Fashion: From Class Differentiation

Fashion: From Class Differentiation to
Collective Selection
HERBEI~T BLUMER,University of California, Berkeley
DEFICLYNCIES OF FASHION AS A SOCIOLOGICAL CONCEPT
THISPAPER is an invitation to sociologists to take seriously the topic of
fashion. Only a handful of scholars, such as Simmel (1904),Sapir (1931),
and the Larigs ( 196l), have given more than casual concern to the topic.
Their individual analyses of it, while illuminating in several respects,
have been limited in scope, and within the chosen limits very sketchy.
The treatment of the topic by sociologists in general, such as we find
it in textbooks and in occasional pieces of scholarly writing, is even more
lacking in 5 ubstance. The major deficiencies in the conventional sociological treatment are easily noted-a failure to observe and appreciate
the wide range of operation of fashion; a false assumption that fashion
has only trivial or peripheral significance; a mistaken idea that fashion
falls in the area of the abnormal and irrational and thus is out of the
mainstream of human group life; and, finally, a misunderstanding of
the nature of fashion.
Fashio:a Restricted to Adornment
Similar to scholars in general who have shown some concern with the
topic, sociologists are disposed to identify fashion exclusively or primarily
with the ar’3a of costume and adornment. While occasional references
may be made to its play in other areas, such casual references do not
give a proper picture of the extent of its operation. Yet, to a discerning
eye fashion is readily seen to operate in many diverse areas of human
group life, (:specially so in modern times. It is easily observable in the
realm of the pure and applied arts, such as painting, sculpture, music,
drama, architecture, dancing, and household decoration. Its presence is
very obviou:;in the area of entertainment and amusement. There is plenty
of evidence to show its play in the field of medicine. Many of us are
familiar with its operation in fields of industry, especially that of business
managemen:. It even touches such a relative sacred area as that of
mortuary practice. Many scholars have noted its operation in the field
of literature, Its presence can be seen in the history of modern philosophy. It can be observed at work in the realm of political doctrine. And
-perhaps to the surprise of many-it is unquestionably at work in the
2 7 5
276 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
field of science. That this is true of the social and psychological sciences
is perhaps more readily apparent. But we have also to note, as several
reputable and qualified scholars have done, that fashion appears in such
redoubtable areas as physical and biological science and mathematics.
The domain in which fashion operates is very extensive, indeed. To limit
it to, or to center it in, the field of costume and adornment is to have a
very inadequate idea of the scope of its occurrence.
Fashion as Socially Inconsequential
This extensive range of fashion should, in itself, lead scholars to question
their implicit belief that fashion is a peripheral and relatively inconsequential social happening. To the contrary, fashion may influence vitally
the central content of any field in which it operates. For example, the
styles in art, the themes and styles in literature, the forms and themes
in entertainment, the perspectives in philosophy, the practices in business,
and the preoccupations in science may be affected profoundly by fashion.
These are not peripheral matters. In addition, the nature of the control
wielded by fashion shows that its touch is not light. Where fashion operates it assumes an imperative position. It sets sanctions of what is to be
done, it is conspicuously indifferent to criticism, it demands adherence,
and it by-passes as oddities and misfits those who fail to abide by it. This
grip which it exercises over its area of operation does not bespeak an
inconsequential mechanism.
Fashion as Aberrant and lrrational
The third deficiency, as mentioned, is to view fashion as an aberrant and
irrational socia1 happening, akin to a craze or mania. Presumably, this
ill-considered view of fashion has arisen from considerations which suggest that fashion is bizarre and frivolous, that it is fickle, that it arises
in response to irrational status anxieties, and that people are swept into
conforming to it despite their better judgment. It is easy to form such
impressions. For one thing, past fashions usually seem odd and frequently ludicrous to the contemporary eye. Next, they rarely seem to
make sense in terms of utility or rational purpose; they seem much more
to express the play of fancy and caprice. Further, following the classic
analysis made by Simmel, fashion seems to represent a kind of anxious
effort of elite groups to set themselves apart by introducing trivial and
ephemeral demarcating insignia, with a corresponding strained effort by
non-elite classes to make a spurious identification of themselves with
upper classes by adopting these insignia. Finally, since fashion despite
its seeming frivolous content sweeps multitudes of people into its fold,
it is regarded as a form of collective craziness.
