Dress, Appearance, and Identity

Dress, Appearance, and Identity Case Study

In this case study, you will interview a person who has different identities from you in order to:

  • Recognize foundational concepts related to identity, appearance, and dress.
  • Summarize the role of dress and appearance practices in the development of different identities


  • Use this document, and save it as “Dress Appearance and Identity Assignment your first and last name”
  • Read the “case study reading” info below.
  • Answer the case study questions beneath each question below (meaning keep the question in your assignment sheet).
  • Keep answers typed, single spaced, 12-point font, no cover page, use Microsoft word, full sentences, 1” document borders, keep all of the assignment instructions and questions in your document
  • Review the grading rubric at the end of the case study

First, find a person to interview in person, over the phone, or via video chat, meaning you will ask the person the questions; you would not give the person the questions to fill out on their own. The person must have at least 2 “points of diversity” from yourself using 2 of the following characteristics:

  • Age (must be at least 20 years older or younger; but, no one under 18 is allowed to be interviewed for the project)
  • Physical disabilities (wheelchair user, cochlear implant, glasses, etc.)
  • Gender identity
  • Race (e.g. Asian, Black/African American, White, Pacific Islander)
  • Religious Beliefs (Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, etc.)
  • Sexual Identity (heterosexual, bisexual, gay, queer, lesbian, poly, etc.)

You can interview someone you know or in your immediate family. Use your extended network or social media to find a person to interview. Some students express difficulty in finding a person to interview. You need to start early to find someone. You could post on your social media:

“Hi! I’m doing a class project and I need to interview someone who has two points of difference from me in either age (by 20 years), physical disability, gender identity, race, religion, or sexual identity. If you think you are different from me in 2 of these categories, I’d love to do an interview with you. It lasts about 1 hour and your answers are only shared with my professor in a summary format for this project. I also don’t share your personal details such as first and last name.”

I suggest you also:

  • audio-record the interview (phone app works) or take notes during the interview
    • You are NOT turning in the audio recording; audio recording makes it easier to do the interview as opposed to trying to write down or type their answers as they are talking. Audio recording can also be more comfortable during the interview as you are paying more attention to the person as opposed to taking notes.
  • share the questions with the person beforehand to make sure they are comfortable answering the questions
  • read through the interview questions yourself before doing the interview
  • interviewing someone who is different from you in as many ways as possible as you will learn a lot

Record the interviewee’s responses below each question (#1-29)

An example of how you might introduce the interview: “Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I am doing this for an assignment in a course at school. The purpose is to interview someone about their dress, appearance, and identity in order to understand someone’s experiences who is different than myself. You can spend as much or little time as necessary answering each question and there are no wrong answers. Depending upon the length of your answers, the interview can take up to about an hour. If you want to skip a question and come back to it that is completely okay. So that way I don’t miss anything that you say, I’m going to [audio-record or take notes] the interview. But, then after I complete the assignment I will promptly erase the interview from my computer. Is it okay if I audio-record the interview? Do you have any questions for me? Okay, let’s get started.”

Personal characteristics [recoding short-phrase answers are okay for this section, for example “47” “male” or “yes”]

“The first set of questions are about your general background.”

  1. What is your age?
  2. What sex were you assigned at birth? (male, female, intersex)
  3. Which gender pronouns do you use? (he/she/ze/they)
  4. Have the gender pronouns you use changed at all throughout your life?
  5. What do you do for a living?
  6. Where do you live? What type of place is that – small town, big city?
  7. What is your race or ethnicity?
  8. What is your sexual orientation?
  9. Have the words or phrases you use to describe your sexual orientation changed throughout your life at all?
  10. Do you have any physical disabilities?

Dress and appearance practices and attitudes

“This next set of questions are about your general appearance and style.”

  1. What types of grooming products or make-up do you use (if any)?
  2. When you are getting ready every day, what does that look like and how long does it take you?
  3. Overall, how do you feel about your appearance and clothing style?
  4. Do you want to change anything about your style or appearance if you could? Why or why not?
  5. Have you ever been involved in any type of “rites of passage” or ceremony that marked a change in life stage? If yes, what types of ceremonies and did you wear any special attire for this ceremony?

