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Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing

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It has long been said that clothes make the man (or woman), but is it still true today? If so, how has the information clothes convey changed over the years? Using a wide range of historical and contemporary materials, Diana Crane demonstrates how the social significance of clothing has been transformed. Crane compares nineteenth-century societies—France and the United Stat It has long been said that clothes make the man (or woman), but is it still true today? If so, how has the information clothes convey changed over the years? Using a wide range of historical and contemporary materials, Diana Crane demonstrates how the social significance of clothing has been transformed. Crane compares nineteenth-century societies—France and the United States—where social class was the most salient aspect of social identity signified in clothing with late twentieth-century America, where lifestyle, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ethnicity are more meaningful to individuals in constructing their wardrobes. Today, clothes worn at work signify social class, but leisure clothes convey meanings ranging from trite to political. In today’s multicode societies, clothes inhibit as well as facilitate communication between highly fragmented social groups. Crane extends her comparison by showing how nineteenth-century French designers created fashions that suited lifestyles of Paris elites but that were also widely adopted outside France. By contrast, today’s designers operate in a global marketplace, shaped by television, film, and popular music. No longer confined to elites, trendsetters are drawn from many social groups, and most trends have short trajectories. To assess the impact of fashion on women, Crane uses voices of college-aged and middle-aged women who took part in focus groups. These discussions yield fascinating information about women’s perceptions of female identity and sexuality in the fashion industry. An absorbing work, Fashion and Its Social Agendas stands out as a critical study of gender, fashion, and consumer culture.


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It has long been said that clothes make the man (or woman), but is it still true today? If so, how has the information clothes convey changed over the years? Using a wide range of historical and contemporary materials, Diana Crane demonstrates how the social significance of clothing has been transformed. Crane compares nineteenth-century societies—France and the United Stat It has long been said that clothes make the man (or woman), but is it still true today? If so, how has the information clothes convey changed over the years? Using a wide range of historical and contemporary materials, Diana Crane demonstrates how the social significance of clothing has been transformed. Crane compares nineteenth-century societies—France and the United States—where social class was the most salient aspect of social identity signified in clothing with late twentieth-century America, where lifestyle, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ethnicity are more meaningful to individuals in constructing their wardrobes. Today, clothes worn at work signify social class, but leisure clothes convey meanings ranging from trite to political. In today’s multicode societies, clothes inhibit as well as facilitate communication between highly fragmented social groups. Crane extends her comparison by showing how nineteenth-century French designers created fashions that suited lifestyles of Paris elites but that were also widely adopted outside France. By contrast, today’s designers operate in a global marketplace, shaped by television, film, and popular music. No longer confined to elites, trendsetters are drawn from many social groups, and most trends have short trajectories. To assess the impact of fashion on women, Crane uses voices of college-aged and middle-aged women who took part in focus groups. These discussions yield fascinating information about women’s perceptions of female identity and sexuality in the fashion industry. An absorbing work, Fashion and Its Social Agendas stands out as a critical study of gender, fashion, and consumer culture.

30 review for Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

    Not much original analysis in this, but the synthesis of history of fashion is admirable and the citations are so fecund. A beautiful compass for those eager to learn more about the history and politics of fashion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heytricia

    A parte mais atraente desse livro são os resumos e detalhes sobre história da moda que aparecem ao longo dele, infelizmente não achei ele tão relevante no que se propõe a fazer, ele foca tanto nas classes sociais em como a moda costumava estar presente delas, nos séc XIX e XX que ele acaba soando como um livro ultrapassado e deixando um pouco a desejar nos outros temas como gênero e identidade, por exemplo. É um livro que traz alguns pensamentos interessantes e curiosidades, mas que serve mais p A parte mais atraente desse livro são os resumos e detalhes sobre história da moda que aparecem ao longo dele, infelizmente não achei ele tão relevante no que se propõe a fazer, ele foca tanto nas classes sociais em como a moda costumava estar presente delas, nos séc XIX e XX que ele acaba soando como um livro ultrapassado e deixando um pouco a desejar nos outros temas como gênero e identidade, por exemplo. É um livro que traz alguns pensamentos interessantes e curiosidades, mas que serve mais para você conseguir outros autores para pesquisa do que para você usar citações dele na sua pesquisa.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Sark