Fashion 277
UN.3ERSTANDING THE CHARACTER OF FASHlON
Nevertheless to view fashion as an irrational, aberrant, and craze-like
social happening is to grievously misunderstand it. On the individual
side, the adoption of what is fashionable is by and large a very calculating act. The fashion conscious person is usually quite careful and discerning in his effort to identify the fashion in order to make sure that
he is “in styli:”; the fashion does not appear to him as frivolous. In turn,
the person who is coerced into adopting the fashion contrary to his
wishes does so deliberately and not irrationally. Finally, the person who
unwittingly .lollows a fashion does so because of a limitation of choice
rather than IS an impulsive expression of aroused emotions or inner
anxiety. The bulk of evidence gives no support to the contention that
individuals who adopt fashion are caught up in the spirit of a craze.
Their behavix is no more irrational or excited-and probably less sothan that of iloters casting political ballots. On its collective side, fashion
does not fit any better the pattern of a craze. The mechanisms of interaction are not those of circular transmission of aroused feelings, or of
heightened suggestibility, or of fixed preoccupation with a gripping event.
While people may become excited over a fashion they respond primarily
to its characi er of propriety and social distinction; these are tempering
guides. Fashim has respectability; it carries the stamp of approval of an
elite-an elite that is recognized to be sophisticated and believed to be
wise in the given area of endeavor. It is this endorsement which undergirds fashion-rather than the emotional interaction which is typical of
crazes. Fashim has, to be true, an irrational, or better “non-rational,”
dimension wiiich we shall consider later, but this dimension does not
make it into :Lcraze or mania.
The obsei*vationsthat fashion operates over wide areas of human
endeavor, that it is not aberrant and craze-like, and that it is not peripheral and nconsequential merely correct false pictures of it. They do
little to identify its nature and mode of operation. It is to this identification that I now wish to turn.
Simmel: Fashion as Class Diferentiation
Let me use a!; the starting point of the discussion the analysis of fashion
made same siuty years ago by Georg Simmel. His analysis, without question, has set :he character of what little solid sociological thought is to
be found on the topic. His thesis was essentially simple. For him, fashion
arose as a form of class differentiation in a relatively open class society.
In such a society the elite class seeks to set itself apart by observable
marks or insignia, such as distinctive forms of dress. However, members
of immediately subjacent classes adopt these insignia as a means of
satisfying their striving to identify with a superior status. They, in turn,
278 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
are copied by members of classes beneath them. In this way, the distinguishing insignia of the elite class filter down through the class pyramid.
In this process, however, the elite class loses these marks of separate
identity. It is led, accordingly, to devise new distinguishing insignia
which, again, are copied by the classes below, thus repeating the cycle.
This, for Simmel, was the nature of fashion and the mechanism of its
operation. Fashion was thought to arise in the form of styles which
demarcate an elite group. These styles automatically acquire prestige in
the eyes of those who wish to emulate the elite group and are copied by
them, thus forcing the elite group to devise new distinctive marks of
their superior status. Fashion is thus caught up in an incessant and recurrent process of innovation and emulation. A fashion, once started,
marches relentlessly to its doom; on its heels treads a new fashion destined to the same fate; and so on ad infinitum. This sets the fundamental
character of the fashion process.
There are several features of Simmers analysis which are admittedly
of high merit. One of them was to point out that fashion requires a certain type of society in which to take place. Another was to highlight the
importance of prestige in the operation of fashion. And another, of particular significance, was to stress that the essence of fashion lies in a
process of change-a process that is natural and indigenous and not
unusual and aberrant. Yet, despite the fact that his analysis skill remains
the best in the published literature, it failed to catch the character of
fashion as a social happening. It is largely a parochial treatment, quite
well suited to fashion in dress in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth century Europe with its particular class structure. But it does not
fit the operation of fashion in our contemporary epoch with its many
diverse fields and its emphasis on modernity. Its shortcomiiigs will be
apparent, I think, in the light of the following analysis.
Modernity and the Selection Process
Some years ago I had the opportunity to study rather extensively and at
first hand the women’s fashion industry in Paris. There were three
matters in particular which I observed which seem to me to provide the
clues for an understanding of fashion in general. I wish to cliscuss each
of them briefly and indicate their significance.
