what is fashion continues ...
In the early 18th century, Lord Chesterfield had reason to write letters to his young son who was abroad acquiring an education. Some letters were on the subject of the son's expenditure on clothes ... that it was not enough! : 'Good God! how I should be shocked if you came into my room for the first time with two left legs, presenting yourself with all the graces and dignity of a Tailor, and your clothes hanging  upon you like those in Monmouth Street, upon tenter-hooks! whereas I expect, nay, require to see you present yourself with the easy and genteel air of a Man of Fashion who has kept good company. I expect you not only well dressed, but very well dressed' (Lord Chesterfield: Letters Written to His Son).

The Sneakers Bible is full of a bewildering array of sports shoes. Making the right choice is not simply a matter of one’s taste, yet in choosing a pair, ones’ taste is demonstrated for all to see. 
Taste, like knowledge of dress, requires learned social skills. For the very young, the wrong trainer sends negative messages to peers and can therefore become a matter of negative self image.  

One way to demonstrate taste is through what Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) calls conspicuous consumption, the application of resources to a public manifestation of social power and prestige. Although Veblen used the term to address the nouveau riche of the Second Industrial Revolution, the term has been redeployed to make sense of contemporary spending behaviour.
In an attempt to understand the spending of the bohemian bourgeois, rich business people with left leanings, I wrote about how the 'Bobo' spent money on adventure and sports clothes in preference to expensive-looking suits. The point isn't that the adventure clothes are cheap, they aren't, but they don't shout money, they say I take risks and I have taste. Here is a sample: ‘Bobo spending patterns reveal the new shopper to be on a mission to avoid becoming Thorstein Veblen's 'conspicuous consumer'. Hence a 'sports utility vehicle' (read Range Rover) meets the need to demonstrate practicality; a vintage Bentley does not. A top of the range kitchen is virtuous; a top of the range media centre vulgar. The key phrase is 'gear up'. It is perfectly acceptable to throw money at 'tools' - gardens and kitchens are particularly venerated as money pits, the watchwords being 'durable', 'connoisseur', 'craftsmanship' and 'gourmet' - but flashy jewellery sends out the wrong signal. The semiotics work like this: a simple dinner service means we are unaffected people, faded denim indicates our rejection of the Modernist principal 'always new', spending $500 on a toxic-purifying baby buggy means we are doting parents'.

 I want to return to the big philosophical idea about agency I discussed earlier. Here's a question linked to that: is taste a matter of individual or social choice? Let's find out! Press the link here and you will be taken to a new page. There you will see an image. Take no more than ten seconds to scan the image. Then scroll to the bottom of the page.

According to John Carl Flügel, anthropological evidence is clear that there are cultures without clothes however there are no cultures without body decorations. Indeed he argues it is body decoration that has led the West to adopt clothing in the first place. The warmth and modesty arguments ‘were only discovered once the wearing of clothes had become habitual for other reasons’.

We have been using synonyms like clothes and dress throughout this essay. We have avoided the word fashion. What is it? Is it another synonym for dress? According to Flügel dress can be fixed and modish. Fixed costume varies little over time but potentially greatly over region. The peasant costume of the Black Forest, for example, shows marked difference in respect of neighbours and religious creeds, but has varied not that much over centuries

Modish clothes change frequently. In Système de la mode, Roland Barthes writes ‘Fashion doubtless belongs to all the phenomena of neomania which probably appeared in our civilization with the birth of capitalism: in an entirely institutional manner, the new is a purchased value’ (Roland Barthes, Système de la mode). According to Polhemus, fashion is concomitant with an ideology of social change (i.e. democracies). It does not belong in cultures where the dominant ideology is antagonistic to social change and progress (Ted Polhemus, Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk).
The newness of fashion often leaves it open to ridicule. This satire from 1796 pokes fun at fashionable clothes as much as customs. The joke is not that the dress allows the convenience of breast-feeding, but that breast-feeding in public is so passé.
New fashion can border on the unusual and one of the relationships art has with clothes is to do what we are dping here, asking what clothes are. This film shows the Japanese avant-garde performance art of Gutai wearing newspapers as dress.

It is important to distinguish fashion from clothing. Fashion can relate to cars, hair, even political attitudes. A car, like an outfit, is an extension of the owner’s body.  The study of ‘fashion’ is not truly, therefore, the study of objects or products but the meaning(s) of objects and the processes by which that meaning is produced, disseminated and consumed.
Ask yourself where is the fashion in the Clarks advert? And where is the product? The advert is clearly for shoes, yet the shoes are a tiny part of the image. The advert is making a link between shoes and fashion (the new woman) which is less tangible. The fashion is the cachet behind and around the product.
Clearly there is a strong relationship between fashion (process) and clothes (object) since the latter provides the material from which the former is formed. In other words, fashion frequently materialises in clothes.
Fashion is an ideology – a ‘set of beliefs’ and requires the complicity of those who partake in it. But who decides what’s in fashion or even what fashion is? Is it designers, magazine editors ... consumers?
This is the subject of the next lecture in the series.
How to reference this essay: October, Dene. 2012. What is Fashion? FBI-spy.com

link to original article pending clearance
Dene October. The New Hedonists. London: Viewpoint
IMAGE A Bride from S. Georgen. Pettigrew, D. 1937. Peasant Costume of the Black Forest. London: A&C Black
Flügel, John Carl. The Psychology of Clothes. London: Hogarth, 1930

IMAGE The Fashionable Mamma,- or- the Convenience of Modern Dress, 1796

IMAGE Clarks 1900 – 1940 'The New Woman'
Watch the film and use the words dress, costume, uniform and fashion to explore and describe the shifting meaning of jeans