"In Fashion This Year: Roland Barthes And Dress Theory" At The CUNY Graduate Center, NYC


Renaissance of Roland Barthes, an interdisciplinary conference on the late critical theorist's influence on various subjects, will be held at the CUNY Graduate Center on April 25-26, 2013 at 365 5th Avenue (btw 34th and 35th Streets), NY, NY 10065. I will be presenting on Barthes' contributions to fashion and dress theory on Thursday, April 25 in a panel from 2:15pm-3:45pm (room 8402), moderated by CUNY's chair of fashion studies, Eugenia Paulicelli.

Full conference program and directions: http://barthesconference2013.wordpress.com/

In Fashion This Year: Roland Barthes and Dress Theory

The study of dress is a subject that, more so than almost every other cultural discipline, has historically been met with derision in its efforts to become a widely respected field of academic study. Its long road to acceptance among research universities and similar field authorities was aided in part by its examination and interpretation by academics from other disciplines, especially during the second half of the twentieth century. Through his cultural criticisms in the 1960s, French literary theorist Roland Barthes (1915-1980) became one of these influential interdisciplinary figures in the developing field of fashion theory. While Barthes was not the first theoretician to apply his particular methods to the study of dress, with the publication of his various critical essays, and culminating in his seminal work Le Système de la Mode (The Fashion System) in 1967, he was the first to present an exhaustive analysis of the various connotations and denotations evoked by the products of the fashion industry. Through his application of the tenets of Sausserian semiology, Barthes explored the debasement of cultural “signs” that he claimed were manifested in the language of women’s fashion magazines, in what he termed “written clothing.” Coincidentally, he published this new methodology at a time when, as history would later elucidate, the evolution of fashion itself was also undergoing radical changes. As one of the earliest commentators of various aspects of mass culture, Barthes’s intellectual scope was far-reaching. His contributions to the study of fashion were invaluable to the development and scholarship of dress theory and, in the twenty-first century, his writings continue to incite discourse on a subject that still often receives far less academic attention than is merited by its significance to the social sciences and to a greater understanding of human history.