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Living Dolls? The Role of Clothing and Fashion in “Sexualisation”

25 October 2018

Publication Date
September 2018

Original Abstract
This article considers the role that clothing and fashion have played, or continue to play, in ‘sexualisation’. It is pointed out that fashion, as in clothing, has often played a very small part in much wider discussions about ‘sexualisation’ much of which fails to problematise the meaning of the clothing concerned.

The article thus considers what might constitute ‘sexualised’ clothing or fashion – whether this is simply baring of flesh, too ‘adult’, or somehow ‘pornographic’ in its derivations or connotations. In addition, fashion and dress have a long history of forming heated concern for feminists who have often found themselves caught between seeing it as oppressive and male defined or expressive and somehow empowering. What is often at stake here is the very significance of fashion or dress itself when seen as a wider communicator of status or just personality. Drawing on established feminist and fashion theory, this article unpacks this connection. In addition, the ‘function’ of fashion as display has an equally long history of often unacknowledged gender difference that precedes later feminist resistance yet still informs it.

The article also considers the extent to which understandings of fashion may inform or disrupt more contemporary feminist politics on dress, and recent attempts to reclaim ‘sexualised’ clothing and dressing as empowering for young women are questioned. In sum, it is argued that an analysis of fashion and dress per se is needed to develop a more informed understanding of the processes of ‘sexualisation’ and resistance to them.

Edwards, T. (2018). Living dolls? The role of clothing and fashion in “sexualization”. Sexualities. DOI: 10.1177/1363460718757951.

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clothes, fashion, sexualization, women, girls, feminism, oppression, expression, pornography


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