Fashion is perplexing, intriguing, irritating and, above all, compulsive. Like it or not, fashion exerts a powerful hold over people-even those who eschew it. While reactions to fashion are ambivalent, there is no doubt that clothes matter. The old adage that clothes maketh the 'person' still counts, while the wrong look for a particular occasion can have disastrous consequences. But how are knowledges about appropriate dress codes acquired? How are everyday codes of dress constructed and modified by new styles? How do the ways we clothe the body contribute to the performance of the 'self' or person? Indeed, why does fashion matter so much, why does it matter at all?
The Face of Fashion tackles these issues. Above all, the book explores the relationships between high (elite designer) fashion and everyday fashion (clothing behaviour in general). By high fashion, I mean prevailing modes and styles, while everyday fashion refers to the lexicon of dress and techniques of selection, combination and embellishment. Such relationships are often complex, disjointed or oppositional. The interconnections between high fashion and everyday fashion are still only partially understood. This book analyses some of the relationships and tensions between those domains, while seeking to acknowledge the influence of everyday fashion on other forms of fashion.
But what is meant by the term 'fashion'? Histories of fashion and records of western clothing systems are usually centred around high fashion (haute couture or elite designer fashion) which become designated retrospectively as the norm of fashions of the moment. Hence, the mini-skirt stands for the swinging 1960s while tight-laced corsets epitomise the Victorian era.
Yet fashion behaviour is far less exclusive, more pervasive and more perverse than the world of high fashion can accommodate. Everyday fashion (dress codes, a sense of fashionability) does not simply 'trickle down' from the dictates of the self-proclaimed elite. At best, a particular mode may tap into everyday sensibilities and be popularised. Often, street fashion ignores designer innovations or belatedly takes up only certain elements.
Meanwhile, designers are constantly searching for new ideas, themes and motifs from historical dress, non-European dress, popular culture and subcultures. Like birds of prey, they rob the nests of other fashion systems in a