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At ITS we specialize in quality, affordable small to medium size business IT support that bridges the gap between business and technology. Not only do we provide superior customer service, we also act as your trusted technology adviser ensuring the best technology investments to produce the highest return on investment.
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  • Comment Link Womens Youth Kids Mens Greg Hardy Jerseys UK Wednesday, 09 April 2014 21:38 posted by Womens Youth Kids Mens Greg Hardy Jerseys UK

    High heeled shoes, like the corset, are an example of fashion supporting the female gender identity by constricting and binding women. The narrow toed high heel shoe that has been so popular in recent years, forces the foot and ankle into an unnatural position, as well as restricting the toes. The heel places the foot at an angle, making the legs look longer and more elegant and drawing attention to the ankle (which has long been associated with physical attraction) (Lurie, 1992, p227). This angle also forces the woman to 'strut' to some extent in order to walk. The unnatural position inevitably makes standing and walking for any length of time painful as well as making running at any speed an impossibility. Any woman in heels attempting to outrun a man is certain to fail, thus reaffirming mans position of dominance. Yet high heeled shoes are extremely popular and are considered quite stylish, even being worn with jeans (Lurie, 1992, p227). This example in particular highlights femininity as a construction being based on appearance not physical ability. The appearance of a long leg is considered superior to being able to actually utilize it. This unhealthy focus on women's appearance rather than their physical ability and health has been perpetrated by the fashion industry for decades. One of the dominant messages that fashion conveys is that women should be thin (Macdonald, 1995, p201).

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    Gaultier's design can be read as an attempt at subverting the objectification of women through fashion. By taking on a traditional signifier of women's restriction, that is, the corset, and placing large cone shaped breasts on it, it can be said that Gaultier has created an image of female empowerment (French, 2004). By making the corset visible he highlights the way in which women have been forced to conform to accepted standards of beauty, and the way in which these standards are constructed. The cones add to this reading by removing the maternal aspects of the breast and indicating the way in which they have been objectified and the unnatural form that has become the beauty standard in western culture (French, 2004). However this design could also be seen not as a parody and symbol of empowerment, but as a reinforcement of patriarchal ideals.

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    The 'gaze' plays a significant role in the maintenance of the male/female binary and as such the separation of gender identities. The 'gaze' (that is, the act of looking at and objectifying the opposite sex) is considered predominantly masculine, with many images of women in the media being constructed for the male audience (Barnard, 1996, p140). However when a man is the subject of the gaze the binary is not destroyed, as merely reversing the act of 'looking' and being 'looked at' does not alter the active/passive, male/female binary. These must be transcended in order to begin breaking down the distinction between gender identities (Barnard, 1996, p140). As such fashion, by encouraging the male gaze and helping to define masculine from feminine is supporting the male/female binary. Cross dressing is one way of making it especially clear that this male/female binary exists.

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    Fashion can certainly be used to parody, subvert and deconstruct gender identities (particularly the feminine), however, in the mainstream, it can only ever reflect the social conscious behind it. If society is not ready for men to wear skirts, then skirts will not be bought by the majority of men. Whilst designers like Jean Paul Gaultier can attempt to deconstruct gender stereotypes through fashion, many of these subversions can still be read as supporting the distinction between gender identities. Fashion and dress is influenced by both the body itself and the range of signs that it refers to, making it difficult to determine where fashion ends and social consciousness begins.

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    Whilst fashion may try to subvert or construct gender identities, it may simply support social ideals already in place. As Malcom Barnard writes in his book Fashion as Communication, "Signs are only meaningful on the basis of their relations to all other signs" (1996, p156). In this way fashion can only convey a meaning when coupled with other signs (particularly the body itself), and as such cannot construct a gendered identity of its own accord. In order for clothing to be a signifier of a gender identity, that gender identity must already be constructed in order to give fashion its meaning. In which case, fashion is not constructing gender identities; it is reflecting and reinforcing them. Not all fashions have been accepted by society, the most obvious examples being skirts and the colour pink not being acceptable for men (Lurie, 1992, p214). Some designers, like Jennifer Minniti, have attempted to promote skirts and dresses as a male alternative; however such designs have not succeeded in the mainstream (Shreve, 1998). This is likely due to them not conforming to society's expectations of gender identities. Men in skirts are still considered to be cross dressing, and as such skirts remain signifiers of femininity. Gender identity also comprises more than appearance. Gesture, behaviour and social standing all contribute to a person's gender identity, and whilst fashion can attempt to draw on or hide these signifiers it cannot do so completely.

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    Madonna has been a 'sex symbol' for decades, with her streamlined, slim, healthy body and attractive blonde image conforming to the feminine ideal. She has become a loaded sign in herself. In this way, when she makes the corset visible it becomes fetishised. The revealing of undergarments is already a sexual image, but by coupling it with a sexual body this effect is enhanced (Lurie, 1992, p6). She also does not appear uncomfortable in the garment, and can move easily about the stage, thus indicating that if one conforms to this stereotype then they will achieve some element of freedom. Similarly the cone shaped breasts become objects of sexual desire by drawing attention to her breasts in a non maternal light, making them the most eye catching thing about the entire garment. The costume is completed with fish net stockings, an item which conjures images of promiscuous women. To add to this her hair is tied up in a style reminiscent of Barbra Eden's in I Dream of Jeannie, in which Jeannie calls Major Nelson (played by Larry Hagman) 'Master' (I Dream of Jeannie, 1965 1970). This combination of signifiers serves to reinforce the feminine stereotype through Jean Paul Gaultier's corset, rather than subverting the feminine ideal. In this costume Madonna becomes the fetishised subject of the male gaze. The duality of the garment is a clear indicator of the various ways in which fashion and dress can be read, as well as the way it ultimately still supports the constructed female gender identity despite trying to subvert it. It also shows that the reading of fashion can be influenced by the body and any pre existing signs which a garment or image may refer to. At times these references are clearly apparent.

