What we wear is who we are

Sue Noble

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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The clothes we wear are a primary means of self-expression and more significant polysemic objects, than mere translators of transient trends. The project ‘What We Wear Is Who We Are' aimed to explore levels of interpretation, self-expression and societal communication cross-culturally of clothing, by young people who are markedly adept at reading the signs and signifiers of dress. This student-led project was devised to recognise and appreciate this tacit knowledge and use this as a starting point to explore, recognise and appreciate cultural differences and develop simpatico student groups for the purposes of co-designed outcomes. The primary objective was to explore the messages and codes of clothing, identifying commonalities of expression across two cultures whilst recognising and valuing differences. Students worked in pairs to make an outfit that expressed the message that they had identified together. Working on a short, intense project, the students had to think quickly, be intuitive and make decisions by trusting their own creativity and expertise. The co-design process enabled them to explore, recognise and appreciate cultural diversity whilst creating genuine mutual understanding. It ensured that the student’s designs resulted from the development of authentic relationships forged through the common need for self-expression. The work has so far been presented in both institutions to students, staff and the public. It has been disseminated in two exhibitions, one in Portsmouth and one at the prestigious headquarters of the project sponsor, New World Land China. Further collaboration is being planned.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFuturescan 4: Valuing Practice
EditorsHelena Britt, Kevin Almond, Laura Morgan
PublisherAssociation of Fashion & Textiles Courses
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)978-1-5272-4969-1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2019
EventAssociation of Fashion & Textile Courses (FTC) Conference: Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice - Bolton, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jan 201924 Jan 2019


ConferenceAssociation of Fashion & Textile Courses (FTC) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • semiotics collaboration
  • valuing artisan skills
  • drawing and making
  • collaborating and cross-disciplinary working
  • promoting diversity
  • employability and community
  • noissn


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