Maya Seligman
Swarthmore College
English 95: Fictions of Consumption
Prof. Lisa Cohen
April 9, 1997

Shopping Journal #9

Fashion is not normally something I think about much (for myself, at least). Comfort is my top priority, which means that jeans and tee-shirts are the standards. When I told my roommate about the fashion "assignment" for our class [to wear something with fashion meaning, in some way], she suggested that I wear all black as a simple yet bold statement of style. I realized that the all-black fashion move is already rather typical. One Wednesday afternoon, I looked around the Fictions of Consumption classroom and noticed that every person but one was wearing black shoes, that a majority of wore at least one black article of clothing and that five or six consequtive students (sitting next to each other) wore black tops. That memory inspired me to wear an all-white outfit to counterbalance this dark trend. I have never dressed in only white clothing before, and this gives me a great excuse to wear my cozy cotton PJ pants to campus. In "Fashion," Georg Simmel writes that "Man has ever had a dualistic nature" (132). I am simply giving our class a more balanced range of hues, introducing light to our dark fashion scale.

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Readings: Some elements of Virginia Woolf's "The New Dress" capture both visibility and transparency at the same time. We can see this in the multiple references to mirrors and a looking glass, as they are mere reflections of transparent light images while bringing Mabel into high visibility. This dichotomy is also apparent in the story's emphasis on clothing, which is a topical material example of transparency; yet Mabel's dress is the focal point of why she sticks out from everyone else at the party. The characters' insincerity also possesses both characteristics. As Mabel comes in contact with others at the party, it makes her see herself through others. Thus the reader is introduced to her by seeing the reaction of those around her to her, which in itself can be seen as a parallel to the looking glass. I found the story to be quite intriguing, esp. Mabel's yellow dress, the metaphorical fly in the saucer of milk, the looking glass and Mabel's "transformed self" who would never give a thought to clothes again.
Georg Simmel's essay brings up some deep reflections on fashion, as he identifies it as: a product of social demands (though individuals may express their own needs), a signifier of the union of those in the same class (and the exclusion of others), an effect only on upper classes (which is now not true any more, although I do see the connection to money) and a force with the power to get us to adopt atrociously ugly styles for its sake alone. He writes that "We encounter here a close connection between teh conscioiusness of personality and that of the material forms of life, a connection that runs all through history" (135). As a matter of security adn group differenciation, primitive cultures were afraid of strange appearances. I believe that the same theories can be applied to teh social ways of adolescents, as it brings up issues of envy, self-consciousness, security, standards of the general body, etcetera. Other interesting points: male/female balance and socialist adaptation vs. individual departure.

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