Reading Clothes

25.10.2011, 14:39
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Yesterday was devoted to getting acquainted with the Urban Culture theme director Michael Schindhelm and the subject of research. Michael talked about how public space is inevitably linked with urban culture. In the past 20 years, Russia changed politically, but socially many things stayed the same. The former socialism evolved into a weird new mixture absorbing the market economy. The identity of what is Russian reformed significantly too. While Russia is trying to erase all traces of the Soviet past and substitute it with a new lifestyle, the signs and habits of the previous era are still sitting in the core of the society. The research theme will try to follow the development of Moscow’s culture by comparing the capital to other cities that underwent similar changes.

Later in the day the journalist Linor Goralik gave an interesting talk on costume identity and the city. According to Goralik, the basiс functions of clothes are body protection, comfort, social safety, and social communication. In the modern world it is harder not to stand out in the crowd because of our individual body language. Yet our judgement is very context bound. For example, at the end of the 19th century the rapidly developing city life created a new type of people — labour girls — who had to wear shorter skirts in order to work at factories. However, if they were seen in their work clothing in public (outside of their job contexts), it was considered vulgar. The urban life transformed our perception of modesty and acceptability in a very short time, as the cities grew larger and people were forced to dress more comfortably. Clothes began to show one’s relation to a particular cast where there are special dress codes, like goth or harajuku fashion, yet these casts rarely leave their safety zones in a city, as the urge to manifest your uniqueness can be misread.

Nowadays mass media begin to play an important role in the way we dress. This is seen not only in television shows or films; even people who participate in protests and meetings are conscious of what they wear. If you google «What would you wear to the revolution?» you will find numerous blogs with strict rules on how to dress. That’s because the revolution itself has become part of the media world where looks are very important and represent one’s views.