Transparent Objectification in Fashion Design

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


5th Global Conference Fashion: Exploring Critical Ideas, Mansfield College, Oxford University, UK, Sept 9-12, 2013.

The manner in which the human body is presented and depicted through the medium of fashion is critical to our own perception of healthy beauty and body ideals. The viewing of clothed bodies through this narrow microscope of design and media is widely accepted to generate unhealthy, negative and unrealistic ways that we judge and evaluate our self-image.

As a fashion educator, campaigner, researcher and practitioner I am concerned by the lack of diversity on the catwalks and in fashion media, and in particular, model sizing which has transitioned towards the dangerously, yet widely normalized size zero body type. As such, attribution must be apportioned to fashion designers for endorsing unhealthy clothed bodies as the prototypical beauty standards of our age.

Conversely, I am fascinated by the use of transparency in clothing and materials within my own research and creative practice. I seek to utilise transparency as a method of communicating the magic of fashion: the inner workings, exposed mystique, and semiotics of style. I am, however, aware of the provocative messages that veiled nakedness may signify to the viewer. Are designers like myself knowingly objectifying, exploiting, endorsing unhealthy body types or in fact celebrating the beauty of the human form through the use of transparency?

This paper will seek to demonstrate how transparency within fashion design provides a dichotomous argument about body image, where female beauty is artfully celebrated and simultaneously open to vicarious negative scrutiny. I will discuss the history of transparency in fashion; analysing the rise and acceptance of transparency through an engaging historical and contemporary analysis.

The paper will also explore the juxtaposed empowerment and sexualisation of celebrity bodies through transparent clothing, debating notions of subversive control and femininity. I will conclude with an analysis of future thinking on the theme of transparency, relating to textile innovations that create ‘second skin’ experiences for both the wearer and viewer.

Keywords: Transparency, body image, diversity, fashion, clothing, design, fabric.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013
Event5th Global Conference Fashion: Exploring Critical Ideas - Mansfield College, Oxford University, Oxford University, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sep 201312 Sep 2013


Conference5th Global Conference Fashion: Exploring Critical Ideas
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityOxford University

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