Sociology Index -

Fashion Culture

Books on Fashion Culture, Consumer Culture, Counterculture, Popular Culture

Sociological studies of fashion relate the studies of fashion to two central sociological themes: social control and social change.

Sociologists who have dealt with fashion as a mechanism of social control have focused their attention on the relationship between fashion and custom.

People may follow fashion not just to imitate their social superiors, they also want to be "in fashion" capturing the mood of the times.

Fashion as a mode of social control can be structured around 3 issues:

1) Relationship between fashion and social stratification: does fashion mirror the social structure or does it represent an equalising force? is fashion an exculsionary discourse originated by the mainstream Úlite, or does it give voice to marginalised discourses?

2) Functions, ideological meanings, and rationale of the uniform in general, school uniform in particular. (this section will involve a group research project that would provide illustration of ideological critique through critical discourse analysis).

3) Body alterations (tattoo, piercing and cosmetic surgery): is it a discourse of empowerment and control over one's body, or is it locked into the terms of reference of patriarchal ideology.

To what extent fashion is oriented towards innovation (move from custom) and to what extent it is a mechanism of convention?

Fashion and Stratification

Trickle down theory or conspicuous consumption theory regard differentiation and stratification as essential preconditions of fashion. Smelser and Blumer regard fashion as an expression of collective behaviour.

Trickle-down effect or phenomenon occurs when the lower social classes adopt a fashion. When fashion trickles down and are no longer exclusive, it will no longer be desirable to the higher social classes.

Fashion culture theorists like Davis point out that not only do fashions fail to trickle down, but often the inspiration for new fashions start from the street.

Fashion culture theorists like Crane argue that consumer society replaced class with "lifestyle groups".

Fashion culture theorists like Bourdieu and Baudrillard see social hierarchy reflected in subtle practices of education and consumption that underlie apparent social change.

Some Wore Bobby Sox : The Emergence of Teenage Girls' Culture, 1920-1945 (Girls' History and Culture) Book by Kelly Schrum
Images of teenage girls in poodle skirts dominated American popular culture on the 1950's. But as Kelly Schrum shows, teenage girls were swooning over pop idols and using their allowances to buy the latest fashions well beforehand. From fashion and beauty to music and movies, high school girls both consumed and influenced what manufacturers, marketers, and retailers offered to them.

Nothing in Itself: Complexions of Fashion (Theories of Contemporary Culture) by Blau Herbert
Beyond the theatricality of fashion, or its commerce, are other seductive issues that come with dress in its fascination-effect, including the validities, vanities, and deceits of appearance.

Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations, and Analysis
Book by Stella Bruzzi (Editor), Pamela Church Gibson (Editor)
From the catwalk to the shopping mall, from the big screen to the art museum, fashion plays an increasingly central role in contemporary culture. Fashion Cultures investigates why we are so fascinated by fashion and the associated spheres of photography, magazines and television, and shopping.
Stella Bruzzi is Senior Lecturer in Media Arts at Royal Holloway College.

A Matter of Taste : How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change - Book by Stanley Lieberson
Social scientists have long been interested in the question of how notions of taste and fashion change over time. Do aesthetic judgments reflect external forces such as state policies, class stratification, or commercial advertising, or are these judgments informed by largely subjective factors that are difficult to pin down in scientific terms?

Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations
Book by Christopher Lasch
Christopher lasch has touched a very sensistive social nerve in his book "The Culture Of Narcissism." He gives the reader the awareness of living in a society that has become increasingly self-absorbed, out of touch with its past and future, and totally focused on the moment where everyone is seeking decadence and immediate self-gratification.

Fashion, Culture, and Identity
Book by Fred Davis
Fred Davis discusses several intriguing theories about fashion's social and psychological significance in modern culture. What makes clothes fashion; how fashions evolve; how fashion choices express social status, gender identity, sexuality, and conformity; and how fashion is accepted are all discussed. Is the desire to be "in fashion" universal, or is it unique to Western culture? How do fashions change?

