people wear are usually very symbolic. The symbolism of clothing is another part of delivering the message that a person tries to put into it. The symbolism may touch any sphere. For instance: music, sexual orientation, some kind of club and so on [Barnard 62]. Originally, a symbol is a facility that is used to express feelings or belonging to some group of class often dealing with power and wealth. Every observable symbol may carry a deeper meaning than it is visually understandable. Expression of symbols through clothing is a very popular tendency nowadays. Symbolism in clothing may point to the profession the person is dedicated to, supporting the “cipher” theory. The perception of symbols is not the same as the perception of the whole clothing image of an individual, because people may interpret the same symbol differently and therefore the understanding of the carrier of the symbol will be completely different. For instance, a man with a tiger on this T-shit may seem aggressive to one person and a Green Peace member for another one. A bird may be a symbol of freedom and somebody can view it a symbol of light-mindedness. Every person has to be very careful with the symbol while visiting a foreign country, due to the double meaning of the symbols that may be offending to the culture the person is in. Though the goal of every symbol is to share information, nevertheless some symbols may be inappropriate. Particular articles of clothing also contain messages with give information about the person possessing them. For example a veil interpreted as mourning or an extreme aloofness. A walking stick may be necessary to the health condition but may also be a “sign of luxury”.

Culture and fashion

As every person belongs to a definite culture and has the right to reveal it, personal identity may sometimes be replaced by cultural identity. Cultural identity is the type of identity that is related to a certain culture or a separate group. It brings people belonging to a culture definite highlighting differences with other people. Clothing in terms of culture is to reveal either the historical roots of a person or the roots the group he belongs to. The oriental-followers are easily defined from the crowd by the specific collars and style of dressing they hold on to. Demonstrating a belonging to a certain cultural community is the free right of every person like people that freely declare who they are going to vote for. Talking about culture it is possible to mention that nowadays exists “material culture” that dictates its own ways and code of dressing [Crane 51]. The liberation of culture off the borders made the cultural fashion developments increase dramatically. The “freedom of word” has found a place in every single cultural attribute nowadays. Wearing a cowboy hat may not be a sign of being from Texas, but a sign of political preference.

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For instance it is very easy to distinguish a European from a Hindu by the style of dressing or an Indian woman from an oriental woman by the distinctive spot on the forehead of an Indian woman and a veil worn by Moslem woman. Fashion has taken the best part of the traditional costumes of every culture and sometimes this leads to propagandizing a definite cultural group. For instance, the brightest example is the increasing interest towards the Moslems and oriental culture nowadays.


Fashion and identity are inseparable companions. Fashion with all its symbolism and attributes form an outstanding base for personal and cultural identification. Identity is a necessary process of a healthy personality as it is a part of self-realization of a person that is so much required for finding a place in life of every person. Fashion has become a tool for achieving harmony with the inner world and a way of revealing or concealing peculiarities. Fashion possesses a specific meaning and the more diverse is the society around us the more fashion-trend will appear and surprise us. As long as it does not hurt people around fashion symbols are acceptable, nevertheless while thinking about fashion and identity it is necessary to remember the ethical side of the issue. Fashion and identity through it still remains a twofold issue but there are a lot of positive aspects one can enjoy and share with other people.


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