Clothes perform many functions for the wearer. They not only cover our body but play a vital role in shaping our personality. Various functions performed by clothes are described in following sections:
I. SOCIAL FUNCTIONS OF CLOTHING
a) Clothes are primarily worn for modesty
b) Clothes and Accessories are used for adornment
c) Clothing exhibits the characteristics of the wearer– Clothing cues are used as a tool to influence the assignment of characteristics to the wearer .People have preconceived ideas of what various clothing symbols represent. Each individual holds an infinite number of ideas that can be used to interpret. How clothing is perceived depends entirely on the frame of reference of the person making the judgment. Different people because of their own unique background will evaluate clothing cues in their own manner. People who dress in similar manner generally approve of each other and criticize those who dress differently.
d) Clothes express the wearer’s lifestyle, Attitude, Values and Interest to others – Lifestyle is the pattern by which we live, this includes clothing style also. For e.g. completion of education and acquiring a professional job often marks a change in lifestyle which could be easily observed through change in clothing style. Understanding the influences of values on clothing choices is not always easy. Values often conflict, leading to a compromise on the part of the wearer. For e.g. a teen in the family with a modest income may value conformity with her peer group, but if the family budget will not allow this, some kind of value compensation must be made; a lady dressed in attractive clothes portrays aesthetic value.
e) Clothes also add a dimension to a person’s Self Image or Self Identity- Self-image is the physical and psychological perception that one has of oneself. It evolves from a person’s intrapersonal and interpersonal development. Continuous feedback such as verbal comments about clothing, physique, behavior, and nonverbal responses to one’s appearance
affects its development. Mirror and photographs also provide self -image assessment. Clothing choices express a person’s self- image. For e.g. a chubby person may select tight pants that outline every bulge? The person may not perceive himself to be overweight, instead his self -image allows him to believe that he appears slim, trim and attractive in pants. When individuals have a true assessment of their self-image they can more accurately select clothing that reflects their individuality.
f) Clothing reflects the wearer’s personality- Apparel is one tool used by individuals to express personality – For e.g. Natural personalities are more comfortable in relaxed -style clothing with a roomy fit and layered look; Classic personalities focus on elegant, well fitted, tailored clothing styles. Creative personalities tend to use a variety of clothing items in different combinations to reflect their mood and to show off their fitness. It also could be dramatic, sporty etc. It is important that clothing be selected to harmonize with the wearer’s personality. If it is not then cognitive dissonance occurs. For e.g. If an individual dresses like an hourly employee but is actually a boss, he may incur the disrespect of those who mistake his identity.
g) Clothes reflect individuality of a person – Individuality consists of characteristics such as uniqueness, risk-taking, independence and assertiveness. Signs of a person’s individuality may be expressed through clothing choices. For e.g. Choosing to wear a favorite color often; Having a signature look; Being known as the first to try new styles; refraining from wearing same style garments because everybody is wearing them; unusual eyeglass frames; unusual color combinations; distinctive clothes and jewelry etc.
h) Political beliefs and religious ideas are identified in one’s clothing
i) Clothes are a reflection of one’s status in society
II. DEMOGRAPHIC FUNCTIONS OF CLOTHING
a) Clothes are a reflection of the wearer’s income, age, race, education, occupation, geographic location etc.
b) Clothing helps in gender differentiation
In this article, we talked about social and demographic functions of clothing. We will proceed to other functions like psychological, cultural etc. of clothing in the next article.