    1 – Fashion, Identity and Social Change p.1 – Clothing, as one of the most visible forms of consumption, performs a major role in the social construction of identity. Clothing choices provide an excellent field for studying how people interpret a specific form of culture for their own purposes, one that includes strong norms about appropriate appearances at a particular point in time (fashion) as well as an extraordinary rich variety of alternatives. One of the most visible markers of social stat 1 – Fashion, Identity and Social Change p.1 – Clothing, as one of the most visible forms of consumption, performs a major role in the social construction of identity. Clothing choices provide an excellent field for studying how people interpret a specific form of culture for their own purposes, one that includes strong norms about appropriate appearances at a particular point in time (fashion) as well as an extraordinary rich variety of alternatives. One of the most visible markers of social status and gender and therefore useful in maintaining or subverting symbolic boundaries, clothing is an indication of how people in different eras have perceived their positions in social structures and negotiated status boundaries. In previous centuries, clothing was the principal means for identifying oneself in public space. p.6 – The best-known theory of fashion and clothing behavior is Simmel’s theory of fashion change as a process of imitation of social elites by their social inferiors (1957). Simmel’s model of fashion change was centered on the idea that fashions were first adopted by the upper class and, later, by the middle and lower classes. Lower-status groups sought to acquire status by adopting the clothing of higher-status groups and set in motion a process of social contagion whereby styles were adopted by groups at successively inferior status levels. By the time a particular fashion reached the working class, the upper class had adopted newer styles, since the previous style had lost its appeal in the process of popularization. p.7 – Although Simmer recognized that some trendsetters were working-class women who had become actresses or courtesans, he has been criticized for emphasizing the sole of superordinate groups in initiating the contagion process. Others argue that upward mobile status groups were motivated to adopt new styles as status markers in order to differentiate themselves from groups subordinate to themselves, while the highest-status groups, whose eminence was secure and based on wealth and inheritance, tended to be relatively indifferent to the latest fashions (McCracken 1985:40). p.14 – Simmel’s “top-down” model was the dominant form of fashion dissemination in Western societies until the 1960s, when demographic and economic factors increased the influence of youth at all social class levels. The enormous size of the baby boom generation and its affluence compared with that of previous generations of young people contributed to its influence on fashion. Since the 1960s, the “bottom-up” model, in which new styles emerge in lower-status groups and are later adopted by higher-status groups (Field 1970), has explained an important segment of fashion phenomena. In this model, age replaces social status as the variable that conveys prestige to the fashion innovator. Styles that emerge from lower socioeconomic groups are often generated by adolescents and young adults who belong to subcultures or “style tribes” with distinctive modes of dress that attract attention and eventually lead to imitation at other age and socioeconomic levels (Polhemus 1994). 8 – Fashion and Clothing Choices in Two Centuries p.237 – Clothes are intended to be worn in public space; we dress for others not for ourselves. Therefore, the nature of public space influences the ways in which people use fashionable and non-fashionable clothes to express their identities and to make subversive statements. Changes in the characteristics of urban spaces and in the availability of “alternative” public spaces affect people’s perceptions of how it is necessary to present themselves in public. Such changes often have the effect of increasing or decreasing opportunities to use clothing as a means of subverting the dominant culture. Fashion was one of the earliest forms of global culture, but in a type of global economy that differed from the present one. […] In the past, the production of fashion was an activity of social communities or “fashion worlds” of culture creators who attempted to establish themselves as “quasi-artists.” In the late twentieth century, global culture is multifaceted: styles flow from centres to peripheries and vice versa. Today, the production of fashion takes place in sets of organizations in different countries that operate on a global scale and that are subject to the competitive pressures of the global marketplace. p.246 – Luxury fashion designers present themselves as daring and creative artists, but their activities are embedded in organizations that require high levels of investment to penetrate global markets and that use fashionable clothing styles to confer images on other products. p.247 – Fashion’s social agenda always speak to and for certain social groups and exclude others. In the nineteenth century, the bases for exclusion were inferior social class status and lack of conformity to a specific gender ideal. In the late twentieth century, exclusion is more likely to be based on age and sometimes race. More subtle forms of exclusion are expressed in the selection and definition of target customers for sophisticated or esoteric clothing. Material cultures such as clothing provide clues for “grounding” notions of post-industrial society and postmodernist culture.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Izetta Autumn

