The Feminine Awkward: Graceless Bodies and the Performance of Femininity in Fashion Photographs

Shinkle, E. 2017. The Feminine Awkward: Graceless Bodies and the Performance of Femininity in Fashion Photographs. Fashion Theory. 21 (2), pp. 201-217. doi:10.1080/1362704X.2016.1252524

TitleThe Feminine Awkward: Graceless Bodies and the Performance of Femininity in Fashion Photographs
AuthorsShinkle, E.
Abstract

Recent fashion photography has been preoccupied with awkward and uncomfortable poses. In fact, awkwardness – a negative affect comprising emotional and bodily discomfort – is part of the history of fashion photography. The ‘feminine awkward’ is proposed here as a formal and critical idiom for unpacking the relations that exist between the model, the photographic frame, and the camera, and for considering the way that the image is experienced by the viewer. The meaning of awkward fashion photographs is not only communicated directly, through various signifying practices; it also arises out of deeper emotional and bodily responses that accompany signification. The feminine awkward emerges most openly into fashion images during periods when gender norms are most forcefully contested, interfering with the trajectories of desire to which fashion images typically give rise. Culturally, it is aligned with paradigm shifts in social attitudes: with changing expectations of how a feminine subject should look and she should act. Looking at fashion photographs through the optic of the feminine awkward opens up new ways of thinking about the way that fashion photography simultaneously participates in, and unsettles, the production of gendered bodies.

Keywordsfashion, photography, affect, awkwardness, gender, body
JournalFashion Theory
Journal citation21 (2), pp. 201-217
ISSN1362-704X
Year2017
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Accepted author manuscriptThe feminine awkward-final.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/1362704X.2016.1252524
Publication dates
Published online12 Dec 2016
Published12 Dec 2016

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