By Llewellyn Negrin (auth.)
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Additional resources for Appearance and Identity: Fashioning the Body in Postmodernity
Already in the latter half of the nineteenth century, feminists such as Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony were criticizing female dress insofar as it hindered the physical mobility of women and was detrimental to their health. They regarded the highly ornate and impractical dress of women as an unnecessary and wasteful indulgence, symptomatic of the economic dependence of women on men. Somewhat later, in the 1940s, Simone de Beauvoir developed these arguments further and these formed the basis for the criticisms of female fashion in the 1970s and ’80s by feminist theorists such as Una Stannard (1971), Nancy Baker (1984), Susan Brownmiller (1984), Robin Lakoff and Raquel Scherr (1984), and Rita Freedman (1986).
Are less anxious to signify their class position than to look young and relaxed. (1994, 123) However, although the lessening of social distinctions in dress is undoubtedly a positive development, at the same time, I would argue that the growing homogeneity in appearance is symptomatic of the increasing difficulty that people have in constructing, for themselves, a meaningful sense of identity through their appearance. On the one hand, while individuals today are confronted with a greater choice in what to wear than ever before, since, in the postmodern era there is no longer a single mainstream style which dictates fashion trends, they find it increasingly difficult to make sense of what is on offer.
However, by freezing the male body into phallic rigidity, the uniform of orthodox male dress makes it a rock against which the waves of female fashion crash in vain. (1986, 148) In particular, she champions “op shop” dressing, which involves the selfreflexive adoption of previous styles. What is salutary about this mode of dress, for her, is not simply that it acknowledges the “fake” nature of all styles, but that it highlights the fact that there is no true self behind the various guises that one adopts.