Dress and identity

“In my class, I’m learning about identity and how they can influence how people appear or dress. These questions are meant for me to understand these ideas from my class as related to your own personal experience.”

  1. Do you think your age influences your style of clothing or your overall appearance? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think your gender identity (woman, man, genderqueer, etc.) influences your style of clothing and appearance? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think your race or ethnicity influences your style of clothing and appearance? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think your sexual orientation or sexual identity influences your style of clothing and appearance? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think your religious beliefs or absence of religious beliefs influences your style of clothing and appearance? Why or why not?
  6. [if applicable] Do you think your physical disabilities influences your style of clothing and appearance? Why or why not?
  7. Do you think your body size and shape influences your style of clothing? Why or why not?
  8. Do you think that people ever treat you negatively based upon any of your identities we just talked about? (age, gender, race/ethnicity/sexual orientation, religion, physical disability, or body size and shape?) If yes, can you give an example?

Representation in media

  1. When you look at the media [TV, advertisements, magazines], do you see people who look like you?
    1. Have you ever thought about this before?
  2. What parts of yourself do you see represented or not see represented in advertisements or commercials? How does that make you feel?
    1. [If they don’t see themselves represented] Do you wish there was more representation? Why or why not?


  1. What is your experience like when shopping for garments or accessories?
  2. Can you find stuff that fits you or that you like?

Other people’s responses to dress and appearance

  1. Do you think people ever treat you negatively based upon the way that you look or dress?
    1. If yes, can you share an example?
  2. Is there anything else that would be important for me to know about how you dress and the way you look so that I can learn about identity and clothing?

“Thanks for doing this interview with me. Again, I will only share the answers with my professor in class.


Case study reading:

Identity and dress:

Identities are communicated through how we appear and what we wear (Kaiser, 2012). Identities are also communicated other ways beyond appearance and dress, such as other objects around us including: where we live, transportation we use, and many many other examples. Dress and appearance practices though, announce who we are depending upon which identity we are communicating at any one time. For example, while on campus, you might wear a T-shirt of your university, announcing your connection with the university and that you identify as a part of that community as a student, a fan, or perhaps alumni (Lennon, Johnson, and Rudd, 2017). This university community identity might not be important to communicate though if, for example, you are attending a wedding.

There are different types of identities. For example, a collective or social identity is an identity that is a part of a group or an identity that has a group membership. For example, being a member of a particular year in school is a collective identity. Therefore, you could identify as a freshman in college. Another collective identity could be tied to race. For example, a person of African descent may identify as part of the Black community due to their ties to their race (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd, 2017). Many people have numerous collective identities surrounding their race, gender (e.g. identify as genderqueer), sexuality (e.g. identify as queer), sex, religion (e.g. identify as Muslim), body size and shape (e.g. identify as a fat person and feel connected to fat acceptance movements), ability, or ethnicity.

A second example of an identity is a personal identity. Personal identities have to do with individual traits. Individual traits can include funny, open, conscientious, agreeable, adventurous, closed-off, etc. (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd). There are numerous parts of one’s identity that reflect personal traits. Therefore, while you might be a person who identifies as an outdoors person, the adventurous part of your identity is called the personal identity whereas the outdoors person could reflect your membership in the group, or your collective identity.

Relational identities are a third example. These identities refer to relationships such as father/son or wife/wife. Relational identities can be reflected in dress just like the other types of identities. For example, sometimes when families take vacations together to Disney World they wear matching outfits or T-shirts. Another example is when two women who are married wear wedding rings. This signifies their relational identity.

