Home > Uncategorized > Fashion, fashion, fashion …

Fashion, fashion, fashion …

I’ve decided to toss most of my old clothes and get a new wardrobe. Why? Because my old clothes were worn out, ugly, and sometimes didn’t fit, and because I would prefer looking good. And because I’m only developing a fashion sense now, I got the input of a couple of people and took some pictures in order to see what looks good on me. I feel good when I look good. It’s easier to be more confident.

In this post: Part I – four of my favorite pictures (of the ones referred to), so you can see what I look like and agree that I’m a boss at fashion. Part II – a Toastmasters speech about fashion I gave several months ago (because I’m out of time for today, I didn’t have time to edit it).

Part I

Part II

The following is a (more or less) verbatim transcript of a speech I researched, wrote, and presented for the U’s Toastmasters club (named Key Club) a few months ago.

A common suggestion to master those butterflies in the stomach is to imagine the audience naked. Why it’s funny is not clear, but it’s easy to imagine that clothing is essential to civilization *somehow*. But what does clothing do?

At least one book implies that one function of clothing is to make you attractive, or rather, hide your true attractiveness: you don’t know if someone is fit or flabby underneath that suit or blouse. The same book speculates that it may have driven the primacy in what is attractive in a mate, brain over brawn since brawn was distorted.

So what has clothing meant to people over the years? Well, obviously the first function of clothing is to maintain the right body temperature: clothing can warm you up in the winter. If you’re mind is too busy trying to get warm, with teeth chattering, it’s not going to be able to worry about anything else.

Another book, points out that clothing is interesting in that it has many functions and conveys, or signals, many things. Clothing can convey occupation – think ‘blue collar vs white collar’. Clothing affirms gender roles, which explains why societies whose structure needs strong gender roles are so against cross-dressing. Indeed, many of us may still have an initial negative rection. Clothes can even signal our feelings – think of the happy spring dress, versus somber funeral attire.

This book goes on to claim that clothing even impacts our body image. Clothing is a “second skin” to us. Some studies show that if we think we feel well-dressed, we also feel more confident and individualistic.

Even more astounding is the speculation that it reflects history. Clothing supposedly went from relatively flamboyant to rather drab in England at the Protestant revolution. Common dress may reflect what you might call the “zeitgeist” of an era, just as Chinese pottery can usually be categorized into one dynasty or another, because styles abruptly changed at the beginnings of new historical dynasties.

But it’s also about conformity, or the feeling of being in a group. Social conformity has been shown to be one of the biggest factors in social dynamics. I mean think about it: otherwise, why wear Victorian dresses, which lead to the phrase ‘heaving bosoms’? If there are several styles of hat to choose from, why can you find photos like the one I did, of a crowd of men all wearing the same hat? Clothing is a balance between conformity and individuality.

//

So when did clothing begin to be about fashion, as opposed to utility?

Well, though I have no hard proof, I find it easy to imagine that some primitive idea of fashion has existed ever since there existed cities, because of a certain theory of what fashion is.

What is “fashion” anyway, when you think about it?

Fashion conveys you’re in the “in” crowd, doesn’t it? It means that you know what’s going on, in some sense. In fact, it’s a social signal to others. Signalling is actually a studied thing, usually by economists, and that’s where the peacocking theory of fashion comes from.

A peacock’s tail is well-known for being one, ridiculously large, and two, ornate and mesmerizing. Why? Because it’s used to attract a mate: the peacocks with the biggest tails mate more often. Why does it get more mates?

That’s where the economists idea of signaling comes in: it’s as if to show that a peacock *can* waste all the resources, in terms of food for instance, to maintain what is otherwise useless. Okay, they don’t actually say that about peacocks, but they say that about human counterparts. Material excess communicates to others that we’re so rich, we can *afford* to waste so much of our personal resources!

I think I saw a shirt once that said ‘real men wear pink’. Well, it’s kind of like that: a man wearing a pink shirt that says that is implicitly saying that he’s so secure in his masculinity that he doesn’t mind admitting he loves pink.

//

So how do you pick fashionable clothing?

Well, AFAICT there are at least three principles. One, you notice the kinds of things other people are wearing, even if it’s not conscious–that’s conformity. Two, based off the principle of order. Unifying your look, making all the pieces fit together. And three, personal interest, what makes you *stand out*, or distinct – your personal Sense of Style.

Some people have it naturally. Take my brother, for instance. Apparently, he gets complimented at least once a week at high school for his sense of style, which is All Neon, from his shoes, which are covered in neon green and orange tape, and occasionally his self-fashioned neon-tape bowtie. And it goes *great* on him, like you wouldn’t believe

Some people have more to learn. I found out fashion isn’t just about color coordination….

All of this discussion of fashion has left out one very interesting thing: the future. Very recent R & D has been about so-called “memory fabrics”….  that can compute, change temperature, incorporate soft lights, etc….

Fashions have been made of sillier things, so if and when clothing becomes *technology*, what will that mean for fashion?

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