Virtually Dressed: Towards an Anthropomedial Theory of Digital Fashion (Arbeitstitel)
Digital fashion describes a recent phenomenon of garments designed digitally with 3D software to be then edited onto photographed bodies. “Dressed” in digital fashion, users can upload these images to Instagram. Through the Dutch digital only fashion house The Fabricant and online marketplaces for digital fashion like DressX, digital fashion of late has garnered substantial attention. Within the fashion industry, digital fashion is largely perceived to be less wasteful and thus treated as a solution to the industries environmental problem. It is this phenomenon of digital fashion that is central to my dissertation. Specifically, I investigate how digital fashion can be understood in terms of materiality and embodiment. In popular media, digital fashion is thought to differ from physical garments in that it is immaterial, disembodied or even “not real”. This presupposes a fundamental divide between a seemingly immaterial digital culture and a physical material culture. Through the lens of anthropomediality, I propose to bridge this gap in the notion of digital fashion. The neological term of anthropomediality has developed out of media philosophy and refers to the irreducible and antecedent entanglement of humans-and-media as a site of production for human modes of existence. This relational approach, which employs a wide notion of media to include fashion, anthropomediality conflicts with widespread dualisms, such as nature-technology, inside-outside and of course matter-meaning. In line with new materialist and material culture approaches, I thus argue for a material-discursive notion of fashion generally and digital fashion specifically. The material-discursive nature of digital fashion is evident in its confinement to images where it manifests in a two-fold materiality: That of the hardware or apparatus and the sensuality of the simulated or imaginary. From these reflections on the digital materiality of both images and fashion, arguments regarding the haptic visuality of digital fashion images and their embodiment via surrogate bodies can be made. Being a clear and vivid object of investigation, digital fashion is able to uncover and illustrate the inadequacy of a materiality-immateriality dualism that is still prevalent in discourses pertaining both to the digital and fashion. As such, I hope to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the medialities of fashion beyond traditional fashion media.
Charlotte Brachtendorf has graduated from the M.A. Fashion Critical Studies (Fashion Communication) at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London) in 2019 with a dissertation on virtual influencers supervised by Dr. Marketa Uhlirova. Previously, she has received her M.A. in Media Cultural Studies from the University of Freiburg (Germany). During this time, she has spent the academic year 2016/2017 at Waseda University (Tokyo, Japan) and a monthlong research stay at Jesus College, University of Oxford (UK). Charlotte Brachtendorf further holds a B.A. in Information Design from the Stuttgart Media University (Germany), which included a stay abroad at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). Throughout her studies, she has held several positions as student research assistant, amongst others at the chair of media cultural studies at the University of Freiburg (Prof. Dr. Robin Curtis). From 2012 to 2019 Charlotte Brachtendorf was a scholarship holder at Cusanuswerk (Catholic church and German state scholarship for academic excellence). Additionally, she has been a recipient of the Baden-Württemberg scholarship in 2016 and 2017.
Since April 2020, Charlotte Brachtendorf is a PhD candidate at the research training group media anthropology, funded by the German Research Foundation at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.
Body and Mind in Digital Fashion, Virtually (Un)Dressed: Researching the Body in the Digital Age, Dress and Body Association Conference, 13.11.2020
Fashioning Virtual Influencers, Critical Fashion Studies Conference, University of Melbourne, School of Culture and Communication, 27.02.2020
Virtual Influencers, M.A. Fashion Communication Evening, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, 16.10.2019
Japanese Aesthetics in Tokyo Street Style, Practice Based Fashion in Research, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, 05.10.2018
Netzwerk Mode Textil
Dress and Body Association