Meaning of fashion
Fashion is what is accepted and adopted by the society at any given point of time. In other words it is a lifestyle statement of an individual or a group of people. In this sense it covers a wide range of human activities. Style, way, manner, mode, method and approach are the common terms associated with fashion. Fashion is an ongoing process and ever changing phenomenon that leads the world and is there in every nook and corner of the world. As fashion is a dynamic process, there are a number of external factors that contribute to it. There are various factors whose interplay affects the fashion scenario; it can be factors like social factors, political factors etc. The fashion scenario is a reflection of the prevailing conditions or tastes of people in the society. Everything that one uses, buys, wears, acquires has to be innovative and thoughtful.
Fashion varies from society to society and from region to region. It is a term which is primarily associated with the art of clothing and accessories. In its real sense it is a continuous process of changes in styles in any field, be it clothes, shoes, bags, profession, furniture, furnishings etc.
The term ‘fashion’ used in this book is in a narrow sense: fashion here means the style or styles of clothing and accessories worn at a particular time by a particular group of people.
Fashion life cycle
Fashion is an ongoing cycle in which new trends take place, are accepted and get finally outdated and rejected. This brings about a change and gives way to newer trends. This process of acceptance to rejection forms a curve. However, the life of all trends is not the same. For some trends the cycle may be completed in 6 months whereas for others it may even be a few years. This curve represents the pattern of life of a trend that takes place in five phases (Figure 1).
Phase 1: Introduction
This is a stage where a particular style is just introduced and not many people follow it. It is created by stylists or designers, who are involved in developing new designs. Changing or manipulating the design details, colour or pattern etc. can bring about these changes.
At this stage the cost of the garment is generally very high because the garment is not produced in bulk and thus the cost of production goes up. These garments are generally showcased in fashion shows, fashion exhibitions and get extensive media coverage. The most popular method of showcasing, nowadays, is by sponsoring the soaps that are telecast on television and through the film industry. These are methods of marketing so that the orders placed from these activities can go in for bulk production. This would bring down its cost.
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Phase 2: Rise
Once a particular style is introduced, its popularity then depends upon the response of the people to that style. If the indications drawn are positive, then the other manufacturers start adapting and copying the same style. At times the designers too have an alternate brand, clothes line that is at a lower price. This is done so as to increase the transaction and to take the orders in bulk.
To increase the popularity of particular style one may modify or alter it a little bit to suit the category of people he/she is catering to.
Phase 3: Popularity Peak
This is a stage where the demand for a style is the maximum or is at its peak. The production happens at all levels but it is produced ct different levels at different prices. The manufacturers keep a close watch on the reactions/response of the customers to a particular style so much so that even a slight indication towards acceptance jumps them to take production in quantities. This thereby reduces the manufacturing cost per garment and leads to mass acceptance. Such situations, many times, lead to ‘fakes’ or ‘Knockoffs’. Knockoffs are cheap adaptations of design, which get a good response. They are priced low because of more economic versions of fabrics, trimmings and finishing techniques that are used. This is done by picking up a sample from a particular garment and making a pattern for the same, but one must be careful in getting into mass production as not every style is meant for masses. The practice of Fakes and Knockoffs works to a disadvantage for the original designer or stylist. However one can avoid this situation by getting a copyright for a particular design, but keeping in mind the dynamic fashion era, taking a copyright for a particular design is not useful. Firstly, fashion vis-a-vis contemporary fashion trends change very fast and secondly, the procedure of taking a copyright is elaborate and tedious. Therefore, by the time one actually gets the copyright, the design might get outdated. Hence the alternate is developed for the situation whereby the designer themselves get involved in an alternate line of clothes where the cost of production is much lower than the original. Many a times the manufacturers get involved in the malpractice of imitating the original designer by using a similar firm name or label and manufacturing fakes. This illegal practice is carried out on international level. Goods are confiscated as and when the raids are conducted but this however has not been able to stop the malpractice.
Phase 4: Decline
After attaining the saturation point of popularity, the design slowly starts being rejected thereby bringing a downfall in its demand. This happens when people get tired of a particular style and start looking for a change that is innovative and fresh. In this stage the consumer continues to wear the garment but does not eagerly goes into buying it. Thus comes the phenomenon of ‘sales’, to remove the left-over stock of designs that has been discarded, before it gets too late and they become outdated.
Phase 5: Obsolescence
This is stage where a consumer completely discards a particular design because the consumers are tired of seeing and wearing the same style which gives way to newer designs, styles to emerge.
These stages of fashion cycle may vary in time duration. A particular style may be accepted fast and may get rejected even faster, whereas the other might/may survive for a longer duration. Based on the duration, fashion is divided into ‘classics and fads’.
