On Tarlo

I find it so fascinating how our Tarlo reading from last week puts a different context into how anthropologists understand fashion and clothing. Rather than something that is easily dismissed as frivolous and feminine – unworthy of academic consideration – Tarlo believes that we should analyze clothes based on the wearer and why they chose to wear those things.

Take Mad Men, for example, one of my favorite shows on television. January Jones (who plays Betty Draper) talked about how these girdles and corsets that she slipped on for the show clipped her strides, fixed her posture and gave a certain waddle to her steps. It’s a further example of Zane’s quote: “power both inscribes and prescribes the body as it is inflected by the histories and dynamics of power relations, to reflect the positioning strategies of who sets the norm.”

Take, for example, a conflict between Sterling Cooper’s secretary, Joan, and Peggy, also a secretary but transitioning into a role as a copywriter for the ad agency. The clothes they wear (or choose not to) is a clear indicative of how they want to navigate themselves through the world.


Or take for example, Betty Draper, the show’s tragic housewife. Throughout the 3rd season, she’s been trying to find a way out of her marriage and confront her husband’s infidelity. But during a last-minute vacation to Rome, she turns to role-playing to fix – even if only temporarily – her relationship with her husband.


When they return home, Betty is back to cleaning the house and taking care of the kids. But for the first couple of days she flitters around her home in a beautiful print dress she picked up in Italy – trying to remind herself of how happy she was with her husband. But it all goes back to the way things were – she’s stuck at the house, and Don is out doing whatever and whoever he wants, and Betty – in her European dress – sits on her sofa,  full of regret.

What I want to ask to our class is something very basic – how do we in this post-feminist, post-modernist, post-etc. world choose what we wear and why do we wear it? Is it all that different from the 1960s? Or do some things just stay the same?


8 thoughts on “On Tarlo

  1. Even in this post-modernist, post-feminist, post-etc world, those ideals still exists and i believe that people convey so much about their ideals and beliefs thru their clothing or lack of. Like Betty portrayed in Mad Men, Clothing still has this humanly quality to incite a certain emotion or statement. If it was not so, we would have nothing to discuss in the politics class.
    As we have seen in class, women in power such as Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama still utilized clothing , whether they are aware or not, to convey a message to their followers. One can read Clinton’s dress as being more feminist and an attempt to fit in with her colleagues due to the various pantsuits that she adorns. On the other hand, Michelle Obama still dresses fashionable and to a certain extent ushers new trends and beliefs on clothing by mixing what the middle class would consider ” high and low end”.
    I believe now the predominant focus is on trends , and among those who are highly fashion conscious or just hipsters :), the focus is on preserving classical motifs but looking cutting edge an ahead of the times. In that way, some things stay the same and some things change but what remains the same is that individuals utilize clothing to exhibit social politics.

  2. This post was rather interesting and honestly I believe no matter what all of these ideals are still in our society with how we dress. I feel like they are almost the basis of how and why most women dress the way they do. The fact that this television show alone maintains the fashion of the 1960s to a tee shows that these ideas are still floating around especially because a new wave of clothing has been produced and inspired by this show alone.

    We wear clothes because either they are trendy or because we enjoy the style. Even those who think they are being individuals are most likely not as if we broke down their clothing the principals would remain on how similar we all dress. Few women dress outside the norm and to me that would be dressing masculine. Otherwise if you are in women’s clothes to me you are following the norms and ideas that have been set since clothing became something more than to hide the naked body. I feel like more so than ever we are reverting back towards those styles of the 1960s that embodied the curves and cuts to show that one is a woman.