Salient identities:

The concept of the situated self (Kaiser, 1997) refers to the idea that depending upon the context that one is in, a person may dress or act differently depending upon which identity is most salient at the time. This is part of what is called identity negotiation processes. This means that identities are negotiated, or in other words not static and continually in flux. This is especially true for individuals who occupy more than one marginalized identity. For example, Black gay men have described that their Black identity might be more salient in Black spaces, yet within queer spaces they have to choose to whether their Black identity or gay identity might be more salient depending upon the composition of the group (Cole, 2019). This isn’t necessarily always true for Black people, as there are varied experiences of being both Black and queer.

Body work:

One part of identity negotiations is referred to as body work. Body work refers to managing the body through physical activity or exercise, dieting or watching what one eats, using make-up, cosmetic surgery, and many other activities. A person might also wear certain style clothes to change the shape of the body such as hiding or emphasizing parts of the body. Hiding parts of the body might be done through wearing baggy clothes, whereas revealing parts of the body might be done through tight or low-coverage clothing (e.g. crop tops). Body work is done by both men and women (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd, 2017).

Stigmatized identities:

Stigma refers to marks of shame, disapproval, or a stain on one’s reputation (Goffman, 1963). Stigmatized identities refer to those identities that violate a societal norm for a particular time or space. Numerous identities experience stigma. For example, fat people often experience stigma related to their body size and shape. Fat stigma if a widely held belief and can significantly influence people’s experiences.


Cole. S. (2019). The difference is in the detail. Negotiating Black gay male style in the twenty-first century. Dress, 45(1), 39-54.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Touchstone.

Kaiser, S. B. (1997). The social psychology of clothing: Symbolic appearances in context. New York: Fairchild.

Kaiser, S. B. (2012). Fashion and cultural studies. London: Bloomsbury.

Lennon, S., Johnson, K. K. P., & Rudd, N. (2017). Social psychology of dress. London: Bloomsbury.

Now, you, the student in AMD 165, answer the questions below (#30-34)

Case Study Questions:

In these questions, be sure to provide significant evidence in your answer that demonstrates you understand the concepts from our case study reading that draw from the Lennon, Johnson, and Rudd (2017) reading.

  1. Describe one collective identity that your interviewee described and how their dress reflected this collective identity.
  2. What types of body work did your interviewee describe that they engage in if any?
  3. Throughout the interview, did your interviewee have one identity that seemed to be most salient to how they appeared or what they wore? If yes, what was that identity and describe why it was most salient throughout the interview. If not, describe why one identity did not appear to be most salient for your interviewee.
  4. Did your interviewee discuss any stigma related to one of their identities? If yes, describe which identity. Then, describe if they talked about how they resisted or embraced this identity through their dress or appearance.
  5. Reflect on your experience with the interview. What did you learn new? What was most surprising?



100 points total

Meets or exceeds expectations Sufficient Needs development
Interviewee responses 31-45

Provided summary for almost all or all interviewee responses using full sentences or short phrases where appropriate.


Provided summary of most interviewee questions using mostly full sentences or short phrases where appropriate.


Provided summary of few interviewee questions.

Responses had mostly short phrases and largely did not include full sentences.

Formatting 7-10 points

Followed all formatting requirements

4-6 points

Followed most formatting requirements

0-3 points

Missing most or almost all formatting requirements

AMD student question responses 31-45 points

Complete: Questions are completely answered.

Correct: Questions are answered correctly in accordance with the information presented in the reading where appropriate.

Well-developed: Questions are at least two full sentences long, contain explanation and examples when appropriate, and show synthesis of information from the reading.

16-30 points

Complete: Questions are somewhat or mostly completely answered.

Correct: Questions are somewhat or mostly answered correctly in accordance with the information presented in the reading where appropriate.

Well-developed: Questions are less than two full sentences long, contain minimal explanation or examples when appropriate, and show little synthesis of information from the reading.

0-15 points

Complete: Questions are mostly not complete.

Correct: Questions are largely not correct or answered in accordance with the information npresented in the reading where appropriate.

Well-developed: Questions are short phrases, contain no explanation or examples when appropriate, and show little synthesis of information from reading when appropriate.


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Dress, Appearance, and Diversity in Society by Kelly Reddy-Best is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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