Expression and Repression: The Glamorous Presentation of Self

By Kevin Almond.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper investigates how the fashionable and glamorised appearance of an individual can be constructed to obscure the real person beneath. The unreal self is in this instance the fashionable presentation of self or the public image that is often used as a platform to mask the inadequacies of the private self. The sociologist Irving Goffman put forward a theory in his work ‘The presentation of Self in Every Day Life’: ‘When an individual appears before others he will have many motives for trying to control the impression they receive of the situation.’ (Goffman, 1990, p-26)
This indicates that in their ‘control’ the individual wants to dictate the reaction of others to their presentation of self. In global society it is often necessary for some individuals to invent a different visual persona in order to present themselves to the world; this could be due to social displacement, bigotry or oppression. There appears to be a great tension or contradiction when the assemblage of the visual appearance is purely camouflage and the costs to the individual can often be shattering both emotionally and physically. The paper investigates two strands of enquiry: An historical perspective explores how change in society; can initiate changes in attitude to the fashionable exterior that would normally be repressed. Narcissism is examined through the construction of celebrity images that create beautiful masks through clothes, cosmetics and surgery. There is a huge degree of self love involved in constructing a public image through the exploitation of fashion and beauty. The investigation examines the ambiguity in the many images of Marlene Dietrich, to the exotic coterie of ‘Superstars’ in Andy Warhol’s factory. It also examines the hidden darkness beneath the facades represented by the superimposed images on these celebrities.
To a great extent all visual self presentation is managed. The sociologist Efrat Tseelon argues in ‘The Masque of Femininity’, that with the majority of women the requirement:
‘....to be beautiful masks a fundamental ugliness which operates like a potential stigma. The fear of the woman is projected onto the woman and defended against by glamorising her.’ (Tseelon, 1995, p-78)
Although this theory is directed towards the female it also applies to male. The mounting and maintenance of a glamorous mask is often a superficial and quick fix solution to a deeper need for social acceptance.

Keywords: Expression, Repression, Image, Self, Fashion, Glamour, Narcissism

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.211-222. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 607.442KB).

Kevin Almond

Principal Lecturer, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, UK

Kevin Almond MDes(RCA) Principal Lecturer, Subject Leader Fashion Manager of three undergraduate courses and one postgraduate course in fashion related subject areas. Winner of IFFTI Conference Award 2009 for paper ‘You Have to Suffer for Fashion’. Research interests include fashion archives, distortion of the body in fashionable clothing, tragic elemnts in fashion.

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