Dr Katherine Appleford
Classifying Fashion and Fashioning Class
Dr Katherine Appleford, London College of Fashion
This project explores the relationship between fashion and class for women in contemporary British society. In doing so, it contributes to the sociological literature on fashion, class, gender and space and provides a greater understanding of the class distinctions which exist in terms of British women’s fashion attitudes and practices, within mainstream society.
Over the last thirty years fashion has been a growing area of sociological interest. But while authors have explored fashion production and consumption (Braham, 2003 ; Sproles, 1985), and the relationship between fashion and gender (Woodward, 2007; Tseëlon, 1995), work which explores the contemporary association between fashion and class is scarce. What literature does exist tends either to focus on the historical relationship (Horwood, 2011), sits within the context of working class subcultures (Hebdige, 2006 ), or evaluates the merits of emulation theories (e.g. Crane, 2000; Lipovetsky, 1994), often arguing that in modern society fashion is more democratised and therefore class distinctions are much less significant.
Indeed, since the 1980s there has been increasing debate over the relevance of ‘class’ today, with authors such as Beck (1992) claiming that a growth in opportunity and individuality has resulted in a ‘classless society’. Yet within British sociology and British society, class appears to have remained significant, and although it does tend to focus much more on cultural differences rather than occupation, it is no less pertinent in people’s lives (Lawler, 2005b; Skeggs, 1997; Savage, 2000).
Consequently, using interviews and participant observation, this project explores the relevance of class in relation to British women’s fashion practices and attitudes. By exploring the notions of dressing up and looking good it highlights important class differences in relation to notions of femininity, public space and consumption practices, and it also demonstrates the importance of mothers in socialising women into classed practices and attitudes towards fashion.
[Photo credit: Image by Mirri Rowland]
Dr Agnes Rocamora and Joanne Entwistle