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Relations Between Clothes, The Body And Sexuality Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2019

The film and the movie industry form the dominant entrainment hub across the globe. In addition, movie and fashion cross over between the two industries. Designers produce their own retail fashion lines, capitalizing on the symbiotic relationship of movie celebrity culture and fan taste. Fashion marketing uses lifestyle identities as will be captured in this paper.

The new generation of urban teenagers, in sync with the latest international styles, is enmeshed in a visual culture supported by post modern imagery offered by Hollywood. Early work in the analysis of gender and discourse looked at the relationship between the use of language and the biological category of sex.

This has now moved to an examination of the ways language is used in relation to the social category, or rather the socially constructed category, of gender. Sex and the City provides many examples of the lead characters doing the identity of certain kind (among other things, independent successful professional New York City women of a certain age and certain social class) not only in the way they talk, but also in the way they dress, and the way they behave as they speak to each other, their lovers and their friends.

What to some people, then, may seem natural in their interactions is a result of what we can call ‘a set of repeated acts’ and a ‘repeated stylization of the body’. These gendered identities are then ‘reaffirmed and publicly displayed by repeatedly performing particular acts’ in accordance with historically and socially constructed cultural norms which define femininity. Gender identity then is a complex construction as depicted in the Sex and the City.

All language and discourse, as well as aspects of nonverbal and other kinds of behaviour are involved in doing gender. Gender, further, interacts with other factors such as social class and ethnicity. The relationship between language and sexuality further complicates the topic off gender and discourse by adding the notion of desire to the discussion.

While gender is something that is socially constructed, sexuality has a much more unconscious basis, based in the notion of desire; that is, a person’s intimate desire for connection to others that exceeds their conscious control. The lead characters’ conversations about men in Sex and the City, for example, are guided by their sexual desire tin just the same way as a personal ad on a gay website is guided by the gay man’s desire for intimate connection with another man.

So while Carrie and her friends’ conversations index their gender, it is their unconscious desire that motivates their desire for intimate connections with men, and heterosexual men in general. A person may, however, perform a certain identity in their conversation, as Carrie and her friends do in Sex and the City, where this may not, in fact, are the case.

Discussions of language and sexuality, then, take us beyond discussions of language and gender in the world of language and desire. Carrie and her friends do just this in Sex and the City. The meanings that they express are not just the result of their intentions, but are shaped by forces they ‘have no conscious awareness of, let alone willed control over’.

Identity and casual conversation

Many of the interactions in Sex and the City are examples of the use of discourse to create, express and establish social (and other) identities. A common way in which the characters in the show do this is through their use of the genre casual conversation. The way, in which language is used in casual conversations, like all spoken interactions, is influenced by the relationship between the people speaking, the frequency with which they have with each other, and their sense of affiliation for each other.

In the case of Sex and the City, each of the four females’ characters knows each other extremely well. Although they are the best of friends, they are each quite different and from quite different diverse backgrounds. As they share their experiences and negotiate their understandings of (among other things) life, love, men and sex.

As Carrie and her friends talk, they construct themselves in a way which signifies (their view of) desirable Western women, of a certain social class, in a certain physical and social setting through their use of the gender casual conversation. Understanding the social and cultural context of the Sex and the City conversation is critical to understanding the identities that are being expressed and negotiated in many of the conversations. What to some people may seem natural in their interactions is a result of ‘sets of repeated acts.’

Clothes in these films function as discursive strategies for talking about sex, gender, and the existence of desire underneath the veneer of conformity. In this film, the use of costume is reminiscent of Michel Foucault’s analysis of sex and the expression of sexuality in The History of Sexuality. The eroticism and striptease, which plays on the proximity and difference between clothes and the body, has seldom been disputed; as one writer puts it, ‘the moment we invented clothing we also invented the possibility of striptease.

She’s in fashion

But here also one must look to the collaborative processes of television to understand Parker’s conspicuous rise to A – list prominence on the show. The foregrounding of fashion and its transformative powers – an insistence on the inscriptions of identity and pleasure wrought through clothes, embedded in an endorsement of conspicuous consumption – became known as one of the cornerstones of the program’s thematic and stylistic distinctiveness.

Carrie in particular is figured as a fashion aficionado and designer – shoe fetishist, even taking to the runway for Dole and Gabbana in “The real Me”, inventively mixing cutting – edge haute couture with vintage style and or trashy accessories. Her passion for vertiginous footwear embraced them as infinitely desirable objects that, like art, are to be collected, conserved, and adored.

