Clothing as a statement


The NYT published a piece this week on ‘GDR chic’. I was a little disappointed with the article – they could have taken it to much more interesting places than “how big was the team at Sybile [the GDR mag featuring fashion shots]”. S. at academichic commented on one of the implied angles – the use of clothing as a political statement.

This is not something I really paid attention to until recently. It is hard not to register a political message if you see a Western student with a black and white keffiyeh scarf around their neck, or a flamboyant drag queen draped in a rainbow flag.  But otherwise, I wonder how many people make the move from “I am dressing as I like” or “as I must” (workplace uniform) to  “I am consciously dressing to convey a certain message”.

Even if people do not set out to do that – others will still read those messages into our clothing. And that will happen even if you don’t hold strong political opinions. Our appearance provokes assumptions about our social belonging, education,  professionalism, and so on. Maddening, yes. Unfair, too. But since it is a given, it is to our advantage to consciously control that process.

The NYT article also reminded me of an interesting book. If you look up Russia – Women – Culture, ed. by Goscilo and Holmgren, Google books provides a preview. I found the chapter on “Female Fashion, Soviet Style” fascinating, especially the discussion on the significance of rigid rules of style “for official surveillance of the individual”, the expression of an authoritarian political culture in social dicta on physical appearance, and the way  people dealt with this. Do we want to play around with that in different contexts? 🙂


Ezt lefordítom, ha kéri valaki, de dióhéjban: a ruházatról mint politikai (és társadalmi) üzenetek hordozójáról írtam. A könyv, amit említek, a magyar (és egyéb posztkommunista) közeg szempontjából is érdekes!


2 Responses to “Clothing as a statement”

  1. 1 academichic

    Great points and as I said on our site, thanks so much for the book tip, sounds really promising!

    I agree that the NYT article could have dug a little deeper but it was good food for thought. I really love when something triggers an idea, I add my two cents on our site, and wonderfully thoughtful readers add their comments and inputs – that’s actually much more satisfying than reading a lengthy article anyway. So thanks for your comment!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: