Wednesday, June 25, 2014


    Its about time I made an effort here to put this understanding of Attire as a symbolic language to work.  With that in mind I found two random images of people from the street.  Lets look at the elements of what they're saying sartorially, and see what we can come up with.
    First up is this very stylish woman from Rome.  On the surface, it seems simple and direct, but there's more in play here than just a simple well put together outfit.  Starting with the footwear the extreme heels of her open toed boots give a hint of sexual aggression and possibly S/M.  When paired with the leggings, also in black, that sub-textual trend of deliberate and intent sexuality gets reinforced.  Then we get to the sweater, in light gray, which of itself is a rather conservative looking piece of clothing, so, suddenly the sexual tone gets ramped back down a few notches. The brilliantly patterned scarf does two things; one, in terms of placement it is hiding the chest from view, so the sexual tone drops again.  Second, the pattern and colors harmonize with her hair and face, so the eye is drawn up, as far from the more frank statements below the waistline as can be. Her simple, roomy bag speaks of practicality.
    The result is that we get a message that this lady is frank, likes directness, and simplicity, but she isn't above a level of coquetry now and again.  Should anyone take an assessment of this nature as a fact?  Not on your life should you.  What we perceive, though it can reveal truths about someone we see, is shaded by the level of intent within the wearer that we cannot ever know.  So, yes, this sort of observational skill is a tool with value, but it can only give hints to explore further, not facts.
    Our second subject is this ultra stylish fellow. I picked him because his clothing is so very similar in placement and type to our first example.
    Starting again at the feet we have black boots.  This time though the boots are nearly devoid of detail, flat soled and matte finished leather.  The result is more about comfort, than about in your face style statement.  Similarly, the skinny jeans in black function in this case not as some subtle sexual cue, but rather they are obliterating the lower half of the body. The focus goes to the above the waist zone instantly, since there is essentially a blank page below.  What is making the pieces on the top half of the body interesting is that they are all individually conservative things, both in color and cut.  Its only the layering and texture that creates interest.  The item that stands out of course is that huge bag. Unlike our first subject, this bag does not say anything about practicality, it is an out-loud statement of style.  First of all as a male, carrying such a bag, he defines himself in our view as utterly unconcerned with our opinions of him.  Second, he implies with such a bag, either the need for a great many things, or the desire for them.  
    The ending statement here is a bit dissonant.  The colors of his chosen clothing all say, please don't notice me much, as do the sunglasses. But the bag fairly shouts for attention, so we end up with a visual conflict.
   So, though each of these people is similarly attired to a significant degree, the resulting statements are wildly different. We can and do use our understanding of Attire in this way every single day, It gives us a jumping off point for understanding others.  Seeing more of the subtleties can help us understand more deeply.  And I will reinforce now, though, that making the mistake of assuming that our impressions are facts, not only fails to take the reality of the observed other into account, but it diminishes us.  Use this potent language wisely.

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