It is here that the crucial part played by SATC’s costume designer Patricia Field in terms of the programs overall aesthetic and elevation to style bible, must be recognized as another success. SATC co-opted fashion to further cultivate the fantastical edge that continually underscored the program, both normatively and aesthetically.

It is dizzying array of costume changes, high fashion statement, and designer endorsements was fuelled by a larger gendered, consumerist, and romantic fantasy of an imagined single, urban woman, freed from the constraints of work, marriage, and family to spend her considerable disposable income how she pleases, on herself.

While a number of Carrie’s accessories came to be copied in affordable versions on the high street, nevertheless, rather like the abstract and airbrushed fashion pages of her style bible Vogue, much of Carrie’s wardrobe similarly operated at the level of fantasy; her clothes often constitute costumes that remain beyond and outside “ordinary” women for their audacity as much as for their cost.

Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church recognize how Field’s authorial presence is inextricably embedded in the “look” of the program, both in terms of the way the show is styled and in the way the audience look at it, when they note that “self conscious spectacularly is a basic component of Sex and the City and a fundamental tenet of Field’s approach”.

Nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for her costume design on The Devil Wears Prada, Field’s fashion career began in 1966 with her eponymous Greenwich village boutique, hailed in the 1980s as “nightclub in the daytime, with artists, transvestites, students and other fringe – seekers flocking there to meet, mate and shop for wild outfits, wigs and make – up.

All of this points to how SATC must be understood as an “ensemble piece” in more ways than one – both on – screen, in terms of its investment in the friendships and experiences of a collective of women friends, and behind the scenes, in terms of the creative collective and multiple precursors that informed it.

Despite some observers’ criticism that SATC incessantly retread the same well – worn narrative ground regarding the angst of dating and male capriciousness, it was nevertheless simultaneously a program in which internal diversity was fundamental with, for example, a multiplicity of changing supporting actors, locations and particular dilemmas brought to bear each episode.

SATC was demonstrative of a move in television toward a “multi – accentual address,” as the discourses of the sitcom genres interested within it. From the different central female archetypes it constructed to the multiple modes of humour adopted, the program’s richness seems indebted to the breadth of precursors, interests, and voices that fed it.

For feminists of the second – wave, one of the most dehumanizing aspects of women’s fashion and beauty practices resulted from the way they were seen to construct women as passive ‘objects’ for the pleasures of the ‘male gaze’. While Carrie and her friends do spend much of their time putting together a ‘look’, it is frequently envious or disapproving women, and not men, who look at them.

The four women also spend a great deal of their social lives on the prowl for men, and this involves a great deal of ogling – especially, Samantha – whose desiring gaze is powerful, and disconcerting for the firemen and farm hands it celebrates. Carrie is also as much controlling of, as she is controlled by the ‘male gaze’.

Indeed, her entire career rests on the observations she makes of others in New York, and the men who slight her find themselves becoming the subject of gossip and scrutiny for the whole of New York. In relation to fashion and consumer culture Sex and the City is an ambiguous text for feminism.

By refusing to reject fashion, and by caring about it so much, Carrie and her friends can be seen to perpetuate women’s enslavement to a masculine defined norm for femininity. In this sense, the show is distinctly post – feminist. On the other hand, the ‘outlandish’ fashion worn by Carrie and her friends are not greatly appreciated by desirable men and function as challenges to the more traditional forms of feminine clothing that women less independent from men are compelled to endure.

The four women’s self determination in terms of what they wear, how they decorate their apartments, and how they spend their money therefore produce exciting and pleasurable forms of feminine identities. By gratifying themselves through fashion and style, the women manage to unite their desires for the femininity consumer culture promotes, with their thirst for independence and autonomy.

Sex and the City is a contradictory text for feminism, and can be characterized as ‘post feminist’. It is not, however, ‘anti feminist’ in the way the Faludi and other ‘backlash’ commentators would have it. Sex and the City is a product of an era where feminism, and the impact of 1970s’ feminism on American society, is under debate. This interrogation of feminism has come from outside, and from within feminism.

However, to describe this as an era of ‘anti – feminism’ or of ‘backlash’, and to equate Sex and the City with anti – feminist discourse is, overly simplistic analysis. Carrie and her friends do not embody the feminist identities 1970s’ feminism envisaged. Their identities are, however, one of many models of contemporary femininities present in the popular culture that are informed by, and articulated in relation to feminism.

A further presupposition underlying the the Sex and the City conversation is the issue of who will propose to whom; that is, the agency of the action being discussed in the conversation . It is a clear assumption here that the man will propose to the woman, not the other way round.

