Semiotics of Fashion

#Dressing, #style, #fashion

This article explains the fashion trends as seen in from a Semiotics perspective. Look at the diagram here below, does it make sense?

What is semiotics of fashion?

Semiotics of fashion is the analysis of the meaning of signs applied to the fashion industry with the purpose of understanding the implicit meaning of clothing, design and symbols. It can be applied to clothing as well as brands and other forms of fashion communication like web communication, influencers collaborations, advertising campaigns and every other communicative aspect of a fashion brand.

Digital Fashion Academy

Why is semiotics of fashion important?

The semiotics analysis is an inexpensive tool that anyone with the right competence can apply to any aspect of fashion communication to determine what is the message that the brand is getting across and whether or not the message is consistent with the goal of the brand.

How to apply semiotics of fashion to digital marketing?

The semiotics analysis can be applied to web pages as well as digital campaign. The main use of the semiotic analysis is to establish the consistency of the message:

  • Is the message consistent with the goal? Is there an action that we want the reader to take? Is there a secondary message? Is the message clearly readable on all devices?
  • Is the message internally consistent? Is there a visual consistency? To determine the consistency of the message you need to find the isotopy, which is the “fil rouge” or thread, and verify its consistent presence throughout the message. This is an essential part of story telling as we can read in the paragraph below from Wikipedia.

In a story, we detect an isotopy when there is a repetition of a basic meaning trait (seme); such repetition, establishing some level of familiarity within the story, allows for a uniform reading/interpretation of it. An example of a sentence containing an isotopy is I drink some water.


What is the meaning of clothes?

The history of fashion goes back a long time. The meaning of clothes  has changed during the centuries, from pure representation of status to expression of self #secondskin.

However the fundamental meaning behind the style we adopt have remained unchanged and as of today it can be traced back to one single word “belonging“.

Whether you are a teenager, a rich entrepreneur, a fashionista, an engineer or else, what you want from your dress is to make you acceptable among your peers.

In other words we can say that what makes you accepted by your group of reference is IN and what makes you not acceptable is OUT.

The other variable in this scenario is time

As technology, climate, cultural and political situation changes,  fashion design and taste changes accordingly and consequently. Therefore what was IN six months ago will probably be OUT in twelve months.

At the same time there will be some classic pieces that will never go out of fashion, although I would say this is pretty rare. More likely some clothes in your wardrobe will go out-of-fashion and then come back IN and if you are lucky you will be able to wear them again.

In the diagram below, the fashion lifecycle is explained with the aid of a semiotic square in which the horizontal elements are opposites (or contrary), the vertical elements are complementary and diagonal elements are contradictory. 

Fashion is the eternal return of the new

Walter Benjamin

Another use of the Semiotic Quadrant is to analyse the motivation behind choices of fashion. In the below quadrant we analyse the different use of fashion from protection from cold and weather to self expression.

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