The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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People often wear their causes on their t-shirts, in their choice of traditional attire or other garments, or by way of specific costumes, pieces of jewellery or particular accessories. In Was it something I wore? Dress; identity; materiality, the contributors explore the construction and performance of personal and social identities. The essays point to the significance of dress as material culture in social science research not only in their content but also in their focus on a variety of methodologies including memory work, visual studies, autoethnography, object biographies and other forms of textual analysis.

The framing question, Was it something I wore? is central to the many dress questions the book raises; questions that challenge the socio-political status quo. To what extent does dress visually signify the construction of a chosen identity and a chosen performance? How does dress position the body and identity in different social and cultural spaces? How does dress signify oppression and/or liberation for women and how might this differ for men? What is the role of dress in the constructions of schooling and contemporary childhood? In its exploration of these and other questions, Was it something I wore? addresses a variety of pertinent social issues that confront communities in southern Africa.

Open Access

Product information

Format : 235mm x 168mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 384
ISBN 10 : 978-07969-2362-2
ISBN 13 : 978-07969-2362-2
Publish Year : 2012
Rights : World Rights

List of tables and figures
Acronyms and abbreviations


  1. Reconfiguring dress
    Claudia Mitchell, Relebohile Moletsane and Kathleen Pithouse
  2. 'White' women in 'black' clothing: Overtures towards Africanness in dress in a South Africa context
    Juliette Leeb-du Toit
  3. Stories fluttering in the wind: How clotheslines write our lives
    Hourig Attarian
  4. Take a picture: Photographs, dress, gender and self-study
    Ann Smith
  5. Aesthetics and identity in contemporary South African fashion
    Desiree Lewis


  6. Gender and the politics of the Basotho blanket
    Mathabo Khau
  7. Ayashisa amateki: Converse All Stars and other fashion items in the making of African masculinities
    Kopano Ratele
  8. Do clothes make a (wo)man? Exploring the role of dress in shaping South African domestic workers' identities
    Sithabile Ntombela
  9. A loud silence: The history of funeral dress among the Ndau of Zimbabwe
    Marshall Tamuka Maposa
  10. Dressing sex/ wearing a condom: Exploring social constructions of sexuality through a social semiotic analysis of the condom
    Ran Tao and Claudia Mitchell


  11. Who wears the trousers here? Women teachers and the politics of gender and the dress code in South African schools
    Pontso Moorosi
  12. Was it something she wore? Gender-based violence and the policing of the place of girls in the school space
    Naydene de Lange
  13. The gender politics of the school uniform
    Nolutho Diko
  14. The perfect matric dance dress
    Linda van Laren
  15. 'Angeke ngibe isitabane': The perceived relationship between dress and sexuality among young African men at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
    Thabo Msibi
  16. 'Khangela amankengane': The role of dress amongst rural extension workers in KwaZulu-Natal
    Bongiwe Mkhize


  17. Wearing our hearts on our sleeve: The t-shirt and the South African activist agenda
    Relebohile Moletsane and Peliwe Lolwana
  18. The art of representation versus dressing to be invisible: Who am I dressing for in contemporary Rwanda?
    Eliane Ubalijoro
  19. Rewriting the script: Drag, dress and the body politic
    Crawl Evans and Robert J. Balfour
  20. Sari stories: Fragmentary images of 'Indian woman'
    Nyna Amin and Devarakshanam Govinden
  21. Personal adornment and creative process as micro-resistance
    Marlene de Beer


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