Virtual Fashion: Digital Representations of Materiality and Time
This thesis analyses the recent exploration of virtual fashion and how it affects fashion’s conceptual relationship to materiality and time. Virtual fashion is a digital rendering of a garment or accessory designed and sold for virtual spaces such as social media, video games, and metaverses. This research is navigating a novel area of fashion that intersects with new media studies. While previous research provides insight into the economic potential of virtual fashion in commercial spaces, this thesis focuses on the fundamental and metaphysical properties of fashion when represented in virtual spaces.
Walter Benjamin and his work on the Parisian arcades provide a theoretical framework for this thesis due to Benjamin’s specific understanding of fashion, temporal materiality, and the revolutionary potential of material culture. By applying a Benjaminian framework, this project critically examines rhetoric amplified by virtual fashion brands and online fashion reporting to unpack an ideology of progress and investigate virtual fashion’s political potential.
The case study DRESSX is a multi-brand virtual fashion retail boutique. This research examines the website as an object of material culture guided by a methodology incorporating a new materialist walkthrough and applied theory. The research findings suggest that virtual fashion performs many of the same social and cultural roles as material fashion. Additionally, virtual fashion maintains a relationship with time by displaying historical and politically charged design references and demonstrates a connection to materiality through new media hardware and its associated environmental impacts. This study provides a framework to critically engage with virtual fashion’s conceptual and material outcomes as the industry continues to explore the potential of virtual spaces.