Change In Fashion Proliferates Cultural Studies Essay

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Chapter 3

Fashion is the generally accepted style in the market or in the community or to put it at a larger scale in the whole country which sometimes crosses even the boundaries if similar culture is shared. Fashion is considered one of the attributes of the lifestyle of people therefore people of a society following a particular fashion represent the lifestyle of that society. Though fashion depicts the lifestyle of a society, it can be differently adopted in other societies due to many factors like income, awareness, degree of interest and adoption of many different styles in the market at the same time etc. But confronting modern changes almost every minute, fashion and lifestyles of societies keep changing.

Change is most likely to be prominent the moment fashion changes as fashion is the most visible media of change. Suppose when checks overtake stripes and when every other person starts wearing it, it is commonly used cliché that "it is in fashion" that is why everyone is going for it. As it is rightly put by King et al. (1979) who conceptualized the fashion change agent as a consumer who not just monitor the changing fashion trends but also keeps his/her wardrobe updated with the current fashion which displays their involvement with fashion clothing.

The degree to which fashion changes depends mainly on:

Combination of social trends

Individual needs to conform

Individual pressures from others

This suggests that change in fashion comes due to multiple reasons like the social trends in the market, how people are likely to yield to the growing fashion and how much they are willing to adopt fashion coming their way from others. This is because fashion and clothing both helps individuals to shape their self image and enhance their appearance.

This change in fashion proliferates through a process which includes different stages:

Change in clothing and appearance styles




Thus, a fashion is first brought about by means of change in clothing and appearance styles then this change is spread mainly through communication and media then it is adopted which has its own process and then it finally fades away so that a new fashion takes its place and this how fashion keeps on changing.

Many theories have been proposed to encompass this fashion process. The trickle down theory states that the upper strata of the society usually serves as fashion leaders and whatever they do and wear becomes the fashion of that society. The mass market theory is of the view that media plays vital role in propagating the fashion and taking it down to the mainstream whereas the collective selection theory says that fashion was previously considered as the socializing agent and an epitome of social standard.

Many fashion retailers view this fashion change as planned obsolescence and therefore persuade consumers to keep buying clothes that are in fashion continuously without much gap because fashion keeps on changing hastily. According to them, there are different market segments and each segment has their own fashion trends and the most researchable segment is young segment as they are more prone to adopting new trends and innovations (Goldsmith et al., 1996; King and Sproles, 1973; Kwon and Workman, 1996; Palegato and Wall, 1990; Workman and Kidd, 2000).

There are various processes of fashion adoption. One of them propsed by Robertson which is divided into 3 stages:




These 3 stages were linked with 4 possible relations attributed by "interest" and "involvement" of people depicting either 'positive" or "negative" reaction suggested by Cathelat 1998 at premier vision exhibition in Paris in the following ways:


This Situation leads to change. Also called Conformity which simply means that people are not only interested in the current trends but are willing to be involved in it personally and will adopt it. Thus, we can call it an "accept" dress.


This is opposite to Conformity and is therefore named "anti conformity" where people behave in opposite direction because the current trends not only interests them but they are also not willing to adopt it, therefore they simply resist it. We can call it an "alternative" dress as people dress antagonistically to the fashion to show they are different and contesters.


Here, people are interested but not properly involved. They are aware of change but not really want to adopt it exactly the way it is. So they are conservative in their choices. Thus, it is called "concealment' and dress would be "escape" dress as they dress up like chameleon.


Here, people are not interested in new situations but engage themselves in change. They cleverly modify dominant trends so as not to conform too strongly. Therefore, we will call it "adapt" dress as people modify it according to their own personal style to show their involvement.

Changes in fashion involve a combination of personal adoption at the micro-level and social diffusion at the macro-level. These processes of personal adoption and social diffusion are driven by individualizing forces or conforming forces (Cholachatpinyo et al., 2002). At the macro-level of society, fashion is first adopted by fashion innovators, then by a majority of consumers and, finally, by laggards (Rogers, 1983).

As Sproles and Burns (1994) noted, the adoption of styles within a social system is brought about by interaction and communication of a symbolic nature among group members, which, in turn, produces fashion diffusion among small groups. In other words, we can put it this way that for a fashion to spread or clothing conformity requires some group dynamics which will help in circulating the on going trend through communication.

Such group dynamics can be called fashion norms, as one of the group norms, result from visual observation, verbal communication, and negotiations about meaning among group members (Kaiser, 1997). Once formulated, group norms (including fashion norms) are sustained through expectations of conformity by individuals who wish to acquire group approval.