There are times when a particular design may continue to survive but in the meantime it may undergo various changes in its design elements. For instance, the silhouette might change or the fabric used might be a different one. This explains the existence of a cycle within a cycle; for example, bell bottom or straight cut in jeans cycle, where just the silhouette has changed. This marks the existence of a cycle within a cycle.
There are exceptions to a fashion cycle, which causes a change of trend in the flow of the fashion cycle. Such situation arises when we have an interrupted fashion cycle, due to varied reasons like manufacturer might stop the production due to decline in popularity of a particular style, and might be the manufacturer wants to start the production for some other pattern of garment. Some of the other reasons for such interruptions are: social factors, political, economic and other factors. One good example of such a situation is the radical change brought about in the dressing of people before World War II and after that. People shifted from elaborate flared clothes to straight and more fitted attires / dresses.
There are certain cycles that are recurring cycles. In other words, the style is there for some time, follows the normal fashion cycle and then becomes obsolete but only to be revived again. In this case when it reappears, the silhouette proportions might remain same whereas the design details and fabric might change to cater to the prevalent demands or for enhancing the look of the garment. To understand this cycle, in Indian context, one can ‘ take the example of short tight Kurtis of 1960’s, which have been revived again.
What is the difference between fashion, style, and design? Just what do high fashion, mass fashion, taste, classic, and fad mean? To avoid confusion when discussing fashion, we must first understand the meanings of these terms.
The first step in understanding fashion is to distinguish between “fashion” and “style,” words that most people use interchangeably although there is an immense difference in their meanings. In general terms, a style is a characteristic or distinctive artistic expression or presentation. Styles exist in architecture, sculpture, painting, politics, and music, as well as in popular heroes, games, hobbies, pets, flirtations, and weddings.
In apparel, style is the characteristic or distinctive appearance of a garment-the combination of features that makes it unique and different from other garments. For example, T-shirts are as different from camp shirts as they are from peasant blouses. Riding jackets are as different from safari jackets as they are from blazer jackets.
Although styles come and go in terms of acceptance, a specific style always remains a style, whether it is currently in fashion or not. Some people adopt a style that becomes indelibly associated with them and wear it regardless of whether it is currently fashionable.
A trend is a general direction or movement. For example, you will often read in fashion magazines ‘there is; a trend toward longer skirts”; it means that several designers, including some leading ones, are showing longer skirts, leading retailers are buying them, and fashion-forward customers are wearing them. Marketers always want to know whether a new development is going to be a trend or a fad because they want to cash in on trends but avoid getting burned by fads. A trend can originate anywhere, and has a solid foundation that supports its growth; a fad does not.
Fashion is a style that is accepted and used by the majority of a group at any one time, no matter how small that group. A fashion is always based on some particular style. But not every style is a fashion. A fashion is a fact of social psychology. A style is usually a creation from an artist or a designer. A fashion is a result or social emulation and acceptance. A style may be old or new, beautiful or ugly, good or bad. A style is still a style even if it never receives the slightest acceptance or even approval. A style does not become a fashion until it gains some popular acceptance. And it remains a fashion only as long as it is accepted. Miniskirts, moustaches, and theatrical daytime makeup have all been fashions. And no doubt each will again be accepted by a majority of a group of people with similar interests or characteristics – for example, college students, young career men and women, retired men and women.
Some styles or designs continue to be considered in good taste over a long period of time. They are exceptions to the usual movement of styles through the fashion life cycle. A classic is a style or design that satisfies a basic need and remains in general fashion acceptance for an extended period of time.
A classic is characterized by simplicity of design which keeps it from being easily dated. Sari and Lehenga are outstanding examples of a classic. Other examples include denim jeans, blazer jackets, turtle neck sweaters, etc.
A fashion that suddenly sweeps into popularity, affecting a limited part of the total population, and then quickly disappears is called a fad.
The fad starts by being quickly accepted and then quickly imitated by others. Fads often begin in lower-price ranges, are relatively easy to copy, and therefore flood the market in a very short time. Because of this kind of market saturation, the public tires of fads quickly and they end abruptly.
Fads follow the same cycle as fashions do, but their rise in popularity is much faster, their acceptance much shorter, and their decline much more rapid than that of a true fashion. Because most fads come and go in a single season, they have been called ‘miniature fashions.’
Fashion leaders are the people who are innovative and bold enough to start a new fashion or try something away from what is prevalent in the market. They have the courage to adopt new fashion not necessarily to attract attention but to look different.
