Fashion is one of the most important aspects of popular culture which affects life style of people and reflects their personal identity. Fashion and its trends help to study popular culture reflecting social changes and world perception of people. Fashion is one of the most interesting cultural aspects because it reflects identity of the society and its self-determination. Fashion involves clothes and the adornment of the body to display certain techniques and to highlight relations between the body and its social identification. It helps to change personal identity and mark gender and social differences.
I follow fashion trends and modern styles of cloths which help me to create unique personal image and inner self. Critics admit that ‘fashion is unique to the culture of capitalism’ (Agins 1999, 34). That argument draws on the work of Simmel (1973) and Veblen (1970) (cited Agins (1999) who explicitly linked the development of fashion to the emergence of discourses of individualism, class, civilization and consumerism. Moreover, this concept of fashion is specifically European or American, and is differentiated from the clothing behavior of other cultures.
The savage is afraid of strange appearances; the difficulties and dangers that beset his career cause him to scent danger in anything new which he does not understand and which he cannot consign to a familiar category. In modern society, the consumer relation is specific to capitalist fashion systems, but not necessarily to every system of fashion. Fashion systems can be and have been constructed around other forms of economic or symbolic exchange. Following Adorno (1991) fashion is specific to capitalist economies, political practices and cultural formations.
Despite variations in national, class and sub-cultural dress codes, ways of dressing are inevitably determined by fashion'. In other words, everyday clothes are 'dim replicas' of fashion modes: 'they began life as fashion garments and not as some form of traditional dress' (Purdy 2004, 48). This seems to be somewhat wishful thinking, overstating the influence of elite fashion and underestimating the purpose-built nature of specific technologies of self-formation. One of the features of this definition is the emphasis on capitalist systems of production, distribution and consumption-and, in particular, on mass production.
Yet, courtly and Paris fashion (designer-driven, client-oriented, exclusive one offs) predated-and were subsequently remote from-mass markets. Mass consumption in the sense of the demand for ready-to-wear clothes preceded the technical competence required for mass production and consumer culture (Chadwick, 2004). By contrast, many designers support their loss-making couture fashion by licensing arrangements. Although this issue keeps the high machine industry going, clearly the majority of fashion activity occurs quite independently.
Even so, elite designers typically sneer at everyday fashion systems. As well as being unified by capitalism, American fashion is deemed to be imbued with the aesthetic expression of 'ideas, desires and beliefs circulating in society' (Wilson 1985, 9 cited Purdy 2004, 65). The aesthetics of fashion are informed by the modernity of urbanism and consumerism. Fashion plays off the preoccupations, contradictions and taboos of American culture. Several other elements are also invoked in definitions of fashion: individuality, Judeo-Christian morality, gender identity and imperialism.
Fashion is affected by Mcdonaldization of society and mass consumption. The main feature of this phenomenon are standardization and adaptation of fashion. Accordingly, few commentators invest significant social meanings in American fashion. Instead fashion is ‘seen to epitomize the ephemeral character of contemporary societies-if not the modern malaise” (Purdy 2004, 65). Fashion is described as 'an early warning system of major cultural transformations' and a parody of hypermodern culture’ Purdy 2004, 66).
In an evaluation of fashion and postmodernism, Purdy (2004) characterizes a postmodernist explanation of fashion as a combination of fragmentation and identity. Body techniques and codes of fashion are held to be imposed by external forces over which individuals have little control. Even when such forces are visible, fashion continues to exert a powerful fascination. For example, women continue to buy and enjoy fashion magazines although they know about the falsity, exploitation and stereotyping of advertising and fashion features.
One attempt to reconcile this intellectual critique with the hypnotic appeal of fashion has been the notion of female pleasure, namely that women's magazines, soap operas, romantic fiction and other images of femininity, and the like, offer particular pleasures for women readers and spectators. Rather than reinforcing 'patriarchal' relations, these texts are said to offer women fantasies, identities, and momentary escape from the contradictions and pain of everyday life. In proposing a particular 'feminine' system of pleasures, this account supports the project of disaggregating the phenomenon of 'fashion' into distinct systems.
