As I was thinking of what to wear today, I was musing on the philosophy behind the quandary. Sometimes, when I wear casual clothes, I want to fit in. I don’t want to make an impression on anyone. So I just wear what is conventional. In this scenario, clothes are a sort of social camouflage, designed not to attract any notice or attention.
However, when I wish to dress smart, there is always the idea that there will be someone out there that can ‘read’ my outfit. There is the idea that there is a fashion-conscious individual that will know about the quality of the material, the significance of the cut, what it is saying about my personality and my self. That there is somebody that will be impressed.
And this idea, that the clothes will make the impression and reveal things about me is no doubt fantastic, however it is an idea that has persisted through the centuries. Fashion adverts fill out the fantasy in detail, showing women that men will love them and women will be jealous of their clothes, want to be them.
There are therefore two motivations in my life around clothes. There is the exhibitionist tendency, the extrovert tendency, which chooses the clothes that will show off me and my personality. This tendency seeks to impress, to impose a fashion vision on the world and a vision of the self. Then there is the competing, shrinking tendency, the chameleon tendency. This seeks to hide, to fit in, to merge, to attract no notice, to make no impression, to become anonymous. Each tendency relies on a construction of a viewer: those who see everything, those who see nothing. Each tendency is predicated on a fantasy.