ABSTRACT

The previous chapters have provided a definition of what fashion and clothing might be and of the possible differences between them. Fashion and clothing were defined or looked at in terms of communication and culture. The present chapter will concentrate on what fashion and clothing might be for, on the different functions or jobs that fashion and clothing might have. Another way of posing these questions would be to ask the reasons why people adorn their bodies, why people wear and have worn clothes. It will be noted that, while it makes sense to ask these questions of clothing or dress, it does not always make sense, or the same sort of sense, to ask them of fashion. The chapter will provisionally, and for the sake of argument, separate the material functions of fashion and dress from their cultural functions. Material functions are those connected with protection and modesty and cultural functions are to do with communication. As with all such distinctions, there is a flaw here in that the material functions also have a cultural function: what a culture chooses to protect itself from and the ways in which it does so with dress are also ways in which that culture communicates its identity as a culture. It is not the case that the material functions are unchanging and do not vary between cultures. As will be seen, which parts of the body need to be covered in the name of modesty and what they should be covered with will vary from culture to culture. The material functions also have a cultural function and serve to construct and communicate cultural identity.