Who Cares about Fashion?
Being Fashionable and Being Cool
Fashion, Style, and Design
Fashion, Identity, and Freedom
Can We Be Ethical and Fashionable?
PART I BEING FASHIONABLE AND BEING COOL
CHAPTER 1 WHAT MAKES SOMETHING FASHIONABLE?
What Can Be Fashionable? From Pugs to Poodle Skirts
Do Masses Matter? Robinson Crusoe’s Runway
Do Experts Matter? Khaki Glory
Do Intentions Matter? Accidental Chic
Do Aesthetics Matter? Form Over Function
Does Identity Matter? Tribal Colors
Does Timing Matter? To Everything, There is a Season
Conclusion: What Matters?
CHAPTER 2 FASHION, ILLUSION, AND ALIENATION
What Is It To Be Fashionable?
Two Concepts of Fashion
Fashion and Alienation
The Metaphysics of Fashion
CHAPTER 3 TRYHARDS, FASHION VICTIMS, AND
Tryhards and Fashion Victims
PART II FASHION, STYLE, AND DESIGN
CHAPTER 4 THE AESTHETICS OF DESIGN
Design as Problem-Solving or Design as Fashion?
The Rise of Design As a Profession: Is Design a Response
Consumerism, Self-expression, and The “Invention” of
Consumerism Is Not Essential to Design
Were Neolithic Flint Tools Designed?
Can We Avoid Designing? – The Idea of “Useless Work”
The Function and Value of Fashion
CHAPTER 5 SHARE THE FANTASY
Chanel No. 5 and Perfume Fashions
Coco Mademoiselle Ads
Male Perfume Ads
Celebrity Perfumes by Women of Color
Perfume Aesthetics, Erotics, and Ethics
Resisting the Fantasy: Erotics and Commodity Fetishism
CHAPTER 6 COMPUTATIONAL COUTURE
Cyborgs and Supermodels
PART III FASHION, IDENTITY, AND FREEDOM
CHAPTER 7 WEARING YOUR VALUES ON YOUR SLEEVE
CHAPTER 8 FASHION AND SEXUAL IDENTITY, OR WHY
The Sexual Citizen, Rights to Recognition, and Visibility as
CHAPTER 9 SLAVES TO FASHION?
CHAPTER 10 FASHION DOLLS AND FEMINISM
What Is Paradigmatic Barbie Doll Play?
Barbie’s Influence in Cultural Context
What Should Feminists Make of Barbie?
Reinventing Barbie Play
PART IV CAN WE BE ETHICAL AND
CHAPTER 11 SWEATSHOPS AND CYNICISM
The Sweated Worker
The Inevitability Argument
Justifying the Conditions
CHAPTER 12 WOMEN SHOPPING AND WOMEN
To Shop or Not to Shop? That is The Question
Do Prestigious, Ivy League, Male Philosophers Ever Think
About Clothes? Yes! (Well, Sort Of)
Individual Responsibility Only Seems to Fit In Extra Small
Are Americans Boorish Butterflies?
Am I Responsible for The Suffering of The World’s Poor?
CHAPTER 13 A TASTE FOR FASHION
Philosophers’ Denigration of Fashion
Taste and Style
Love of Beauty as A Moral (Or Proto-moral) Motive
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Who Cares about Fashion?
Why should philosophy pay attention to fashion? Not only are many philosophers conspicuous for their lack of personal style and taste (as a quick survey of any gathering of philosophers will confirm) but fashion also seems to be a topic about which philosophy has had little to say. As Marguerite La Caze points out, philosophers have tended to hold fashion in contempt – to view it as a topic unworthy of serious analysis. What we wear and how we adorn ourselves are seen as matters of taste and personal preference – of mere vanity and social conformity. It seems a waste of valuable time to think about fashion. If anything, we should think about fashion less! When there are so many serious issues (the environment, global poverty, war, and so on) that require urgent attention, worrying about what to wear, what’s trendy, how much to spend, and where to shop seems like a moral failing. After all, we rarely praise people for being vain! Surely, as the philosopher Peter Singer argues, we should spend our spare money and time on programs that aim to alleviate poverty, starvation, and disease in the developing world, rather than wasting it on items that serve no important needs. Can we justify spending time and money on something as ephemeral as fashion?
This attitude toward fashion may be common among philosophers but it is not well founded. As this volume makes clear, fashion raises numerous important and interesting philosophical issues, many of which have not been well recognized or addressed in philosophy. In thinking about fashion we encounter questions in art and aesthetics, ethics, personal and social identity, political visibility and recognition, freedom and oppression, and the intersection between our bodies, our clothes, and science and technology. To dismiss fashion as philosophically uninteresting is therefore to ignore the rich and diverse set of questions raised by our interest in and practices surrounding, dress, adornment, and style. Fashion does matter. Fashion matters to people, and fashion should matter to philosophy.
Being Fashionable and Being Cool
Just what is it that makes an item of clothing fashionable? What is the property of being fashionable? We have an intuitive sense of what is and is not fashionable at any given time, but it is remarkably difficult to explain how we know this, and what it is we mean when we describe something as fashionable, particularly since fashion (and the fashion industry) is notoriously changeable and fickle – as Heidi Klum says in Project Runway, “one day you’re in, the next day you’re out.” In their contribution, Jesse Prinz and Anya Farennikova argue that describing an item (be it clothes, music, furniture, or even ideas) as fashionable is to make a claim that involves appealing both to “the masses” and to a set of acknowledged experts (such as celebrities, fashion editors, and designers). The fact that an item appears on the runway is not sufficient to make it fashionable, unless enough consumers adopt that item – even if in a modified form. Likewise, the fact that an item is popular does not make that item fashionable unless and until fashion experts endorse it. Ugg boots were not fashionable for many years, despite their popularity. It was only when celebrities began to be photographed wearing them that they became a fashionable item and not merely a cozy pair of slippers.
Yet “fashionable” is not just a description of an item’s status in relation to expert opinion and popularity. The concept of fashion contains two seemingly contradictory elements. On the one hand, we directly experience an item as fashionable – we just perceive that this dress is fashionable and that dress is not. On the other hand, we also adopt an objective standpoint and recognize that an item’s status as fashionable depends upon a number of social factors such as expert opinion, as well as being relative to a time, a place, and a particular group of people – so we also know that this dress won’t be fashionable in a year’s time and won’t be fashionable among, say, the punk subculture. As Nick Zangwill points out, this suggests that fashion involves two incompatible perspectives that create a sense of alienation – the first-person experience (we experience items as genuinely having the property of being fashionable), and the third-person objective standpoint from which we realize that fashionability is an everchanging attribute that depends on social arrangements. We can’t experience both these perspectives simultaneously, and so we are forced into an uneasy, and perhaps alienating, vacillation between the two.