People of social, political, and economic importance here and abroad are seen as leaders in the downward movement theory. The horizontal flow theory recognizes individuals whose personal prestige makes them leaders within their own circles, whether or not they are known elsewhere. Finally, the important fashion role played by young, lower-income groups in the last half of the 20th century is recognized in the upward flow theory.
The theories of fashion adoption stress that the fashion leader is not the creator of the fashion; nor does merely wearing the fashion make a person a fashion leader. As Quentin Bell explained, the leader of fashion does not come into existence until the fashion is itself created. A king or person of great eminence may indeed lead the fashion, but he leads only in the general direction which it has already adopted. If a fashion parade is forming, fashion leaders may head it and even quicken its pace. They cannot, however, bring about a procession; nor can they reverse a procession.
Famous people are not necessarily fashion leaders, even if they do influence an individual style. Their influence usually is limited to only one striking, style, one physical attribute, or one time. The true fashion leader is a person who is seeking constantly for new fashion, therefore likely to launch a succession of fashions rather than just one.
What makes a person a fashion leader? A person eager for the new is merely an innovator or early buyer. To be a leader, one must be influential and sought after for advice within one’s coterie. A fashion influential sets the appropriate dress for a specific occasion in a particular circle. Within that circle an innovator presents current offerings and is the earliest visual communicator of a new style.
Such people can be split into two categories depending upon the role they play.
People who are the creator of new fashion styles come under this category. They may be renowned designers or a simple person who likes to experiment with his / her clothes. Such people believe in wearing clothes that are unique, in terms of colours, trimmings, accessories, designs, the style of draping a garment etc. They might consciously or unconsciously give an impetus to a particular style that might get popular.
Influential or motivators
This group of consumers consists of those individuals who are socially eminent and are an idol for other people, thereby motivating them to adopt a particular style of clothing. They can be movie stars, people who are the who’s who of society, politicians, social activists, etc. Their sense of dressing inspires people to follow them. Such people’s style is cashed upon by the manufacturers who start manufacturing in bulk. It can be anything ranging from jewellery, hairstyles, accessories etc. One can rightly give the example of Princess Diana whose style of dressing was an example for quite a few.
As monarchies were replaced with democracies, members of the wealthy and international sets came into the fashion spotlight. Whether these rich and wealthy members of ‘society’ derive their position from vast fortunes and old family names or from recent wealth, they bring glamour that draws attention to everything they do. Today, through the constant eye of television, magazines, and newspapers, the average person is able to find fashion leadership in a whole new stratum of society the jet set.
What these glamorous people are doing and what they are wearing are instantly served up to the general public by the media. As far as fashion is concerned, these people are not just in the news; they are the news. Any move they make is important enough to be immediately publicized. What they wear is of vital interest to the general public. The media tell us what the social leaders wear to dine in a chic restaurant, to attend a charity ball, or to go shopping. Because they are trendsetters, their choices are of prime interest to designers and to the world at large. Of course, this inundation of news about what social leaders wear influences the public. The average person is affected because so many manufacturers and retailers of fashion take their cue from these social leaders. Right or wrong, fashion merchants count on the fashion sense of these leaders. They know that the overwhelming exposure of these leaders in the media encourages people of ordinary means to rotate them – consciously or unconsciously.
Fashion today takes its impetus and influence from people in every possible walk of life. These people have one thing in common, however: they are famous. Because of some special talent, charisma, notoriety, or popularity, they are constantly mentioned and shown on television, in fashion magazines, and in newspapers. They may or may not appear in the society pages.
In this group can be found presidents and princesses, movie stars and religious leaders, sports figures and recording stars, politicians and TV personalities. Because they are seen so frequently, the public has a good sense of their fashions and lifestyles and can imitate them to the extent of the public’s means and desires. Prominent individuals have been responsible for certain fashions that continue to be associated with them.
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There are many people who are followers, and good ones. Individuals, who do not like to experiment with new styles, come under the category of fashion followers. They are people who first let the style be tried by people and accepted by society, before going into adapting it. There might be people who like trying but due to lack of resources they are not able to do so. It can be monetary terms or in terms of time. There are even people who do not give a lot of importance to their style of dressing. As for them, clothing is just a basic necessity and therefore wasting time on it is not worthwhile for them. One of the reasons for a person to become a fashion follower is the fear of being singled out as a different sheep in the herd. They like to be just one of the groups.
In fact, fashion followers’ category of people is the most important category as this is the group on which bulk of the work of the fashion industry works. It is for such people that manufacturers get into mass production. Most of the manufacturers cater to this category of people and manufacture whatever style goes along with them. Followers are in the majority within any group. Without followers the fashion industry would certainly collapse. Mass production and mass distribution can be possible and profitable only when large number of consumers accepts the product.
