What Not To Wear Policing The Body Through Fashion Criticism
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 12:12 authored by Kate Rothschild
Earlier studies investigating reality fashion television revealed that while participants and audiences are aware of mechanisms of surveillance and shame; scholarship also documented that critical distance from the program’s methods are not necessarily ideologically liberating for participants or audience. Indeed, as I argue and document in this current study, participants in reality fashion television shows remain caught in a pernicious power dynamic that is part and parcel of these shows. Specifically, by exploring examples from three popular fashion reality television programs—America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and Fashion Police—and by considering theories of fashion, gender, and power, I question the problematic ways in which popular media talk about fashion and clothing choices. Further, by drawing on Michel Foucault’s concepts of disciplinary power, I critically examine the judgments and assumptions that fashion critics impose on participants whose sartorial appearance they may find wanting. More generally, my study investigates the limitations of the widely accepted belief that fashion is a form of self- expression while I end with some more positive examples of fashion advocacy.