Flirting with Fashion

I have a new addition to my ever-growing collection of books to share with you! Whilst browsing online, I was surprised to come across this gem…Doing Research in Fashion and Dress: An Introduction to Qualitative Methods. Even though I’m familiar with most of the work cited, it’s refreshing to see a methodological focus coupled with one of my favourite topics! The author gives an introduction to the methods connected to various theoretical approaches to the complex yet often overlooked area of fashion/dress in Sociology.

I have had a personal interest in the history and sociology of fashion/dress for what feels like for forever given that my gran was a dressmaker. The bug followed me to sixth form where I completed a small project using survey research exploring ‘conformity or individuality: do we dress for ourselves or for others?’
But the thing is, at the moment I find it difficult to justify conducting this kind of research myself within the parameters of my commitment to ‘make a difference’.  I’m under no illusions that I can change the world but all I ask is to inform, educate and empower to the best of my ability. Fashion/dress is of great interest to me and has been for a long while, even before my university days but sometimes I wonder where it fits in, in terms of making an impact. It seems that the practical consequence of this type of research can be abstract, making me question my investment in the topic.

The field of fashion/dress in Sociology is a complex one, baffling in terms of the potential positions, for example based on consumption, self and identity or social divisions. So one of the best bits of the book for me is the discussion about the terminology: fashion, dress, clothing, appearance etc. These terms are often used interchangeably in popular culture, appearing mysterious as to their individual value. Especially so in this realm, concepts need to be deconstructed in each research project, otherwise they risk displacement within the broader research literature. To me, fashion and dress aren’t synonymous. I think of dress as a dynamic process of modifying the body which is telling of the integration of the individual and wider society.

Fashion/dress, their ambiguities and ambivalences tease me. What interest pushes you out of your comfort zone?