Following Agins (1999) fashion is conceived as a 'body technique' which displays markers of social conduct expressed and displayed through clothes. As such, techniques are not simply imposed from above (in a trickle-down process) but constitute acquired abilities of collective and individual practical reason. In a process of 'prestigious imitation', individuals borrow movements, actions, gestures and demeanors to fabricate an array of customized body techniques. In terms of ‘controlling images’, fashion has a great impact on tastes and priorities of modern people.
It controls circulation of ideas about cloths and lifestyles, and creates the fashion trends and lifestyles. According to Blumer (1968 cited Agins 1999), there are three features of fashion custom: uniformity through consensus on a prevailing mode and its association with propriety; an orderly and regulated way to monitor and mark the shifting sands of social life; and the distillation of 'common sensitivity and taste' by the sanctioning of new modes and the rejection of old ones. Purdy (2004) extends this view in his consideration of fashion as a language.
Speaking about popular culture, fashion is less of a language than a limited set of pre-fabricated codes. In other words, it is a shorthand way of showing place and identity as well as a way of performing social intercourse. I am fascinated with fashion and suppose that it is approapriate for a popular culture course because it vividly portrays that clothes are 'read' not as individual units composed into a whole, either in terms of the 'social type' evoked by an outfit, or in terms of 'the look' as a whole.
Where an outfit cannot be interpreted, people either take one item of clothing as being the most salient and classify that, or else produce an account which can reconcile the codes attached to different items of the outfit (Agins 1999). The problem is that a common person primarily a woman does not ever think about the real role of fashion in her life. Nevertheless they are more fashionable then men. This is phenomenon of all times, which could be explained in some terms. Primarily, it concerns the way of clothing and make-up. A lot of women prefer to buy shoes on high heels, they usually choose bright colors and elaborate style (Agins 1999).
Fashion becomes the display of women’ beauty and the scale with which many women measure their aesthetic nature. In contrast to women men do not pay so much attention to fashion. They like to be well dressed, but it does not actually the same as to be a fashionable one. Most men see clothing as a necessity, while women see clothing as a way to express their personality. As Joanne Finkelstein said: “The city changed the way people related by affecting how they saw themselves as diminutive and undistinguished, and how they saw others - as potentially affronting and the source of unanticipated demands” (Finkelstein, 1996).
Simulacrum is one of the techniques used by modern designers to attract attention to wide target audience and create unique cloths. The process of prestigious imitation means that the process by which fashions are popularized or lose favor are complex and interactive. In the language of fashion theory, fashion trickles up and down. Designers use some elements from the Middle Ages fashion and revise cultural trends of the 1920s-1030s. While fashion is a device, there is no unidirectional set of influences that originate in fashion elites and flow down to other social strata. Rather, there are multiple fashion systems that compete and interact.
For example, fashion designers make regular pronouncements of new styles, few of which are popularized. Designers expend enormous sums on publicity for new modes by trying to influence fashion editors, gain spreads in fashion magazines and newspapers, and seeking to persuade the tiny group of couture customers to buy the new look. At the same time, the design industry hopes to influence arbiters responsible for translating design fashion into high street fashion. There is a fine line between plagiarism and influence that characterizes the clothes available in fashion boutiques and department stores.
In fact, designer fashion has an indirect and volatile relationship with everyday fashion. As the high incidence of fashion 'failures' has shown, the promotion of a new style by a designer is a huge gamble that is frequently rejected by consumers. For instance, it is found that: working-class people made choices about which middle-class items of clothing they found appealing and incorporated. Greater attention [is] given to fashionable clothing by working-class husbands employed in skilled jobs than by their wives who remained largely at home (Crane 2001, 198).
