Inventory of fashion and clothing: Economics and culture of clothing for the elderly, 2014

The Inventory of Fashion and Clothing: The Economics and Culture of Clothing of the Elderly project aims to research and analyze the social inclusion of the elderly. This project is a case study and covers the context of living of elderly people in nursing homes and elderly people living in a familiar environment - their own home (which are connected to the Gerontology Center of the Home for the Elderly Trešnjevka). Through clothing and photography as a medium, the method of storytelling, the habits and culture of dressing are recorded, while at the same time emphasizing the complex issue of the socio-cultural process of aging in Croatia.

Situated in space and time, body, clothing and photography summarize the same spatial-temporal determinants, and belonging to a particular social and visual system, carry a trace of time and culture. The fashion system as a part of social culture constructs and integrates abstract visual schemes, especially gender, on the body, determining its parameters and representation (Body in Transition, Čačinović, 1999). In this sense, the concept of an ideal, young and eroticized body and appearance is affirmed, which consequently produces a desire for possible body modification, all in the name of the cult of youth.

In such a cultural atmosphere, the construction of gender and identity in old age, especially the female gender, is very devaluing. In a culture dominated by an emphasis on a young, vital, healthy body, the thought of old age or the aging process can have negative connotations. On the other hand, the body and the dress are cultural artifacts, which summarize spatial and temporal determinants. Clothing as a material culture presupposes the body but also responds to the psychophysical processes of the body by pointing to its materiality, transience and finality. An illustration of this process can be found in various forms of camouflage by which we try to conceal and / or reveal a certain part of the body depending on age. Clothing stands on the border between the social and the individual, and therefore clothing is both an individual subjective and a social phenomenon, because it connects the individual identity with the collective. By drawing the line between the individual and the social, clothing proves to be a mediator and agent of something much more important - and that is memory. Belonging to life experience and personal history, clothing represents a layered personal archive of memories. Clothing, dressing and clothing practices are related to events and life experiences of everyday and / or special moments of a person (school, graduation, wedding, first day at work ...) that are enrolled and constructed personal history

For contemporary theorists, the relationship between dress and fashion represents a rich area for social analysis. Thus Anne Hollander (1994) says the following: '' Unlike everything else in the material world, clothing has to do with the body of an individual. Fashion goes beyond individual clothing, it confronts the idea of the individual body with an individual psyche and special sexuality, a unique youth and maturity, a unique set of personal experience and imagination. By emphasizing the idea of the individual body, fashion thus illustrates the idea that sexuality, relying on individual imagination and memory, rules the life of each person. Fashion is an illustration of collective life as if it were a personal narrative, a linear subjective movement through history. '' This quote shows the characteristic of the fashion system as a space of discrimination, since '' the illustration of collective life is like a personal narrative '' , which through social culture illustrates the idea that "sexuality, relying on individual imagination and memories, rules the life of every person."

The life expectancy of the elderly today is being extended which does not eliminate habits and does not reduce the desire to continue previous lifestyles and identities, which is particularly pronounced in consumerist culture. Clothing items participate in the construction of well-being as well as a lifestyle in which clothing, fashion accessories and ornaments become and remain some form of personal memory acting like an archival lens. By the act of moving from the familiar environment of their own home to the space of a shared home, the elderly who enjoy public care develop personal strategies of special care and economy in relation to their own affairs. Responding to the new spatial conditions of the new living space, a new form of individual economy appears and is motivated by a new life situation and a different context in which their everyday life takes place.

In the cultural space today, there is a practice of inclusiveness which seeks to actively act and involve as many protagonists as possible. One of the essential goals of this project is to include, research, respect the principles of protection of the elderly, valorize their life experiences and history, valorize personal ways of dressing and decorating, supporting self-care and appearance in conditions that often limit and devalue human dignity. 


Project leader: Ivana Čuljak

* Project partner: Home for the elderly Trešnjevka, Zagreb (

* The project is financially supported by the City Office for Education, Culture and Sports of the City of Zagreb for 2014.

* Photos: private archives t.v.

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