Conformity to group norms plays a critical role in peer acceptance among adolescents (Ryan, 1966; Harper et al., 2003). As adolescents experience dramatic personal change (physical, social, and intellectual), and as the relative importance of family diminishes and that of peers increases (Kelley and Eicher, 1970), adolescents feel significant pressure from their peers (Hamilton and Warder, 1966; Coleman, 1978). They thus seek their own culture within peer groups as they pursue personal recognition and security (Hamilton and Warder, 1966). Adolescents are therefore very concerned about social relationships, social adjustment, and social acceptability within their peer group (Kuhlen and Bretsch, 1947). During this process, they are especially fearful of peer rejection - reaching a peak at about fifteen years of age (Coleman, 1978). According to Ryan (1966), most adolescents obtain their ideas of what to wear from friends or schoolmates, and are very interested in the appearance of others. In summary, adolescents in small groups seek similar patterns of dress as a result of perceived peer-group pressure to share similarities in appearance (Smucker and Creekmore, 1972).

Fashion involvement is defined as the perceived personal relevance or interest from the consumer by fashion clothing (Engel et al., 2005). Park et al. (2006) found that fashion involvement and positive emotion had positive effects on consumers' fashion-oriented impulse buying behaviour, with fashion involvement having the greatest effect.

The literature supports that a more fashion-involved consumer might feel more committed to buying fashion clothing (Amine, 1998; Iwasaki and Havitz, 1998, 2004).

Overall, the study explores the view that materialism, gender and age are important antecedents of consumer involvement in fashion clothing and that fashion clothing involvement is an antecedent to subjective knowledge of fashion clothing. Thus, this paper proposes that patronage, time spent deciding and commitment are consequents of fashion involvement and that the fashion clothing involvement construct is a major mediator variable in this model.

Apparently fashion brands become more and more important as they act as signifiers symbolic of values, encompassing certain identities in creating community. Interaction between self and others within community is the virtual negotiation in shopping time. Basically brands provide fashion commodities ranging from the most fashionable to the least in which to serve different levels of need, depending on the degree of fashion-consciousness in customers. If one plays as a fashion leader, the most fashionable garments will be chosen and he/she is likely to spend much time shopping the desired clothes. An interesting claim based on seven major fashion studies across four different cultures, Tigert et al. (1980) stated that a much larger proportion of the female fashion buying public monitors new women's fashions on a regular basis. This evidence might indicate that women are more involved in fashion than men.

O'Cass (2000) proposes and tests four types of involvement, creating a scale for measurement:

1. Product involvement;

2. Purchase decision involvement;

3. Advertising involvement; and

4. Consumption involvement

We are more concerned about product development so we will discuss it briefly here that how is it linked with fashion clothing involvement. For instance, O'Cass (2001a) explored the relationship between self-monitoring, materialism and product involvement in fashion clothing. O'Cass (2001b) analysed the impact of fashion clothing involvement on the development of perceptions of product knowledge expertise and confidence. O'Cass (2004) proposed and tested a theoretical model, finding that fashion clothing involvement is significantly affected by a consumer's degree of materialism, and that gender and age influence fashion clothing knowledge.

Furthermore, research has shown that strong feelings of pleasure related to possessions make people spend more time buying products (Browne and Kaldengerg, 1997). For some researchers, possessions may be understood as product involvement (Belk, 1985). Thus, it is supposed that fashion clothing involvement could be associated to time spent buying products.

Apart from the traditional thoughts, there are contemporary thoughts regarding fashion change and consumption. Behling (1985) argued that the median age of the population determines the upward or downward direction of the fashion process and that a change in disposable income can speed up or slow down the fashion process.



Age/ gender/ conformity level/ time spent in shopping

Trendy clothes <------------------------------------------------------------------------------> fashion

Income level

Trendy clothes are independent variable as they will depend on the fact that someone is fashionable or not. If I am fashionable my clothes are likely to be trendy. According to my research, this will happens most likely if I am adolescent, female, my conformity level is high i.e. I tend to adopt current trends and I spend relatively much amount of time in shopping. But this will not happen in case of low income level. Suppose I am fashionable and I want to keep trendy clothes but because of low income level I cannot afford it.


According to my literature review I came up with the following hypothesis:


The study so far has suggested that when people grow older, they get busy with other things and priorities of their lives and their sense of fashion starts declining. They are then less concerned about keeping their wardrobe up to date with fashionable and trendy clothes.


Our study suggests quite strongly those youngsters are more yielding and readily conform to new fashion changes and trends. They have desire to look better and do what everyone else in the world of their age is doing so in order to register their involvement, they manifest it with the help of fashion especially through clothing involvement.


Many previous studies have indicated fair amount of researches indicating that when it comes to fashion and clothing, women are almost always found involved. The best indicator is the amount of time they spend buying their fashionable clothes.


Our study suggests that people who are involved in fashion or are present in any one of the stages of fashion process tend to go more often for shopping and they spend relatively greater amount of their time in shopping.


Our research indicates that when people are fashion conscious and they want to remain in fashion; they focus more on their clothes and belongings. Because they are fashionable and they follow current fashion trends, their clothes are also trendy and therefore, they value their clothes a lot.


When fashion changes, it is mostly depicted through media. As people follow their favourite celebs, they try to imitate what they are wearing so they also adopt it. Moreover, nowadays many fashion shows are organized by media channels where fashion designers promote their clothes and people try to follow them.