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Introducing style-fashion-dress

In this film, Caroline Stevenson introduces us to Carol Tulloch's conceptual idea of style-fashion-dress.

In this film, Caroline Stevenson introduces us to Carol Tulloch’s conceptual idea of style-fashion-dress, and the relationship between these terms.

Of course there are many different ways of interpreting style, fashion, dress, and this is just one conceptual model. We are focusing on style-fashion-dress in particular because this helps us think about fashion’s relationship with sustainability and the potential of storytelling to nurture equitable, inclusive and diverse cultures in and through fashion.

Style as a concept enables us to consider the meaning of clothes in our everyday life. Clothes are viewed as a tool to navigate social and cultural life in different ways, and this is constantly changing. As Caroline outlines, style is therefore not something that is found in a shop. It is how we put clothes (that may or may not be ‘on trend’) together on our bodies in creative and active ways in our everyday life. We style ourselves to tell people who we are and who we want to be. Thinking about fashion in this way, we can see that each of us are active decision-makers, who use clothes to tell our stories.

Fashion, in this conceptual model, is about the dominant social processes shared in any culture that signify change. This isn’t just about clothes, but other items too, such as food or technology. The relationship between fashion and style, as Caroline describes it, is that, “fashion ensures style narratives are always in flux with changes in society”. Fashion is also an industry which “relishes in telling us what to wear and how to wear it to make profit”. In Cultural Studies, fashion is about more than the image and artefact. It is about meaning making, social processes and the cultural context of particular styles or dress.

Dress as a concept is about the clothes we wear – what they are made of, the history, how they are made and so on. According to Caroline, dress could be seen as the most neutral of the three terms in that it refers to the process of dressing the body or modifying the body through garments and accessories.

Carol Tulloch combines these three terms – style-fashion-dress – into a system of concepts within the study of fashion. They are interlinked, yet used to explain different cultural practices or processes. Their articulation as separate but connected concepts is important because they give us a framework to analyse a multitude of cultures of clothing, not just those at the centre of the mainstream fashion industry.

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Fashion Values: Cultures

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