First, I was forcibly impressed by the fact that the setting or determination of fashion takes place actually through an intense process
of selection. At a seasonal opening of a major Parisian faz,hion house
there may be presented a hundred or more designs of women’s evening
wear before an audience of from one to two hundred buyers. The managerial corps of the fashion house is able to indicate a group of about
thirty designs of the entire lot, inside of which will fall the small number,
usually about six to eight designs, that are chosen by the buyers; but
Fashion 279
the managerial staff is typically unable to predict this small number on
which the choices converge. Now, these choices are made by the buyers
-a highly competitive and secretive lot-independently of each other
and without knowledge of each other’s selections. Why should their
choices converge on a few designs as they do? When the buyers were
asked why ihey chose one dress in preference to another-between which
my inexper enced eye could see no appreciable difference-the typical,
honest, yet largely uninformative answer was that the dress was “stunning.”
Inquiry into the reasons for the similarity in the buyers’ choices led
me to a second observation, namely, that the buyers were immersed in
and preoccupied with a remarkably common world of intense stimulation.
It was a world of lively discussion of what was happening in women’s
fashion, of jkrvent reading of fashion publications, and of close observation of one another’s lines of products. And, above all, it was a world of
close concein with the women’s dress market, with the prevailing tastes
and prospective tastes of the consuming public in the area of dress. It
became viv dly clear to me that by virtue of their intense immersion in
this world the buyers came to develop common sensitivities and similar
appreciatioris. To use an old but valuable psychological term, they developed a common “apperception mass” which sharpened and directed
their feelings of discrimination, which guided and sensitized their perceptions, and which channeled their judgments and choices. This explains,
I am convinced, why the buyers, independently of each other, made such
amazingly I dentical choices at the fashion openings. This observation
also under1nes a point of the greatest importance, namely, that the
buyers became the unwitting surrogates of the fashion public. Their
success, indeed their vocational fate, depended on their ability to sense
the directioi of taste in this public.
The thirll observation which I made pertained to the dress designers
-those who created the new styles. They devised the various designs
between which the buyers were ultimately to make the choices, and their
natural concern was to be successful in gaining adoption of their creations. There were three lines of preoccupation from which they derived
their ideas. One was to pour over old plates of former fashions and
depictions of costumes of far-off peoples. A second was to brood and
reflect over current and recent styles. The third, and most important,
was to develop an intimate familiarity with the most recent expressions
of modernity as these were to be seen in such areas as the fine arts,
recent literature, political debates and happenings, and discourse in the
sophisticated world. The dress designers were engaged in translating
themes frori these areas and media into dress designs. The designers
were attune3 to an impressive degree to modem developments and were
seeking to capture and express in dress design the spirit of such develop
280 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
ments. I think that this explains why the dress designers-again a competitive and secretive group, working apart from each other in a large
number of different fashion houses-create independently of ez ch other
such remarkably similar designs. They pick up ideas of the past, but
always through the filter of the present; they are guided and constrained
by the immediate styles in dress, particularly the direction of such styles
over the recent span of a few years; but above all, they are seeking to
catch the proximate future as it is revealed in modern develoFments.
Taken together, these three observations which I have skctched in
a most minimal form outline what is significant in the case of fashion in
the women’s dress industry. They indicate that the fashion is sei through
a process of free selection from among a large number of competing
models; that the creators of the models are seeking to catch and give
expression to what we may call the direction of modernity; and that the
buyers, who through their choices set the fashion, are acting as the unwitting agents of a fashion consuming public whose incipient iastes the
buyers are seeking to anticipate. In this paper I shall not deal with what
is probably the most interesting and certainly the most obscure aspect
of the entire relationship, namely, the relation between, on one band, the
expressions of modernity to which the dress designers are so responsive
and, on the other hand, the incipient and inarticulate tastes which are
taking shape in the fashion consuming public. Certainly, the two come
together in the styles which are chosen and, in so doing, lay down the
lines along which modern life in this area moves. I regard this line of
relationship as constituting one of the most significant mechanisms in
the shaping of our modern world, but I shall not undertake aqalysis of
it in this paper.
Fashion and The Elite
The brief account which I have given of the setting of fashion in the
women’s wear industry permits one to return to Simmers classi: analysis
and pinpoint more precisely its shortcomings. His scheme elevates the
prestige of the elite to the position of major importance in the operation
of fashion-styles come into fashion because of the stamp of distinction
conferred on them by the elite. I think this view misses alniost completeIy what is central to fashion, namely, to be in fashion. It is not the
prestige of the elite which makes the design fashionable but, instead, it
is the suitability or potential fashionableness of the design which allows
the prestige of the elite to be attached to it. The design has to correspond to the direction of incipient taste of the fashion consuming public.
