The Language of Fashion (Bloomsbury Revelations)
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Roland Barthes was one of the most widely influential thinkers of the 20th Century and his immensely popular and readable writings have covered topics ranging from wrestling to photography. The semiotic power of fashion and clothing were of perennial interest to Barthes and The Language of Fashion - now available in the Bloomsbury Revelations series - collects some of his most important writings on these topics. Barthes' essays here range from the history of clothing to the cultural importance of Coco Chanel, from Hippy style in Morocco to the figure of the dandy, from colour in fashion to the power of jewellery. Barthes' acute analysis and constant questioning make this book an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the cultural power of fashion.
same way that the ‘s’ is both a marker of the number and of the person (she sings), so organza is the established signifier both for the romantic air and for the dress to wear to the casino. I am thus referred back to the context, be it a spatial one (the phrasing or the entire item of clothing) or an associative one (the oppositions between—‘s’ and no ‘s’, between, for example, organza and flannel). It would be better then to put the signifiers into homogenous classifications, without worrying
some way been given the job of making more subtle and of neutralizing dandyism; modern democratic society has made fashion into a sort of cross-subsidizing organism, destined to establish an automatic equilibrium between the demand for singularity and the right for all to have it. There is clearly a contradiction in terms here: society has made fashion viable only by subjecting vestimentary innovation to a strictly regular duration, slow enough for one to be able to be subject to it, but fast
constantly mindful to point out, as we go along, that there are moments in semiological analysis when we could insert and develop analyses that work with a different pertinence: the semiology of Fashion necessarily contains a certain number of ‘doors’ leading, for example, to a sociology or a psychology of clothing; and whilst we have stopped ourselves going through these doors, we have made sure that they are pointed out—in the same way that phonology, though constituting a closed pertinence,
things down into units, classifying them and examining their rules of combination, like a grammarian. Obviously, if the object changes, the method itself must be modified. Classifications will turn out differently. FG: What image of fashion have you kept from your analysis? RB: The title of my book, The Fashion System, is pure provocation. For me fashion is indeed a system. Contrary to the myth of improvisation, of caprice, of fantasy, of free creativity, we can see that fashion is strongly
embourgeoisement of the masses denounced in Mythologies, but a rather spurious guarantee of ‘taste’.18 Barthes did not explore the class connotations of this ideological function but it nevertheless has clear class connotations when considered alongside ‘distinction’ and the dandy’s elitist desires.19 In fact, Barthes’s constant inability to get away from socioeconomic (or sociological) issues within fashion are clearly marked in his 1967 essay on Courrèges and Chanel, and even more so in his