As independent as Carrie and her friends are, it is less likely that they would propose to a man (or that they would refuse him should he ask). Even though the leading characters in the show take an active role in their pursuit of sex and many other things they want from life, it is the man who initiates the action and who has the most power in the situation. Carrie waits for Aiden to propose, not the other way round.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada is a film which was directed by David Frankel, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, and based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger – follows the experiences of a recent college graduate Andrea “Andy” Sachs. Andy is an aspiring writer, who has landed a dream position in New York City as a personal assistant to Miranda Priestly. Priestly is the editor in chief of Runway magazine and the most powerful woman in the world of fashion.

At times, Priestley’s demands prove too much for Andy to bear. But since Andy’s focus is on the future (her writing career) and possibly a recommendation from Priestly, she endures. Unfortunately, the demands of the fashion world along with the demands from Priestly begin to seduce Andy and alter her worldview. To the dismay of her friends and boyfriend, Andy is becoming the very person she used to despise.

In a nutshell, Breakfast at tiffany’s is the story of a young woman in world war II era New York who hobnobs with famous people, gets into a lot of trouble, and breaks many hearts along the way, all while struggling to find her place in the world. And it is one of the Truman Capote’s famous works, due in large part of the film adaptation of it. The novel was written in 1958, and in 1961 the film version starring Audrey Hepburn was released.

It was her portrayal of Holly Golightly that made the film a hit, and Hepburn’s dark glasses and little black dress soon became fashion icons. The film also featured a soundtrack by musician Henry Mancini, and “Moon River,” the song created for the movie’s theme, won an Oscar and is considered a classic as well.

Though the novel itself sometimes gets lost in discussions of the film, it was and is considered pretty remarkable in its own right. Upon its publication, Norman Mailer, a well respected American writer, is quoted as saying that he “not have changed two words in Breakfast at tiffany’s, which will become a small classic.”

And, according to Capote’s biographer Gerald Clarke, Holly Golightly became Capote’s favourite character of all the ones he created (some say this is because Capote inhabited the same type of world that Holly does and because, as Clarke explained in the biography, Capote based his favourite character on a number of real life women he knew). Either way, the short novel created a lot of buzz among critics and in Capote’s own social circle, so this makes the book a pretty interesting blend of literary achievement and pop culture.

This film revels in pleasure; the pleasure of fashion, luxury, power and ambition. This film shows some similarity with Sex and the City owing to the fact that t has been directed by the same person. Its emphasis on fashion cannot be understated right from the remarks which are been made by one of the characters in the film.

For instance, pointing to Andy’s blue cable knit sweater, Miranda identifies its precise shade of blue (cerulean), cites the exact dates that it appeared in a designer’s collection and when it was first featured in the magazine, where it was spotted by the mass – market clothing manufacturer that copied it for a season before it was remaindered and then sold at a “tragic Casual Corner clearance bin” to Andy, making her a beneficiary of their work, if not complicit in supporting the very industry she derides. Even Andy’s boyfriend objects less to her new look than to her incessant work on Miranda’s behalf, questioning not her allegiances to the magazine but her neglect of her friends.

Like the series, beloved by many young women internationally, the film shies away from any critique of fashion as either superficial distraction from real human development, or an insidious capitalist force tricking women into overpriced clothing and out off their disposable income. Like other products of chick culture, the film also questions whether professional ambition can substitute for personal happiness.

Note, however, that the end of of The Devil Wears Prada departs from the fact that the protagonist does not find satisfaction in either marriage or a job. Separated from her boyfriend, she is still pursuing a career in publishing, startled to learn that she received a positive recommendation from her former boss. In the final sequence, Andy spots Miranda entering a limousine and, without speaking, they share a knowing look, suggesting mutual respect if not gratitude for each other’s assistance.

This film popularized glamour for women – the ability to paste confident, glamorous veneer over deep insecurity. The film continues to influence the fashion world as Hepburn’s body shape became a benchmark in the industry. What is not widely known is that Hepburn’s figure was not the result of diligence or genetics but rather the result of wartime deprivation.

Hepburn grew up under Nazi occupation in the German – occupied Netherlands. The steep food regulations affected Hepburn’s ability to put on weight her entire life. In essence, the popular vision of beauty in our world is more defined by Nazi brutality by the way God intended the typical woman to look.

If Breakfast at Tiffany’s put glamour on the map, then Brigitte Bardot pushed sexuality into the mainstream. She was the first movie star to establish sexuality as a woman’s supreme asset. Women began to consider where their sexuality put them in the competitive female hierarchy, rather than just considering how they appealed to men fast forward to the present day.

