Looking At You – FMP What Your Clothes say about You (Part 1)

For some people, their attire is a fundamental part of expressing their personality. Within stories, a character’s costume plays a huge part in helping us visulise and understand them. In this section of my project I am going to focus on exploring what our clothes say about us.

To start off my research I went to the V&A Museum, famous for it’s collections of art and design from various periods and styles. Unfortunately when I arrived I found out that the Fashion section was closed, so I focused my visit on looking at attire from East Asia and Costume Design.

Starting with China, I viewed a Qipao, a figure-hugging, high collared, velvet dress for women, better known as a Cheongsam or Manderin Dress. This dress is meant to symbolise the modern dynamic woman in China, worn by the more upperclass woman. The printed pattern would often follow western pattern trends of the 1960’s.

Men would also wear robes, I saw another robe that would have been worn by a prince, and another that would have been worn by an Emperor. I learnt that only the Emperor and Empress could wear the brightest yellow, whilst the princes and consorts were to wear other shades of yellow such as mustard.

In Japan both sexes also wear a robe called the Kimono, and although dating back to the 5th century, the design has barely changed. What is lovely about the Kimonois that it was worn by not only both sexes but by all classes of society. It is through pattern, fabric and colour that someone could express their wealth, status, style, taste and personality in their Kimono. Such as, a red kimono suggestes the wearer is a young woman, and short sleaves on a Kimono means the woman is married, whilst long sleaves mean she is unmarried.

Moving on to costume design, I watched multiple interviews with various costume designers as they spoke about the significance of their input into the stories being told.


“Though the work of a fine costume designer, an actor can become the character. We may rehearse our lines, our movements and expressions but not until the finally slip into the costumes does anything come together”- Unknown.

“On every film, the clothes are half the battle in creating the character. I have a great deal of opinion about how my people are presented. We show a great deal by what we put on our bodies.”- Meryl Streep

What’s great about costume is it’s the visual representation of the internal side of people. That’s what I love.” – Tim Burton

If you (the costume designer) can make the audience feel the actress is the character, then it’s a good job of costuming.” – Edith Head

I think these quotes sum the importance of costume (and attire) up very well. The V&A is planning to hold an exhibition in October displaying some of Hollywood’s most famous costumes and the process from script to screen, which would have been perfect for my project research.

Back to looking at people around us’s attire, my original idea was to create a collection of photographs of people, and then anaylse it to see what their clothes say about their personality/character. But instead I’ve decided that i’m going to collect images of people, and then ask an expert on their opinion on what the clothes reveal. My expert will be someone who studies clothes all day, a Fashion student. I think I will take a series of photographs of people from multiple locations, and then ask my expert for their opinion. My initial idea for locations would be to contrast the attire of the people from Camberwell and then the people of Bromley. Despite both being south eastern london boroughs, I predict their attire will be quite different.

Finally here are a few links about the significance of clothes as part of our identidy.

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