    There's just no way around it: this book was truly painful. Drawn out, poorly and uninventively written, and to be about such an exciting topic, surprisingly and inexplicably boring. My disappointment, I think, is in direct connection to how excited I was to read this book. I can't even begin to express it - I moved it back in the cue so that I would save it for my prime reading month. From the outset, I noticed that the person who had the book before me, seemed to highlight heavily in the introd There's just no way around it: this book was truly painful. Drawn out, poorly and uninventively written, and to be about such an exciting topic, surprisingly and inexplicably boring. My disappointment, I think, is in direct connection to how excited I was to read this book. I can't even begin to express it - I moved it back in the cue so that I would save it for my prime reading month. From the outset, I noticed that the person who had the book before me, seemed to highlight heavily in the introduction, but then the happy yellow highlighter marks seemed to just dissipate. And no wonder, the author repeats herself too frequently. I think part of the problem is that the book was compiled from a series of academic essays which Crane previously published as separate pieces. Second, Crane, as many sociologist are trained to do, kept her writing fairly flat, unemotional, and not only repetitive, but built nearly all of her argument from the statements and theories of others. As a reader, this felt disengaging - I had no sense of the author's voice or own theory. Third, Crane seems reluctant to take her clearly well-researched conclusions and extrapolate more broadly. Lastly, Crane ignores race, until the final chapters, where her references are discordant with the rest of the text, and where she neglects to build on the work of other sociologists (like Patricia Hill Collins) who've written extensively about the intersection of identity and perceptions of hegemony. Instead, Crane ends with a poorly integrated information on how Black womyn (no Latinas, Asian, or Arab womyn represented) and white womyn differ in their readings of fashion text. I did enjoy parts of the fashion history, learning about the development of fashion, explaining Simmel's theory of diffusion. All of that explained and adjusted how I look at fashion. And I do now know the difference in all sorts of fashion detailing, which I appreciate. This could have been a great book - and as an academic text, I'm sure it in part gets the job done. I have a hard time believing, however, that this is the best that fashion history has to offer. The movie, The Devil Wears Prada, sums up the book in this fantastic scene with Meryl Streep. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_b4FbSvM-I

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tove

    This book was so good! Lots of statistics-- which as any fashion reader knows is pretty uncommon-- of class, social, and monetary indicators, some of which suggested conclusions different from what I'd believed. Well organized chapters in approximate chronological order that concentrated on class struggles, gender discrepancies in spending, wearing, and reading fashion images, etc. It weakened a bit in the last chapter or two as Crane struggled to distill late 20th century fashion complexities, This book was so good! Lots of statistics-- which as any fashion reader knows is pretty uncommon-- of class, social, and monetary indicators, some of which suggested conclusions different from what I'd believed. Well organized chapters in approximate chronological order that concentrated on class struggles, gender discrepancies in spending, wearing, and reading fashion images, etc. It weakened a bit in the last chapter or two as Crane struggled to distill late 20th century fashion complexities, but I'll forgive her that, the rest was so impressive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Houx

    Fashion and Its Social Agendas compiles an impressive amount of historical research on a fascinating topic. Despite this, the book was remarkably boring by avoiding both historical detail and conceptual depth. Steering between the two, it seemed as if the author was consciously trying to make the text as generic as possible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Sadly, I couldn't get into it. Maybe another time. Sadly, I couldn't get into it. Maybe another time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Nickens

    I feel like this book tries to do too much, so the argument comes across as overly general and the chapters seem disconnected from each other.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11628330 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11628330

  10. 5 out of 5

    A.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luiza Andrade

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lexie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brigitte Dale

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ana Gupta

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heyder

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  17. 5 out of 5

    Keri Garnett

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tifani Buchanan

  20. 5 out of 5

    dia

  21. 4 out of 5

    urankubu

  22. 5 out of 5

    Müge T

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sevenadams

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

  25. 4 out of 5

    Xiaochu Meng

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karin Dubbelve

  27. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Yavuz Cingöz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fredrik Timour

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