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Omekashi mekashikotoba

The Language of Dressing Up


We continue to create our outer layer by wrapping and dressing our bodies.

Text: Hiroshi Ashida


Now, everything again comes to the surface. (The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze)

Today, we wear clothes during the day, at night, and inside our homes. These clothes, complicated in design, are fragments of fabric sewn together to form sleeves and a body. However, the first clothes were made from simple cloth and simpler in their design. Cloth is familiar to modern man and easy to obtain. Yet, if we stop and try to imagine ourselves weaving the fabric from yarn, we realize just how involved the process is.

The material used as the first clothes is said to have been pelts, but just how and when did man begin using them? We can imagine our ancestors reaching for the pelts of their catch and shrouding their bodies. Wrapping is the fundamental function of clothes.

After our ancestors began wrapping their bodies, they gave this action various meanings. The main purposes, according to various theories, were protection, decoration, rituals, or as a symbol of power and station. But no matter the reason, clothing also had various additional functions. One is concealment. By wrapping their bodies, they hid their until-then exposed flesh. When something is hidden, man by nature develops the desire to see what is inside. In other words, our bodies would not attract sultry glances if they were uncovered. The eroticism surrounding the body no doubt was born when the body was wrapped.

Another interesting function arising from the act of wrapping the body relates to form. Be it a pelt or fabric (hereafter referred to as ‘cloth’ for convenience), wrapping the body gives a two-dimensional piece of cloth three-dimensional form. Once removed from the body, cloth reverts to its two-dimensional form – easily switching between two- and three-dimensional. But wrapping is not unique to cloth. For example, make-up is another means of covering up. The act of applying layers of skin lotion, emulsion, foundation and other cosmetics to the entire face can, at times, blur or obfuscate facial expressions and at other times, emphasize facial features. Alternately, needles can be inserted into the skin (i.e. tattoos) thereby creating new original design patterns. Cosmetics, tattoos and, of course, clothes all have a common feature; they all create a new outer layer. Our existence is not static, but forever changing. This change manifests itself on the surface. Things happen on the surface. We can only see a thing’s surface. If we want to look deeper, our only alternative is to push aside the clothes, make-up, and other wrappings. Even so, yet another surface is revealed. Playing with these multiple layers is what we call fashion.


Hiroshi Ashida: Born 1978. Ashida quit his Ph.D. research program at the Kyoto University Graduate School. He is now assistant curator at the Kyoto Costume Institute.

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