You Are What You Wear: Clothing / Appearance Laws and the Construction of the Public Citizen in Turkey

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Abstract:

As Turkey set its sights on modernization and Westernization in the early decades of the twentieth century, clothing reform took center stage. The state used clothing as a constitutive element in its establishment and continues to legislate appearance as a means to maintain its power and create a model public citizen that will support it. Today there exists an extensive regulatory regime on clothing and appearance in the public sphere, which induces those governed by it to dress in a “modern” fashion. An examination of these regulations reveals the deeply politicized nature of clothing in Turkey which is guided by the assumption that you are what you wear. While choice of clothing and appearance is neither entirely free nor fully prescribed, dress codes do further restrict already limited choices. Dress codes undermine the relationship thought to exist between individual belief and appearance. Dress codes, in the case of Turkey, are dictated by the state; therefore, the appearance of students and state employees does not necessarily represent their belief but that of the state. The Turkish state, through the use of dress codes, continues to try and produce “modern” citizens, meaning Western and secular.

Keywords: Turkey; dress; law; public citizen

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175174110X12544983515231

Affiliations: Email: mloneil@khas.edu.tr

Publication date: March 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
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