Clothing Symbolism

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The purpose of the study was to apply seven propositions of symbolic interactionism by Manis and Meltzer (1978, p. 78) and four assumptions of Kaiser's (1997, 59-61) contextual framework to appearance management in everyday interaction. We are born naked but are buried or cremated with clothes on. Therefore, it is important to examine the impact of clothes and appearance in everyday interaction within the pre-mentioned frameworks. The application consisted of looking at clothing and appearance related symbols used in everyday life at both micro and macro levels. Micro-level focussed on the use of symbols at the individual level, and Macro-level represented both societal and cultural level symbols. The intent was not to take assumptions and propositions for granted to understand the conceptualization because common sense is not very common. Findings revealed that people use appearance and clothing related symbols in their lives to develop and sustain their selves as members of the society that they are part of. Use of appearance and clothing related symbols in everyday interactions can be both effective and ineffective depending on the sharedness of the meanings of the artifacts and mentifacts. Several examples of appearance and clothing related symbols used by the interacting human beings at the individual, societal, and cultural levels were found. The reported work has implications for understanding symbolic interactionism theories and contextual framework better than taking the assumptions for granted. The presentation will discuss the implications and examples in greater detail and specificity than presented in this abstract.


Keywords: Contextual Framework, Dress as Communicator, Symbolic Interactionism, Visual Communication
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Clothing Symbolism


Dr. Usha Chowdhary

Professor, Human Environmental Studies, Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA

I have been in higher education since 1974. I have taught courses in the areas of social psychology of clothing, clothing construction and design, textile analysis, and historic textiles. My scholarly activities have examined the impact of dress and dressing behavior on teaching effectiveness; self-enhancement for younger and older populations; and correlates of apparel significance and fashionability for the elderly population; development of curricular modules from K-12 for aging awareness and appreciation; clothing for mastectomy survivors, college students, and older consumers; quality control through textile testing; workshops for teachers, budding professionals, and minority students; and studying the elderly population in both the instutional and mainstream settings. In addition, I have held several leadership and membership positions in both university and professional organizations at a various executive levels and in local, state, regional, national, and international levels.

Ref: I08P0687