Cultural Gerontology - towards the culture of dressing the elderly, 2017 and 2018

Cultural Gerontology, Dom Trešnjevka, 2018

The project Cultural Gerontology - Towards the Culture of Dressing of the Elderly, which the Center for research of Fashion and Clothing (CIMO), in cooperation with the Gerontology Center of the Home for the Elderly Trešnjevka, Zagreb, is a continuation of similar activities related to the clothing practices of the elderly, in the manner of contemporary anthropological approaches, which include a multidisciplinary cultural apparatus, and through conversations, recording, documenting and archiving, as a kind of cultural studies.

 The fashion system today segregates age layers by creating artificial distinctions, neglecting real clothing needs by imposing consumerist practices that exclude some age groups. Nevertheless, anthropological sciences and cultural studies are devoting more and more research to the elderly and their daily lives, the economics of clothing, while returning the focus to the values of memory transfer and recording. Clothing and the relationship to the dress constitute significant semantic material that seeks to be recorded, documented, and archived, as personal micro-histories affirming “great” history.

In collaboration with the Trešnjevka Home for the Elderly, the project explores and documents the everyday dressing practices of the elderly through recollections and comparisons of current economic and emotional investment in fashion and dressing in relation to previous habits and attitudes. At this stage, the project deliberately shifts the focus from the collective experience of living in a single or solitary home by turning its gaze to living in one’s own homes. By shifting the focus from the institutional framework of living and aging, which implies the daily socialization of users to the single context of living, research interest turns to individual "household" clothing practices, clothing economics, attitude towards self-representation (then and now). The method of conversation and retelling, along with descriptions of real clothes and photography as a medium, records existing and past clothing practices and clothing cultures of the elderly who do not currently live in the institution but live in their own homes, so they are only external users of individual services of the Gerontology Center. formed at the Home for Elderly for non-resident users.

The project encompasses the broader socio-cultural context of aging, which is manifested in clothing practices as markers of space and time. At the same time, the project encompasses individual history and the transfer of memory to the present. As these are users who have the memory and experience of living in socialist Yugoslavia, the project additionally includes individual and collective memory related to the history of clothing and the fashion system of that period.

This program gives cultural visibility to the elderly through clothing and fashion as a medium. The Trešnjevka Home for the Elderly, Zagreb, is an important historical and social context that is perceived by the public only as a "non-place" for one age group. On the other hand, in this project it becomes a place (archive) through which an image is built - then and now - related to the culture of clothing and fashion in the specific context of the Home for the Elderly as a non-place.

Single life in one's own home is a place without context, so the motivation for (fashion) clothing decreases, loses its social function, changes or even goes out. Lack of care for one's own clothes results in the creation of feelings of social non-belonging and a certain exclusion from social reality, which additionally marks the elderly as "other and different".

One of the important goals of this project is to culturally affirm and document the clothing practices of the elderly and valorize their life experiences and history, personal ways of dressing, decorating and caring for their own bodies and appearance in conditions that often limit and devalue human dignity.

With this project, the Center for Research of  Fashion and Clothing (CIMO) wants to highlight, valorize and affirm identity narratives conditioned by clothing practices in the elderly, and to document and archive them.

*Photos by Tjaša Kalkan

* The project is implemented in cooperation with the Gerontology Center and users of the Home for the Elderly Trešnjevka, Zagreb, where we implemented the project Fashion and Clothing Inventory: Economics and Culture of Clothing for the Elderly (2014), published a scientific text by Ivana Čuljak The Nursing Home as a Fashion Archive,  published in the online Fashion Studies Journal, New York, 2017).

The text is available at the link:


* The project is supported by the City Office for Culture, Education and Sports of the City of Zagreb, 2017 and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, 2017 and 2018.

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