Stained Clothes

Fashion and the Fleshy Body

Fashion and the Fleshy Body

On Dress as an Embodied Practice

Individuals feel a social and moral imperative to perform their identity in particular ways, and this includes learning appropriate ways of dressing. Like so much bodily behaviour, codes of dress come to be taken for granted and are routinely and unreflexively employed. But not only does dress form the key link between individual identity and the body, providing the means, or ‘raw material,’ for performing identity; dress is fundamentally an inter-subjective and social phenomenon, it is an important link between individual identity and social belonging. Dress works to ‘glue’ identities in a world where they are uncertain. Dressed inappropriately for a situation we feel vulnerable and embarrassed, and so too when our dress ‘fails’ us, when in public we find we’ve lost a button or stained our clothes, or find our fly undone. However, the embarrassment of such mistakes of dress is not simply that of a personal faux pas, but the shame of failing to meet the standards required of one by the moral order of the social space.