Fashion and variation
Fashion in clothes has allowed wearers to express emotion or solidarity
with other people for millennia. Modern Westerners have a wide choice available
in the selection of their clothes. What a person chooses to wear can reflect
their personality or likes. When people who have cultural status start to
wear new or different clothes a fashion trend may start; people who like
or respect them may start to wear clothes of a similar
Fashions may vary significantly within a society according to age, social
class, generation, occupation and geography as
well as over time. If, for example, an older person dresses according to
the fashion of young people, he or she may look ridiculous in the eyes of
both young and older people. The term "fashion victim" refers
to someone who slavishly follows the current fashions (implementations of
One can regard the system of sporting various fashions as a fashion language
fashion statements using a grammar
of fashion. (Compare some of the work of Roland Barthes.)
Fashion and the process of change
Fashion, by definition, changes constantly. The change may proceed more
rapidly than in most other fields of human activity (language, thought,
etc). For some, modern fast-paced change in fashion embodies many of the
negative aspects of capitalism: it results in waste and encourages people
qua consumers to buy things unnecessarily. Others, especially young
people, enjoy the diversity that changing fashion can apparently provide,
seeing the constant change as a way to satisfy their desire to experience "new"
and "interesting" things. Note too though that fashion can change
to enforce uniformity, as in the case where so-called
Mao suits became the national uniform of
Materially affluent societies can offer a variety of different fashions,
in clothes or accessories, to choose from. At the same time there remains
an equal or larger range designated (at least currently) 'out of fashion'.
(These or similar fashions may cyclically come back 'into fashion' in due
course, and remain 'in fashion' again for a while.)
Practically every aspect of appearance that can be changed has been changed
at some time. In the past, new discoveries and lesser-known parts of the
world could provide an impetus to change fashions based on the exotic: Europe
in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, for example, might favour things
Turkish at one time, things Chinese at another, and things Japanese at a
third. The global village has reduced the options of exotic novelty in more
Fashion houses and their associated
fashion designers, as well as high-status
celebrities), appear to have some role
in determining the rates and directions of fashion change.
Fashion and status
Fashion can suggest or signal status in a social group. Groups with high
cultural status like to keep 'in fashion' to display their position; people
who do not keep 'in fashion' within a so-called "style tribe"
can risk shunning. Because keeping 'in fashion' often requires considerable
amounts of money, fashion can be used to show off wealth (compare conspicuous
consumption). Adherence to fashion trends can thus form an index of social
affluence and an indicator of social mobility.
Fashion can help attract a partner. As well as showing certain features
of a person's personality that appeal to prospective mates, keeping up with
fashion can advertise a person's status to such candidates.
"Fashion sense" consists of the ability to tell what
clothing and/or accessories look good and
what doesn't. Since the entire notion of fashion depends on subjectivity,
so does the question of who possesses "fashion sense". Some people
style themselves as "fashion consultants" and charge clients to
help the latter choose what to wear.
Fashion can operate differently depending on gender, or it can promote
homogeneity as in unisex styles.
(from U.S Department of Labor)