Evangeline Tsao

Clothing Dis/Embodied: The Relationship Between Women’s Clothes, Identity and the Body

I intend to carry out a small interactive photographic project at Research Feminist Futures symposium. People who are interested in this project are encouraged to bring two of their outfits, one that they usually wear on a daily basis, and another one that they have in their wardrobe but seldom or never wear. Two photos directed by the participants will be taken, one of them dressing the outfit they seldom/never wear, and the other of their ordinary clothes flat display, e.g., on a table. Participants will have the opportunity to decide their poses, from which angle they want the photos to be taken, and what parts of their body to be included in the framing. They can also arrange their ordinary outfit in the way they like. During the process, I will do my best to satisfy participants’ needs and show them the photos until they are happy about their images. I will display the photos on my laptop to the participant and have them share their stories and experience of their clothes, what kind of images they intend to present, and how they think about the whole photographic process.

The idea of the project derives from my current MA research in which I investigate on the relationship between women’s clothes, identities and the body using semi-structured interview and self-directive photography as approaches. There are three basic aims in my research. The first is to explore how women’s clothing integrates and interacts with their identities and the body. The second is a methodological matter that by disembodying the clothes and place them flat, also by the process of taking photos, to what extent would participants review and rethink the relationship between their identities and the outfit.

Finally, the photographs directed by female participants will be compared and analyzed to find how women represent themselves in the photos with their clothes. In the project I wish to conduct in the symposium, all participants, regardless of gender and sexualities, are welcome to join the project for showing ourselves creatively, knowing ourselves better, and have fun. Why does clothing matter to us and our identity? As researchers argue, Clothing as appearance and performance is a non-verbal communication between the wears and the observers (Featherstone 1982; Roach-Higgins and Eicher 1992; Crain 2000; and Johnson, Schofield and Yurshisin 2002). The meanings it infers include the personality, social position and other information that the wearer would like to reveal to others including political views, nationality or one’s sophistication (Laurie 1992) though the ‘messages’ might be perceived differently by the observers. Women’s clothes, as well as their identities, involve a continuous self-reflexive process of interaction with other individuals and groups. The relationship between women’s clothes, identity and the body is not simply cause-and-effect; they are complexly interwoven with each other. Photography has been my personal interests for several years, and I have intended to experiment what more it can do besides keeping a record of our lives. Photography, asStanley(1995) suggests, can be used as a tool to communicate and understand aspects of women’s lives. It provides women opportunities to be creative and critical, and become subjects of the images of themselves/their own. Therefore, I hope to create a space for participants, especially female, to express themselves in their own voice through the process of directing their photos.

Overall, I hope to conduct an interactive photographic project with people who join the Research Feminist Futures symposium, using self-directive photography and a small semi-structured interview for them to present their own images, share their experience and thoughts, and possibly look at themselves in a different light.

Evangeline Tsao is currently a MA student doing women’s studies in the University of York. Her personal interests include photography, pornography, sexuality and traveling which she tries to direct into research interests. She enjoys her life, meeting people and learning from discussions of various fields of studies.


Do you have some clothes in your wardrobe that…

…you’ve had for a while, but could never find an occasion to wear them?

…you really love, but haven’t got the opportunity to show them off anymore?

…you want to put them together to create a totally different style to present yourself?

 Please share them with us!

 Bring your clothes and join Researching Feminist Futures for a self-directive photography collaborating with Evangeline. Tell us stories about yourself and your clothes and show them off to everyone!  Inspire us with your wild ideas of expressing YOU in your clothes! Take part in composing your own photo, and have fun – with whatever poses and framing you like!





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