“Why do we dress ourselves?”
Generally speaking, one half of the society would probably be astonished as to why we are asking such a meaningless question, seeing as dressing is something natural and typical for human being. One of the most common answers would be that people dress to protect themselves from dangerous weather conditions. Clothes are a kind of shelter and they represent our existential motive. Naturalness of clothes as protection does not seem as something that is socially produced. We can just take a look at differences that appear from one culture to another or just at the diversity among members of our society. Why were women despite the snowstorms wearing miniskirts without tights in the 60’s? Why are we dressed even in the safe place of our homes where we would sometimes be more comfortable naked? When we try to answer those questions we realize that protecting our naked bodies is not the only function that clothes have. One of the aspects is also to hide certain parts of our body that are not appropriate to be revealed within our culture. Do we internalize the shame of revealing or is this punishment from God for Adam and Eve’s sins? Are their fig leaves our pieces of clothing? There is no hiding without revealing, no hidden without the obvious and no indecency without attraction. However, we comprehend ourselves as objects and subjects of beauty.
We are objects and subjects of decoration that is inseparably linked to the aesthetic motive.
Our style is a part of our identity and of who we want to be in the specific moment of the current society. Identity is an item of clothing, we can ‘dress’ it and ‘take it off’ whenever we want. Not only does a piece of clothing have its material dimension but it also has something ‘more’, something that helps people to interact among each other, maybe even more than with direct communication. We give information about our social and economic status, religious and cultural belonging and about other social characteristics with pieces of clothing and with their proper combination as means of communication. As we can see the act of dressing is a complex social phenomenon especially in today’s capitalist society. We have to see the variety of dimensions and prevent ourselves from falling into Plato’s cave full of reductionism about the functions and motives of dressing. It is of great importance that we question the things that seem the most self-evident or trivial in our society; and the act of dressing is certainly one of them. Therefore, is the question ‘why do we dress’ really something meaningless in our society? The person who says that dressing is a part of naturalness or the person who thinks over the act of dressing; who is the real fashion victim?
Text: Tajda Hlačar