- Paperback: 351 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (July 25, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520071778
- ISBN-13: 978-0520071773
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Fashion System
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"Barthes's treatment of fashion in "The Fashion System is his most elaborate attempt to reveal the little worlds of meaning enclosed in each nuance of social life. . . . In a magisterial effort that has been superbly translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard, Barthes certainly draws our attention to some fascinating aspects of fashion. . . . One is able to hear the voice of a sensitive and sensible critic who was alive to the symbolic vitality of the world."--Flint Schier, "New York Times Book Review
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Top Customer Reviews
Barthes is the first (ever published) to really look at fashion with a semiotic approach.
OK, admittedly a lot of this style is because of the era in which it was written; maybe a little because of the gender of its writer, and a lot because of the complexity and originality of the ideas Barthe is illuminating. But I would strongly recommend leaving this book until graduate level. Undergrads are better off with any of the contemporary writers in fashion theory, gender or cultural studies who have addressed Barthe's ideas in simple language.
EDIT 9/17/2011 I've been meaning to update this review for a while now. Originally I gave this book 3 stars, however I was wrong. This is a 5-star book. All my criticisms in my original review really do nothing more than point out my own shortcomings in understanding it, and I'm sure that many people realised this when reading my review, and either forgave me for my ignorance, or thought "pfft, what an idiot". Fair enough. No, Barthes doesn't love his own work: he's enjoying the play of the text and letting us enjoy it too (hence the sentence structure). Yes, understanding Barthes fully can take time: totally worth the effort.
For the reader, it's important to place the book into some sort of context, as Context is Barthes' entire position when he insists that in relation to popular imagery, text "arrests the level of reading at its fabric, at its belt, at the accessory which adorns it" (13). Barthes' idea that the language used by magazine writers does not comment upon but rather *creates* Fashion arouses some questions about certain social centerpieces in, for example, popular (once "folk") music: Janis Joplin to Madonna to Britney Spears. While Barthes clear interest is a structuralized definition of Fashion, not women, studying Barthes' book may help us understand at a more analytical level just what these women "mean" as they are mediated through imagery and arrested by their respective (worn and written) articles. Barthes is crucial for anybody who has ever noticed that, compared to that which accompanied artists of Joplin's caliber , the accompanying texts of contemporary magazines read, more often than not, like a report of Time Temperature and Date.
Furthermore, the book certainly becomes enjoyable for the more fantastic-minded who could envision a day when fashion magazines no longer have to rely on flamboyant nudity, tasteful or otherwise, or suggestive postures, but wherein nudity and erotic positions are implied in a truly Barthean, truly erotic manner: by the fact that all text has been stripped bare. After all, even in a picture-mag where there is no writing, there is still, if one reads Barthes, *writing*. This reviewer would imagine that in Barthes' eyes, the old fashioned critique of the ironic incongruities between the image and the text of other vestments of fashion (such as shampoo commercials whose orgiastic imagery and sounds have nothing to do with the actual product) could be easily solved by one magazine, of any kind, that had no writing at all but consisted entirely of centerfolds.