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Aesthetics: Fashion and Aesthetics - a fraught relationship


Negrin, L, Aesthetics: Fashion and Aesthetics - a fraught relationship, Fashion and Art, Berg, A Geczy and V Karaminas (ed), London, UK, pp. 43-54. ISBN 9781847887832 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Until recently, fashion has received very little, if any, attention from philosophers of aesthetics. While in the writings of Kant, which laid the groundwork for this tradition, the purview of aesthetics was not yet confined to the realm of art, in the work of subsequent philosophers, Kant's concept of aesthetics came to be applied exclusively to the fine arts, which were clearly distinguished from the crafts. Defined by Kant as a sphere of disinterested contemplation where form is appreciated for its own sake, aesthetic judgment was seen to be applicable only to those art forms that did not serve any externally defined function. Because of its inextricable association with outside interests and purposes, fashion has not been considered a subject worthy of philosophical reflection by aestheticians.

This exclusion of fashion from aesthetic consideration by philosophers however, has been by some theorists in recent times, who argue that fashion should be seen challenged as a form of art and seek to apply the philosophical concepts of aesthetics and the methodology of art history to the analysis of fashion. Exemplifying this approach is the work of art historian Anne Hollander who contends that "dress is a form of visual art, a creation of images with the visible self as its medium. The most important aspect of clothing is the way it looks; all other considerations are occasional and conditional. In support of the claim that fashion is an art, proponents of this position have argued that the primary purpose of fashion is not practical or utilitarian but rather an exercise of the creative imagination, and that changes in clothing are due mainly to aesthetic rather than functional, economic, social, or imperatives.

However, as will be argued, while this approach quite rightly draws attention to the importance of the aesthetic dimension of fashion, it accepts uncritically the Kantian definition of aesthetics as the disinterested contemplation of form, differing from the latter only insofar as it claims that this can be applied to fashion as well as more traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture. In doing so, it falls to do justice to fashion by treating it as a disembodied form. At the same time as it draws attention to fashion as a visual art, this is done at the cost of severing its links with the body and lived experience. It thereby reinforces the separation of the mind from the body on which traditional aesthetics has been predicated. As will be proposed, rather than seeking to redefine fashion as art, what needs to be interrogated is the narrow conception of the aesthetic on which its defense as art has been based.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:fashion, aesthetics, art
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Art history, theory and criticism
Research Field:Visual cultures
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Other culture and society
Objective Field:Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Negrin, L (Dr Llewellyn Negrin)
ID Code:77328
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Art (Hobart)
Deposited On:2012-03-30
Last Modified:2018-03-08
Downloads:11 View Download Statistics

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