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What is Fashion

Today an inability to refashion and reshape our bodies whilst constantly monitoring the cultural ideal leaves us failing the fashion test. Those that pass the fashion test invariably spend their lives absorbed in a circle of diet, exercise, cosmetic surgery and other regimes. This includes the rigors of shopping in search of the ultimate garb.
The Need for Tribal Belonging
Our reluctance to give ourselves a regular makeover through diet, exercise, and consistently conscious use of specific dress styles infers that we have the personality flaws of a weak willed human. We become in the eyes of fashion aficionados somewhat inadequate and imperfect in the fashion stakes. Thus we strive to keep a culturally satisfying appearance so that we feel better, whereas in fact we are striving to stay in the tribe, whatever type of tribe that may be.
Group affiliation is our prime concern with regard to fashion. As long as some group similarity is identified within the group, our personal fashion whether current or dated can belong to any tribe. It is the sense of belonging marked by how we fashion ourselves that gives us the tribal connection.
An innate characteristic of human beings is the desire to strive for differentiation. The removal of Sumptuary Laws and rigid dress codes has enabled the individual to use fashion as a means to identify clearly the many different rôles that a person plays in any one day.
Sociologists borrowed the word 'rôle' from the theatre because, like actors individuals play many parts and each part has to be learnt. Rôles are continually learned and rehearsed and relearned. They are also shared, because like the actors on a stage, fluid interaction only occurs if all the performers know the behaviour expected.
Class Stratification
The Edwardians were experts in the art of rôle play. They had had sufficient time to readjust to the new patterns of behaviour established by the Victorians.
The Edwardians were socially stratified into those who wore tailor made clothing down to those who wore other people's cast offs. The poor simply looked poor, because their raiment betrayed them. Whilst the rich and nouveau riche displayed their wealth through an iconography of signs and symbols that enhanced their body image in the eyes of those that saw themselves as socially inferior.
Rôle Set
Rôles and activities are closely linked to what people wear. People are affected by their rôle-set, which includes boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, friends, husbands, lovers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, relatives, employers, customers, clients, work mates, business colleagues, peer and age groups.
The people with whom a purchaser interacts affects the final purchase and this applies to any fashion dominated item from interior furnishings to choice of cars. Likewise the purchase of fashionable clothes, fabrics, or accessories becomes a visual currency and speaks volumes silently. The tools of fashion provide the signs and symbolism that function as an information service for the rôle-set.
People are so aware that others make judgements about them through their clothes and accessories that many run up huge debts to appear to belong to a particular lifestyle. Frequently the rest of their rôle-set are doing likewise. Members of the rôle-set often encourage them. Only individuals with a strong sense of self identity stick their necks out and admit to wearing items that others might consider dubious or passé.

Occupation, Status and Purpose of Clothing
Those with high status occupations will wear the clothes they think others expect them to wear. They will not wish to experience rôle conflict by wearing the incorrect clothing. It is from the clothes a person wears that we get our first impression of personality. They provide mental clues to a person's status and occupational rôle, as well as being a means of conforming to peer group expectations.
Clothes also have the utilitarian function of providing both protection from the extremes of the elements, keeping us warm or cool or safe. They also act as an aid to modesty or immodesty as the wearer so desires.
The state of a person's clothes is synonymous with self respect and is a sign of respectability. It also adds another sign that the person has sufficient status in society to maintain at the cost of time and money, laundering, dry cleaning and repair. To be respectable some expense has to be incurred in the maintenance of cleanliness and neatness.

Veblen's 'The Theory of the Leisure Class'
Thorstein Veblen the US economist who wrote the book The Theory Of The Leisure Class in 1899 maintained that Dressing for status as an outward expression of wealth is indeed functional, by the very fact that such clothes prevent the wearer from engaging in manual labour.

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