By Prince & Sarah
We have been using clothing for as long as we can remember. It has been an integral part of our everyday life that sometimes makes us wonder what it is for and why people are wearing clothes based from different perspectives.
We conducted a short interview with Ms. Elena Marie Calamlam and asked her three relevant questions. She is a BS Civil Engineering sophomore student in UP Diliman, part-time model in several haute couture shops, and also the grand winner of the Ms. Santa Cruz 2015 pageant. Watch the interview below.
To put an end to our curiosity, we researched comprehensively and came up with the list below of the different motivations for and functions of dress. We categorized the entries according to what we have learned in our CT 15 class and read from Eubank and Tortora’s A Survey of Historic Costume and supported them with a couple of references.
Furthermore, we included some examples that support the following motivations for and functions of dress as well as those that do not.
Motivations for Dress
This part answers the question, “why do people wear clothes?” Each one of us has his or her reasons in wearing clothes in general and using particular clothing. These reasons vary depending on the time period, place of origin, and other factors.
The following four motivations for dress are the main categories that we have discussed in our CT 15 class.
- For Protection
- According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, protection is “something that keeps a person or thing from being harmed, lost, etc.” Marshall, S., et al. (2004) suggested two types of motivations under protection—physical and psychological.
- a. Physical
- As stated by Jones, S. (2011), “clothing has evolved to meet many practical and protective purposes.” Clothing can be motivated by environmental conditions. People have developed certain dresses for cold weather, rainy season, firemen, science laboratory personnel, and so on.
- b. Psychological
- Some groups of people, especially in ancient times, have beliefs which somehow affect and can be seen in their clothing. For instance, some elderlies in our province let their young children wear red-and-black beaded bracelet as protection against bad elements.
- For Modesty
- We believe that the definition of modesty is definite but the perception of the word differs from culture to culture, from era to era.
- To Denote Status
- Jones, S. (2011) cited George Sproles, in his book Consumer Behaviour Towards Dress (1979), who suggested symbolic differentiation and social affiliation—such as profession, social standing, and religious association—as factors affecting clothing.
- For Decoration
- Marshall, S., et al. (2004) notes that clothing can be inspired by adornment to enhance the body, hair, face, and the overall sexual attractiveness of a person.
Functions of Dress
On the other hand, this part answers the question, “what is clothing for?” More than the influences for dressing, it is also important to know the purpose that all types of clothing serve. Eubank, K. and Tortora, P. (1994) mentioned the following six functions of dress in their book.
- Designation of Age
- Eubank and Tortora mentioned that “clothing serves to mark age change.” Indeed, there are clothing which are only used by a certain age group.
- Designation of Gender Difference
- Furthermore, according to Eubank and Tortora, the norm in almost all societies is that men and women’s clothing should be dissimilar. Marshall, S., et al. (2004) also mentioned that though men and women may have similar clothing, some features of the dress will indicate masculinity or femininity.
- Designation of Status
- Eubank and Tortora noted that clothing serves differently depending on occupational and marital status, as well as cultural, social, and economic status. Peculiar clothing of a certain culture may not be allowed to be worn by others; common people might not be allowed to wear the dress of high ranked people in the society.
- Identification of Group Membership
- In addition to the previous function, some group of people dress differently from the others because they belong to a certain group—ethnic, religious, and social among others. According to Jones, S. (2011), “people dress alike in order to belong to a group” and “those who don’t conform to the accepted styles are assumed to have divergent ideas and are ultimately mistrusted and excluded.”
- Ceremonial Use of Clothing
- People from different backgrounds observe their own practices, rituals, and ceremonies. Additionally, different dresses are usually an integral part of such events. Eubank and Tortora emphasized that the society dictates proper clothing for special events such as weddings and burials. There are also specific clothing for other events like in professional football and basketball games.
- Enhancement of Sexual Attractiveness
- As stated by Jones, S. (2011), “clothing can be used to accentuate the sexual attractiveness and availablity of the wearer” and it can be designed to improve our individuality and physical attractions.
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