The characters from the hit HBO series Sex and the City not only asserted their femininity, they also treated men the way men had been portrayed as treating women – as toys. Under the guise of liberating women, Hollywood captured the minds of the women of the world to believe that being independent is superiors to commitment, and those relationships exits only to meet personal needs, from cultural icons of the past of the world – the image of the radical individual.

Essentially Holly is an orphan, a child bride, and has escaped a poor white backwoods past, in sharp contrast to sally’s wealthy one. As her name suggests, Holly is elusive, whereas Sally Bowless, as her name suggests, is unstoppable.

After gazing at an exotic birdcage in a shop window and noting the price, the narrator in Breakfast at tiffany’s sees “a happy group of whiskey eyed Australian army officers’ baritone.” Holly is like a scarf – an object that is tied and yet flying free. Her clothing suggests an effacement of physical presence and translucency allying her to the ephemeral and eternal simultaneously. Similarly the lightness written into her name makes Capote’s character move evanescent and insubstantial than Sally Bowles.

Just as song and scarf provide both ballad and visual trope suggestive of the vagabond or hobo desire for journeying forth, so the waif story dovetails into the gamine look of the single urban girl of the late 1950s. Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the 1961 film adaptation that cast Hepburn in the role, created an identification of the waif with a certain look – a 1950s gamine variation on the waif, a variation which Hepburn was dominantly associated.

The film adaptation of Breakfast at tiffany’s transposed the Second World War setting of the novel to an urbane lounge culture of the late 1950s, a modernist comic abstraction, obscuring what Elizabeth Wilson calls “a genuine Greenwich Village bohemia and the squalor and humiliation of Holly’s life.” The confliction between action and appearance in the portrayal of Holly is an operation intrinsic to fictional characterizations, which build on the image repertoire of a society.

The film Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a paradigm of what Robert Stam calls “trans-sexuality”: “the pressure of artistic biographies, cultural historical events and artistic and extra – artistic or para-textual elements, in a film or novel pairing.” Many elements of the cinematic Holly tie her to the Cinderella persona with which Hepburn had some associated because of her first two Hollywood movies, Roman holiday and Sabrina.

In the first, the princess depresses down to experience life as a commoner and falls in love, a reversal of Cinderella tale, and in the second, the servant’s daughter returns from Paris transformed into an elegantly dressed woman in both films, changes of character are indicated by changes in clothing.

The Givenchy design Golightly wears in the early morning trip to the Tiffany’s window that opens the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s evokes the earlier films. The diamonds, pearls, long black evening dress, and gloves are suitable for midnight ball. The story of Cinderella is like something a waif might dream: it is being able to afford Tiffany’s.

Essentially, although the specific experiences of Holly’s life might not mirror our own, the struggles she goes through and the heavy questions she deals with probably do reflect many of the things any of us face every day.

We might not visit mobsters n prison or run off to south America at the drop of a hat (while evading police, no less), but we probably do know what it is like to wrestle with our self identity and to try to find a place where we feel comfortable and settled. And this can seem as difficult for us at times as it does for Holly. If we look a little deeper, it sure can speak to our own experiences because there might be a little bit of Holly Golightly in all of us. Conclusion

Taken together these fashion makeover films offer perhaps unexpected takes on consumer culture and identity. Each highlights a sequence of elaborate dress that, drawing on the visual conventions of fashion shows and photojournalism, makes the film temporarily a moving shop window or a kinetic substitute of flipping through the pages of a magazine.

Such sequences do emphasize fashion as a visual treat, offering audiences the vicarious shopping rarely leads to purchase and the average magazine buyer hardly plans her own wardrobe out of the pricey items in the latest copy of Vogue, the film’s heightened display of fashion is the stuff of fantasy, like Cinderella’s transitory experience at the ball. The derogatory comments off industry insiders regarding the clotting choices in The Devil Wears Prada emphasize this point.

Instead of fashion itself, the film interrogates the intersection of fashion and identity, granting greater weight to the protagonists’ internal rather than external changes. Dress serves as a marker of larger transformations, each film reflecting larger debates about women’s roles in contemporary society.

The Devil Wears Prada ends inconclusively with Any Sachs embarking on a new phase of her professional development after what may have been a false start and without the boyfriend who had previously supported her ambitions. The most recent film captures the uncertainties experienced by a new generation of young women, leery of promises that they will have it all.

Notably, The Devil Wears Prada makes the female protagonist more of an agent in her own transformation. As such, they signal a further transformation in ideas about fashion, moving away from the clichéd notion of the industry as oppressing women.

Instead, external transformation through clothing and cosmetics appears as a means of performing identity, or trying on roles, cognizant that, despite naive expectations to the contrary, there is no way of living outside of contemporary consumer culture. Instead, its tools are harnessed as a means of self fashioning.