    However with the post above I think the last line explains it all without having too many cluttered thoughts “In that way, some things stay the same and some things change but what remains the same is that individuals utilize clothing to exhibit social politics”

  3. While trying not to sound to pessimistic, I think it is safe to say that most would agree that what we choose to wear makes a statement about our identity, and has since people began wearing clothes. Besides fashion being an indicator of socioeconomic status, class, gender, and race, it also indicates cues of where people want to be, especially in regards to class. As we discussed in a prior blog, we said that people often buy expensive brand name clothes or accessories, in order to give the allusion that they can afford those clothes. This concept that fashion connotes something about our identity has interestingly found its way into the legal system. In a significant amount of rape cases, the defense team has often tried to make the case that the women in some way deserved the sexual aggravation due to their suggestive clothes. The lawyers are often trying to demonstrate the women wore “slutty” clothes; and therefore, they were “asking for it.” It is so ironic that people say fashion is frivolous since in these cases it is being upheld as serious evidence in the court of law. While fashion can be viewed as mindless and silly, it actually is a strong indicate of people’s personality and other people will judge you based on appearance, which is why in college they push so much to dress nicely during interviews and career fairs. Clothes have always been a marker of identity.

  4. I believe that the decision to dress a certain way is on the individual. I think with my generation, many of the females dress a certain way to gain the attention of their male counterparts. Dress is used as a way to show out and stand out. The current trend is to be different or to dress like the celebrities. I find it funny, because when I talk to males, I find they like the simply girl, which is totally opposite than what girls are striving for. When they dress, girls are also trying to impress and outshine their competition, other girls. So as much as I hate to say it, I think some things never really change. Even though, the American female is more independent these days, we still are looking to impress our male counterparts overall.

  5. Please don’t use words like “post-feminist”! We are NOT in a post-feminist society, nor are we in a post-racist, post-classist, etc. society. Adding the ‘post’ prefix to things carries a very strong weight, so please think carefully about your meaning before you post it (haha, no pun originally intended). If you actually meant “post-feminist,” then fine, but many people use that term casually, so I wanted to make sure you meant what you said.

  6. The idea of post anything bothers me, I believe that we have made progress in area regarding gender equality, and race but I refuse to believe that we do not have room for improvement. I believe that when it comes to clothing women today wear clothes for many different reasons. I think it really depends on age, and situation. I personally wear an array of styles of clothing depending on the event and how I feel. Sometimes I wear clothes that force me to have better posture, and sometimes I wear clothes so that I feel more professional, and there are times when I just want to be comfortable. I think with more freedom regarding female attire, that women today rarely let one narrative dictate how they dress.

  7. Clothing will always say a lot about what we believe in and who we choose to align ourselves with. If that were not true, we would never have to worry about “dressing for an occasion”. Think about the wardrobe in the business world: business formal, business casual, etc., whatever choice the person makes speaks to the business situation they are in, and how they want to be perceived by others. I know the business school here encourages its students to conform to a certain image for professional events, and it is not just about clothes. It includes hair, makeup, tattoos, piercings. Everything needs to convey that the person is straight laced and conservative, or else they may not be perceived as trustworthy.

    As far as dressing up, I think we all feel a little different when we’re in formal wear, or really, what would be the point of putting on the tight dress and the tall shoes? Unless we as a society collectively decide to transition into a Mao-style national uniform, the way we express this will continue to change and evolve.

  8. Today I believe people wear what they want and chose their clothing based on how they want to present themselves and what message they want to convey through their sense of fashion. Throughout history clothes were worn to show class, status, and what you can afford to wear to keep up with the latest fashions. As Tarlo discusses clothes throughout history can show what the innovations were of the time, class, fashions which reflected economy, thoughts on conservatism, and appropriate behaviors via clothes. Ideas of caring how one looks and how they would like to present themselves to the public has been going on for centuries and continues on today.

    Being a senior, I have had several interviews lately which have caused me much stress in deciding what to wear and how that will come across to a potential employer. Conservative and professional are the words I would use to describe this type of outfit but when I am going out on a Saturday night sexy and stylish are words that I would use to define my look. These two are completely different because they both are targeting different audiences. Regardless in both my number one goal is that I like the way I look but I would definitely agree that women dress for other women and for men. One of my crude guy friends made a comment recently that “if women were really dressing for men they wouldn’t be wearing any clothes”. While this statement might hold some truth to it, I believe most women and men are dressing each and every day so that they look and feel their best which will translate into how they carry themselves and show their unique sense of fashion.

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