Modernity, Fashion and Ideology (II)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Since the beginning of the era known as historical modernity, all living societies have needed to maintain a growing or at least constant level of production, in addition to protecting their respective productive forces in order to survive and be sustained. This complex function is performed by the State in various ways. On the one hand, it exercises a legitimate monopoly on violence, and on the other, it uses its ideological apparatuses in which violence is only symbolic. The most important apparatus is the Education System, whether public or private, and secondly, ‘The Family’, while Fashion is the last of the hidden elements that form part of the ideological state apparatuses.
In fact, ideology is not a set of ideas that express the worldview of a group of individuals living within a society, but an invisible construct whose efficacy derives from the fact that it is a hidden force. So the dominant ideology is never displayed as such, but is presented as the pragmatic expression of a universal, indisputable and sacred mandate. In other words, ideology is the system of representation of the world used by the dominant classes to legitimize their hegemony and control.
The main objective of ideology professionals is to appropriate the imagination of citizens and operate on their image of the world and their perception of reality by means of visual images conveyed through the mass media. Fashion is part of the field of culture and it highlights the differences between social classes, causing the individual who wears certain clothing to feel like an actual, unique and irreplaceable subject, even if in reality that individual is just another member of the herd or social group with which he or she identifies.
Like Technology, Fashion transcends a person’s individual sphere and becomes a kind of myth that imposes a stereotype of clothes, accessories, makeup, language and behavior. It therefore turns out to be an abstract and invisible construct for domination and social control that has contributed to the longevity of the modern empire of capitalism in its military-financial-mass media phase.
The seemingly frivolous and well-known practice for men and women alike when they are going out to wonder, “What do I wear?” has become a major social and political matter. When they obey the dictates of fashion, consumers, of whatever sex, are merely boosting current production levels in their society. With this action they are only trying to conform to the models of dress and behavior of other members of the society they live in, but they never realize that the choice of specific apparel is the purest expression of the control and dominance exercised by the powerful elite of their society.
Based on this philosophical analysis, Fashion is very likely considered something very important for the human individual, which is why it shouldn’t be left in the hands of fashion designers because in fact it is an ideological expression that goes way beyond the realm of domestic life and is an expression visible to everyone which speaks to the real problems of a society in transition.
One might even go further to say that behind the popular question “What do I wear?” is the metaphysical notion of humans wanting to know who they are fundamentally and what is their origin.
Addendum: At a moment in history when change in fashion is accelerating with a speed never seen before, it is important for present-day human society to start looking for new paradigms and to realize that within a very short period of time, all the material things that motivated their lives and actions will no longer be of any significance, and so it is necessary to try to find the new values of a new society where consumption and ostentation will stop being the main interests of human beings.