Getting All Dressed Up

Appadurai defines the Consumer Revolution as a “cluster of events whose key feature is a generalized shift in the reign of sumptuary law to the reign of fashion.” He explains that it occurred as a result of various sequences and conjunctures of mobile society, sophisticated marketing, rising wages, mass merchandising, class conflict, literacy, numeracy, expert knowledge, book trade, and commodified information.

In attempting to understand consumption it is important to keep in mind that the consumption of different products maybe the result of different factors. The increase of diversity and social interaction has resulted in more fragmented consumption practices. Consumption is paradoxically an attempt at both unification and differentiation.

Appadurai identifies nostalgia is one aspect in the complex formation of fashion. Nostalgia can be defined as a longing for a past you personally experienced.

This ipod case uses a casette tape. This design is nostalgic for the pre-mp3 technology

This ipod case uses a casette tape. This design is nostalgic for the pre-mp3 technology

Ersatz Nostalgia is nostalgia for a past you did not personally experience. Appadurai explains that one strategy of advertising and imagery today is to “create experiences of duration passage, and loss that rewrite the lived histories of individuals, families, ethnic groups and classes. In thus creating experiences of losses that never took place.” (Appadurai 77)

These products refernce imagery from the 30s, a time most consumers of this product were not alive.

These products refernce imagery from the 30s, a time most consumers of this product were not alive.

Another form of nostalgia is nostalgia for the present. “Stylized presentation of the present as if it has already slipped away.” (Appadurai 77) “These images put the consumer in an already periodized present, thus even readier prey to the velocity of fashion. Buy now, not because you will otherwise be out of date but because your period will soon be out of date.” (Appadurai 77) This longing for the present is possibly the result of feeling that everything new has happened already, in another time and place.

This ad uses contemporary buildings to make the viewer feel as though the present is quickly going to be a thing of the past.

This ad uses contemporary buildings to make the viewer feel as though the present is quickly going to be a thing of the past.

The aesthetic of the ephemeral is a result of the condition of instability. In the shift from leisure to “pleasure as the organizing principle of modern consumption…the pleasure that has been inculcated into the subjects who act as modern consumers is to be found in the tension between nostalgia and fantasy, where the present is represented as if it were already the past.” (83) “Desire is organized around the aesthetic of ephemerality.”(84) Appadurai explains that “the aesthetic of ephemerality becomes the civilizing counterpart of flexible accumulation, and the work of the imagination is to link the ephemerality of goods with the pleasure and senses” (85)

According to Appadurai ephemerality is valorized through the periodization of media images, the short shelf life of products and lifestyles, the speed of fashion changes, the velocity of spending, the system of credit, and the transience of tv images. (83)

anycoloryoulike, Adrian adresses the aesthetic of ephemerality.

In his project TRASH:anycoloryoulike, Adrian adresses the aesthetic of ephemerality.

“In regimes of fashion, the body is the site for the inscription of a generalized desire to consume in the context of the aesthetic of ephemerality,” and “the body of the consumer itself potentially ephemeral and manipulable.” This creates a society where “fashion practices [of] impersonation, not indexing, is the key to distinction.” (84)

Sagmeister explores the body as a site for ephemerality.

Sagmeister explores the body as a site for ephemerality.

Fiona Candy makes the important point that in addition to understanding fashion as a symbolic game, fashion needs to be understood from the experience of wearing clothing. She raises important questions such as how does the act of dressing convey identity? Dressing is part of the daily act of self-construction and enacting the self. She emphasizes to the fact that the perception of wearing clothing changes the meaning of it. Additionally, there is a need to recognize that imagination has a role as a social force, and this imagination brings the material new meaning

In her essay “Performing Dress and Adornment in Southeastern Nigeria, Sarah Adams uses the uli body art as a case study to “focus on the discrepancy between personal, embodied performances of dress and adornment, and external aesthetic appraisals.” (109) She explores the way in which an embodied perspective of dress and adornment give agency back to the viewer, rather than assuming they are being passively inscribed with culture.

In their essay “Women, Migration, and the Experience of Dress”, Mary Littrell and Jennifer Ogle post the question of how the experience of fashion helps people construct their identities in a globalized world. They explain that “for these Indian women, their expanded experience of dress ultimately was instrumental in supporting the development of a new, multifaceted, and transnational sense of self.” (131)

In her work I am the Locus #2, Adrian Piper addresses the fluidity of identity using clothing and makeup.

In her work I am the Locus #2, Adrian Piper addresses the fluidity of identity using clothing and makeup.

Supporting Appadurai’s assertion that fashion is a system of impersonation, not indexing, they conclude that the women had “a keen recognition of the role of social context and audience in guiding one’s lines of dress behavior and corresponding identification of self. Implicit here was not so much the question, “Who am I?” but rather, the query, “Who can I be with you?” (130)

Posted by: Bareket Kezwer

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