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    Fashion perpetuates the image of the slender woman being the ideal feminine and can sometimes have significantly detrimental effects. Due to the mass production of clothing, it has become easier for the fashion industry to encourage women to be slender (Macdonald, 1995, p208). Many of the most fashionable garments are not made larger than a woman's Australian size fourteen. This encourages women to diet and exercise in order to lose weight, a trend also encouraged by the many advertisements involving slender women. One disturbing result of society's fascination with being thin has been the rise in eating disorders, including anorexia (Macdonald, 1995, p208). In Australia's November 2004 issue of Cosmopolitan an article was run entitled 'Anorexia for Sale'. This article discussed Mary Kate Olson, a well known actress, and her public struggle with Anorexia Nervosa. Images of Olsen and other famous women who appear to be unhealthily thin, such a Kate Moss, have been used on websites known as 'pro ana' sites, that is, websites supporting anorexia as a 'lifestyle choice' as opposed to an illness (Percival, 2004, p62). Many of these sites have begun to sell 'ana bracelets' and 'ana necklaces' which are a means of identifying other anorexics and which serve as a reminder not to eat. This jewellery has proven quite popular within the anorexic community (Percival, 2004, p62). This is an extreme example of fashion (or in this case accessories) being used to specifically propagate the idea of being thin. On the other hand clothing can also be used to raise awareness of eating disorders and encourage women not to go so far. T shirts with the slogan 'Save Mary Kate' and a drawing of her emaciated figure were released with just this intention (Percival, 2004, p62). Released when Mary Kate began her rehabilitation, the emaciated drawing on the t shirts is far from attractive and draws attention to her bones and the unnaturalness of being so thin. The words 'Save Mary Kate' could be read in one of two ways however, they could refer to the fact that she is need of help, thus constructing her as a victim, or they could be referring to the desirability of her image and a wish that she remain so thin, thus the implication could be 'Save Mary Kate from the rehabilitation clinic'. This second reading is supported by the image itself, in which she is smiling and returning the gaze of the viewer. This subverts the intended message that she is a victim.

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    Whilst fashion may try to subvert or construct gender identities, it may simply support social ideals already in place. As Malcom Barnard writes in his book Fashion as Communication, "Signs are only meaningful on the basis of their relations to all other signs" (1996, p156). In this way fashion can only convey a meaning when coupled with other signs (particularly the body itself), and as such cannot construct a gendered identity of its own accord. In order for clothing to be a signifier of a gender identity, that gender identity must already be constructed in order to give fashion its meaning. In which case, fashion is not constructing gender identities; it is reflecting and reinforcing them. Not all fashions have been accepted by society, the most obvious examples being skirts and the colour pink not being acceptable for men (Lurie, 1992, p214). Some designers, like Jennifer Minniti, have attempted to promote skirts and dresses as a male alternative; however such designs have not succeeded in the mainstream (Shreve, 1998). This is likely due to them not conforming to society's expectations of gender identities. Men in skirts are still considered to be cross dressing, and as such skirts remain signifiers of femininity. Gender identity also comprises more than appearance. Gesture, behaviour and social standing all contribute to a person's gender identity, and whilst fashion can attempt to draw on or hide these signifiers it cannot do so completely.

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    In society today there is a clear divide between fashions considered feminine and those considered masculine. However, is this a result of the fashion industry itself, or is the industry merely reflecting the changing attitudes of society as a whole? It is difficult to determine where the line between gender reproduction and gender construction stands in regards to fashion and dress, as it can be read in a number of ways. Fashion has been used in attempts to deconstruct gender stereotypes, as in some cases of cross dressing, but has also been used as a means of reinforcing them via items like the high heeled shoe. Fashion has been a part of western culture for centuries and as fashion has changed so too has its significations. The style of the garments we wear, their fabrics and colours, all carry signifiers of various aspects of our lives. In times past, fashion trends were set by the middle and upper classes, with the result that fashion became a signifier of social standing. For example during the Baroque period of the seventeenth century it was fashionable for both men and woman of the upper classes to wear garments decorated with large amounts of lace and ribbon (Stecker, 1996, p14). This gave men's fashion a highly feminine appearance; however they were quite distinct from the lower classes which did not utilise such decoration. In the present day this class distinction has lessened and a gender distinction has become predominant. This division is established almost as soon as we are born. In western culture it is customary for male babies to wear blue and female babies to wear pink. earning a living) (Lurie, 1992, p214). In the adult world it is acceptable for women to wear blue, however men still rarely wear pink, and those who do are often accused of being effeminate and homosexual (Lurie, 1992, p214). One theory states that one of the first functions of clothing was to attract the opposite sex. By only revealing and highlighting specific parts of the body, much can be left to the imagination and thus sexual desire is increased (Lurie, 1992, p213). This is similar to Freud's assertion that "visual impressions remain the most frequent pathway along which libidinal excitation is aroused" (Freud, 1977, p69). In order to be successful in attracting a member of the opposite sex the garments must therefore serve to distinguish men from women. On a basic level this can be seen in department stores where the women's clothing section is distinct from the men's. However the relationship between fashion and gender is significantly more complicated, with the definition of what gender actually is having a significant effect on how fashion could be seen to impact it.

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    Fashion and Gender

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