The prestige of the elite affects but does not control the direction of
this incipient taste. We have here a case of the fashion mechanism transcending and embracing the prestige of the eIite group rather than stemming from that prestige.
Fashion 281
There arc a number of lines of evidence which I think clearly establish this to be the case. First, we should note that members of the eliteand I am still speaking of the elite in the realm of women’s dress-are
themselves as interested as anyone to be in fashion. Anyone familiar with
them is acutely aware of their sensitivity in this regard, their wish not
to be out of step with fashion, and indeed their wish to be in the vanguard of prcper fashion. They are caught in the need of responding to
the direction of fashion rather than of occupying the privileged position
of setting that direction. Second, as explained, the fashion-adopting actions of the elite take place in a context of competing models, each with
its own source of prestige. Not all prestigeful persons are innovatorsand innovatclrs are not necessarily persons with the highest prestige. The
elite, itself, ias to select between models proposed by innovators; and
their choice is not determined by the relative prestige of the innovators.
As history shows abundantly, in the competitive process fashion readily
ignores persons with the highest prestige and, indeed, by-passes acknowledged “lead3rs” time after time. A further line of evidence is just as
telling, namely, the interesting instances of failure to control the direction
of fashion clespite effective marshalling of the sources of prestige. An
outstanding example was the effortin 1922to check and reverse the trend
toward shorier skirts which had started in 1919 to the dismay of clothing
manufacturers. These manufacturers enlisted the cooperation of the heads
of fashion houses, fashion magazines, fashion commentators, actresses,
and acknowledged fashion leaders in an extensive, well organized and
amply financed campaign to reverse the trend. The important oracles of
fashion declared that long dresses were returning, models of long dresses
were presented in numbers at the seasonal openings, actresses wore them
on the stag:, and manikins paraded them at the fashionable meeting
places. Yet, despite this effective marshalling of all significant sources of
prestige, the campaign was a marked failure; the trend toward shorter
skirts, after a slight interruption, continued until 1929 when a rather
abrupt change to long dresses took place. Such instances-and there have
been others-provide further indication that there is much more to the
fashion mechanism than the exercise of prestige. Fashion appears much
more as a collective groping for the proximate future than a channeled
movement laid down by prestigeful figures.
Colleciive Selection Replaces Class Differentiation
These obseivatims require us to put Simmers treatment in a markedly
different perspective, certainIy as applied to fashion in our modern epoch.
The efforts of an elite class to set itself apart in appearance takes place
inside of the movement of fashion instead of being its cause. The prestige
of elite groups, in place of setting the direction of the fashion movement,
is effective only to the extent to which they are recognized as represent
282 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
ing and portraying the movement. The people in other classes who
consciously follow the fashion do so because it is the fashion and not
because of the separate prestige of the elite group. The fashion dies not
because it has been discarded by the elite group but because it gives
way to a new model more consonant with developing taste. The fashion
mechanism appears not in response to a need of class diferentiation and
c h s emulation but in response to a wish t o be in fashion, to lie abreast
of what has good standing, to express new tastes which are emerging
in a changing world. These are the changes that seem to be called for
in Simmel’s formulation. They are fundamental changes. They shift
fashion from the fields of class digerentiation to the area of collective
sekction and center its mechanism in the process of such selection. This
process of collective selection represents an effort to choose from among
competing styles or models those which match developing tastes, those
which “click,” or those which-to revert to my friends, the buyers-‘‘are
stunning.” The fact that this process of collective selection is mysterious
-it is mysterious because we do not understand it-does not contradict
in any way that it takes place.
FEATURES OF T H E FASHION MECHANISM
To view the fashion niechanism as a continuing process of collective
selection from among competing models yields a markedly different
picture from that given by conventional sociological analysis cd fashion.
It calls attention to the fact that those implicated in fashion-innovators,
“leaders,” followers, and participants-are parts of a collectit e process
that responds to changes in taste and sensitivity. In a legitimate sense,
the movement of fashion represents a reaching out for new models which
will answer to as yet indistinct and inarticulate newer tastes. The transformation of taste, of collective taste, results without question from the
diversity of experience that occurs in social interaction in a complex
moving world. It leads, in turn,to an unwitting groping for suitable forms
of expression, in an effort to move in a direction which is consonant with
the movement of modern life in general. It is perhaps unnecessary to add
that we know very little indeed about this area of transfonnation of
collective taste. Despite its unquestioned importance it has been scarcely
noted, much less studied. Sociologists are conspicuously ignorant of it
and indifferent to it.
