Journal article Open Access

Affordances in the Field of Fashion and Clothing

Petra Leutner

Art Style | Art & Culture International Magazine


The paper examines whether James J. Gibson’s concept of “affordance” can be made fruitful in the field of fashion theory. Thereby first Gibson’s ecological theory of perception is explained. The embedding of perceptual activities in the ecological niche of living beings forms a prerequisite for the concept of affordance. In the next step, the text addresses the foundations of Gestalt theory, since the concept of Gestalt represents a kind of precursor to the notion of affordances and leads to Gibson’s theorem of ‘direct perception.’ On this basis, the explanation of the concept of affordance follows. Then, case studies from fashion design are examined to explore whether the social phenomenon of fashion can be seen as a performance of the clear handling of objects with the help of affordances, similar to what has been demonstrated in design theory using the example of the practical use of design objects. The argumentation tries to prove that fashion takes a different path. Particularly striking for this are selected works by the fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, who ascribes new functions to the clothes in his collection “Afterwords” (2000) and has the call for surprising handling of such clothing objects demonstrated via the medium of a performance. The designer Iris van Herpen, on the other hand, produces fashionable clothing sculptures with the 3D printer, for whose use knowledge of affordances is presupposed, but which at the same time question the usual process of dressing through the optical transformation of the living body into a hybrid object. So the interaction between object and body in general comes into focus, and the question of the handling of objects is posed anew. The text shows that in fashion, affordances are reflected and counteracted, and that the productivity of the concept in this field must be seen above all in the critical redefinition of the application-oriented relationship to objects.

Art Style, Art & Culture International Magazine is an open-access, biannual, and peer-reviewed online magazine that aims to bundle cultural diversity. All values of cultures are shown in their varieties of art. Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context in which art takes its characteristics, art is considered the significance of socio-cultural, historical, and market influence.
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