Fashion, a Strategy of Desire: Round-table Discussion with Roland Barthes, Jean Duvignaud and Henri Lefebvre

Fashion, a Strategy of Desire 81 and conformity. So there is a paradox here which cannot but hold the attention of sociologists. We all follow fashion and, in theory, it is made up only of what is new. There is then a sort of contradiction in terms. You have to imitate that which is in fashion in order not to be imitable … Henri Lefebvre: Yes, just so long as we do not restrict fashion to clothing.

Fashion is also concerned as much with literature, painting, music… It is a general phenomenon. The study of fashion can be particularized by looking at clothing but it is the whole of society which is implicated. Jean Duvignaud: To stick with clothing fashion, I get the impression that, since the revolution brought about by Paul Poiret—getting rid of the corset, shortening of skirts etc.—fashion has been a way for women of displaying their existence, in a society dominated by masculine values.

Notice how women’s fashion is, by and large, defined and thought about by men. HL: It plays with the material or visual forms proposed by men; but, so as these are absorbed by women, there must be something however which originates with women… RB:

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A pseudo-psychoanalyst in America says that men often create aberrant forms of fashion to avenge themselves on women, to disfigure them.3 JD: When fashion undresses women in the way that today’s does, it is not to disfigure them… Since the 1920s we have seen an explosion in new forms, in the varieties of forms to be combined, which suggests a much greater freedom.

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