Personal biography of clothing, 2015

Photography: Yuku Ondera, Portrait of second-hand clothes, 2009.

In 2015, the Center for Research of  Fashion and Clothing (CIMO) is conducting a project - workshop Personal Biography of Garments. Fashion - garments circulate as consumer goods guided by fashion - economic policy that encourages increased consumption and constant variability of style, which trivializes the value of the garment itself and its importance, pushing these items into oblivion or even disappearance. By acquiring from the free market into the private sphere, or by inheritance, the garment begins and builds a meaningfully very complex life, inseparable from the biography of the owner. The relationship between the fashion-clothing item and the owner is further complicated since the clothing items participate in the everyday design and construction of the visual representation performed on the body as a meeting of the private (internal) and social (external). This confirms the fashion - clothing item as a very specific form of material culture that has historical, situational and semantic features. By separating clothing items from the everyday context and looking at them from different perspectives, it will lead us to subject identities, which are conditioned by spatial, temporal and socio-cultural processes.

Different identities of an item of clothing participate in the formulation of a multi-layered meaning that the item makes very significant in the life of each owner. Reading the meaning through the garment as a medium, and based on the use and personal experience, memories, experiences, the workshop will reflect on the garment in the categories of specialness and everyday life.

To work on the workshop, the participants bring one item of clothing that carries a potential story, and which they choose for the existence of a pronounced personal relationship (emotions, memory, symbolic value). It can be a fashion, exclusive item, as well as an everyday, clothing item, from a personal wardrobe or family heritage. 

The principle of operation is based on the so-called. storytelling method, and represents the process of describing, telling and reading the material and symbolic level of identity of a fashion - clothing item and its biography.

Using the method of talking, association or loud thinking in a group, each individual tries to describe the fashion item, identifying the basic data, history and destiny of the item and thus stratification and awareness of different levels of meaning of the item: functionality, economy, symbolic dimension, psychological connection as well as inscription in our memory, transfer and importance of the semantic dimensions of the garment in our memory. All this is considered as the role of fashion - clothing in the formation of personal biography: emotions, memory, history of experiences, rituals that accompany the material and cultural image, when the communication level of these objects becomes a personal message to others.

The fashion - clothing item has a double image, one that satisfies our choice (utilitarian, physiological and psychological function, symbolic level), as well as the other image directed towards society, towards others. The garment, rich in different, less visible layers, opens before us and others as a kind of document, which builds part of our personality, as well as part of the social image, but thus establishes its own biography, which this workshop wants to record, reconstruct, raise awareness and return to one's own or collective archive as an object filled with multi-layered meaning.

The method of observing, analyzing and articulating the story of a garment leads to the establishment of a multi - layered biography of fashion - garments that testifies to the subject identity and its role in its own and overall history.


Project leader: Ivana Čuljak

* The project is financially supported by the City Office for Education, Culture and Sports of the City of Zagreb for 2015.

* Copyright © cimo - a center for research of  fashion and clothing. All rights reserved.