Why is fashion so important to people and what role does it play in their lives?

The fashion industry is worth over an estimated £46 billion, this is increasing everyday due to people finding an interest and new styles each week. Fashion is followed by many men and women all over the world. Throughout the past 100 years there have been many changes to the trends that people follow; these changes are influenced by different designers, cultures, celebrities, subcultures, seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter), and the economy.

In order to find out the answer to my question, I conducted an interview and gave out ten questionnaires to randomly selected people. I read articles from magazines, newspapers, and also fashion blogs, which has given me an insight to the different opinions and views that people have on fashion. This has helped me discover that fashion is very important to some people and plays a very crucial role in their lives, it is how people acquire, explore and express their own true identity.

Many peoples fashion is influenced by fandom, whether their outfits have been influenced by characters in their favourite TV series/film or they’ve seen their idols wearing clothes which they like and then copy. People also express their love for their favourite band or TV show character by wearing items of clothing which illustrate their fandom, such as t-shirts with their favourite bands logo on. This is often displayed through some popular subcultures like metal heads.

During my questionnaire I asked about stereotypes and if there are any linked to men and women who like to keep up with current fashion trends. Whilst women who have an interest in fashion are classed as behaving normal, being girly, and often desirable; men who have the same interests are labelled as being homosexual or are believed to be raised within a wealthy family.  The stereotype of being wealthy probably due to the very structured, tailored outfits which are very popular among men with an interest in fashion, this type of clothing tends to cost a lot due to them being handmade and a lot of time and effort being put into the making of them; Mark-Francis Vandelli (below) is a fashion enthusiast who conforms to both of these stereotypes being homosexual and very wealthy.

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Women who take an interest in fashion are stereotyped as being normal, girly and often desirable, however they are also often being stereotyped as ‘bitchy’, superficial and shallow. When I asked the question: ‘Where do you think the stereotype of women who are interested in fashion being ‘bitchy’, superficial and shallow has originated from?’ The reply was from movies such as ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, which is set in the offices of a high end fashion magazine. The stereotype is due to the way characters are represented, such as Miranda Priestly’s assistant ‘Emily’ who only cares about losing weight and going to Paris to get lots of free clothes during fashion week. Also Miranda Priestly who runs the fashion magazine and her strict beliefs towards fashion and because of it has had countless divorces and hardly sees her children, she jeopardises her family life for the sake of fashion. To people like this, fashion is not only an interest but a lifestyle, their lives are revolved around fashion and their career is a full time 24/7 job. This is due to the clothes they wear always having to be on trend and being judged for the clothes they put on.

When reading the results from my questionnaire, people believe that in the more recent fashion, women’s clothing has become more tailored with straight, clean-cut edges, perhaps displaying more masculine features? Women are now able to buy a suit which before would only have been worn by men. This shows that the line between male and female fashion is slowly becoming more distorted over time. Maybe the reason for this is gender equality, men have always had more rights than a women & even though it is rarely seen in todays society, it still happens. For instance men on average men are paid more than women who work in the same position. Women are seen as being too emotional and unable to cope with a crisis without breaking down and therefore men are more likely to be employed over women. Maybe in order to be taken more seriously this has made women dress in a more masculine way?

Mods and Rockers, metalheads, skinheads and punks are all subcultures from the past, whilst some of the fashions typically worn by them are rarely seen in modern fashion, they have had a major influence on the clothes we wear today. To the people involved with these subcultures, fashion is a way of expressing themselves and plays a very important part in letting people know who they are. Mods and Rockers were two different subcultures which had a difference in opinion and beliefs, both groups subculture surrounded music and fashion. Where the rockers wore protective leather and motorcycle boots or creepers, Mods wore suits and smarter clean-cut clothes. Both subcultures were very different and this created a lot of controversy and moral panic occurred as a result of it. The public felt that the two subcultures were a threat to society and labelled them both as ‘folk devils’ and blamed them for crimes and anti-social behaviour which they may or may not have committed.

Skinheads originated in working class London during the 60s but soon spread throughout the UK and other countries around the world. They wore their hair very short or went completely bald and often had lots of tattoos. They wore long sleeved shirts or polo  shirts and wore boots, which were often Dr Martens. The music genres they had a tendency to listen to were soul and reggae. At first they didn’t stand for a lot but soon became the leaders of a political group called ‘Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice’ or ‘SHARP’ for short, they were against racial prejudice and displayed this emblem (below) on their clothes.Unknown-1

Another subculture with their own fashion style are the metal heads; Fashion plays a major part of the metal heads subculture, like most subculture their style has changed over the years but metal heads are typically seen to be wearing leather which display pin-badges from their favourite bands, dark shirts with their favourite bands logo on and tight skinny jeans; they often also have long hair. The reason for this fashion to be a major part of a metal head’s life is that they tend to alienate themselves from other people who do not enjoy the same music as them, dressing in this way warns the rest of public away from them and therefore they don’t mix with society.

