A Look Into: Fashion & Personal Identity
By Nifemi Ashani
Clothing, identity, and fashion are words that connect us to the visible expression of self and others. These three words are constructed from history, biology, geography, religion, power systems, memories and personal fantasies.
Clothing is the general raw material that an individual decides to wear. In the simplest terms: any coverage for the human body. Looking at it more complexly, clothes can carry significant signs according to their shape, colour, surface, decoration, embroidery techniques etc.
Clothing can change how we view the world and how the world views us. Virgina Woolf has said, “there is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”
Over time, the observation of clothing creates the assumptions made about a person’s identity. The Oxford dictionary defines the word identity as: the fact of being who or what a person or thing is, and characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.
Identity has two forms. The first is personal identity, which is an individual having a clear image of who they are and who they want to be through their goals, descriptions and ability. The second is social identity, which is about an individual who feels that they can belong in a group and that group accepts them.
Fashion is everywhere and everything; fashion is shaped through how our clothes speak for our identities. A popular look at a given time or an accepted look at a given time is what is considered “fashionable.” What is defined as fashionable in one country may not be the same in another country.
Clothing is an “identification” tool that functions in determining the symbolic boundaries between people in a sense. Fashion and clothing is a field where clothes are used to create and reveal a cultural and social identity. The unique identity of a person is embodied by clothing and fashion, and this has been going on from ancient times and will continue into the future.
In the next issue of Fashion is Everywhere and Everything, we will be taking a look into Fashion & Social Identity.
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