Joseph, N. 1986/1995. “Layers of Signs.”

Joseph, Nathan. 1995. “Layers of Signs.” Pp. 80-85 Pp. in Dress and Identity, edited by Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, Joanne B. Eicher, and Kim K.P. Johnson. New York: Fairchild Publications.

Originally printed as: Joseph, Nathan. 1986. “Layers of Signs.” Pp. 54-58, selection from Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communicatio through Clothing. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

“Multiple layers of clothing enable varying levels of communication, each transmitting to a potentially different audience and perhaps presenting a different image of one’s self. With the outermost layer, we are addressing a general audience or a public. Successive layers are directed to more intimate groups until, finally, we are interacting primarily, but not solely, with ourselves, or more precisely, the view of ourselves derived from society” (80).

“Our bodies may turn into battlegrounds between those group affiliations and self-images we prefer for ourselves and those to which we are socially bound. We may conform at one level, but deviate at another. We are our own audience and the signs we extend to ourselves of our selves do matter, even when the external world is not cognizant of our statements. The divergence in perspectives toward the concealed is yet another reflection of the perennial antimony, repeatedly encountered in this analysis, between external witnessing to others and the internal adherence to personal beliefs. The external and the internal, the public and the private are expressed in these attitudes toward layers of dress as they are toward layers of the self” (81).

Innermost layers are frequently the least public, due to societal restrictions, presentation of more extravagant external layers, or to express defiance – all concealing some secret to avoid sanction or devaluation.

kx^ – however, in the case of VS – these concealments become front and center – as a means of communicating very public selves with previously considered private materials… how to reconcile?


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