Sara Chong Kwan
Making sense of everyday dress: integrating multi-sensory experience within our understanding of contemporary dress in the UK
London College of Fashion, Funded by University of the Arts London Studentship Award
My thesis emerges from the conviction that multi-sensory perception is fundamental to the experience of everyday dress as worn by a feeling, sensing body and the resulting desire to integrate this into our understanding of the complex role dress plays in our personal and social lives. Dress is often described in visual terms while much less attention is given to how it is experienced by the wearer through all the senses; touch sound, smell, even taste and how these sensory dimensions have the ability to transform our bodies; trigger thoughts, memories, emotions and behaviour.
This reflects a growing interest in the senses across the social sciences and humanities (Howes 2005) and is informed by many interrelated disciplines, notably dress studies, material culture, sociology, anthropology and scholarship of the senses. By conducting primary research into the male and female sensory dress experience, I aim to contribute to existing embodied approaches within dress studies.
Using semi-structured life-world interviews, my primary research will gather personal testimonies from participants. Daniel Miller (2005) suggests that the study of clothing as a form of material culture must reflect its intertwined material and social dimensions. By combining interviews with a heightened sensory awareness and physical exploration of the participants’ personal items of dress, drawing on Jules Prown’s curatorial ‘Material Culture Method’ (2001), I too aim to contextualise the sensory experience of the materiality of dress within an individual’s life and their social and cultural understanding.
Emeritus Professor Helen Thomas