Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980

By Paul Jobling | Go to book overview

Conclusion to Part 1

I have attempted in the preceding chapters to proffer an understanding of the production and circulation of three important magazines that deal with fashion and fashion photography by concentrating on their social, economic and historical contexts. At the same time, much has been made of their form and content with regard to postmodern debates concerning simulation and hyperreality, and in trying to construct a focused argument I have tended to analyse a series of fashion spreads that have historicist connotations. As we have seen, the texts discussed reference an idea or image of the past to differing effect and for diverging aesthetic and discursive purposes. But there is probably one significant respect in which they all overlap, and this lies in the way they deploy a mythological metanarrative to naturalize the past and to synchronize discrete historical periods. At this point in my analysis, therefore, I would like to draw some threads together by examining the representation of the past in contemporary fashion publishing in the context of Roland Barthes' ideas on mythology, and of the relationship that he propounds between history and nature.

In his essay ‘Myth Today’, first written for Les Nouvelles Lettres in 1956, Barthes takes great pains to demonstrate that signs in themselves are not hermetic entities but part of a wider signifying chain and, as such, prone to distortion and ambiguity. According to Barthes, therefore, every sign is not only polysemous or open to multiple readings, but may also form the basis of a second sign system, which he calls myth or metalanguage:

Mythical speech is made of material which hasalready been worked on so as to make it suitable for communication … it is a peculiar system, in that it is constructed from a semiological chain which existed before it: it is a second-order semiological system… It can be seen that in myth there are two semiological systems, one of which is staggered in relation to the other: a linguistic system, the language (or the modes of representation which are assimilated to it), which I shall call thelanguage-object, because it is the language which myth gets hold of in order to build its own system; and myth itself, which I shall call metalanguage, because it is a second language, in which one speaks about the first. 1

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Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • Part 1 - Back to the Future: Fashion Publishing since 1980 15
  • Introductionto Part 1 17
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Vogue 19
  • Notes *
  • 2 - The Face 35
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Arena 49
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 1 59
  • Notes *
  • Part 2 - Written Clothing and Image- Clothing: Roland Barthes' ‘the Fashion System' in Perspective 63
  • Introductionto Part 2 65
  • Notes *
  • 4 - ‘the Fashion System’: a Synopsis 69
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Going beyond ‘the Fashion System’: a Critique 83
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 2 101
  • Notes *
  • Part 3 - Bodylines: Identity and Othernessin Fashion Photography since 1980 105
  • Introductionto Part 3 107
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Who's That Girl? Alex and Kate: a Tale of Two Bodies in Contemporary Fashion Photography 111
  • Notes 136
  • 7 - ‘statue Men’: the Phallic Body, Identity and Ambiguity in Fashion Photography 143
  • Notes 180
  • Appendix 1 - Directoryof Fashion Photographers, Stylistsand Magazine Features 1980–1996 189
  • Appendix 2 - Photographersfor British ‘vogue’1980–1995 211
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 235
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