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Pte 70 Score Essay on “What do you Understand by ‘Fashion’ and why does Fashion Change?”

What do you Understand by ‘Fashion’ and why does Fashion Change?

The word ‘fashion’ is generally used to mean style in clothing, ‘style’ meaning what is popularly accepted, admired or regarded as exclusive i.e. not available to the majority either because they lack the taste or the money to follow it.

However fashion applies to many other things than dress and hair-styles e.g. house, building and the general design of most consumer-goods ranging from cars to kitchen appliances. The word also applies to customs, personal manners and standards of moral behavior. It certainly covers forms of speech, use of words and accents within a language.

All these things change from time to time, sometimes abruptly. Sometimes a form of dress, a phrase, or a custom may drop out of fashion but then come back for no obvious reason. However, the reason for change is usually apparent.

In the West post-war ‘clothing fashions have been the subject of change because of the higher standard of living enjoyed in most European countries. Take England as an example. In pre-war days high fashion was the monopoly of the wealthy or well-to-do woman. If a woman works to a tight budget she will have to buy clothes and shoes for warmth and durability rather than appearance. During the war clothes for both sexes were rationed anyway, on a coupon system. This austerity, followed by post-war full employment, for women as well as men, started the fashion ball rolling.

Men’s fashions have always remained relatively static, variations in suits and shoes remaining fairly minor. However the freedoms of the 1960’s moved young men into a much more informal style of dress, which reflected their casual attitudes, behavior and morality. The tee-shirt and denim jeans became almost statutory for the young of both sexes. Recently there has been slight return to formal dress, although the hat has, for no apparent reason, become the symbol of the elderly men, and, for most occasions, women too.

Returning to women’s fashions. A third reason for the constant changes lies in ‘haute couture’ as big business. At one time a new and exclusively styled garment from a couturier in Paris was sold only to the rich. The same garment today is only exclusive in its label, though a few models are sold to the rich as one-offs.

The real business lies in the sale of the model to the mass-producing firms which bring new styles to the big stores in the High Street. Thus the shop-girl can wear the same style in clothes and shoes as Princess Diana. A fourth reason for change is that women like change for its own sake. They prefer two or three different outfits to one, in the course of a year. Mass-produced fashion clothes and shoes are therefore not made to last. They become ‘disposables.’

Another reason for changes in customs, manners and morals, lies in subtle changes in ideas and outlooks. The Butch appearance of some western women reflects feminism, as does the look-alike garb affected by some couples. For men or women to live together in a homosexual relationship, so far from causing ostracism, is now accepted as fashionable in some quarters. Some men no longer open doors for women, stand when they enter a room or give up their seats in a railway carriage. Many women regard this once accepted behavior as male chauvinism.

Other changes in fashion occur because of the power of propaganda, advertising and political pressure groups. The anti-smoking lobby has largely succeeded in keeping all public places smoke-free. The lobby has considerable backing from the medical profession.

The term ‘fashion’ applies also to the written and the spoken word; B.B.C. English, spoken in an `Oxbridge’ accent was used exclusively by newsreaders and public speakers until the 60s. In that decade local accents became more fashionable, due partly to the prominence given to pop-groups, especially if they came from Liverpool, such as the `Beatles’ or from the Midlands or the North. Changes in accent and expression have greatly affected both the theatre and the television play; subject matter is also very different today.

The term ‘kitchen-sink drama’ sums up the process. Novels have also undergone fundamental changes in fashion, partly because of travel and partly because of a shift in political interest. Today best-selling novels are usually spy-thrillers or books which deal with contemporary subjects such as aircraft, banking, electronics or industrial espionage; others result from a new and sometimes sentimental review of England’s past glories, her old wartime achievements, her social and industrial progress in Victorian and Edwardian days and her colonial power up to 1939.


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