The Visible Self: Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture, and Society

By Cunningham, Patricia A. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Visible Self: Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture, and Society


Cunningham, Patricia A., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


THE VISIBLE SELF Global Perspectives on Dress, Culture, and Society

JOANNE B. EICHER, SANDRA LEE EVENSON, AND JAZEL A. LUTZ, (2000). 2nd edition; New York: Fairchild Publications

When first published in 1973 The Visible Self served to enlighten a whole generation of students about the cultural importance of dress. Since then, scholars in many fields have explored the subject. But none have been as insightful in interpreting dress and culture as Joanne Eicher, one of the original authors. In a second edition Eicher, with Evenson and Lutz, again explores the daily act of dressing to offer new insights into cultural meanings of appearance from a world wide perspective. The authors examine meanings of dress from a biological, aesthetic, and social perspective, taken largely from a social sciences perspective.

The Visible Self is divided into five parts, with each part having several chapters and a separate section of reprinted related readings by other authors. It is a user/student friendly textbook with each chapter having neatly spelled out objectives, a summary, a list of terms, discussion questions, activities and end notes, as well as, illustrations, figures and important terms highlighted in bold face type. In Part One, the authors offer the basics. Chapter 1, "A Systematic Study of Dress," includes the classification system for the study of dress in different cultures which was first developed by Mary Ellen Roach and Joanne Eicher in 1973 and revised in 1993. The system divides dress into two large categories- body modifications and supplements. In Chapter 2, "Dress, Culture, and Society," they introduce the concepts of culture and society and how they are important to understanding the meanings of dress, especially in comparing cultures. Chapter 3, "Records of the Types of Dress," deals with sources available for chronicling, analyzing, and interpreting dress-artifacts, visual representations, written descriptions and documents. In Chapter 4, "Written Interpretations of Dress," the authors offer an insightful overview of a wide range of works that analyze dress and their cultural significance.

The two chapters in Part Two address physical appearance, environment, and dress. in Chapter 5, "Physical Appearance and Dress," the authors consider physical similarities and diversity as well as adaptations. in Chapter 6, "Body, Dress, and Environment," they offer a discussion of how people deal with the environment by making adaptations to the body and intervening with clothing. Part Three, "Scales of Culture and Dress" is new to this edition. in this section the authors examine the affect of culture on meanings of dress worn by individuals and groups who five, or have lived, in small, large, or global scale cultures. …

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