Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, China
Not just ‘the look’: Identity, new materialism and affective clothing
This paper explores how our sense of self-identity is shaped by homemade clothes in the context of contemporary China, taking an anti-essentialist stance towards fashion and identity. This study takes a new materialist approach to investigate the understudied research agenda, foregrounding clothing’s ‘agential’ capacity to affect, and the fluidity of identity. Under this theoretical framework, identity is viewed as an assemblage of becoming, which is an effect of affective practices of both human and nonhuman elements. As such, identity is not fixed and inherent, and cannot be captured in neat typologies. The analysis of this post-qualitative study focuses on the memory evoked by homemade clothing and the feel of wearing homemade garments. Positioned outside the linear, take-make-dispose fashion system, homemade clothes not only shape our sense of self and fashion through its material agency, but can sustain both environmental and human well- being, resisting postmodern consumerism.