Social Communication in Advertising: Persons, Products and Images of Well-Being
Book by William Leiss, Stephen Kline, Sut Jhally

Consumers and Luxury : Consumer Culture in Europe 1650-1850
Book by Maxine Berg (Editor), Helen Clifford (Editor)
This highly entertaining and interdisciplinary volume brings together an outstanding group of scholars to chart the rise of consumer culture in Europe during this period.

Beauty and Business: Commerce, Gender, and Culture in Modern America (Hagley Perspectives on Business and Culture) - Book by Philip Scranton (Editor)
Our ideas about what is attractive are influenced by a broad range of social and economic factors, and in Beauty and Business leading historians set out to provide this important cultural context. How have retailers shaped popular consciousness about beauty? And how, in turn, have cultural assumptions influenced the commodification of beauty?

In the Culture Society: Art, Fashion Culture and Popular Music
Book by Angela McRobbie
We may be living in a material world, but Angela McRobbie pinpoints a "new materialism" in In the Culture Society. She provides a lively, incisive look at how different artistic and cultural practices develop in contemporary consumer culture, by examining the new populism of young artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin and the proliferation of underground forms of dance music.

The case of uniforms

Clothing styles are carriers of a wide range of ideological agendas. For centuries uniforms have been used to impose social identities on more or less willing subjects. This form of social control was increasingly evident in the nineteenth century through the imposition of uniforms and dress codes.

Crane, Diane (2000). Fashion and its social agendas: class gender and identity in clothing. Chicago University Press.

Simmel, Georg (1904/1957). Fashion. International Quarterly, 10, 130-155. Reprinted in American Journal of Sociology, 62, 541-558.

Blumer, Herbert (1969). Fashion: From class differentiation to collective selection. Sociological Quarterly, 10, 275-291.

Horowitz, Tamar (1975). From Úlite fashion to mass fashion. Archives Europeenes de Sociologie, 16, 283-295.

McRobbie, Angela (1989) Second-hand dresses and the role of the ragmarket. In A. McRobbie (ed.) Zoot suits and second hand dresses: An anthology of fashion and music. London: Macmillan.

Crane, Diane (1999). Clothing behaviour as non-verbal resistance: Marginal women and alternative dress in the nineteenth century. Fashion Theory, 3, 241-268.

Walsh, Margaret (1979). The democratization of fashion: The emergence of the women's dress pattern industry. Journal of American History, 66, 299-313.

Crane, Diane (2000). Fashion and its social agendas: class, gender, and identity in clothing. University of Chicago Press. (pp 87-95).

Maynard, Margaret (1995). Fashioned from penury: Dress as cultural practice in colonial Australia. Cambridge UP.

McVeigh, Brian (1997). Wearing ideology: how uniforms discipline minds and bodies in Japan. Fashion Theory, 1, 189-213.

Books On Fashion Culture

Clothing Art: The Visual Culture of Fashion 1600-1914

The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization

Fashion Theory Volume 12 Issue 3: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture (Fashion Theory) by Valerie Steele

The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City (New Edition) by Elizabeth Currid

Fashion Brands: Branding Style from Armani to Zara by Mark Tungate

Glamour: A History by Stephen Gundle

Paris-New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940 by Donald Albrecht

Fashion Game Book: A World History of 20th-century Fashion by Florence Muller

100 New Fashion Designers by Hywel Davies

The fashion industry has always celebrated innovative design and young talented fashion designers can make a huge impact as they explore new ideas and push boundaries.

This book showcases the diverse and unique work of the best 100 new creatives in fashion design from around the world. These designers are characterized by their single-minded interpretation of clothing and their ambition to present alternative solutions in dressing for their customers. The book focuses on designers still in the first decade of their career either working alone on their own label or brand or teamed up into small companies showcasing collections. As well as pinpointing the best new talent worldwide this visually stunning survey provides a comprehensive showcase of cutting-edge imagery including original design work drawings and photography.

The ultimate reference guide to the world's movers and shakers in fashion today this is a book all fashionistas will want to own.