Accordingly, fashion has no absolute or essential meaning, rather the clothes-body complex operates in ways appropriate to a particular pattern of behavior. Often, clothing is determined by certain criteria and situations. Choosing the appropriate clothes for going to college, for studying, or for doing housework, gardening or yardwork, going grocery shopping, or going to the beach do not require much more than criteria of comfort. On the other hand, dressing for a job interview, a dinner party, for a wedding, or as a law enforcement officer, entail specific calculations about clothing behavior.
However, certain women's magazines in which fashion and face and body care played a primary role, do not think that beauty and coquetry needed to be entirely neglected. Votre Beaute, for example, refused to be ‘the magazine for frivolous women’ and intended to help the ‘truly French woman’ not let herself go. It is quite normal for her to feel sober and sad, but she must not, it stressed, give up authentic beauty that consisted of being true to one's weight and form (Purdy 2004).
In the middle of the 20th century, an elite fashion industry emerged replacing the traditional dominance of women in the dressmaking trade and establishing a different kind of relationship with their customers. Today, the designers fawn over favorite clients yet also dictate what they should wear. On the one hand, fashion is democratized as more people have access to the images and clothing preferred by the trend setters. On the other hand, fashion producers are setting the styles. Other changes are also occurring in the fashion industry. The high classes are supplanted as the elite fashion community and role models.
Socialites, artists and movie stars offer alternative sources of inspiration. These role models offer desirable images and behavior that are no longer based on emulating one's social superiors (McHale et al 2002). Fashion reflects American cultural values and traditions, social relations and human interaction. For instance, in American culture fashion is a means by which individuals and groups learn to be visually at home with themselves in their culture. Given the local character of fashion, acculturation is not a single-society process.
The growth of consumer cultures has enhanced certain features of fashion associated with practices of consumption. But the place and significance of fashion as one aspect of social behavior has changed little. Particular meanings vary historically and are culturally specific, since the rules, codes and language of the garments and how they should be worn are definite and limited in scope. Some recent feminist work in literary and art criticism has applied aspects of psychoanalysis to the representation of women, cultural production and popular culture.
For example, the relative neglect of men's fashion in many studies of fashion is a consequence of the peculiarity of American notions of gender (Thomas 2006). Whereas techniques of femininity are acquired and displayed through clothes, looks and gestures, codes of masculinity are inscribed through codes of action, especially through the codes of sport and competition. Accordingly, where men's fashion has been studied, it has been almost exclusively in connection with sports clothes and suiting.
In general, the cultural attributes attached to the unclothed body and different arrangements of body-space relations and techniques of acculturation underpin other systems of fashion (Thomas 2006). In terms of cultivation theory, a fashion style is radically modified either by high street manufacturers or by consumers themselves. Thus, the process of fashion influence is more anarchic than is commonly acknowledged. Moreover, the inspiration for seasonal collections frequently comes from a variety of sources (Thomas 2006).
These include styles which actively oppose designer fashion such as extreme street fashion as found in subcultures; styles outside the American fashion systems such as ethnic or pre-industrial cultures; radical or innovative styles from art colleges; and re-vamped versions of previous fashion styles. Success in fashion depends on the ability to recognize and translate 'the incipient and inarticulate tastes which are taking shape in the fashion consuming public' (Purdy 2004, 89). Thus, the process is less one of derivation from the elite than the sanctioning of trends in taste by the elite.
The prestige of the elite does not control the direction of this incipient taste. Examples of popularization that have simultaneously undermined elite fashion include the role of designers and fashion in Hollywood films; the 'Americanisation' of fashion design, production, distribution and consumption; the emergence of designer systems outside Paris; the development of ready-to-wear lines; licensing arrangements; the appropriation of design motifs in high street fashion, subcultures, countercultures and cultures; home sewing; and counterfeiting.
