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A Comparative Study Of Diffusion And Dissapation Of Fashion Trends

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This essay analyses fashion as an interpretation of self-expression, an identification process of human beings, the class differences and the consequences of the class distinctions in the 19th, 20th and 21st century and fashion within the popular culture and its effects upon fashion.

Fashion, the basic need for human race to be covered, since the beginning of the time, changed it’s main purpose and has became just a tool of the popular culture. The dilemma of fashion, particularly after the industrialisation became more and more complex to understand: The class differences, the meanings of our clothes and most importantly, what we are dressing for has become a major dilemma within the context of fashion.

“The classic model of fashion advanced by Simmel and Veblen claimed that new styles began with elites and gradually disseminated in the social strata.” (Crane, 2000, p.26) Based on this quote, we can state that fashion is a way of interpretation that in fact proceeds downwards from the upper class to the lower class. If fashion is actually a way of expression that ends in disseminating the elite to the lower class, how could it then be possible that currently it circulates from the subcultures to the upper class?

Literally, if we go back to the 19th century, we can easily notice the distinction in people’s clothing behaviour. In the 19th century, the class difference was substantially enormous so that the working class was able to emulate the upper class only by means of imitating their clothing behaviours. In some respect, for the upper class, clothing did not only mean dressing, but it was a way of showing off their wealth to their inferiors at the same time. It was the behaviour, the attitude and the knowledge that displayed their affluence and it could only be possessed if you were born in that social class.

In contrast, the purpose of clothing for the working class was not for display. However, it was the basic need to cover themselves and the functionality and the practicality that they needed when they were working. Before the industrialisation process, fashion merely existed for the upper class, the only real consumers of the period, but as soon as the mass production emerged in the United States in the first half of the 19th century, it disseminated to lower and working classes.

The United States, a country well- known for its democracy, when compared to Europe, was in fact not very democratic as far as clothing was concerned, particularly in the 19th century. In the 19th century, there were some differences between the United States, Britain and France with regards to people’s clothing behaviours. Particularly in France, there was a substantial class distinction between the upper and lower classes in the beginning of the 19th century. In France, after the industrial revolution, the importance of the family was mislaid; therefore, especially the traditional clothes began to disappear. The lack of illiteracy was one of the main reasons which made the distinction between people living in the city and in the countryside. Another significant factor was the income of each family which influenced the spending on clothing. As the income of the working class families increased, the percentage that went on clothing raised respectively.

In Britain, on the other hand, the distinction in men’s clothing behaviour was too subtle before the 19th century. There was no mass production; therefore the privilege of dressing elegantly belonged to the upper class only. Contrary to Britain, in the United States, the main difference in men’s clothing was the quality of the clothes. This was one of the main consequences of the mass production in clothing in the United States. The clothes were cheaper but at the same time lower in quality.

As mass production progressed, the class distinction in men’s clothing in the United States began to disappear. When we compare the 19th and 20th centuries, the percentage of spending on family’s budget towards clothing has increased significantly. Still, this cannot give us a consensus about the people’s clothing behaviour, because it can change from one country to the other or even from one city to another.

As far as the leisure apparel trend is concerned, the United States is the main country behind this type of clothing. With the emergence of new styles and their development and growth, the United States, as a result has become the main force to dissipate this trend worldwide. People are now more concerned about what they wear and how they present themselves in society as the importance of the leisure space grows and the conception of the urban space changes.

In the 19th century, fashion emerged in selected cities such as Paris and London and spread to the rest of the world. Today, however, fashion is multi-centred owing to the electronic media which helps a quicker diffusion worldwide.

Another reason of the increase in spending on clothing is the self-identification process in the society. As Diana Crane quoted in her book “Identification with a social class was a major aspect of one’s sense of self.” (Crane, 2000, p.238) People have always struggled to identify themselves as they always want to be part of a social group. This identification process allows people to express themselves in the social environment and the easiest way of interpretation for human being is by way of dressing. Especially for adolescents, the self-expression is so salient that it can become the most important part of their lives. If we go back to the 19th century, the basic approach of people in lower classes on the social strata toward clothing is basically associated with the need to cover the body. In contrast, in the 20th century, however, people use clothing as a means of self-expression rather than a need to cover themselves. In fact, self-expression is so significant in peoples’ lives that it cannot be disputed. When we look at marginal or isolated groups in society, we see that they use clothing as a means of identification and the need to belong to a social group. Peoples’ lives are basically coded with popular culture. Clothing is everywhere in our lives, what we wear in fact is a way of interpreting ourselves to others, who we are, what social group we belong to, what we like or even what type of music we listen to.

“The right suit might not get you to places of power but the wrong suit might not get you anywhere at all.” (Hart, Schaffner, and Marx (New York Times Magazine 1986) by Crane,2000, p.173)

This statement is explaining



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