Are You a Slave to FASHION?
September 29, 2006 2:14pm CST
The Changing Face of Fashion WHETHER we realize it or not, our daily decisions as to what we will wear are shaped at least to a degree by fashion. Ultimately, the forces of fashion largely determine what is available to buy. Even items of clothing that we now take for granted were once the latest style. The man's dress shirt and necktie, for instance, became the fashion rage over a century ago. And the woman's sweater became an established style back in the 1920's. Two basic desires fuel the fashion industry—novelty and conformity. Nearly everyone likes to wear something new. That is why we sometimes buy clothes, not because an older garment has worn out, but simply because we want a change. At the same time, we do not want to look out of place, so we buy clothes that conform to some degree to the style worn by our associates. Over the centuries the clothing industry has catered to—and sometimes exploited—these desires for novelty and conformity. This ancient Egyptian linen garment was one of the world's most enduring fashions A Brief History To create a style, designers use five basic elements: color, silhouette, drape, texture, and line balance (or patterns on the surface of the material). The options available to designers and dressmakers in all five areas have multiplied over the years. In ancient Egypt, for example, locally produced see-through linen was the fabric of choice, and it was ideal for a warm climate. But since linen could not be dyed easily, it was usually just one color—bleached white. Still, Egyptian fashion designers pleated the material so that their clothes had a pleasing drape and silhouette. Thus one of the world's most enduring styles was born. In ancient Rome women wore a stola By the first century C.E., new fabrics and colors were available. Affluent Romans imported silk from China or India, although the expense of transport made woven silk as costly as gold. Another fashionable material was dyed wool from Tyre, a pound of which could cost 1,000 denarii—three years' wages for a typical worker. The new dyes and materials enabled wealthy Roman women to wear a stola—a long, ample outer garment—of blue cotton from India or perhaps yellow silk from China. Although new styles arose periodically, in past eras a costly garment would likely be in fashion for a lifetime. Changes came slowly and usually affected just the nobility. With the coming of the industrial revolution, however, fashion became much more relevant to the common people. The Image Makers For centuries kings and nobles set the standards of dress. In the 17th century, King Louis XIII of France decided to wear a wig to cover his baldness. Before long, European nobles were shaving their heads and wearing wigs—a style that lasted more than a century. In the 19th century, women's magazines brought fashion trends to the fore and even offered inexpensive patterns so that women could make their own clothes. In the 20th century, as movies and television gained popularity, stars became international idols and set trends in fashion. Popular musicians too sported radical styles, which many youths quickly imitated. Today, little has changed, as advertisers make effective use of fashion shows, glossy magazines, billboards, shop windows, and television advertisements to generate a demand for new clothes. The kimono has survived since approximately 650 C.E. The industrial revolution made it possible for common people to be more fashion conscious During the 19th century, whole industries arose to clothe both the rich and the poor. Mechanized cotton and woolen mills proliferated, and the price of fabrics came down. Because of sewing machines, clothes could be produced more cheaply, and new synthetic dyes offered a much greater choice of colors. In past eras a costly garment would likely be in fashion for a lifetime Social and technological changes played an even greater role in clothing the masses. In Western Europe and North America, people had more money to spend. In the 1850's, women's magazines appeared, and soon thereafter department stores began to offer ready-to-wear clothes in standard sizes. Also in the 19th century, Charles Frederick Worth introduced fashion shows, using live models to spark the interest of prospective clients. In the 20th century, new synthetic fibers, such as rayon, nylon, and polyester, offered manufacturers a wider array of fabrics. Computerized designs made it easy to produce new styles, and because of globalization, new fashion trends could appear almost simultaneously on the streets of Tokyo, New York, Paris, and São Paulo. Meanwhile, designers and manufacturers have found new ways to promote their products. Today young people have taken the place of the wealthy as the most ardent fashion enthusiasts. Every month, millions of them buy new clothes, and the trade produces hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of clothing a year.* But are there hidden snares?
• Rothesay, New Brunswick
17 Oct 06
I don't think I am, my style is kinda unique. I am a little hiphop rolled in with a little prep with a tad of sporty...so um I donno, i guess some fashion influences how i dress but then again i think it influences us all a little bit
• United States
4 Oct 06
Nice article! And no, I am definitely NOT a slave to fashion. I don't make enough money to be LOL but besides that, I have my own idea of what looks good on me and what doesn't. So I don't buy something just because it is in style. Some of the things currently in style, I wouldn't wear to bed.