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via The Daily Green

A considerable amount of scholarship has been dedicated towards the study of dress, specifically the role of dress in the context of historical, Western society. Studies marrying ethnography and dress often veer towards Eastern or indigenous cultures. However, there is limited research on how dress is used as a barrier within the landscape of the urban jungle. Recent trends in fashion have included drop crotch pants, severe shoulders and oversized tees. Body camouflaging styles are nothing new, as the fashion system, as Barthes stresses, is cyclical. Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons have created architecturally shaped garments for decades that mirror the silhouette of traditional armor and create a personal space for the wearer as well as a boundary protecting the wearer from the outside world.

The subway system is a matrix of mini urban jungles on the rails. Navigating it can be alienating in and of itself, but further isolation is created when personal space is precious and one must ride in a confined space with complete strangers. Here, dress (including accessories) can be used to create a physical barrier between passengers. Often people, particularly women, hold their bags in front of them (in the manner a warrior would hold a shield) while standing on the train. 

Questions concerning body politics, the gaze, and non-verbal communication all arise when considering how dress is used on commuter trains. Are people cognizant of the enclosures they create through dress or is it more of a subconscious phenomenon? With an upsurge in molestation and indecent exposure cases being reported, using dress as protection is natural when it’s the only thing separating the body from the outside world.