Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making sense of styling - fashion psychology update

I'm still getting my head round the psychology of fashion and it's relationship with the ego, the characterisation of someone and fashion design as art.  As a stylist I'm not going to make people follow instructions about what should be in their wardrobe, I think they should have what's needed and wanted to put outfits together to enhance the person they are in a given situation, wearing clothes that suit their taste and reflect their lifestyle.  The starting point is to emulate the style of a favourite character in a similar scenario - visualise the person you want to be and use styling to create and develop that persona.  You want to take the essence of someone's energy and make it your own.

In trying to understand the nature of a shopaholic I see the use of clothing helps gain identity ie developing the ego.  The continued need for a lot of shopping reinforces that sense of self.  You need more individuality in a uniform environment like a corporate workplace or school - which is the time in your life you want to be individual but it would be more ideal if you got past that need once you've achieved self belief which is more difficult for some people.  I feel despondent when fashion is consumed by people who feel the need to constantly reward themselves to feel good - who can't express adequately by thoughts, feelings and actions and feel important via their core id.  Continually purchasing clothes is the best thing in their lives - that's my definition of retail therapy, the therapy being a means to gain positive reinforcement of their ego - they treat themselves to feel special because they don't have other adequate means to feel special, such as perceiving they're not loved, attractive, intelligent etc.  It sometimes seems this is the new salvation for unhappy souls.

Woman traditionally use fashion for recognition because men get recognition for their work talents automatically  Men traditionally receive recognition and expect it without doing any more than be themselves to get it.  The idea of "metrosexuals" is confusing to some guys, they don't get it.  The way I see it is in the context of manipulating society.  The hetero mans world just gets smaller so there's no place for him except the solace of his own headspace where he escapes by getting wankered on beer, fags and drugs..  He's rendered powerless by being made to be influenced by "metrosexuals".  Testosterone plays a part in motivation - if men are concerned  with focusing their energies on themselves and being approved of and appreciated they're not going to be asserive, defiant and rebel to become the authority figure.  This all goes towards calming defiance by realigning the priorities via manipulating the ego.

Lady Gaga's corralling the emos is why she's allowed and supported, it's not a genuine motivation to empower weaker people - once emos gain acceptance they'll probably lose their motivation and defiance.  I love LG's appreciation of high fashion and I see Couture as art.  The constant in your face marketing from the fast fashion industry makes me lose interest as it takes away what makes it special.  You can't be special every day - well, that's the point - it's filling a hole in the lives of people who need to be made to feel special every day because that's maybe all they have.  These are the folk who need to find a way to gain self belief beyond their image..  Once their needs are attended to and they don't rely on a quick fix consumer habit fashion can be serious once again.  Having watched a Vivienne Westwood interview I've found a great way to sum up my view: "Fashion is art and protest on the streets".

 William James, an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced.  In  The Sartorial Self: William James’ philosophy of dress by Celia Watson I found many statements and paragraphs to help understand from other people’s points of view.

Neither in tailoring nor in legislating does man proceed by mere Accident, but the hand is ever guided on by mysterious operations of the mind. In all his Modes, and habilatory endeavors, an Architectural Idea will be found lurking; his Body and theCloth are the site and materials whereon and whereby his beautiful edifice, of a Person, is to be built.—Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

Yet to many readers, an examination of James’s dress might seem a frivolous and trifling endeavor: The idea that any serious development of the personality takes place at the closet door will, at first blush, appear to exaggerate the importance of the mundane daily duty of dressing.  Furthermore, some readers may think a study of James’s clothing is downright petty: Is it not, after all, unfair to draw conclusions about a man on the basis of his appearance? (Celia Watson).

By Lotze: “On the contrary, the wearer herself is by feeling directly present in all the graceful curves that with feather weight touch but a few points of the skin, and yet through these points excite the most distinct sensation of the breath, lightness, and softness of their sweep. Nay, even the pleasure afforded by such a sight is derived far less from the pleasing effect of the drapery which we see than from the fact that we can transport ourselves by thought into the imaginative, joyous, or dainty vital feeling which the myriad petty impressions from the garments must infuse into the form which they conceal.”

From Lotze’s passage the reader can glean one clue to the importance James placed on clothes: They are capable of being felt as a part of the wearer’s own body, fabric extensions of the flesh.  James explained, “is the recognition one gets from his mates. We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind.”

Going further to describe the fact that we choose what we wear “the free man can—and must—decide. He issues, from within his spiritual self, a “fiat of the will.” Although habit may ensure that a person leaves the house with shoes tied and pants zipped, it is the spiritual self that decides on the particular colour, fabric, and cut of the trousers and whether the shoes will be leather, or canvas, or otherwise.  Thus, in the daily act of dressing, the individual deliberates; he chooses what information he wishes to convey about himself, what garments he wants to don as extensions of his own body, and which elements of his wardrobe best reflect his idea of himself. Clothing is a form of self-expression, a way to allude to attributes of one’s most essential being, one’s place in the world, or one’s sense of beauty. Kingfishers catch fire, politicians wear red ties; the self announces its attributes with clothing..”  To William James, clothing was about self-remembrance and self-awareness—not “self-forgetfulness” as was the etiquette of clothing at the time, to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Several historians have pointed to the relationship between James’s literary style and his artistic sensibility; his appearance gave color and atmosphere to his philosophy. John Dewey wrote that “[James] was an artist who gave philosophic expression to the artist’s sense of the unique, and to his love of the individual.”

James recognized that certain choices—decisions about dress among them—were necessary in defining the self.  James’s clothes were appropriate to his personality, to his writing, and to his thought. His thinking was marked by color and creativity, and in his dress he made choices that signified—and perhaps contributed to—those attributes.  Our actions and decisions he would argue, chart a course for our minds, while simultaneously our minds are reflected in our outward selves.

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