Dress in the City

It's been a few weeks since I have done an FIU Style Sighting's feature on the blog and you have my sincerest apologies for that. Summer school along with extra-cirricular projects has been more hounding than expected but this week I am bringing it back full blast with a little bit of fashion theory involved, as you should expect at this point. One thing that I have been reading a lot in my thesis research is how much the industrial revolution really helped form dress and style as a means of expressing our unique individual identity, something that was almost never even thought of until the 18th century. Yes, there was group identity, country identity, job identity, class identity and gender identity but never really an expression of individual identity until city life became much more prevalent and "normal". Below you will find some snippets from Adorned in Dreams by Elizabeth Wilson on how city life changed the way that we dressed ourselves along with some style savvy student's I've documented recently. 

“The nineteenth-century urban bourgeoisie, anxious to preserve their distance from the omnipresent gaze in the strangely inquisitive anonymity of the crowd where ‘anyone’ might see you, developed a discreet style of dress as a protection.

Yet paradoxically street dress became full of expressive clues, which subverted its own anonymity, because it was still just as important, or indeed even more important, to let the world know what sort of person you were, and to be able to read off at least some clues from the clothes of other people. It became essential to be able to read character and proclivity from details that were immediately perceived."

Monique Faure, Anthropology/Sociology
Robert Moreira, International Business

"New and more complicated ‘codes of dress’ developed, for in the metropolis everyone was in disguise, incognito, and yet at the same time an individual more and more was what he wore.” 

Left: Jessica Lettsome, Right: Haleema Saadia International Business

“The experience of city life was—and still is—of the intensification of contrasts. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty flaunt side by side; shock and collision become mundane; one is constantly both alone and in a crowd, both lost in one’s thoughts and exposed to all. In order to survive this maelstrom the individual had to learn pliability, flexibility and cunning. Part of this technique of survival was in the nineteenth-century metropolis, and still is today, the art of dissimulation and disguise. Behind the public display, whether of a fantasy or of a ‘real’ self, the secret of the self still lurks....In the city the individual constantly interacts with others who are strangers, and survives by the manipulation of self. Fashion is one adjuct to this self-presentation and manipulation. It is the imposition of this newly found self on a brutally indifferent and constantly fluctuating environment.