SENSEation Shopping – continued

December 23, 2012 12:00 pm

Coloured TightsHead, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Now hands up those of you who went into jovial singing once you recognised the classic rhyme? Most I should imagine. And most, I too would imagine, will find themselves like me, stuck singing it for the rest of the day!

This childhood rhyme got me thinking. Alongside my previous article, ‘SENSEation shopping-how much do we really rely on our senses when it comes to shopping?’, my curiosity has led me into further exploring the impact that our senses have when it comes to fashion, and just how heavily we rely on them when deciding upon our next purchase. After composing what can only be described as, the most thorough investigation into the idea, one which would make my school science teacher proud, I put to you; ‘Case Study: Fashion Sense’ – the two already marry so well together and that’s just their names.

Fashion ParisThe senses are those famous five: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, that mediate between mind and body, self and environment, idea and object, as we rely on them to collect information about the world, and to detect changes within our bodies. All senses depend on the working nervous system. Our sense organs start to work when something stimulates the special nerve cells, known as receptors, which are inside a sensory organ. Once stimulated, these receptors send nerve impulses along sensory nerves to the brain, where our brains then tell us what the stimulus is for. We have five main sense organs, each of which are activated continuously: our visual goggles map every detail of scenery before our eyes, vibrations of movement are captured by the drums of our ears, a cocktail of appetising sensations are detected by the millions of taste buds on our tongues, lingering potents (good or bad) are uncovered by our noses, and lastly, the physical connection when contact is made with our skin. Without us even knowing, our sense organs are taking information and sending it to the brain for processing.

It is therefore inevitable that they play a part when we are out shopping, even if it is out of our control! But it’s more than just that. It’s more than just our humanly designed bodies going about its normal duties. We are a multi-sensory society, and when it comes to clothing; accessories, shoes, handbags; the whole shebang, our senses go into overload.

Why do we even bother with fashion? Well, firstly, because it makes us feel good – that sensation we get when the material touches our skin. The high-end designer brands, with the excessive quality of their rich fibres, allow us to feel worthy and valued. If the sensation wasn’t there, who would even consider spending £3,000 on a couture dress to wear for the evening? (Who in their right mind would consider spending that anyway is a mystery to me, but you get my point). Why else do we bother? Because we are all a victim of vanity and want to look good. We spend half of our money trying to pick the right clothes for us and scheduling an appointment with a salon, with the help of some online booking software, just to fit in the societal contructs of beauty and fashion. The colours, the shapes, the frills, the folds, the size, the contrasts, the way it is presented, not only in the shop, but also on ourselves. Have you ever met someone for the first time and theydo that really annoying thing of looking you up and down before finally addressing your eyes and continuing the conversation? This is because they are taking you in, visually. By wearing nice clothes for example, you are allowing this connection to be one which is much more visually appealing. Taste, sound, and smell all play similar roles, be it the smell of superior leather, the sound of rustling sequins, or the taste of one of your favourite foods. Yes, this is true. Many people often buy clothes because it reminds them of one of their favourite delicacies; rich satins and silks in mocha, taupes and smooth brown colours, lure us in with reminiscence of that feel good taste we have with chocolate! (See what I mean by sensory overload).

What I am trying to summarise is that fashion is inevitably made for the consumer, and by playing upon our senses in an enticing way, I believe this is why the fashion industry stands as strong and as profitable as it does today. Next time you are out mooching between your favourite shops, have a little sing-song and engage with your senses. Head, shoulders knees and toes. Knees and toes…

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