The styles fashion leaders adopt may help manufacturers and retailers in determining what will be demanded by the majority of consumers in the near future. Only accurate predictions can ensure the continued success of the giant ‘ready to-wear’ business in this country, which depends for its success on mass production and distribution. While fashion leaders may stimulate and excite the fashion industry, fashion followers are the industry’s lifeblood.
One important section of fashion followers is the people who form the ‘Fashion Victim’ category. Some followers of fashion become slaves of it and start following the fashion phenomena without considering whether the particular garment suits them or not, as not every outfit or style suit everyone. One has to keep many things under consideration before adorning a garment. For example, physical characteristics of an individual, occasion, climate etc., are few of the important factors that affect the style of clothing. Thus people who blindly follow the fashion trend without considering the fact that it suits them or not, come under the category of fashion victims.
Fashion is, in many ways, like a river. A river is always in motion, continuously flowing- sometimes it is slow and gentle, at other times rushing and turbulent. It is exciting, and never the same. It affects those who ride its currents and those who rest on its shores. Its movements depend on the environment.
All of this is true of fashion, too. The constant movements of fashion depend on an environment made up of social, political, and economic factors. These movements, no matter how obvious or how slight, have both meaning and definite direction. There is a special excitement to interpreting these movements and estimating their speed and direction. Everyone involved in fashion, from the designer to the consumer, is caught up in the movement of fashion.
The excitement starts with the textile producers. Fully 12 to 18 months before they offer their lines to manufacturers, the textile people must choose their designs, textures, and colors. From three to nine months before showing a line to buyers, the apparel manufacturers begin deciding which styles they will produce and in which fabrics. Then, two to six months before the fashions will appear on the selling floor, the retail buyers make their selections from the manufacturers’ lines. Finally, the excitement passes on to the consumers, as they select the garments that will be versatile, appropriate, and suitably priced for their individual needs and wants.
Successful designers, manufacturers, buyers, and consumers have a good understanding of basic cycles, principles, and patterns that operate in the world of fashion. Their predictions are based on this understanding.
Fashion adoption theory
According to this theory, there is a category of people who are socially eminent or elite. They might be politician, celebrities, sports player, etc. This category becomes the trendsetters for the other people who start following them. Gradually manufacturers from each category start moulding the fabric and finishing of the garment to fit the pockets of the strata of people they are catering to. This is done till the time the consumer does not lose interest in that particular style.
The Trickle-down theory states that the movement of fashion starts at the top with consumers of higher socioeconomic status and moves down to the general public. This is the oldest and most accepted theory of fashion movement. According to this theory, people with lower incomes will only wear fashions that have become popular among consumers with higher incomes at the top of the ladder. As more people begin to wear the fashions, those at the top become less interested and begin looking for something new.
Veblen (1899) was one fashion observer at the turn of the 20th century. He put forth Trickle-down theory. Looking around at his or her own time, the observer notices that fashion is still restricted to those at the top of the class structure-the rich and socially prominent. Fashion moves downward from the elite class to the lower classes in stately and slow progression, but never reached all the levels. The lower classes did not have the income, access, or the freedom to follow fashion’s dictates. He described the upper strata of the social system as the leisure class. Members of the leisure class displayed wealth in two distinctive ways, through conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption. They adopt an extravagant lifestyle of travel, entertainment, the pursuit of pleasure, Art collection, and acquisition of luxurious homes and furnishings demonstrate conspicuous consumption demonstrating conspicuous leisure. Highly visible upper class made up of those occupying power positions in business, politics, and media.
Simmel (1904), a sociologist, identified the engine of fashion change in the opposing human tendencies toward conformity and individuality. Conformity means strivings for social adaptation. The imitator class believes in social similarity, in acting like others. Individuality suggests the need for differentiation. The elite class differentiated itself through fashion, and the adjacent lower classes reproduced the look. The individual seeking differentiation constantly experiments with the new, relying in large part on personal convictions. These dual drives can also be played out in social groups where fashion simultaneously functions as a means of class distinction and as a button / symbol of group uniformity.
Mass dissemination theory
Due to globalization and better international network, there is mass dissemination of fashion. For example: A show that is conducted in Paris might get appreciated in India and manufacturers start the variants of the same style such that it suits the category they are catering to. With the media playing an important role in everybody’s life, the trickle across theory is gaining much more relevance in today’s scenario.
