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The Language of Fashion

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  291 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Roland Barthes, widely regarded as one of the most perceptive critics of the twentieth century, was particularly fascinated by fashion and clothing. This collection brings together all of Barthes' untranslated writings on fashion, revealing the breadth and insight of Barthes' long engagement with the history of clothes. The essays range from an analysis of the significance ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 21st 2006 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published January 1st 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,149)
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Aug 16, 2016 Tosh rated it liked it
First of all, I need to point out that Roland Barthes' "The Fashion System" is not "The Language of Fashion." There seems to be confusion regarding these two titles - they are separate books. "The Language of Fashion" is a collection of essays regarding clothing/fashion and how to "read" clothing with respect to culture and dandyism, among other categories. "The Fashion System" is basically a book length study of the same subject matter.

"The Language of Fashion" are mostly magazine pieces or ess
Feb 01, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A totally insane, wacky, uber-smart, poetic, at times hard to read, incredibly beautiful, slightly eccentric reading of the world of fashion through the eyes of one of the great readers as well as writer Roland Barthes. I want to give this book five stars, but four makes it more mysterious for some reason or another. Yet probably the best book that tells you how to read inbetween the words and 'image' of fashion.
Feb 20, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
I read most of ‘The Language of Fashion’ whilst experiencing insomnia and found it suitably calming while I was feeling terrible. Bathes’ writing rewards careful reading, rather than my usual headlong rush through the pages. At one point I found a fifteen line sentence, which was frankly excessive, but for the most part the book was readable for someone with an extremely erratic background in theory. As it is an anthology rather than one piece of contiguous writing, Barthes’ views evolve and the ...more
I read this while doing research for my senior thesis and the arguments and ideas are thoughtful and insightful. My only issue with it is that it's almost impenetrable to anyone who might want to understand the ideas presented withouth having advanced degrees. I know plenty of people who would love this book but I wouldn't recommend it because I think it's a tough read. Well worth it if you can get through it, but to an average person who might actually enjoy it, it's a struggle.
Kevin Karpiak
Jul 22, 2007 Kevin Karpiak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fashionistas and ideologists
Shelves: french-theory
I have no idea why nobody reads barthes anymore in anthropology. He's prettier than Foucault, less obtuse than Levi-Strauss and more current than Benjamin.

I might one day teach this in a course on ethnographic method, if only to piss off the students.

Thesis: Whatever fashion photography is, it is not the article of clothing. Whatever fashion writing is, it is neither the article of clothing nor the photograph. What, then, is description?
Ernest Lee
Feb 07, 2016 Ernest Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: critlit, philosophy
Best read as a companion piece to his seminal text The Fashion System , this collection of essays by Barthes surrounding topics like symbolism in gemstones, the self-defeatism of dandyism and hippy culture and attempts to chronicle both Fashion (capital F) and articles of clothing is accompanied by well-intentioned, often helpful annotations as well as a conclusion that illuminates not just the content of individual essays, but also situates these essays within the discourse of critical theory. ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
LOVE LOVE LOVE! It has a dry technicality that gives it an odd beauty. Much of the same meditations on surfaces, voids, and writing as in "Mythologies," but fewer exclamation points and more to the point. Oh, and it's also all about clothes.
Clément Bénech
Pas mon préféré de Barthes. Mais ça reste Barthes, sa clairvoyance excessive, presque maladive. Esprit de système et œil perçant. La mode est le cadet de mes soucis, mais m'intéresse la manière dont on en parle et ce qu'elle révèle éventuellement. Malheureusement, je trouve que le système d'analyse construit par Barthes et son architecture complexes ne sont pas des plus féconds, et que ses analyses les plus passionnantes sont toujours les plus dilettantes. Plutôt le Barthes badin des Mythologies ...more
Jul 21, 2008 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-theory
Using as his source French fashion magazines from 1958 and 1959, Barthes "reads" clothing to determine its system of meaning. "The magazine as a machine that makes fashion" (51) is indisputable now (and was it ever in doubt by those in the industry?), but in 1967 when this book was first published it had the whiff of revolution about it. Doesn't take very many pages before you're into doctoral-level semiology--but what would you expect from the founder of the study of signs? That makes this a hi ...more
Amanda Wallace
Apr 15, 2016 Amanda Wallace rated it it was ok
'The message is decoded only by experience'

This was a language dense, but interesting read on clothing history and systems within fashion. I was most interested in his explanation of there being multiple meanings for fashion items, A dress can mean day/night/sexy/conservative/budget/expensive etc, we know these meanings from the details, the fit, the tailoring, colour and so on. All these meanings we just know, because we are socially constructed to know. We are told through the media and friend
Jun 23, 2012 Jan added it
WARNING. I'v read The Fashion System and thought The Language of Fashion was just an updated version of it (Barthes uses the terms langue and system interexchangably, and language seems to me like a nicer term). ERROR; they're two different books or rather The Fashion System is a book and The Language of Fashion seems to be a collection of essays. Sigh. As if Barthes wasn't confusing enough. Brilliant, but also French.
Jun 08, 2012 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING. I'v read The Fashion System and thought The Language of Fashion was just an updated version of it (Barthes uses the terms langue and system interexchangably, and language seems to me like a nicer term). ERROR; they're two different books or rather The Fashion System is a book and The Language of Fashion seems to be a collection of essays. Sigh. As if Barthes wasn't confusing enough. Brilliant, but also French.
Oct 27, 2013 H.d. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filosofia
Apesar de ser considerado, por ser um conjunto de textos no formato de coletânea do que não foi organizado pelo autor em vida, são ensaios sobre moda, imagem (cinema, publicidade) que indico aos amigos que querem entender como ler o que está acontecendo no mundo agora. Leitura deliciosa.
Oct 17, 2012 Vincent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
strange and difficult to read... a nice attempt at explaining fashion that I personaly found unsuccesful. A must-read anyway for all fashion designers.
Jul 07, 2008 Tove marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fashion-history
Really interesting subject (obviously I think so), but virtually impenetrable language.
Sep 24, 2007 k rated it it was ok
I only liked "From Gemstones to Jewellery", one chapter/essay in the book.
Sanjay Varma
Oct 13, 2015 Sanjay Varma marked it as abandoned
Shelves: non-fiction
It turns out that I didn't care.
Tracey Duncan
Aug 24, 2007 Tracey Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not what you think it is.
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Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology and post-structuralism.
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“Are not couturiers the poets who, from year to year, from strophe to strophe, write the anthem of the feminine body?” 8 likes
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