Monthly Monday Book Review for July’2014 – Fashion & its Social Agenda

It’s first Monday of July. Time for Book Review!

Enjoy the Book Review with steaming hot coffee.

Book Name – Fashion & its Social Agenda

Author –  Diana Crane

Official description of the Book

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.

What’s in the Book?

It is divided into 8 Chapters – Fashion, Identity and Social Change, Working Class Clothing and the Experience of Social Class in the 19th Century, Fashion Democratization & Social Control, Women’s Clothing Behavior as Non-Verbal Resistance ; Symbolic Boundaries, Alternate Dress & Public Space, Fashion Worlds & Global Markets from “class” to “consumer” fashion, Men’s Clothing & Construction of Masculine Identities ; Class, lifestyle and Popular Culture, Fashion Images & Struggles for Women’s Identity, Fashion & Clothing Choices in 2 centuries.

What I liked the most?

  1. I love the fact that the book is presented chronologically. Since the book talks about fashion even during Industrial Revolution, this chronological documentation helps someone like  a 21 year old understand better.
  2. The next thing I liked the most in this book is “Appendix” (Very Strange, but True). It features Questionnaires for the reader and  focus groups like Fashion Designer. If you really answer those questions and could find a focus group partner, then for sure your whole idea of fashion will change completely.
  3. It is quite impressive because even though the book talks about Fashion it also presents lot of statistics like Income statistics etc. Well, Creativity + Technicality.
  4. The inclusion of history is brilliant. The core idea of book is “fashion”. But the history gives a whole different perspective
  5. Last but not the least, upon reading the book, every word in the book will make you think and breathe Fashion/Clothing and equally about Social Class/Structure.

Did you know?

During 19th century, suit purchased by the Middle Class men for the wedding is expected to last life time and serve variety of purposes like Sunday Church Serve, Wedding and Funerals. All this in France, very own Fashion Capital.

What was the surprise?

Clothes were relatively unavailable for working class & Fashion were created for Upper Class.

Verse to remember

“At any moment, a servant may become Master” – Chapter 7

Crowning glory

Every girl loves to own all fashion brands in the world. But there is this special dress that she loves to wear on very special occasion.

On that note, every story is great and there is no differing opinion on that.

But, the greatest, the most beautiful and the most impressive of all is “Working Class Clothing and Social Class”

This Chapter features the Dress Designs and Ideologies behind those designs in France in 19th century. It is quite interesting to read and see how far we have evolved.

So, have you read this book? If yes, were our views different?

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