Style over Substance?: Fashion, Spectacle and Narrative in Contemporary US Television

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Downloads (Pure)


Previous scholarship on fashion and film has debated the aesthetic role played by onscreen costume. Yet there has been little exploration of fashion and its use in television. Existing work on fashion in onscreen media has approached the debate from a textual perspective, and such work has been informed by the longstanding assumption that fashion acts primarily as ‘spectacle’, disrupting the economy of narrative flow. This article seeks to challenge this assumption by arguing that previous work is limited by the wider conceptual and methodological problems of purely textual approaches. Using CW’s Gossip Girl as a case study, the author suggests that a mixed method approach to the study of costume (using both textual analysis and reception studies) provides a more productive foundation upon which to begin to examine the function of onscreen fashion in contemporary US television. Such an approach may have particular importance in understanding how costume in ‘fashion-forward’ television can be best understood if one steps beyond the text to explore the sense-making of viewers, the intentions of costume designers and the relationship between viewers, the shows and the wider fashion market.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Popular Narrative Media
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this