Fashion Cycle & Social Classes

Kristina Akhrarova

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Yves Saint Laurent and the "Trapeze" collection, at Christian Dior on January 30, 1958.Photograph by Sabine Weiss

Fashion is influenced by isolated fundamental forces. Sophisticated societies are defined by a culture of boredom due to excessive free time. As a result, the urge to escape the monotony of daily routine is reinforced by a desire to add to the attractiveness of the self and all other objects of love and friendship. Precisely powerful societies tend to convict their individuals’ egos of being helpless. As a result, the individual is unconsciously thrown back on himself and requires confirmation of his actuality. The endless rediscovery of the self becomes an obsession, and the identity can likely be destroyed. That is why insensitive individuals frequently go overboard and nullify the very purpose of fashion.

A desire for prestige is different from affirming the libidinal self. It is satisfied by changes in fashion. Under such a category, fashion can be used as a personal distinctive emblem or as a group distinctive membership. The imitation of fashion by those, who do not belong to the circles that set fashion, may bridge the gap between a social class and the class next above it. The acceptance of fashion by all members of society makes the visual distinction invisible. The social classes tend to mark themselves exclusively, and a new fashion becomes a psychological necessity, where the fashion cycle repeats itself. Fashion catches the direction quickly. There are alwayssome psychological drifts underneath seemingly placid surfaces. If there is an unacknowledged drift toward class distinctions, fashion will find ways to highlight it. Criticism may point that fashion is merely fashion and need not be taken seriously.

Fashion is a historically based concept. There is something utterly incomprehensible about a particular fashion. It cannot be psychologized based on general principles. Without a preliminary historical analysis, it would be pointless to explain specific types of dress or cosmetics. For instance, bare legs among modern women in summer fashion cannot be equivalent to bare legs and bare feet among primitive tribes living in the tropics. Understanding fashion historically is essential. It is a variation in a sequence, a departure from the preceding mode.

In a puritanic society there is frustration with external forms of modesty, however, fashion can minister to the demands of sex curiosity. Fashion history can undoubtedly light up fluctuations of attitude at various periods of civilization. However, fashion never outruns discretion and only the superficial people are surprised by the frequent changes of the fashion cycle. Although the women's skirts were destined to be lengthened after they had become short enough, there are still some people who do not believe that sex symbolism is a real factor in human behavior.

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Accessible Fashion History Education

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