Cultural Studies

Download The Clothed Body (Dress, Body, Culture) by Patrizia Calefato PDF

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By Patrizia Calefato

What do tattooed Egyptian mummies of 2000 BC have in universal with smooth sub-cultural types? From mini-skirts to epidermis ornament, makeup to hair, gown is imbued with symbols that mirror varied meanings in several contexts. Calefato alternatives aside the a number of capabilities of recent costume, contemplating the mental, cultural, religious and symbolic significances at play. What we put on is a motor vehicle for the (often contentious) expression of politics, gender and identification and for that reason garments is on the root of a fancy set of messages, many paradoxical. garments could, for instance, release during the pleasures of masquerade and even as "cage" or keep watch over the physique. The Clothed Body indicates how semiotics promises a powerful template for figuring out costume in quite a lot of contexts.

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Moreover, politics has often given names to fashions that spread far beyond restricted political groups: Imperial and Victorian styles are so-called after, respectively, the political regime and reign during which these dress styles were popular. In rhetoric, a discourse genre called oratio togata recalls the oratorical style of those who wore the senatorial toga in ancient Rome. And here the relation between language, politics and dress is exemplary. Indeed, Marguerite Yourcenar claims that in her novel Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) she has the emperor speak in this way, because it embodies the ideal of masculine dignity in Classical Antiquity; and in support of this claim she adduces the image of the dying Caesar adjusting the folds of his toga.

These values produce lifestyles that lead to aesthetic choices, patterns of behaviour, aspirations and projects which otherwise would not be ‘with the times’ except in the most conventional sense. Fashion may be considered as a socio-semiotic mediation between taste and received meaning, or common sense (in Latin sensus communis, see below). My starting point here is Kant’s Critique of Judgement, in which 45 The Clothed Body taste is taken to mean common sense. In 1970 Hannah Arendt gave a series of lectures on Kant in which she formulated a political interpretation of the Critique of Judgement and linked the notion of common sense to that of community.

Putting on clothes means following the imaginary laws of dress and circulating the body, in a sort of law of resemblances that produces an image of dress as a vessel of otherness. In Fragments of a Lover’s Discourse, Barthes, quoting Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther, writes that clothing is the shell, or involucrum, of the image, in this case the amorous image (1977: 15). Like Werther, Barthes writes, ‘I long to be the other and for the other to be me through my amorous clothes’ (see Calefato 1986, 1992a).

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