Fashion: object, image, text: relations of fashion-clothing object, photographic image and reference text, 2021

Sewn men's swimming trunks, side fastening, between 1946 and 1950, fashion and clothing collection, MGZ, Zagreb.

In 2021, the curatorial team of the Center for Research of Fashion and Clothing (CIMO) is launching a new project entitled: Fashion: object, image, text: relations of fashion-clothing object, photographic image and reference text, which starts from clichéd approaches to theoretical problematization of fashion and fashion system by opening a polydisciplinary, multifocal discussion of what fashion is, what it is not, and what it could be.

Fashion today represents a semantically important field in which very serious scholars have incorporated their theoretical considerations, creating a new autonomous theoretical-scientific discipline. Initially, the scientific interest in fashion was expressed by historians, sociologists or psychologists, and only since the publication of the book Fashion system by Roland Barthes we talk about creating a scientific discipline since he analyzed fashion presented in fashion magazines and thus structuring the fashion system as a language with the criteria to view fashion as an autonomous scientific field. His work is based on a large sample of analysis of fashion magazines, ie photographic representations of fashion items and accompanying texts. In the relationship between image and text, fashion represents a visible structured system of signs, ie language.

This project problematizes theoretical dilemmas related to the phenomenon of fashion, and is conceived in an online version. The working material is a selection of photographs of specific garments. Each item of clothing is accompanied by a relevant fashion photo. Each individual encounter of objects and photography is the basis for the text and is a kind of creative challenge for fashion theorists, art critics, anthropologists, historians to express themselves in the reference text in the format and approach according to their own criteria. The encounter on the one hand of the pictorial and on the other hand of the written statement will represent a contribution to the theoretical problematization of fashion today.

The result should be a kind of visual-textual compendium of various disciplinary authorial experiments that together contribute to the understanding and development of fashion theory in our area.

In his book Fashion System, published in 1967, Roland Barthes offers a distinctly structuralist text after looking at fashion as a system of signs. It is a field of meaning that has its own internal structure of language with its syntax and grammar, but also the arbitrariness of the sign. He conducted research on a series of fashion magazines from the early 1960s when the process of democratization of fashion developed as a broader social practice (after the era of elite high fashion). By analyzing the representation of fashion messages in magazines, he establishes a structured language of fashion that develops every season in the area between a) the actual garment, b) the garment-image (fashion photography) and c) the described garment (text). These triad of elements ("real, photographed, expressed garment" - M.C.Č.) represent the basic methodological approach in the work on this theoretical - creative project.

The results of the project will be included in a joint compendium (visual-textual) as a kind of "book of methods" (as Barthes referred to this book) and will be a contribution to the discipline of Fashion Theory, from this area of ours.

The realization process wants to put in relation 3 aspects:

1: material-production aspect of the course:

selection of clothing items from the private collection as well as the collection of the Museum of the City of Zagreb (MGZ, Zagreb) which will be photographed in a way that represents the visible materiality of the item itself:

2: visual aspect:

selection of relevant documentary photographs that offer visual contextualization of fashion in a private or public environment (home, sports, social-scotch manifestations, social rituals or free time), and whose content creates tension and a problematic relationship with the fashion-clothing real object;

3: written aspect:

A number of invited authors respond to the offered combination of image of fashion objects and photographic representation with their verbal text in essay format and present a review of the relationship between fashion-clothing object and image representation as a result of observation and critical-scientific, theoretical elaboration in the spirit of today's fashion theory.



 Bather on the beach, 1947, Photographer unknown. Private archives.


* The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia for 2021.

* Photos: private archives t.v. 

* Copyright © cimo - a center for research of fashion and clothing. All rights reserved.