Culture, Historical and Critical Studies

Historically understanding textiles meant you were interested in describing and categorising features of textiles, usually based solely on the fashion, costume side of textiles. This method of research does not question why the textiles have changed over time? what are the effects of politics? and social changes?

Textiles is a consumer industry, without demand there would be no supply and v.vs. There are “cultural messages” within textiles, social norms associated with the way they are worn or used. Seen in varying cultures, races, genders, politics, social group, personality, sexuality.

Social Practices: wedding dresses, suits, black for a funeral, office wear.

Cultural: across place varies, through time as well.

Textiles work as Social Markers 

Status- Silk      Gender- pink and blue at birth       Race/Ethnicity- Kimono, African dress      Fashionability- in style at the time      Sexuality- rainbow LGBT      Politics- political statement embedded on tshirt

Culture is often explained as what human beings have done or added to the natural land. It is derived from the word agriculture.

Base and Superstructure– some believe that society is built on the base (technology, labour industry, economy) and the superstructure is built on top (ideologies, beliefs, values, practices, art, religion). The cultural activities within the superstructure have their own economies, dependent on innovation and design (music, fashion industry). The base of society allows for the superstructure to be built due to having the information for the culture to be available to us. Both elements are vital to the improvement of society.

Civilisation- although usually closely linked with culture, it is more evaluated. A civilised society will be sophisticated, enlightened. The ‘perfect’ body, the ‘perfect’ home. This helps the consumerist society to thrive. Sigmund Freud said that civilisation is a repression of instincts and desires, it could be said that visual culture satisfies this. Though Freud tends to believe in bizarre wild desires that I do not personally agree with. I believe we are conscious of judgement whilst in the public eye.  This way we may act more cultured but everyone is aware of the false facade.

Cultural capital- pursuit of ‘spiritual perfection’ to obtain the best qualities of humanity. However everyone is looking for those deemed ‘cultured’ to inspire themselves to perfection, no one is contemplating the opinions of those not deemed important.


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