The Detail: Setting Fashion Systems In Motion

Berg Publ
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Cul..., 2009, 13 (4), pp. 499 - 510
Issue Date:
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Each 'season' the fashion industry marks time with an illusion of novelty and spontaneity. As consumers, we are meant to be enticed and respond to the fashionable element at the level of detail that gives a garment its tension or significance in the fashion system. In The Fashion System (1967), Roland Barthes analyzes fashion at a complex level of 'substances,' which included looking at the material, the photography, and the language. And certainly more than most scholars of fashion he wrote about the actual detail of the garment, prefiguring his later use of the concept of the punctum. How we think about fashion today, perhaps always, is not at the level of the perception of a total system, but with the experience of accretion of detail. It is the detail that takes your eye; the tear in the shirt, the stain, the ruffled collar. The detail pierces through the appearance; the smoothness of the image. This article, after direct observation of street fashion in Paris during the Summer of 2006, will analyze the accretion of details and their relationship with time.
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