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The Language of Fashion

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  337 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Roland Barthes, widely regarded as one of the most subtle and perceptive critics of the 20th Century, was particularly fascinated by fashion and clothing. The Language of Fashion brings together all Barthes' untranslated writings on fashion.The Language of Fashion presents a set of remarkable essays, revealing the breadth and insight of Barthes' long engagement with the hi ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by Berg Publishers (first published January 1st 1967)
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Aug 15, 2016 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
Oct 21, 2007 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.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great reflection on the role of fashion in the society and their interconnections. My favourite essay from this book is "From Gemstone to Jewellery". The best way to describe this book is to provide few excerpts:

"System is completely different from gestalt; it is essentially defined by normative links which justify, oblige, prohibit, tolerate, in a word control the arrangement of garments on a concrete wearer who is identified in their social and historical place: it is a value."

"Dress is, in th
Kevin Karpiak
Jul 22, 2007 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?
Feb 15, 2015 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.
Jun 25, 2012 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.
Apr 12, 2008 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
Feb 07, 2016 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
Amanda Wallace
Apr 01, 2012 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
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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.
More about Roland Barthes...
“Are not couturiers the poets who, from year to year, from strophe to strophe, write the anthem of the feminine body?” 9 likes
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