Overdressed: Barthes, Darwin & The Clothes That speak

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“The Peacock, with his long train, appears more like a dandy than a warrior.”

—Charles Darwin

This book argues that there is a great deal more to our clothing than the communication of social messages. Starting from a critical examination of Roland Barthes’ social and linguistic ideas about dress, it moves on to look at what we wear in the light of Charles Darwin’s ideas about natural ‘ornaments’, especially how they fit within the broader frameworks of natural selection and survival. It concludes that human dress is as much about the being of the wearer as it is about the communication of social indicators.

Michael Carter is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Art History and Film Studies, The University of Sydney. He is the author of Fashion Classics From Carlyle to Barthes and, with Andy Stafford, is a co-editor of the Roland Barthes’ anthology, The Language of Fashion.