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Laura Jane Kenny

Fashion Studies (MA) / Laura Jane Kenny


Criminalizing Dress: Exploring the Intersections of Dress Practices and Racial Profiling through New York City’s Stop and Frisk Campaign

New York City is home to some harsh fashion critics. While one’s clothing choices are often scrutinized in such a fashion-focused city, unique consequences emerge from the inspecting gaze of the New York City police. The examination of individual’s dress practices in New York City’s stop and frisk campaign, a policy which encourages New York City police officers to stop anyone they deem “suspicious,” gives new meaning to the term fashion victim. When police look to visual cues to decipher possible levels of suspicion, dress practices becomes a crucial part of the conversation. The use of this policy suggests that the importance of one's appearance is rapidly increasing with more serious consequences than ever.

Utilizing interviews with those who have been stopped and frisked, which were collected and published by the Center for Constitutional Rights, this thesis highlights trends in the relationship between clothing and racial profiling. The theoretical framework of fashion studies alongside theories of the gaze, surveillance, and race aids in our understanding of the invasive impact of stop and frisk seen both in the adapted dress practices of those stopped as well as in their constructed identity. This thesis seeks to gain further understanding of how one's personal dress practices are affected by the threat of looking “suspicious” and explores the impact of "dressing innocently."

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