The semiotics of the dress


The semiotics of the dress, begun in 2015, is an evolving body of work and research in which women's roles and identities as perceived by themselves and others are explored using the dress as the key motif.  The work explores what has changed and what has stayed the same for women over time.  I use fabric and clothing, either literally or metaphorically, as a way of critiquing existing power structures and their enablement through labelling practices and the signification of clothing.  The work moves between personal, national and global in its focus and is currently being explored through painting, expanded painting, installation, participatory art and photography. 

I have crystallised some of my thoughts into questions (18 August 2018, revised 15 February 2019 and 6 May 2020).  These questions are the result of my personal journey, observation, anecdotal evidence, general research, academic research, art viewing and art-making:

1. If we make it a priority to deflate the importance of gender difference in everyday speech and behaviour in order to allow diversity and inclusivity through non-gender-specific terminology, how can we then highlight discrimination or disadvantage for women or men as a group on the basis of sameness within the binary system?

2. As we continue to dismantle traditional stereotypes and cultural practices around the binary system, what does it mean in today’s society to wear a dress - what are the semiotics of the dress?

3. If woman as subject has essentially fallen out of fashion in the art world in the transition from women's studies to gender studies to queer theory, can the Feminism 'brand' continue to be effective in inciting positive change for women?  Do we instead, as a culture, need to consider rebranding to something more levelling and inclusive, such as Egalitarianism - equity and equality for all people regardless of sex, gender, cultural background, age or ability?

4, Women’s gender equality has been an unpopular subject in art since the early 1990s when intersectional feminist theory asserted that talking about women as a group assumed sameness of experience.  If a pluralistic view is desirable now, why not welcome and acknowledge individual voices of all identities, while at the same time continuing a dialogue around women as a group?

Further reading:

Please head to my Publications page where you will see my writings available for download on this subject.

Untitled (sisters).JPG

Untitled (sisters), 2019, inkjet print on archival matte paper

Wedding day, 2017, digital print from vintage photograph with etching overlay