The 6 Functions of Dress
Fashion can be viewed in many contexts, but there are 6 main functions of dress that are used to categorize the things we put on our bodies and why. These are: environmental protection, decoration, gender differentiation, group membership, ceremonialism and sexual enhancement. I have listed examples of each below for further understanding.
Eskimos are a great example of people who dress for environmental protection. With the extremely cold weather conditions, the Eskimos developed methods of dressing including animal skins, furs, etc, to shield themselves from their environmental conditions.
In finding ways to represent who we are, we constantly seek ways of decorating ourselves. Tattooing is one example of decoration in dress. Tattoos can serve many purposes in decorations, such as srtistic expression, notes of bravery, etc. In New Zealand, the Maori people use facial tattooing as a means of decor:
Many cultures have marked differences between men and women in their society. As such, there are clothing differences that represent this. The first thing that comes to my mind are the burqas that Islamic women wear to cover themselves, not to be taken off until they are back in the sanctuary of their own homes. Here is a photo of two Afghan women, in current times, wearing their burqas:
Many garments are worn to classify the wearer in a certain category, group, or related in some way to a particular way of thinking. The uniform is a common example of group membership attire. Below is a photo of a pirate, showing the traditional pirate garb/uniform and overall "look" that has been sported in different varieties by pirates throughout time.
This is when we wear garments for the ritual of something, to represent the "ceremony" that is taking place. For example, we can look at coronations to see traditional garb that has been worn for centuries, and some that have been newly added or updated, to mark the event that is taking place. Seen above is a photo of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, complete with the ceremonial cloaks and crowns.
And underlying reason for many an outfit is to provoke or enhance one's sexuality. Most people to do in an effort to look more sexually appealing. A great example of this was the Victorian era and the use of the corset to shrink the waist to make the bust and hips look larger and the waist non-existant. This gave the illusion of the more child-bearing hourglass figure. Seen here in Victorian photo: