An apparent ugliness: fashion and dressing poor

Rhodes, K 2010, An apparent ugliness: fashion and dressing poor, Masters by Research, Architecture and Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title An apparent ugliness: fashion and dressing poor
Author(s) Rhodes, K
Year 2010
Abstract Whereas fashion’s drive keeps us in a constant embrace with changing styles, this thesis has at its centre the question: “What happens when modern fashion is no longer driven by beauty and glamour?” Arguably, the rise of what we call fashion and its liberation of beauty from classical canons occurred simultaneously during the nineteenth century. Umberto Eco writes, “beauty could now express itself by making opposites converge, so that ugliness was no longer the negation of beauty, but its other face”. Moreover, we hear repeatedly that we coexist with contrasting models of beauty “because the opposition beautiful/ugly no longer has any aesthetic value: ugly and beautiful would be two possible options to be experienced neutrally”. That is, both beauty and ugliness are made up of interdependent and complex references. Thus the thesis is a tour through what will be called “apparent ugliness” and the spectrum of ugliness in fashion as a way to discuss our relationship with style and our social bodies. In parallel, the thesis tracks the changing way we think about our clothes and their state of appearance.

Structurally, each chapter explores the concept of apparent ugliness as the positive reformation of holes, stains, tears and the clothing of the poor in fashion. An apparent ugliness is the historical supplement, I argue, behind the current trend for poor looks. This redrawing of the traditional aesthetic drivers of fashion make dressing poor a complex field of study. At its heart, ugliness reconfigures those features deliberately kept at fashion’s margins as acceptable, even high street style.

The thesis is a hermeneutic study: it wants to interpret ugliness in fashion. In exposing the mechanics of fashion, in revealing the seams as it were of those traditional drivers of fashion – beauty and glamour – we see the destruction of the illusion of fashion and an unknotting of many of the certainties around how and why we dress the way we do. Thus dressing poor represents a willful instability in its relationship to beauty and offers an alternative way to think through the history of fashion.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Keyword(s) Fashion
poor looks
apparent ugliness
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Created: Fri, 09 Sep 2011, 16:34:29 EST by Guy Aron
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