The Wednesday Word: Roland Barthes on the written garment

Author Roland Barthes

“I open a fashion magazine; I see that two different garments are being dealt with here. The first is the one presented to me as photographed or drawn–it is image-clothing. The second is the same garment, but described, transformed into language; this dress, photographed on the right, becomes on the left: A leather belt, with a rose stuck in it, worn above the waist, non a soft shettland dress; this is a written garment. In principle these two garments refer to the same reality (this dress worn on this day by this woman), and yet they do not have the same structure, because they are not made of the same substances and because, consequently, these substances do not have the same relations with each other: in one of the substances are forms, lines, surfaces, colors, and the relation is spatial; in the other, the substance is words, and the relation is, if not logical, at least syntactic; the first structure is plastic, the second verbal. Is this to say that each of these structures is indistinguishable from the general system from which it derives–image-clothing from photography, written clothing from language? Not at all.”

–Roland Barthes, The Fashion System

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