Fashion as communication

TS61E56LRED_Zoom_F_1“The sociological understanding of fashion involves an analysis of consumers who adopt fashion and their consumption behaviour because the consumers participate indirectly in the production of fashion. When fashion reaches the stages of adoption and consumption, it is converted into something more concreate and visible, that is clothing-fashion.” (Kawamura, 2004, pg. 89)

Consciously or unconsciously, consumers in modern and post-modern societies across the globe chose the garments they wear and products they buy in order to non-verbally communicate a certain image. This is influenced by a number of factors including sexuality, media, art, music, environment, society, culture & money. Why do we wear the clothes that we wear? And where do clothes come from? Theoretically, this looks at the semiotics of fashion, the signs and symbols created in fashion, what ideologies are transmitted through dress.

Unconsciously, I buy clothes that are similar to my peers and others around me in order to conform, however I consciously believe my clothes differentiate myself from others such as my red tassel earrings (see fig. 6). This refers to symbolic affiliation & differenation. Fashion has two sides to it, one where consumers generally conform to what is being produced and anti-fashion. “On the one hand, it is institutional, spectacular and consumer orientated – haute coture, the catwalk, the top model- while, on the other, it is eccentric and linked to alternative forms of culture and incipient ideologies- street styles and anti-fashions.” (Calefato, 2004, pg. 45.)

By shopping at the same retailers as my peers in London, I am affiliating and conforming to the group, however by buying my earrings I am also differentiating myself from my peers because they are unique. I chose eccentric red tassel earrings because to me, they represent my creativity and my quirkiness. This could be seen as anti-fashion because I am not matching what my peers around me are wearing to a full extent. An extreme case of anti-fashion would be punk fashion that was “almost entirely black and consciously menacing; it was often home-made or brought from second hand thrift shops.” (Kawamura, 2004, pg. 101) Punk fashion, made in the late 1970’s was developed as a reaction to unemployment and the anger of the youths. They used their clothing, hair and make-up in order to non-verbally communicate their wish not to affiliate themselves with any norms, conventions and rules that society forced upon them. To me, my earrings represent a slight form of anti-fashion. My wardrobe consists of a lot of second hand clothing, where I have eliminated the manipulative producer in the process of buying.


  • Calefato, P. (2004) The Clothed Body. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Kawamura, Y. (2004) Fashionology: An Introduction to fashion studies. Oxford: Berg Publishers.


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