Kateryna Pilyarchuk

Titel des Dissertationsvorhabens

Kateryna Pilyarchuk: (Dis)Empowerment or (dis)objectification: Conceptual representation of women in digital fashion discourse

Stipendiatin: Kateryna Pilyarchuk, MA, MA

Laufzeit des Stipendiums: 1. September 2020 bis 30. Juni 2021

This dissertation is devoted to linguistic analysis of digital fashion discourse (DFD), namely the U.S. fashion magazine Vogue, its official Instagram page, and Instagram fashion blogs featured in this magazine. Activities and themes are observed in these outlets to build a theoretical framework of DFD and investigate how it becomes pluralistic in the era of audience’s active participation and cooperation between official and non-official media. The main focus is on the conceptual representation of women; the underlying interest lies in finding which aspects of the female identity are foregrounded, and how/whether spotlighting them contributes to female (dis)empowerment and (de)objectification.

The dissertation is a pioneering endeavor that 1) analyzes discursive ways in which DFD frames contemporary fashion and women’s place in it; 2) investigates how DFD promotes consumerism and creates an identity gap linked to clothes; and 3) examines readers’ engagement with DFD to either confirm or reject positions assigned to them by this discourse. To solve these problems, a novel blend of two methodological approaches is proposed, i.e. Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) and Critical Discursive Psychology (CDP). So far, CMT has been largely overlooked in fashion discourse, whereas CDP has been predominantly associated with naturalistic data. This research will attempt to prove that they can and should be combined for DFD analysis, in which metaphors contribute to discourses of women as fashionable beings and as consumers of fashion.

The ample dataset (approximately 2,500 articles) will help unfold patterns in use of metaphors and establish interpretative repertoires, subject positions, and ideological dilemmas revolving around them. The findings will demonstrate how fashion becomes a means of identity construction, how DFD trains women to consume fashion to close ‘gaps’ in their identity, and how gender is problematized and dichotomized in fashion. The results are expected to raise awareness of underlying ideologies of DFD and to facilitate a critical engagement with this discourse. As this linguistic project brings in perspectives of psychology, media studies, sociology, and fashion theory – its outcomes will be of value in a plethora of related disciplines.