In American culture, clothing and immediate surroundings are used to protect and project a sense of self in very literal ways. Bodies and clothes exist in a symbiotic relationship. The system of mourning clothes is a highly elaborated example of this. For this reason, the curator of the Yves Saint Laurent traveling exhibition, Stephen di Pietri, sought out clothes from clients rather than museums. In short, clothes are activated by the wearing of them just as bodies are actualized by the clothes they wear. Fashion is purpose-built to secure certain effects (Thomas, 2006).
In American society, we deck ourselves out in costly objects which we also deem to be beautiful or symbolic: our aesthetic and material values are synchronized. When we delight ourselves with objects which to us are beautiful but have little monetary value…we are likely to provoke little more than the amusement of our friends: pretty, yes, but peculiar. If coupled with a particular label, however, such objects become respectable. While the play of clothes, diversity of decoration and technical virtuosity are essential to high fashion, western body techniques also articulate fundamental characteristics of the person (Agins, 1999).
Fashion systems-and techniques of dress and decoration more generally manifest techniques of gender specific to any cultural formation. This reflects ideas of competition, individualism and feminist typical for American culture. The ways in which bodies are fashioned through clothes, make-up and demeanor constitute identity, sexuality and social position. In other words, clothed bodies are tools of self-management. Women are constrained by representational codes which position them as passive vehicles of display and the object of the look.
In turn, the look is structured by the normative male gaze, as objects of desire and repositories of pleasure. Fashion has been singled out as a domain of representation and practice in which exploitative relations are central. If women are confined to the role of display, and 'measured' by the standards of achieving desirable 'looks', they are caught up in a vicious circle. Changing circumstances have changed the parameters of American fashion. A significant number of commentators have revised the ways in which gender should be conceived in techniques of representation and cultural production (Crane 2001).
Fashion is interested aspect for popular culture course because it reflects social relations and class location. For instance, the highly visible role of (middleclass) women as the 'social' face of family life which developed in the nineteenth century declined. A woman was now seen 'as guardian of her family's health and happiness rather than of its social place' (Agins 1999, 99). This change was reflected in the changing foci of the contents of household management and etiquette guides. Advice was now offered on social etiquette, household help, beauty, self-improvement and fashion.
Women's bodies (rather than moral qualities) became the currency through which success could be achieved in these diverse spheres. Clothes and body silhouettes are the visible markers of style (Agins 1999). Halley (2004) argues: The fashion culture of the '90s was inspired by street fashion, grunge, squatting, and the Internet boom--what Kismaric and Respini call the "concerns, desires, and realities of youth culture"--the curators have certainly managed to exclude these themes from their chosen fashion stories (Halley 2004, 197).
Another aspect of modern culture is that fashion emphases sexuality which has been especially prominent in the consumer fashion system. Changes in style and line of cut systematically relate to changing mores of sexuality such as the prominence of specific sexual and sensual bodily features (Chadwick, 2004). Because American culture has been so preoccupied with the 'problem' of femininity, women's fashions have responded frequently to discourses about sex. Gender-especially femininity-is worn through clothes.
But although clothes allude to persons as sexual beings, they do not automatically denote sexuality. This is most clear in the case of children's clothes. Although girls and boys are dressed differently according to sex, they are not expected to behave in a 'sex-typed' manner (Petracca and Sorapure 2006). Social and sexual identity is lodged in the way the body is worn (Chadwick, 2004). Fashion and its impact on society is a controversial aspect because it involves different agents and influences outside control of the mass market. Clothes are produced in large numbers and sold to mass markets.
Developments in reprographic techniques and expansion of the press enable fashion ideas to be disseminated to a popular audience and large market. Fashion is being democratized and made available to large numbers of people. On the other hand, fashion expansion and control of values and norms is often seen as a negative feature of fashion culture. Through processes of prestigious imitation, young girls construct a social persona from techniques of femininity including body trainings, codes of dress and decoration and mental techniques (acquired through imitation of friends, siblings, relatives, popular role models, magazines and television).