Fashion and Psychodynamics

by Randall Radic
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Submitted by Randall Radic as part of our contributors program.

Fashion and one’s personal fashion statement may assume many forms. Different strata of society find meaning in disparate symbols. Teenagers are into skater-attire and the brands associated with skating. I know young girls who are totally into Abercrombie & Fitch. They want a Moose logo. Me? Right now, I want a Geico Team Jersey. My brothers used to race motocross and for some reason I identify with ‘dirt-bike fashion.’

Fashion can represent not only social equality, but also empowerment in a pejorative sense. For example, the term ‘sansculottes’ was used for the clothing adopted by the working class during the French Revolution.

Fashion is a cultural, social construct composed of images. And image is everything, remember? The image represents the interplay between social and economic forces, and artistic and intellectual constraints. Image is the vocabulary of power — and power, as we have seen, is but another form of beauty. And fascinatingly, fashion also includes jewelry and accoutrements that evoke the intervention and protection of supernatural powers — the quest for the sacred in life. The quest for God. Christian crosses, magen Dauid – the shield of David – also known as the ‘star of David,’ along with ankhs, New Age angels, beads, talismans, and good-luck (the word ‘good’ has its provenance in the word ‘god’) charms. Fear of isolation might be said to drive fashion, might it not? Subterranean, fuliginous feelings and beliefs motivate fashion. The ultimate goal of it all is to create a beautiful image. An image beautiful enough so that the bearer might not only begin to love him/herself, but also gain the love and acceptance of others. The assertion of preeminence.

Francois La Rochefoucauld said it best: “… the world is made out of appearances.”

Image is everything. And beauty is the image that all desire.

The term ‘nouveau riche’ refers to individuals of formerly modest means who have recently acquired wealth, and who are attempting, through dress, ornaments, and other material objects, to procure status. Likewise, ‘parvenus’ of beauty are tempted to imitate the dress, style, and characteristics of the attractive. In the world of money, Veblen denominated this behavior “conspicuous consumption.” In a similar manner, the ‘parvenus’ of beauty are likely to consume fashion; indeed, they are likely to flaunt it – éclat!

Richly colored stones and gems, crystals, bold natural colors and textures in fabrics — energizing colors, speak of an attempt to empower the self, to become less isolated and vulnerable. Whereas wetness, or the ‘slick look,’ the color pink, floral prints — all these speak of rebirth and hope. In other words, fashion is directly linked to the psyche of the wearer and to the cultural psyche of a society in general. Designers translate themes and moods from the real world to the microcosm of fashion. But their translation is merely a reflection of the emotional state of consumers, due to “market research.” Fashion, then, is an affective spectrum barometer of psychodynamics. Fashion is a form of very distinct and very cogent energy — as is beauty.

Which leads me to wonder: what does my desire for a Geico Team Jersey say about my psychodynamics?

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