Before leaving the discussion of fashion in the area of conspicuous
appearance (such as dress, adornment, or mannerism), it is desirable to
note and consider briefly several important features of the fashion mechanism, namely, its historical continuity, its modernity, the role of collective taste in its operation, and the psychological motives which are alleged to# account for it.
Fashion 283
Historical Continuity
The history of fashion shows clearly that new fashions are related to, and
grow out of, their immediate predecessors. This is one of the fundamental
ways in which fashion differs from fads. Fads have no line of historical
continuity; each sprhgs up independently of a forerunner and gives rise
to no successor. In the case of fashion, fashion innovators always have
to consider the prevailing fashion, if for no other reason than to depart
from it or to elaborate on it. The result is a line of continuity. Typically,
although not universally, the line of continuity has the character of a
cultural drift, expressing itself in what we customarily term a “fashion
trend.” Fashion trends are a highly important yet a much neglected
object of study. They signify a convergence and marshalling of collective
taste in a given direction and thus pertain to one of the most significant
yet obscure features in group life. The terminal points of fashion trends
are of special interest. Sometimes they are set by the nature of the
medium (there is a point beyond which the skirt cannot be lengthened
or shortened [see Richardson and Kroeber, 1947; Young, 19371); sometimes they seem to represent an exhaustion of the logical possibilities of
the medium; but frequently they signify a relatively abrupt shift in
interests and taste. The terminal points are marked particularly by a
much wider latitude of experimentation in the new fashion models that
are advanced for adoption; at such points the fashion mechanism particularly reveals the groping character of collective choice to set itself
on a new course. If it be true, as I propose to explain later, that the
fashion mechanism is woven deeply into the texture of modern life, the
study of fashion in its aspects of continuity, trends, and cycles would be
highly important and rewarding.
Modernity
The feature of “modernity” in fashion is especially significant. Fashion
is always modern; it always seeks to keep abreast of the times. It is
sensitive to the movement of current developments as they take place
in its own field, in adjacent fields, and in the larger social world. Thus,
in women’s dress, fashion is responsive to its own trend, to developments in fabrics and ornamentation, to developments in the fine arts, to
exciting events that catch public attention such as the discovery of the
tomb of Tutankhamen, to political happenings, and to major social shifts
such as the emancipation of women or the rise of the cult of youth.
Fashion seems to sift out of these diverse sources of happenings a set of
obscure guides which bring it into line with the general or over-all
direction of modernity itself. This responsiveness in its more extended
form seems to be the chief factor in formation of what we speak of as a
“spirit of the times” or a zeitgeist.
284 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
Collective Taste
Since the idea of “collective taste” is given such an important position
in my analysis of the fashion mechanism, the idea warrants further clarification and explanation. I a m taking the liberty of quoting my remarks
as they appear in the article on “Fashion” in the new International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences V (1968:341-345).
.. . It represents an organic sensitivity to objects of social experience, as when
we say that ‘vulgar comedy does not suit our taste’ or that ‘they have :I taste for
orderly procedure.’ Taste has a tri-fold character-it is like an appetite in seeking positive satisfaction; it operates as a sensitive selector, giving a basis for
acceptance or rejection; and it is a formative agent, guiding the development
of lines of action and shaping objects to meet its demands. Thus, it appears as
a subjective mechanism, giving orientation to individuals, structuring activity
and moulding the world of experience, Tastes are themselves a prodiict of experience; they usually develop from an initial state of vagueness to a state of
refinement and stability, but once formed they may decay and disintegrate.
They are formed in the context of social interaction, responding to the definitions and affirmations given by others. People thrown into areas of common
interaction and having similar runs of experience develop common tastes. The
fashion process involves both a formation and an expression of collective taste
in the given area of fashion. Initially, the taste is a loose fusion of vague inclinations and dissatisfactions that are aroused by new experiences in the field
of fashion and in the larger surrounding world. In this initial state, collective
taste is amorphous, inarticulate, vaguely poised, and awaiting specific direction.
