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Sociology of Fashion

Sociology of Fashion

Meaning of Fashion
Characteristics of Fashion
Fashion in modern society
Social role of Fashion

Characteristics of Fashion

Characteristics of Fashion Fashion is a group choice- Fashion is not an individual choice but is a group choice. So long as a particular choice remains confined to an individual it may better be called style and not fashion. The style becomes a fashion when adopted by a number of people.

Fashion is changeable-The important characteristic of fashion is its changing nature. If it survives long it ceases to be a fashion and may become a folkway or mores.

The element of utility may or may not present in fashion. A fashion may be adopted for some utilitarian purpose but it is not essential that every fashion should not carry some utility nor can it be said that all fashions are useless.

Fashion is all-pervading-Fashion embrace a large part of human life. They can be seen in numerous fields from speech to dress.

Uniformity- Due to rapid means of transport fashions spread from one corner to the other corner of the world. Sometimes fashion change so quickly that it becomes difficult to be in step with the changing fashion.

Fashion in modern society

Fashion is more prevalent in modern society than in primitive tribes or peasant communities. The modern society is an open society where class distinctions are not so rigid as in primitive society. Its urban and mobile class structure enables people to cultivate individual taste and adopt new course. The modern society is more tolerant of differences and therefore places few shackles on the cycle of fashion. Our standards of judgment have also changed. Today the individual is rated more by observable externalities than by his ancestry, his character or his genuine accomplishments. The clothes a man wears, the language he speaks, the manners he shows have more weight in ascribing a status than his simplicity, patriotism and integrity. If he can keep himself upto date in the matters of his dress, speech and manners, he will assure himself a high social esteem. Not only the mobile and urban character of modern society but its affluence also speaks for greater prevalence of fashion in it. Men today are richer than their ancestors and have more leisure. They have the necessary means and time to play with luxuries and to think of fashion. Maclver writes: We do not think of fashion in overalls; there is more of fashion in the body of an automobile than in its chassis. There is no fashion in steam shovels. Consequently the higher the standard of living the more material there is for fashion to operate upon.

Meaning of Fashion

Fashion is an important means of social control. It determines our speech, opinion, belief, recreation, dress, music, art and literature. Herbert Spencer regarded fashion as a leveler of custom. Gabriel Trade defined fashion as the imitation of contemporaries.Maclver has well described fashion as the socially approved sequence of variation on a customary theme. According to Lundberg Fashions are folkways that survive for only a short time. Ross writes fashion is a series of recurring changes in the choices of a group of people which though they may be accompanied by utility are not determined by it. Kimball Young defines fashion as the current or prevailing usage mode, manner or characteristic of expression, presentation or conception of those particular traits which custom itself allows changing. Fashion implies certain habits upon which fashionable changes flourish. It is a compromise between desire for novelty and desire for conformity. It is a transitory accepted change on a permanent line of behaviour.Thus wearing a silk sari, painting to decorate house, styled hair are all examples of fashion.

To make the meaning of fashion more clear we may look to the meaning of two other words etiquette and convention. These are merely matters of convenience in social relations without having any deeper meaning. Convention prescribes those forms which social relations in given situations must follow. These forms are merely social agreement. They are socially agreed upon procedures. They make social relationships go smoothly and automatically with a minimum of confusion and friction. Etiquette prescribes the detailed formalities to be observed on ceremonious occasions. It is a code with respect to manners. Thus greeting and wishing well are modes of etiquette. Fashion is not something which society just tolerates but it is something that society accepts. It has an element of social sanction behind it.

Social role of Fashion

What is the importance of fashion for social life and what role does it play in society? The question is important as we find people often victims of fashion. Fashion promises no utility; it makes no appeal to reason and being a fugitive and transitory deviation has little effect on the major trends of social change yet it has a strong hold over the people. Fashion satisfies two strong demands of social man- the demand for novelty and the demand for conformity. It turns the desire for novelty into social practice and makes novelty the right and proper thing for the group. It is human nature to aspire for distinction. Man does not love by security alone. He yearns for something new for variety and novelty. Fashion satisfies this desire and also succeeds in accommodating this desire to the rule of conformity. Thus fashion satisfies some important desires of man whose satisfaction is necessary for his living in society.

Fashion facilitates social change by providing a transitional stage from one custom to another. It tends to modify the rigidity of custom and the belief in its importance. It prepares the mind for a change so that people may not feel a jerk on changing to customs.Maclver writes, "Fashion plays at the surface where resistance is least responding to the social whim of the moment, discovers on this level a compensation for the restraints of custom and habit and routine of life. Through its passing conformities it helps to bridge the greater transitions of the process of social change. Fashion radiates generally from the higher class people the so called prestige owning people. Some film star or a leader sets in motion a new style in dress or recreation which is later picked up by other people. This enhances the prestige of the upper classes and those imitating them.

Though fashion plays a role in the dynamic interplay of class relations though it satisfies simultaneously the contrary desires for novelty and for conformity, though it introduces a common pattern into the area of indifference and has a special significance in the extensive range of a diversified democratic civilization, yet it is always an item in the cost of living. Some fashions such as polo playing or frequenting night clubs or visiting resorts are limited to those who can afford their expenses. People sometimes engage in expenditure unwarranted by their means. When its control passes beyond the superficialities of life it usurps the place of morals and offers a poor substitute for the more established conventions.
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