1 Fashion Change in the New Millennium:
An Introduction 1
2 Fashion and the Self 13
3 Fashion Change as Search for Meaning 35
4 Fashion as Collective Behavior 57
5 Style: The Endless Desire for a New Look 81
6 Fashion as Performance 103
7 Fashion as Cycle 127
8 Millennium Dress History:
Artifacts as Harbingers of Change 151
9 Fashion Change – Binding the Threads Together 165
Fashion Change in the New Millennium: An Introduction
Raised as a Roman Catholic, Madonna adopted the Hebrew name Esther . . . Madonna’s interest in Kabbalah has been covered intensely by the media. She gained a surge in sales of Kabbalah red string bracelets, a red string or stonestudded bracelet used to ward of evil. She reportedly refused to work on Friday night and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Awareness of the Kabbalah Center has grown considerably.
The cabala red string is one way she demonstrates it in public. It is considered a talisman to ward away negative influences. In some circles, it appears not to have an effect.
Madonna has been criticized for turning a serious, multi-thousand year old religious study into entertainment. But she claims she has chosen her new faith and is serious about its study. The Jewish Kabbalah has been practiced mainly by male rabbis in secret for centuries. Even the average Jew is unfamiliar with this mystical study of the religion. Madonna helped bring Kabbala into mainstream awareness.
Fashion in the new millennium is brash, and doesn’t stop to ask permission. The domain of fashion’s influence ignores taboos, traditions and the lines of sacred space. Our lives, our intellect, our religion, our creativity, our sexuality are all the vocabulary of fashion and are open for renegotiation and representation. Yet we view fashion as suspect, insubstantial, the stuff of dreams not reality. We want it, yet we don’t. We may not choose to wear it, but we still watch it, and we pay attention. We are seduced in spite of ourselves. It is out of these uneasy relationships that fashion change emerges, and understanding it becomes a route for understanding human life in the twenty-first century. We open this book exploring eight key contemporary themes that make fashion change hit with such impact in the new millennium.
1 Surfing the Web . . . the World at our Fingertips. Fashion depends for its power on communication. Fashion change can only occur if information is shared, the more information, the more dramatic the impact of fashion on human behavior. One of the most significant reasons for the democratization of fashion in the twenty-first century focuses on the rapid modes of communication now available. In order to best understand the power of current fashion communication technology, a review of the past may be helpful.
Fashionable clothing behavior emerged in Italy during the birth of the first major European cities of Milan, Florence, and Venice in the 1400s. Some of the first fashion trends included body revealing styles such as a shortened men’s doublet, and a low neck gown for women (Steele, 1988). The fashion capital focused on the court of Burgundy in the fifteenth century, then following power and influence, moved to Spain, a country newly wealthy from New World monies. Fashion leadership moved to France during the era of Louis XIV, culminating in the domination of French fashion during the eighteenth century (Russell, 1983).
Fashionable dress was used in this early period to differentiate class and access to power, with changes most commonly marked in fabrications and trims, rather than overt style changes. Information about fashion trends was first communicated through personal contact with the aristocracy, with in some cases fashion being dictated by the ruling court. Fashion changes were initially slowed by Louis XIV, who strictly controlled court styles during his reign. With the aging of Louis XIV, and the proliferation of tailors, dressmakers, and milliners headquartered in Paris, control eased giving rise to more rapid fashion change (Russell, 1983).
Access to fashion information greatly increased in 1715 with the reign of Louis XV. The tight rules controlling social life during the previous century were loosened significantly, and a more socially open, modern, urban culture developed in which classes began to intermix and mingle. Fashion, in its more modern guise, emerged during this time period as lower and middle classes were exposed to the fashion of the wealthy through integrated social events, and second-hand clothing markets featuring fashions of the newly deceased.
Fashion dolls wearing the newest fashion looks were used to send trend information to dressmakers throughout the world, with some fashion journalism emerging at the end of the century (Steele, 1988). French fashion trends moved into the United States in the nineteenth century with the emergence of what Banner (1983) referred to as commercial beauty culture. With the invention of the lock-stitch sewing machine in the 1840s, American entrepreneurial spirit ignited with the growth of the garment industry being characterized by Von Drehle as ‘sudden and wild, like an economic tornado’ (2003: 39). Early American fashion entrepreneurs included immigrants skilled in the needle trades, department store owners, dressmakers, magazine publishers, and cosmeticians, all of whom help to disseminate fashion information to a wide range of classes and regions across the United States. With this democratization of fashion information, diverse classes and ethnicities began to affect fashion behavior, as well as the dominant upper class.
With dissemination of fashion information through written sources, beginning with the publication of Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830, trends could be followed by individuals with initiative, despite uneven access to resources. This democratic trend intensified with the beginning of mass media exposure through television in the 1950s. The proliferation of fashion magazines and fashion editorials, combined with the dramatic increase in televised fashion information from such sources as MTV in the 1980s, made European and New York runways accessible in everyone’s living room – making fashion a key ingredient of popular culture.
The opening up of the Internet and World Wide Web, with its imaging capabilities, global access, and quick response time further increased the level of fashion information made available to everyone. With the development of web-based trend services such as WGSN, students designing in small isolated colleges as well as established designers can get into the streets of Tokyo, London, and St Petersburg to check out the latest street fashions. So today, you no longer have to travel to observe international trends.