This may explain, in part, the often derided pleasures female viewers take in makeover television shows such as What Not to Wear. Like makeover flicks, they too capitalize on female identification with protagonist, though the identification is enhanced since the candidate for a makeover is not an already glamorous celebrity, but the candidate for an “ordinary” woman and, while the tools are the same – make up hair styling, and clothing – they do not require big Hollywood budgets.

They promise that self transformation is within the reach of any woman with modest disposable income. Ultimately, both makeover television and flicks offer the female viewer reassurance. They suggest that external transformation is unnecessary, that she will ultimately be valued for herself, in relationships and at work.

But they suggest that the means of gaining recognition are easily within her reach, and, in more recent films, increasingly under her control. People respond differently to films depending upon their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and personal background. For instance, in Dragon, Lee’s race and American orientation make him respond to Breakfast at Tiffany’s differently from the rest of the audience.

In actuality, Breakfast at Tiffany’s received many different responses at the time of its release. In 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was dominantly perceived as a sophisticated romantic comedy. It was also seen as a star vehicle foe Audrey Hepburn. Holly Golightly, the character that she plays was, by early 1960s’ standards, a free – wheeling, daring sexual woman this image department significantly from Hepburn’s previous roles. During production of the film she was concerned that her character should not be too shocking for her fans.

Some of these responses to Tiffany’s may seem bewildering. How is it possible that the same film can be seen by mainstream audiences as a nice romantic comedy, by another film director as the inspiration for making heterosexual soft – core pornography, and by gay men as a cult classic?

As an overall conclusion, I would therefore state that, an enigmatic void is created and sustained throughout the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s by the fact that the character of Holly, a prostitute and thus a person popularly considered to be a disturber of a (supposedly) right order of things, is played by Audrey, renowned for her cherubic beauty and sophisticated demeanour.

The choice of Audrey for the part of Holly is therefore an important marker of the ideological stance behind the tale. First, the character she brings to life exhibits the Christian reflection of Eve as a femme fatale who, like Lilith or Pandora before her, was endowed with diabolical beauty and sensuality to cause disruption and evil. The actress’s angelical face and girlish slenderness reflect, on the other hand, an additional myth imposed on women.

The cult of the Virgin Mary killed off thee threatening eroticism of the female by elevating female weakness and dependency above vulgar sex. Thus, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in presenting Audrey as a delightful anachronism, is really about the myth of female emancipation – an attempt to anaesthetize women’s growing political consciousness. Holly’s independence is a mere illusion for she is in actual fact, the real victim of the “rats” she tries to ensure.

Hence, while Paul Varjact’s oedipalization entails giving up his life as a gigolo to assume the role of “father figure,” Holly’s acceptance of his manly embrace marks her real capitulation as a potential threat to patriarchal society. Consequently, the film cannot be described as feminist in its valuations since it ultimately sanctions male domination at a time when feminism was becoming a public presence in America.

Besides, the message that transpires from Breakfast at tiffany’s , together with the appeal and elegance of the female protagonist, could also be interpreted as reinforcing an economic conception of woman’s place in society while promoting women’s potential as consumers as the country was moving from one stage of capitalism to another.

Hence, translated into economic terms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s seems, on the contrary, to tacitly reinforce the myth of the femme fatele by convincing women that Audrey’s glamour was both erotic and exotic and totally within their reach, if only with a little artificial help from cosmetic and fashion industries.

Reference List

Browne, P 2001, The guide to United States popular culture, illustrated edn, Popular Press, Wisconsin.

Bruzzi, S 1997 , Undressing cinema:clothing and identity in the movies, illustrated edn, Routledge, New York.

Jermyn, D 2009, Sex and the city, illustrated edn, Wayne State University Press, Michigan.

Landa, JÁG 1996, Gender, I-deology:essays on theory, fiction and film, Rodopi , Atlanta.

Lehman, P & William, L 2003, Thinking about movies:watching, questioning, enjoying, 3rd edn, Wiley-Blackwell, New York.

Monaco, P 2003, The sixties, 1960-1969, reprint edn, University of California Press, California.

Paltridge, B 2006, Discourse analysis:an introduction, illustrated edn, Continuum International Publishing Group, London.

Peter, M, Vicki, K & Cathy, C 2009, Fashion in fiction:text and clothing in literature, film, and television, illustrated edn, Berg, New York.

Suzanne, F & Mallory, Y 2008 , Chick flicks:contemporary women at the movies, illustrated edn, Taylor & Francis, New York.

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