Through models and proposals, fashion innovators sketch out possible lines
along which the incipient taste may gain objective expression and take definite
form. Collective taste is an active force in the ensuing process of selection, setting limits and providing guidance; yet, at the same time is undergoes refinement and organization through its attachment to, and embodiment in, specific
social forms. The origin, formation, and careers of collective taste (constitute
the huge problematic area in fashion. Major advancement in our knowledge of
the fashion mechanism depends on the charting of this area. . . .
Psychological Motives
Now, a word with regard to psychological interpretations of fashion.
Scholars, by and large, have sought to account for fashion in terms of
psychological motives. A perusal of the literature will show a1 assortment of different feelings and impulses which have been picked out to
explain the occurrence of fashion. Some students ascribe fashion YOefforts
to escape from boredom or ennui, especially among members of the
leisure class. Some treat fashion as arising from playful and whimsical
impulses to enliven the routines of life with zest. Some regard it as due
to a spirit of adventure which impels individuals to rebel against the
confinement of prevailing social forms. Some see fashion as a symbolic
expression of hidden sexual interests. Most striking is the view expressed
by Sapir in his article on “Fashion” in the first edition of the Encyclopedia
of the Social Sciences VI (1931:139-141); Sapir held that fashion results
from an effort to increase the attractiveness of the self, especially under
conditions which impair the integrity of the ego; the sense of oneself is
regained and heightened through novel yet socially sanctioned departures
from prevailing social forms. Finally, some scholars trace fashion to
desires for personal prestige or notoriety.
Such psychological explanations, either singly or collectively, fail to
account for fashion; they do not explain why or how the various feelings
or motives give rise to a fashion process. Such feelings are presumably
present and in operation in all human societies; yet there are many
societies in which fashion is not to be found. Further, such feelings may
take various forms of expression which have no relation to a fashion
process. We are given no explanation of why the feelings should lead to
the formation of fashion in place of taking other channels of expression
available to them. The psychological schemes fail to come to grip with
the collective process which constitutes fashion-the emergence of new
models in an area of changing experience, the differential attention given
them, the interaction which leads to a focusing of collective choice on
one of them, the social endorsement of it as proper, and the powerful
control which this endorsement yields. Undoubtedly, the various feelings
and impulses specifiedby psychologists operate within the fashion process
-just as they operate within non-fashion areas of group life. But their
operation within fashion does not account for fashion. Instead, their operation presupposes the existence of the fashion process as one of the
media for their play.
The foregoing discussion indicates, I trust, the inadequacy of conventional sociological and psychological schemes to explain the nature
of fashion. Both sets of schemes fail to perceive fashion as the process of
collective selection that it is. The schemes do not identify the nature
of the social setting in which fashion arises nor do they catch or treat
the mechanism by which fashion operates. The result is that students
fail to see the scope and manner of its operation and to appreciate the
vital role which it plays in modern group life. In the interest of presenting a clearer picture of these matters, I wish to amplify the sketch of
fashion as given above in order to show more clearly its broad generic
character.
GENERIC CHARACTER OF FASHION
It is necessary, first of all, to insist that fashion is not confined to those
areas, such as women’s apparel, in which fashion is institutionalized and
professionally exploited under conditions of intense competition. As
mentioned earlier, it is found in operation in a wide variety and increasing number of fields which shun deliberate or intentional concern with
286 THE SOCIOLOGICAL QUARTERLY
fashion. In such fields, fashion occurs almost always without awareness
on the part of those who are caught in its operation. What may be
primarily response to fashion is seen and interpreted in other wayschiefly as doing what is believed to be superior practice. The prevalence
of such unwitting deception can be considerable. The basic inechanism
of fashion which comes to such a clear, almost pure, form i n women’s
dress is clouded or concealed in other fields but is none the less operative.
Let me approach a consideration of this matter by outlining the six essential conditions under which fashion presumably comes into play.
Essential Conditions of Its Appearance
First, the area in which fashion operates must be one that is involved
in a movement of change, with people ready to revise or discard old
practices, beliefs, and attachments, and poised to adopt new social forms;
there must be this thrust into the future. If the area is securely established, as in the domain of the sacred, there will be no fashion. Fashion
presupposes that the area is in passage, responding to changes taking
place in a surrounding world, and oriented to keeping abreast of new
developments. The area is marked by a new psychological perspective
which places a premium on being “up to date” and which implies a
readiness to denigrate given older forms of life as being outmoded. Above
all, the changing character of the area must gain expression or reflection
in changes in that subjective orientation which I have spoken of under
the term, “taste.”