Fashion is about bodies: it is produced, promoted and worn by bodies. It is the body that fashion speaks to and it is the body that must be dressed in almost all social encounters. Within the West, and increasingly beyond as well, fashion structures much of our experience of dress, although, as I argue in this book, it is not the only factor influencing dress in everyday life since other factors, such as sex, class, income and tradition, play their part. Fashionable dress is dress that embodies the latest aesthetic; it is dress defined at a given moment as desirable, beautiful, popular. In articulating the latest aesthetic, and in making available certain kinds of clothes, fashion provides the 'raw material' of daily dress, produced by a multitude of bodies operating across a variety of sites. In other words, we can define fashion and dress as follows (and this definition will be expanded upon in Chapter 2): fashion refers to the systems for the production and circulation of prevailing aesthetics in clothing, while dress refers to the daily, embodied practices of getting dressed - usefully it is both a noun and a verb. To understand fashion we need to acknowledge it is both material and discursive, concerning material things, such as clothing (and their creation/workers), as well as discourses about these things, which gives (fashion) value to them. To understand dress we need to see how individuals, located within social groups, translate the fashionable dress made available to them by the fashion system - selecting particular material things and making sense of the prevailing discursive/aesthetic ideals. In this way, fashion, to be fashion, finds its ultimate expression on bodies. We can note also how dress is part and parcel of habitual practices of embodiment. As Eckersley and Duff (2020: 36) argue, we need to examine 'the links between habit, fashion, clothing and subjectification to extend analysis of the clothed body beyond the semiotic frames that have tended to dominate discussions of fashion across the social sciences and humanities'.
Understanding fashion requires understanding the relationship between these different bodies operating within the fashion system: fashion colleges and students, designers and design houses, tailors and seamstresses, models and photographers, as well as fashion editors, distributors, retailers, fashion buyers, shops and consumers. In other words, studying fashion involves moving from production to distribution and consumption: without the countless seamstresses and tailors there would be no clothes to consume; without the promotion of fashion by cultural intermediaries, such as fashion journalists, 'fashion' as the latest style would not be transmitted very far; and without the acceptance of consumers, fashionable dress would lie unworn in factories, shops, wardrobes. Thus, when we speak of fashion we speak simultaneously of many overlapping and interconnecting bodies involved in the production and promotion of dress as well as the actions of individuals acting on their bodies when 'getting dressed'. In their account of fashion, Fine and Leopold (1993; also Leopold 1992) argue that fashion is a 'hybrid subject': the study of fashion requires understanding the 'interrelationship between highly fragmented forms of production and equally diverse and often volatile patterns of demand (Fine and Leopold 1993: 93). Thus, the study of fashion covers the 'dual concept' of fashion as a 'cultural phenomenon and as an aspect of manufacturing with the accent on production technology' (Leopold 1992: 101). However, this hybridity is not generally acknowledged by the literature, which tends towards one or other aspect of fashion without acknowledging the relationships between the different elements of production and consumption. According to Leopold (1992: 101), this duality has resulted in a separation 'in which the histories of consumption and production plough largely separate and parallel furrows'. The histories of consumption trace the rise and fall of demand of a product and link this to social developments. It tends to focus attention on individual psychology and/or the fashionable object itself, exploring it as 'the embodiment of cultural and social values prevailing at a specified time and place' (Fine and Leopold 1993: 93). Within this literature, production becomes passive, explained not only as a reflection of consumer or individual demands, but more often than not, as reflecting the fluctuating (and irrational) desires of women. The second study of fashion on the production side grapples with industrial history and deals also with the history of supply. This literature charts the innovations in technology, as well as the growth and organisation of labour within the fashion industry. It makes general assumptions about the reasons for growth in demand but does not look at the specifics of it, nor the specific characteristics of demand in particular clothing markets. Thus, as Leopold argues (1992: 101), the history of clothing production has made little contribution to an understanding of the 'fashion system'. Moreover, these different bodies of literature do not connect with each other to provide an integrated approach.
Both Fine and Leopold put forward a case for a materialist analysis of fashion. They point to the need for historical specificity in the analysis of the fashion system, arguing that within the fashion system itself there are differences in the provision of clothes. There is no one 'fashion system' but a number of systems producing clothes for different markets. Alongside mass production, small systems of 'made to measure' clothing persist in haute couture and bespoke tailoring, which operate with rather different modes of production, marketing, distribution and consumption than does factory production for the high street. A full account of fashion needs to acknowledge the different practices within the fashion industry and bring together the crucially linked and overlapping practices of production and consumption. However, so far little attempt has been made by social theory to bridge the gulf between production and consumption. Sociology, cultural studies and psychology have tended to focus on the consumption side, while economic theory, marketing and industrial history have tended to examine the development of production. This book provides a summary of this literature and, in doing so, explores both the literature on consumption and production, although it considers the former in rather more detail. The reason for this lies in the contemporary significance of this work, which has grown exponentially since the 1980s in comparison to literature on production. This means that this book replicates to some extent the division between literature on consumption and production: only Chapter 7 deals specifically with the literature on production, while the other chapters focus more on the consumption and meanings of fashion. However, I agree with Fine and Leopold that this division is an artificial one and that new studies on fashion and dress need to address the interconnections between production and consumption. I therefore argue in this book that a sociological account of fashion and dress must acknowledge the connections between production and consumption, considering the relationship between different agencies, institutions, individuals and practices. Such accounts of fashion, can therefore connect it to everyday dress, while everyday dress, especially in the age of social media, feeds back to fashion: the two are also crucially interconnected.
I argue in this book that a historical division existed within the early literature, between studies of fashion (as a system, idea or aesthetic) and studies of dress (as in the meanings given to particular practices of clothing and adornment). Some of the classic studies of fashion within sociology, cultural studies, costume history and psychology tended to be theoretical in scope, seen as an abstract system with theoretical explanations that are sought to explain its apparently mysterious movements. Studies of dress, on the other hand, historically the domain of anthropology, tended to be empirical, examining dress in everyday life within communities and by particular individuals, with an original focus on non-Western and traditional communities, though this has changed in recent years, with anthropologists studying Western communities. Accounts of dress by psychologists was (and still is) limited as they tend to be individualistic rather than social in their analysis of dress practices. I give an overview in this book as to this disciplinary division between fashion and dress studies, which I argued in early editions was as problematic as the division between production and consumption. More recent studies of fashion/dress within sociology and other disciplines (e.g. geography, cultural studies) now bridges the gap between these various bodies of literature and looks at the way in which fashion determines dress and dress interprets fashion.
The Fashioned Body 3.0
I want briefly to highlight the changes made in this third edition. While the whole book has had a light facelift, there are many substantially new segments worthy of commentary here. Chapter 1 on the body is unchanged in its core substantive discussion, a decision backed up by the three anonymous reviewers, whose comments did not suggest that a substantial revision was required. Indeed, one reviewer noted that 'Entwistle should not change the basic theoretical underpinning...