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Fashion theory – Roland Barth Essay

Roland Farther and the End of the Nineteenth Century Roland Farther was a French philosopher, linguistic, critic and theorist. He was also the first begins systematically to think through the intellectual changes in the study of fashion and clothes. His fashion theory has a close relationship to his structuralism and linguistic knowledge, and defined fashion, clothes their origins and functions within the system. First of all, Farther saw fashion as a whole system. Based on the article, system has been defined as ‘a group or set of related materials or immaterial things forming a unity or complex whole.

Fashion as a sort of system, has the features of that parts cannot be explained without interpreting the relationship to the whole system. Also, fashion is should be explained by other dimensions in the society too, such as social facts, and so on. So, he summarized the thoughts like fashion system is the totality of social relations and activities that are required for fashion to come into existence’. He pointed out the systematic society relies on structured human activities, and human economic activities can be divided in three dimensions: Production, strutting and consumption.

Respectively, he divided ‘garments’ in three dimensions based on the theory: firstly, ‘real garments’, which corresponds to the dimension of production; ‘represented garments’, corresponds to the dimension of distribution; ‘used garments’, relates to the dimension of consumption. So, fashionable garments are not belong to the real garments, instead they are representative garments since they are in the realm of distribution that producers want to ensure that the garments are satisfied the demand of consumers.

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Followed y the explanation, the chapter focused on the introduction of the three dimensions of garments. Real clothes, which arises to indicate the modality clothing assumes before it is translated into the garment of representation. They do not represent anything, so Farther defined the real clothes as an object like a prototype. The represented garments can be separated into image clothing and written clothing, which belongs to two systems: system of image and the system of language. He took the example of a fashion magazine that uses each of the two systems to descriptor a cushion garment.

He concluded that language is a more powerful system because it more readily renders the physical substance of the ‘real garment’ into a set of common, abstract signifier. In addition, image and language has different functions. According to Farther, image clothing provides the potential users with a stencil of the real garment and inflects there traces of real garments in an aesthetic direction while language translated the garments into a system of abstract and intellective meaning and it is closer to the nature of true fashionable garments’.

In the other word, loathes have more similarities with language than image, because they are two models of communication. His thoughts included a lot of philosophies from formal chapters, which discuss clothes through sociology and history. Farther admits that clothing is a social phenomenon and seen as a set of garments that have acquired their present for, because of their past. It is also notable that Farther not agreed with the idea that the origin of clothes is decoration. He thoughts this question should be explained from the aspects of systematic.

Farther thoughts was highly structured eased on his field. Also, he emphasized the function of language probably because his study on linguistic. It is interesting that in this article I saw more about his structuralism theories from the example of clothing. Highlights of the Article Farther who first begins systematically to think through the intellectual changes that would eventually amount to a ‘paradigm change’ in the study of clothes and fashion. Breather’s reputation as a fashion thinker’ rests mainly upon the doctorate that never was, The Fashion System.

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The books opening section titled ‘Introduction: Method’ is a impressive and lucid demonstration of his methodological approach to the question What is fashion?. System, defined as ‘a group or set of related or associated material or immaterial things forming a unity or complex whole’, lay at the heart of the revolution that swept through French intellectual life after the Second World War and one which has come to be known by the generic term ‘structuralism’. ‘System’, ‘structure’ and totality are all closely related terms intended to signify.

They (structuralisms) insist that the whole and the parts can be properly explained only in arms of the relations that exist between the parts. The key assumption at work is the idea that any social fact’, such as fashion, should not be regarded as something having a singular identity. The central thrust of the idea of ‘system’ is to carefully sort out the differential components of fashion and then see how the complex network of relationships’ can Join together these different dimensions into a dynamic whole. Systematic is the process of bringing together different elements into relationships of mutual dependency.

The fashion system is the totality of social relations and activities that are required for fashion to come into existence. ‘System’, therefore, is a way of conceiving of human existence as something in which a structured collective being precedes, and provides the foundation for, individual being, and this has steadily become a central organizing principle of Western thought. Human action is ‘structured’ into patterned networks. In order that the necessities of life be secured and so ensure that social life and the life of the individual will continue, humans have to act in an organized, collective manner.

Human economic activity came to be en as comprising of three dimensions. Production – what ensures that stuff gets made; Distribution – what ensures that what is made reaches the people who need it; Consumption – the ways in which what is made is used up. Farther saw the analytical possibilities of extending this model of production, distribution and consumption to social institutions other than economic ones, in particular to dimensions of social life such as art and culture. The first of these distinctions separates clothing into three garments’. These he calls the real garment’, the represented garment’ and the used garment’.

The ‘real garment’ corresponds to the dimension of production, the ‘represented garment’ corresponds to the dimension of distribution, while the ‘used garment’ corresponds to the dimension of consumption. The implication of this is that consumers never encounter the ‘real garment’. What they encounter is the fashionable garment, the garment that is already in the realm of representation. Breather’s concept of the revised category of the real garment’ arises to indicate the modality clothing assumes before it is translated into the garment of representation.

The ‘real garment’ is something like a ‘prototype’ – that is, the object before it is named. The final distinction made by Farther is in the central category of ‘represented clothing, which he separates into ‘image-clothing and Written clothing. Language, on the other hand, Farther considers to be a ‘purer, more powerful code for the production of meaning because it more readily renders the physical substance of the ‘real garment’ into a set of common, abstract signifier. It is clear that image-clothing and written clothing have different functions within representation.

Image-clothing provides the potential user with a ‘stencil’ of the real garment and, at the same time, inflects these traces of the real garment in an aesthetic direction. Material stuff is being turned into language. The garment is being translated into a system of abstract, intellective meanings and it is this final modality of the garment that Farther sees as the true fashionable garment’. In other words, clothing is a social phenomenon. By this he meaner the tendency among previous writers to regard not Just clothes, but social life in general, as a collection of individual traits’, each with its own evolutionary pathway into the present.

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Clothing, in this model, is seen as a set of garments that have acquired their present form because of their past. Farther rejects the conclusion that it is decoration which is the chief motive for clothing. The tendency of all bodily covering to insert itself into an organized, formal and normative system, which is recognized by society. If we are set on explaining the origins of clothing, we have to include in that explanation an account of the coming into being of that aspect of the phenomenon that is collective, organized, formal and normative.

Clothing seems to resemble language in a number of ways. Like language, clothing was pre-eminently a collective activity. His final move was of a more general nature and this was to categorize clothes as a mode of communication. Clothes are always a combination of a specific signifier and a general signified that is external to it (epoch, country, social class). The most influential of Brander’s methodological advances is his separation of the historical time continuum into three distinct sorts of durations. Clothing does not ‘reflect’ anything but it may react in its own way to an external disturbance.

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