Damhorst, M.L. 1999. “Introduction” to The Meanings of Dress.

Damhorst, Mary Lynn. 1999. “Introduction.” Pp. 1-11 in The Meanings of Dress, edited by Mary Lynn Damhorst, Kimberly A. Miller, and Susan O. Michelman. New York: Fairchild Publications.

“Dress is what people do to their bodies to maintain, manage, and alter their appearance; therefore, dress is behavior” (2).

“Dress is more than mere objects and materials people put on their bodies. Dress can be a sign or symbol that refers to and stand for meanings not inherent in the material or object. In sum, the physical body when dressed reflects the ‘social body’ or surrounding social system” (2, see also Turner 1991) — expressing cultural system of peoples’ knowledge, feelings, values, creations, and behaviors – reflecting cultural stereotypes, hierarchies, hegemonies, and social organization.

“Meanings [of things/dress] emerge as people hear others talk about the way people look, see each other interact with others dressed in certain ways, and act together toward those people on the basis of appearance.  Meanings of dress and appearance are created, maintained, and modified as individuals collectively deal with dress and the people wearing that form of dress” (5).

Sproles and Burns (1994) – changes in fashion fragment meanings attributed to dress as they become more diffuse and spread throughout society – offering prestige or stigma.

“Dress is part of our interactions with others who act toward us, in part, on the basis of the meanings of our dress. Dress is part of defining self identity to others; we choose items that reflect our interests, personality, roles, membership in groups, age, gender socioeconomic status, and more” (7) – learning from process of programs and reviews (Stone 1962), and the process of self-indication (Blumer 1969) to learn who we are.  Dress is shaped by the many roles we take on as part of our identity.


Blumer, H. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sproles, G.B. and L.D. Burns. 1994. Changing Appearances. New York: Fairchild.

Stone, G.P. 1962. “Appearance and the Self.”  Pp. 86-118 in Human Behavior and the Social Processes: An Interactionist Approach, edited by A.M. Rose. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Turner, B.S. 1991. “Recent Developments in the Theory of the Body.” Pp. 1-35 in The Body: Social Processes and Cultural Theory, edited by M. Featherstone, M. Hepworth, and B.S. Turner. London: Sage Publications.


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