How Fashion Works and Its Place in Society

When people think of fashion, they either think of the elitist aspect of it, or they dismiss it entirely. On one hand, people think of fashion as this incomprehensible subject. They think that trends come out of nowhere and only the people at Vogue decide what is fashionable. On the other hand, people think of fashion as trivial and wasteful. However, neither of these stances are entirely true.

While it may be true that the rich are responsible for starting fashion trends, it is the middle and working class that pushes them to keep starting trends. The people with socioeconomic power (i.e. the ruling class) find ways to differentiate themselves from the poor. Consequently, new aesthetics are created to display this discrepancy. These aesthetics become a trend that everyone else aspires to, and it is imitated by the poor. As a result, the ruling class starts to find new ways to differentiate themselves and the cycle continues. 

Today, a new kind of ruling class has emerged. Internet stars are largely responsible for setting trends among the youth. For example, mom jeans were often dismissed as unfashionable and people who wore them were made fun of. There was a particular moment in American history when Obama shocked the nation by wearing mom jeans to a baseball game. Several comedians made fun of his attire because it was not fashionable at the time. A couple of years later, several internet stars and influencers started wearing mom jeans and they became trendy. I also laughed at Obama when he wore mom jeans, but now I own three pairs because I saw people wearing them online.

Fashion plays an important role in my life. For me, it is an outlet of expression. I would like to think that the clothes I wear are an expression of my individuality. However, the impact of society is apparent. Although I do not consciously try to imitate people online, a lot of my wardrobe is influenced by internet stars. They are often pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable and introducing new ideas of what is fashionable. I find myself dressing in impractical ways to make a statement about myself. For example, I started tucking my dress into jeans to make it look like I was wearing a top. These impractical ideas were not inherent in me. I started doing this because I saw a YouTuber do it in one of her videos.  

Fashion is a prime example of how individual subjective experiences are influenced by others' experiences. We would like to think that we have agency in what we wear, but if we cross the line of what is acceptable in terms of attire, there are sanctions. We subconsciously choose our clothes according to the guidelines that society has constructed. So to say that fashion has no place in society or is unimportant is not true. Fashion is a reflection of society and as society changes, so does fashion.