This theory hypothesizes that designs are produced at all price levels at the same time. The merchandise quality and lines may vary, but new fashion exists for all groups. Within a given fashion season consumers in all socioeconomic groups simultaneously have the freedom to select from a range of styles and this range is sufficient to satisfy personal taste. Imitation and differentiation were still part of the dynamic because others would imitate innovators and influential within their social strata and those fashion leaders would move to new looks. Rather than elite introducing fashion ideas into society, King saw leadership within each social stratum and within each social group. Fashion acceptance begins among several socioeconomic groups and the leaders within each group influence its members. This theory is especially probably in the 21st century because technology allows designer fashions to be copies quickly and easily, making them available to all consumers sooner.
Bottom up theory
This theory states that the movement of fashion starts with consumers on lower-income levels, then moves to consumers with higher incomes. For example, the denim fabric was first used for work clothing for labors and was later adopted by hippies and other lower socioeconomic groups. From there, the designers adopted denim as a fabric and designed clothing for the higher socioeconomic consumers. Thus it is not necessary that new style statements emerge only from the economically socially eminent people.
Fashions appeal to many different groups and can be categorized according to the group to which they appeal.
High fashion refers to a new style accepted by a limited number of fashion leaders who want to be the first to adopt changes and innovation in fashion. High-fashion styles are generally introduced and sold in small quantities and at relatively high prices. These styles may be limited because they are too sophisticated or extreme to appeal to the needs of the general public, or they are priced well beyond the reach of most people. However, if the style can appeal to a broader audience, it is generally copied, mass-produced, and sold at lower prices. The fashion leaders or innovators who first accepted it then move on to something new.
Haute Couture is a French word for very rich quality / fine costume or dress design. It’s made to measure tailoring, in simple words it is made to the measurement of a particular customer. It even means the art of dress-making. These clothes are expensive and are worn by celebrities. They have a limited number of clients. From couture originated the word ‘couturier’ which means a male designer having his own couture house and ‘couturiere’ means a woman having her own couture house. Haute Couture again a French word means high fashion garments that have finest of fabric and workmanship.
Ready to wear
Ready to wear fashion is also known as Mass or Volume fashion. These are garments, which are produced in large numbers thereby reducing the cost of production and thereby making the garments less expensive. They are standard sized which makes them more suitable for larger productions. Ready to wear collections can also be divided into Designers collections and street fashion.
These have a high quality, a superb finish and a unique cut and design. These collections are the most trendsetting compared to Haut Couture and Designer ready to wear collections contain often Concept items which represent a certain philosophy or theory. Generally introduced and sold in small quantities and at relatively high prices. These items are not so much created for mass sales but just to make a statement. The designers ready to wear collection is also presented on the international catwalks.
To contrast with high fashion, mass fashion consists of styles that are widely accepted. These fashions are widely produced and sold in large quantities at moderate to low prices and appeal to the greatest majority of fashion conscious consumers. Mass fashion accounts tor the majority of sale in the fashion business. Mass fashion is the “bread and butter” of the fashion banquet!
Meaning of design
The word ‘Design’ is used both as a noun and a verb. As a verb, ‘to design’ refers to the process of originating and developing plan for a product, structure, system, or component within intention. As a noun, ‘a design’ is used for either the final plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan in the form of the final product of a design process.
Design is a Visual Language. A language is the medium of communication. Communication is nothing but the transfer of information from sender to receiver with the information being understood by the receiver followed by a feed back to the sender. Visual language is self explanatory, in which the information is passed to the people with the help of signs, sketches, images, photographs and videos.
Design is the process of selecting and organizing different elements in order to fulfil a specific target in terms of design. Elements are the basic components or building blocks of a design. A process is a series of actions taken towards achieving a particular goal. Selection process is aimed at carefully choosing things as being the most suitable. Organizing activity aims at arranging all the items or elements in an orderly way. Design is often viewed as a more rigorous form of design, or design with a clearly defined purpose.
In Figure 1.2 (a) different components like a big circle, two small circles, a vertical line and an arc are selected. But they do not convey any particular message, because all of these components maintain their separate identity. In Figure 1.2 (b) all these components are organized in such a way that all of them dissolve their own identity in order to constitute a human face. The big circle represents the outline of a face, small circles assume eyes, the vertical line constitutes a nose and the arc represents mouth.
In order to learn any language, one should be acquainted well with alphabets and grammar of that language. Elements of design are alphabets of design language whereas principles of design are grammatical syntax of it.
Aspects of design
Every garment makes a statement. It communicates with you. It has its own identity. It may give illusion to you such as
Shy or Outgoing
Dashing or cautious
Cool or Dull
Sophisticated or primitive
When you go to the market to purchase a garment,
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