Punks are a subculture surrounding rock music, they express themselves through fashion and art, displaying dark anti-materialistic clothing. They often have an unkept look about them with a mohawk hairstyle which were sometimes brightly coloured and dark make-up. Fashion was very important to punks as it was a way of rebelling from society and letting everyone know what they stood for- including, freedom of expression and going against society beliefs of what is ‘normal’ dress.

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Hippies are a subculture which first originated in colleges around America. Hippies rebelled against the typical fashion, wearing minimal makeup and customising their own clothes (see photo below). They believed in freedom, peace, and free love. Hippies wore lots of floral patterns, fringing, flares and both men and women regularly went topless in order to send the clear message of freedom. They attended music festivals like Woodstock on a regular basis and listened to music from artists such as, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Whereas Hipsters who originated in New York during the 40s, wore tight trousers and baggy over-sized tops and jumpers. Hipsters pride themselves upon being clever, studying, reading and following politics; they wear thick rimmed glasses and use backpacks as part of their style.

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For many people fashion is just a way of expressing an identity, according to Dick Hebdige we create our own personal style based upon three factors: Identity, power and fashion influences (whether they’re from the past or current trends).

Celebrities have a huge influence on the public, an example being the ‘Rachel’ haircut was first seen on Jennifer Aniston who played the popular ‘Rachel Green’ in the Sitcom Friends. Fans of the TV show were very quick to go out and copy the actresses new haircut and it soon became the most requested hairstyle of all time, almost 11million women in the UK have requested the cut. The reason for them having such an impact on society is when we open a magazine or a newspaper we see many photos of them. When we turn on the TV they’re on our screens and it has become very difficult to avoid them altogether. Whilst reading fashion magazines we are given tips and advice on how to dress like our favourite celebrities, they tell us where we can their exact outfit from and they even give us an affordable option, which is available on the high street.

The influence that celebrities have on fashion is a strong example of the effects theory. Take Marilyn Monroe for example: The photo of her wearing a white dress which is blowing up due to standing on an air vent is an iconic image, you don’t even need to see it to know exactly what it looks like. That photo was taken in the 1950s and the classic look has remained popular with similar white dresses still being sold today in the 21st century.

In all societies the body is ‘dressed’ and everywhere dress and adornment play symbolic, communicative and aesthetic roles. Dress is always ‘unspeakably meaningful.’ The earliest forms of ‘clothing’ seem to have been adornments such as body painting, ornaments, scarifications (scarring), tattooing, masks and often constricting neck and waist bands. Many of these deformed, reformed or otherwise modified the body Elizabeth Wilson 2005.

Semiotics can be applied to clothes and current fashion trends, such as when someone is seen in a tracksuit it is assumed that they are sporty person and take part in regular exercise. Whereas someone seen in a suit are linked to being important and having a demanding job. These semiotics have stemmed from what is seen as suitable for the activities a person will be completing during their day, it would be inappropriate for a man to turn up to the office in sweats, just as it would be inappropriate for a man to be seen working out in a suit. People who wear brands such as Prada or  Chanel are seen to be from an upper class and important with a highly paid job, whereas those in unbranded clothes are perhaps seen as working class and not so well off. These are very similar to stereotypes as people automatically form opinions and ideals about people based upon the way they dress.

Here in the 21st century there are many way that we are able to follow fashion and it is more easy than ever for society to access designers new collections and what is considered to be in season. Most of these ways are through the media via: magazines, online blogs and articles. Fashion magazines such as Grazia have sections each week of the most up to date trends, who’s wearing them and where to get you can purchase the clothes. This has caused more people to take an interest as people don’t want to be seen as out-of-date because of their dress, they also don’t want to be judged by their friends for not wearing the most fashionable clothes. Unfortunately, some people do dress to impress other people in a negative way and do sometimes look down on those who are less fortunate than them and can’t afford to dress in the latest trends. This can make them feel uncomfortable about who they are, and just because they don’t dress in the latest trends, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested in fashion. Everyone has their own style, some people decide to follow the trends whereas some people go their own way and set those trends.

From my research and other peoples research which I’ve looked at throughout this assignment, I have come to the conclusion that fashion does play a major role in peoples lives, as each morning when a person gets dressed and every time they go shopping, that certain individual will buy clothes based upon their own personal style. Fashion allows people to express who they are, through the way they dress. However, just because people are always making fashion choices it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s important to everyone. Fashion is an interest for some people, just like those who share a common interest in sports.

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This is an essay which I have just received my grade back for, I thought I’d post it as it was very enjoyable to write. I would love to hear your own opinions about it and see if theres anything else I could add to it (not that it would change my grade but just out of interest). Thanks for reading! Kate xx

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