Body and Symbolic Language of Clothing

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According to the Wickramasinghe (2003), The body cannot escape being a vehicle of history, a metaphor and metonym of being-in-time (Wickramasinghe, 2003)

Clothing can be considered as both sign and commodity which is enmeshed in multiple webs of meanings and values. Clothing/dress deal with the relationship between the body and the society, the issue of manifestations in relation to the theories of social action and the body in consumer culture. According to the Wickramasinghe (2003), Clothing and sartorial trends are part of a long-term debate on identity and modernity which is played out at different levels of society from the village to the nation.

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Dress and clothing are not only important comments upon the existent; they also transmit a variety of cultural meanings. Dress/clothing touches on every issue – raw material, production process, manufacturing costs, cultural stability, fashion and social hierarchy.

“Clothes are never innocent or simply functional; they ‘signify’, as Ferdinand de Saussure would have said.” (Wickramasinghe, 2003)

Clothing is very much a social artefact. In most non-western cultures men and women show tremendous creativity in the adornment of their body by means of clothes and other accessories as well. The body becomes the bearer of cultural signs. Clothing is thus a mode of non-verbal communication, if not a language, at least a system of signification.

“Thus, Braudel thinks of fashion as an indication of the energies, possibilities, demands and joie de vivre of a given society, economy and civilization” (Wickramasinghe, 2003)

As Wickramasinghe (2003) explains, the study of dress may appear to be a mundane area of research. It can however, show the way in which people seek to manage and express their identity. Clothes permit the wearer to play with his or her identity. They often used to define, to present, to deceive, to reveal and conceal. (Wickramasinghe, 2003)

And also, clothing is as much a creative act as a political act. Clothes are often considered extensions of the people who wear them. Clothes too is now understood to have considerable semiotic value in the expression of both the fragility and the potency of social statuses and socio-political relations.

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