What exactly is fashion to you?
Nowadays people are constantly concerned with the idea of self promotion-- especially women. Throughout high school, and at the start of college I've found that the very first impressions that you make on others are often based upon what you wear. Are you classy or trashy? Girly or sporty? Rich or poor? Your clothes will speak VOLUMES, and give people the answers to these questions before you even get the chance to open your mouth. That is why self- image through clothing is so important to society today.
Now I have heard many negative comments in regards to the current messages that the media is trying to portray when considering self image. Weight specifically tends to be a very touchy topic. The celebs and models on magazine covers, and in movies and TV shows are size 00, while most of us have a hard enough time maintaining a size 6. Yes. Society today encourages people to be skinny. Yes. Many people don't agree with that image because they consider it to be "unhealthy". Some may even get offended at the thought of pursuing that image. But what people have to understand is... the media is portraying that specific image because, right now, that is the current image that society finds attractive! That is the image that gets attention. That is the image that sells.
From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense. Fashion is constantly changing, but with that, the female standard of beauty and self image changes along with it! For example, did you know that during the Renaissance Era (1400's - early 16th century) only the most voluptuous women were found attractive? During this time weight symbolized wealth. So, the more overweight you were, the more $$$ you had. And who doesn't love money? It wasn't until 1837, at the start of the Victorian Era, when itty bitty waists started to come into acceptance.
No matter what is considered the "accepted" image, however; people are always going to obsess over looking a certain way. During the 1600's, in the era of Louis XIV, fashion and dressing aesthetically was specifically vital among the elites. Fashion was a symbol of wealth, luxury, and power. I like to think that King Louis XIV was the ULTIMATE diva of the 16th century. He demanded fashion and good company. Whether pregnant, ill, less than 6 weeks after a delivery, and whatever the ferocity of the weather, women HAD to be dressed and laced into their corsets, dance, stay up, attend festivities, eat, and be in good company. Sounds like a drag, right? But the royal court followed every fashion the King set-- no matter how inconvenient, and how ugly. If he encouraged men to shave off their beards, they did so without question. In the 1690's, as the king got older, he began to lose his hair. Afraid that his baldness would diminish his image of authority, he began wearing white haired wigs. Soon after, other court members followed, and white haired wigs emerged as a way to honor the King.
If the nobility did not embrace their wealth and luxurious lifestyle, King Louis XIV believed their political standpoint would be diminished. Therefore, he was very careful when it came to crafting his image. He was very successful in staging his character, and portraying that image to the public so that his authority would not weaken. To get to the bottom line here, the king was all about the IMAGE, which, I believe, is why he was considered the ultimate leader of fashion and taste in 16th century France.
If you really think about it, we are extremely lucky to have the freedom to embrace self- expression in today's society-- particularly with fashion. During the reign of Louis XIV, sumptuary laws were implemented with the intention of limiting peoples' private expenditures. The French had laws about how many dresses one could own, the value of materials people could use for clothes, how much cloth one could use, and even who could wear what style! Fabric types were assigned by class. For example, silk cloth, and any kind of red or purple garments were strictly reserved for nobility figures, and anyone dressing out of class would be penalized. This ensured that the most fashionable items could only come from the wealthy, and as long as the wealthy were more fashionable, they were viewed as more powerful.
I don't know about you... but I love my silk. I love my reds. And I love my purples. And I sure as HELL don't like it when people tell me what to wear. So I really appreciate the fact that we don't have to put up with this garbage.
But it is examples in history like these that proves that fashion is SO much more than aesthetic pleasure! It has purpose, and it has meaning. And most of all, it has power.
Image can be used to reinforce existing positive images, change unfavorable ones, or create completely new images where one does not already exist. Image is everything. So ask yourself--
Who do you want to be?
Notes: The historical information written in this blog was taken out of Yuniya Kawamura's book, The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion