Our first lecture for the History and Practice module introduces us to the modernist timeline (1850-1980); exploring the developments of art and design in the present day, and how history effects cultural texts. The aim is explore ways of thinking and understanding of cultural works and inform creative practice.
Cultural texts are shaped and informed by the society and cultural norms surrounding those who create them. They give thought to things such as ideologies and morals, representing the world and its beliefs, class/status and fears.
A piece of clothing is considered to be a cultural text and can say a lot about who you are as a person. When you get dressed in the morning you are consciously choosing clothing that shows how you want to be perceived by society, giving others an impression of your personality and social status.
Clothing is considered to be a sign system as it conveys meaning; they have specific functions such as to disguise, show status and for personal expression.
For example, there are various cultural connotations of the 'black dress; it could symbolise night-time, mourning, authority, and is associated with goth culture, but it is considered to be frowned upon if worn by a bride or new born baby.
Denim has a long, complex history that reflects different cultural contexts and trends. Today, denim is seen as the default mode of casual dress and can be interpreted differently depending on the cut, brand and how they are worn.
Created in 1870 by the designer of the first pair of jeans, Levi Strauss, the denim jacket was designed for a similar function. Its original purpose was for it to be used as a utility garment for workers due to its heavy-duty material being ideal for tough manual labour.
In my own wardrobe is a LEE denim jacket. Founded by Henry David Lee in 1889, Salina, Kansas, the brand originally produced clothing brought about by the introduction of work jumpsuits and overalls, eventually becoming one of the leading manufacturers of work clothes in the US. Their focus later shifted from practicality and durability to following fashion trends and youth culture, adding flair through techniques like distressing and applying acid stone washes. The item was even banned in some schools due to its connotations with non conformity and rebellion, showings us how the design today is mainly worn more for expressing individual identity and style.
This shift in how the denim jacket has been perceived over time illustrates how clothes are signs that are open to individual interpretation, having a long history that reflects many cultures and trends throughout the years.