You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Fantasy

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This week’s Reading column focuses on the interplay of fashion and fantasy, paying particular attention to the ways in which fashion presents a specific sort of fantasy world for the viewer and consumer. By carefully choosing the narrative, the fashion industry and media have the ability to promote a fantasy world for the consumer (either through the pages of a magazine or, more directly, through the purchasing of the clothes themselves). What sorts of fantasies are being promoted to audiences now? And why does this matter? These questions and more are answered in the three articles below. Enjoy!

1. Barry, B. (2014). Selling whose dream? A taxonomy of aspiration in fashion imageryFashion, Style & Popular Culture, 1(2), 175-192. 

Scholars and practitioners assume that women aspire to fashion photographs of idealized models. It is unknown, however, what makes a fashion image aspirational because previous researchers have not explored the various dimensions that evoke this concept. In this article, the author shares the development of a taxonomy that explains the evaluative criteria and image elements that elicit aspiration in fashion photographs based on data gathered in focus groups with 100 women. Findings reveal that women aspire to a fashion image according to their evaluations that it is honest, empowering and socially responsible. The models, creative direction and visual cues in the image trigger these three aspirational criteria. The author’s research contributes the first taxonomy of aspiration in fashion photographs and to the enhancement of knowledge about consumer engagement with images. Industry professionals are encouraged to incorporate promotional photographs into their corporate social responsibility agenda and produce imagery that represents women’s diverse beauty and character alongside glamour and artistry. — Paraphrased Article Abstract 

2. Bonadio, M. C. (2014). Brazilian fashion and the ‘exotic’International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1(1), 57-74. 

The construction of an exoticism associated with diverse elements of Brazilian cultural identities is a subject that has been widely investigated in several studies. Although much of what one sees and does in Brazilian fashion is characterized by images of exoticism, there has been little reflection on how it has become exotic. And yet, is this something that is just exotic to ‘others’ or also to Brazilians? Do Brazilians also understand themselves as such? In this article, the author seeks possible answers to these questions by outlining a brief history of the way the visual identity of Brazilian fashion has been created, by examining the role of the textile industry and cultural institutions (in particular the São Paulo Museum of Art) in the preparation of this visual understanding. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

3. Huppatz, D. J., & Manlow, V. (2014). Producing and consuming American mythologies: Branding in mass market fashion firmsGlobal Fashion Brands: Style, Luxury & History, 1(1), 23-40. 

The majority of contemporary fashion encompasses a vast middle ground comprised of popular and influential brands whose designs are neither haute couture nor trendy. These mass-market brands rely on intensive marketing and advertising to evoke ideals of an American national identity and lifestyle. In this article, we employ a holistic analysis of Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger’s lifestyle branding strategies aimed at creating coherent American mythologies, Gap, J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister’s less coherent approach and American Apparel’s new ‘authenticity’ in its portrayal of American ideals. In their respective branding strategies, each of the brands constructs a hyperreal American world based on appearances and associations, in which contradictory ideologies are conflated and consumed by global audiences. The companies produce coherent systems of signification through advertising and promotional strategies in which consumers are invited to become a part of their mythological constructs. Through the kaleidoscopic lens of the production-branding-consumption cycle, an examination of several mass-market brands exposes variations on American national identity and differing responses to broader cultural and political changes over the last four decades. — Full Article Abstract 


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