Habitus to Tribe, the Evolution of the Dissemination of Style

Digital painting: Men’s Corset by Gaultier, Mark O’Connell, 2014

Habitus to Tribe, the Evolution of the Dissemination of Style
Mark O’Connell@2015 No reproduction without permission

“The feature of “modernity” in fashion is especially significant. Fashion is always modern; it always seeks to keep abreast of the times. It is sensitive to the movement of current developments as they take place in its own field, in adjacent fields, and in the larger social world.”

Herbert Blumer (1969, 283).

Abstract: “Can style be taught?” is a question so broad in potential interpretations that it becomes almost irrelevant. However, if “style” is defined as a recognizable visual signifier whose inception and decline can be identified and traced, then yes it can definitely be taught. In fact, the dissemination of taste as a didactic and normative force has been in place as long as there has been a class structure; and the process wherein the behaviors and mores of one section of the population are observed and then adopted by another seems to be a fundamental principle of any culture that has a style that evolves and changes. Over the course of the last 150 years as the engine of the industrial revolution gathered momentum and the production and distribution of clothing became a commodified practice, the cultural dissemination of style information can be identified and categorized in three distinct forms: top down, bottom up and polymorphous. Each one building on the previous process until all three amalgamate into the contemporary industry practice known as fashion forecasting.

(Full paper upon request)

Fig. 1. Christian Dior, Autumn Winter 2014, Product range from: Haute Couture, Ready to Wear, accessories and make-up.

Fig. 2. Mini skirts: Jane Birkin, Bobbie Brooks advertising. Mini skirts: Jane Birkin, Bobbie Brooks advertising. Images: bobkatslair.blogspot.com, myvintagevogue.com

Picture 3

(Figure. 3).



(Figure. 4).Vivienne Westwood, evolution of persona. Images: oxfam.uk.org, ladywesaluteyou.com
Picture 4

(Figure. 5).Examples of Afro Goth. Images: Anne of carversville/pinterest, The Love Magazine, Jasmine Tooks on the cover of Lurve, Fall 2014

Picture 5


Picture 2

Cover Image: Men’s Corset by Gaultier, Digital painting, Mark O’Connell, 2014

The cover image is a painting I did of an outfit I saw at the Jean Paul Gaultier Retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in December of 2013. I was struck by the mixing of gender messaging and of purpose encoded in the ensemble. Gaultier appropriated the historical aspects of corsetry, mixed it with menswear, and then fabricated the final piece in lingerie blush pink. With the creation of a garment he engaged in the overall debates around fetish and masculinity, and created an ultra modern statement that also contained classical allusions and was deeply subversive. I felt that all of this connected with the arguments in the paper, as the garment would mean nothing to someone who did not come to it without strong pre-conceived hegemonic knowledge of societal codes about what is gender appropriate.


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