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The role of fashion in communicating gender
In the contemporary social theory, fashion and garments are a topic of intense sociological, semiotic and anthropological scrutiny. Fashion phenomena, whose impact is best capture by the popular phrase “you are what you wear”, facilitates the availability of a rich collection of costume choices and divulges numerous and unpredictable approaches through which fashion becomes part of a substantive, insightful, tangible, complex and figurative or symbolic course of creating a modern and postmodern identity, self, body and social relations (Arvanitidou & Gasouka, 2009). The progress of gender identity is a social mechanism while fashion and garment are just two of its configuration. Fashion plays a part in social stratification such as social hierarchy and lack of equality. Fashion has played a critical role in the emergence of gender ideas namely masculine and feminine appearance through different dress styles.
In understanding the role of fashion in communicating gender, it is necessary to first understand the role of dressing. According to Arvanitidou & Gasouka (2009, p 3) humans communicate with things with their environment, in this case clothes, as if they are human, what they feel they represent. Barnard (2002, p 117) notes that because of the intimate connection clothes have with the body, clothes are in a unique connection to express gender. Arvanitidou & Gasouka (2009, p 3) further adds that, the intimate direct contact that dresses share with the body makes them not only visible, but instrumental in the development of a social identity such as gender. It is what people see as the representation of the inner person to the outer world. Whatever is carried on the body is material culture and is in a position to express the connection between the values of an individual and the perceived values of the materials. The materials may be perceived as being close to personal values. Dressing influences and reveals the perception of self and acts as a filter distinguishing an individual from his or her environment. It makes people maintain their personality in the diverse social environment. The garments can further influence how individuals interact with their environment and this plays a critical role in social interactions (Arvanitidou & Gasouka, 2009, p 3). The body and garments worn serve to enforce a social identity of an individual. Additionally, garments are a social removable skin which expresses a person’s dreams, aspirations and fantasies. The fashion industry is one of the factors that strongly dictate appearance, and thus in many occasion people may have little influence on how they look. But the way people dress remains influential on sexual identity and social status, and thus garments become a tool of identity or self representation. In this regard, it is therefore, not surprising fashion through various ways communicate people’s genders.
Fashion has classified or categorized men’s and women’s cloth. That is, women opting for feminine clothes while men opting for masculine clothes. In this regard fashion provides a freedom of choice. According to Crane (2000 p 99) fashion favors one sex. He notes that, female gender has a wider choice of clothes. This can be confirmed when you pay a visit to shops that supply women and male garment. Typically, the shops have different styles of garments for ladies as compared to men. Men have a narrow range of expression when it comes to fashion, as most of their garments are mostly of the same style. However, there is diversity in feminine fashion and women can express their gender in many different ways. For instance, Crane (2000 p 99) notes that women have fashion the expresses their gender beyond social confines of ideas of gender. Women dress to express the liberation of their feminine gender. Sometime women put on clothes that were originally believed to be men’s clothes, although some societies shun it as rebellious. On the other hand, men who put on feminine garments face mockery and hostility in the society (Crane, 2000 p 171). On the other hand, women may wear men garments, and still get accepted in the society. In addition, fashion like jewelry, hairstyle and make favors women. This is yet another illustration that women have a wide range of choice when it comes to fashion. Apparently, the idea of fashion has played a significant role in communicating their gender. Typically, fashion dictates sex; it tells whether someone is male or female. This means without fashion it would be difficult to predict the gender.............
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