Semiotics Of Fashion
The specific article of clothing to be examined in this body of work (Figure 1) is a production of the JF Fencing Jacket, named for its creator Jessica Finley, produced by SPES, a historical fencing gear manufacturer based in Poland. Its purpose is as protective sports clothing, for Historical European Martial Arts (H.E.M.A.). Histfenc (2021). The jacket (Figure 1) has 10 large (2mm diameter) polished metal buttons up its center which folds across from right to left, for protective reasons within its design for sparring with weapons, which is contrary to the pervasive convention of other buttoned articles of clothing intended for male wearers, as they fold across from left to right as a means to make buttoning them up easier for right-handed individuals.
There are two overt tags/ patches sewn onto the outside facing portion of the jacket (Figure 1). The first of which is present on the front (Figure 2) denotes the manufacturing company & logo. The second patch is located on the back (Figure 3), which describes the year of the design’s creation, the company, the location of production, the polish flag, the polish coat of arms, and the newton rating of the jacket which is a technical specification relevant to its qualifications as a fencing jacket. Within these patches, there are many symbols & associations that’s meaning would be heavily dependent of the viewer’s pre-existing knowledge.
The patches are filled with signs of various designed purposes, to intentionally trigger associations with historical & cultural elements, or to provide uniquely relevant information. For example; “350 N” is a shallow sign (few possible interpretations/ meanings), one that requires a knowledge of either academic physics, to make the connection that “N” is a unit of force, “Newtons”, or an understanding of the wider context of fencing jackets. Without prior knowledge of either of these two things, “350 N”’s intended message would be indecipherable; therefore, this sign must be correctly decoded by the viewer to have any value within the design.
The design of this jacket (Figure 1) is both practical and aesthetically focused to fulfil its role as protective equipment & as a pleasing fashion item. The design takes into consideration the practical realities of its use, but also takes into account the aesthetic sensibilities of those who are likely to see it.
Within the design of this jacket (Figure 1) there are many elements which can be interpreted as having martial and/ or historical connotations, given the wider context of this item & its intended use, and therefore audience, this is an unsurprising direction for its design to take. The design of this object takes advantage of the assumed audience’s likely knowledge-base & exploits their predicted interpretations & capacity to decode signs to induce a greater value & meaning to the object by linking it to a grand historical & cultural narrative.
Elliot Watson, Illustrator with a background in historical swordsmanship and all the weird and wonderful trappings that entails.