By Gloria Borroni
As I spend my days watching videos of New York’s fashion week, dreaming of owning one of those dresses, or, better yet, sitting in between the big names of the fashion industry, gazing at the models walking down the runway with my overcritical glasses on and my eyebrow raised, I wonder why talking about fashion is so difficult in an academic environment, such as UCR.
The problem is that fashion is still seen as the expression of a social status and many people fail to recognise the tight link between fashion and culture, politics, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, and all these fields that seem to interest the academic sphere more than fashion, per se.
For centuries, fashion has been painted as something useless, futile, and superficial. In fact, the idea of fashion is a concept that is not often found in many disciplinary areas. Nonetheless, its importance is proven on many different levels. At the economic level, the fashion industry is a thriving sector that produces, in the most basic of terms, a lot of money. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, whose research is focused on understanding global economy better, only in 2016 the fashion industry is worth $2.4 trillion. At a social and psychological level, fashion is connected to the concepts of identity and self-expression, and is part of those nonverbal instruments through which we communicate.
Furthermore, if we think about how fashion changes over time, it is easy to understand how it can withdraw historical information; by looking at the clothing of a period through photographs, old movies, or for more modern times, fashion shows, we can learn something about the period represented. Choosing what to wear is not irrelevant, even for those who do not think of fashion as something crucial in their everyday life, and decide for a less sought after look.
What can we communicate through fashion? The possibilities are endless, even if you are not always aware of what you are doing. In simple words, fashion communicates identities that refer to both social belonging and personal characteristics. The uniform (of any type) is a great example of how dress clothing informs us of our membership of a specific social group. This allows us to understand immediately what kind of behaviour we must take without adding any more detail. At a personal level, the style we develop over time is a way to define and make us recognizable to others. Soberness, though often justified as a ‘serious’ choice by those who are not interested in appearance, is a choice of style just as is the case with “fashion addicts”, and has the same purpose of representing the individual. As the Italian psychology professor Anna Maria Curcio has said: “Fashion, among thousands of contradictions, between appearing and not appearing and disappearing, fulfils a precise task: the search for an identity, whatever it is.” This just sounds like something that could be discussed in a classroom.
If we learn to talk about fashion in an academic sense, and to ask the right questions, it does not have to be necessarily only about an individual, but it can easily be about community. My point here is, the study of fashion can easily find its place in a liberal arts college. Firstly, it can be studied from many different point of views and secondly, it can be beneficial to better understanding ourselves and the society we live in, adding depth to our intellectuality.
Gloria Borroni, Class of 2018, is a Literature and Media major from Milan, Italy.
Featured Image Source: Amed, Imran, and Achim Berg. “The State of Fashion 2017” The Business of Fashion, 2 Dec. 2016
ANASTASIA GARCIA L to R: Robyn Lawley, Charl Howard, Nicola Griffin, Jennie Runk, Denise Bidot, Nathalia Novaes, Erica Krauter, Philomena Kwao, Sabina Karlsson, Emme, Iskra Lawrence, Sasha Exeter.