Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eye of the beholder

Clothes are important to everyday life and it is very social. In our society, we judge people by their appearance, and what we wear says a lot about who we are. What classifies a person to be a punk, preppy, or street clothing wearer? As stated by Ann Leshkowichs in “The Ao Dai Goes Global,” majority of things in life are already saturated with meaning, and “Meaning is not recreated anew each time a consumer confronts a commodity.” What you wear and how you are perceived when wearing it is already prescribed.

Leshkowich’s highlights the conventional wisdom that Third World women whom are involved in globalization are oppressed, localized producers. However, the ao dai is able to create opportunities for small-scale female entrepreneurs to circulate styles and for fashion designer icon, like Si Hoang to influence them. Vietnamese designers and sellers are able to market the ao dai as both traditional and stylish, not some oppressed producers. Not all Third World producers are exploited workers for the First World, as conventional wisdom would suggest. There are localized producers in Vietnam that “proudly display[s] their stock of Levi’s jeans, both genuine and fake.” Third World persons can be active agents of consumption and partake in reinterpreting fashion generated in the First World. The decision to wear an ao dai is the same as the decision to wear Levis, which are influenced by global fashion trends. Global fashions trends do not mean it represent an individual’s cultural identity. As stated by Tomlison, not all individuals conform to the designer labels of the West, but “classical” clothing. Fashion is not always influenced by the West.

I was watching television yesterday and while flipping through the channels, a title of a program caught my attention. The show was called “How Do I Look?” on Style Network. In this show, women are given “fashion intervention,” and are told that what they’re wearing is giving people the wrong vibe, ruining their relationships, and chances of getting a good job. What you wear is important; it’s the first impression people have on you, and can make or break your chances of anything. What you wear represents who you are. So, by wearing what you choose, are you representing your cultural identity or your fashion sense? Tomlinson states that cultural identity may be at risk everywhere with the threat of globalization, but Third World countries are at larger risk. I believe that by wearing national costume, it can reinforce the importance of identity.

Compact Challenge: Before the compact challenge, I did a lot of window shopping. After my “commitment” to the challenge, I AM a window shopper. There’s a difference! Before, when I go shopping I would look at things and buy it if I really like it. Now, even if I really like it an item, I have second thoughts about it (do I really need 2 of them?!). I’ve never really put much thought about things I buy, and now I am. I keep finding myself doubting the things I pick up. Oh compact challenge, what have you done to me! By the way, I think window shopping is perfectly fine if you have the will power to say NO. A relapse is possible… but for now, “you’s just a window shopper…”

Maggie Chui

Blog # 6

Works Cited
Niessen, Sandra, et al. “Re-Orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress.” Berg: New York, 2003.

Tomlinson, John. “Globalization and Cultural Identity.” Mar. 2003: 269-277.



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