Dressed to Impress: Looking the Part

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William J. F. Keenan
Bloomsbury Academic, Mar 1, 2001 - Design - 224 pages

Our dress is our identity. In dress, we live, move and have our social being. This book shows how the dressed body is central to the construction of a recognizable identity and provides accessible accounts of the particular dress ‘ways' associated with a considerable variety of lifestyles. Churchgoers, ballerinas, Muslim schoolgirls, glamour models, ‘vampires', monks and country gents all fashion a social self through dress. These cultures all have characteristic forms of displaying the dressed body for social visibility - whether in religion, sex, performance, or on the street. In contrast to much of the literature on dress, which often assumes a lack of agency on the part of the wearer, contributors to this book focus on the conscious manipulation of dress to reflect an identity that is designed to look ‘different'.

Why do people choose to mark themselves off socially from others? What are the costs and benefits? For every dress ‘identity', there is a corresponding set of entitlements and expectations as to behaviour and belief. ‘Priestly' bodies inhabit a different universe of response from strippers, just as ‘Gothic' bodies experience the public gaze differently from ‘Methodist' ones. Where one look commands respect in one setting, in another it can incite antipathy and rejection. Contributors tackle head-on this ‘paradox of dress' - its potent power to unite and divide. Evidence of the dressed body's social ambiguity as a medium of consensus, on the one hand, and conflict, on the other, provides a glimpse through dress into an elementary condition of social and cultural life that has all too rarely been part of historical and sociological discourse.

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User Review  - sumirechan - LibraryThing

Read December 2007. A collection of essays on the significance of dress in various times and places. I borrowed it for Milly Williamson's "Vampires and Goths: Fandom, Gender and ... more Cult Dress ... Read full review


Sartor Resartus Restored Dress
A Comparative Exploration of Dress and
Fashioning the Classic

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About the author (2001)

Edited by William J. F. Keenan, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, The Nottingham Trent University.

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