Fashion- a reflection of the social mindset

By Manasi Negi
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The term fashion cannot just be limited to the most popular clothes or the latest trends. It is a social phenomenon, which reflects the mental attitude of the society. Fashion can be seen as a catharsis, a purging of emotions of the fashion designer as well as the fashion user. Fashion draws inspiration from social and cultural movements. Celebrities influence fashion strongly and their styles become trends; pop stars over years have thus become remarkable trendsetters.                 

Let us now look back and observe how famous people have influenced fashion and become icons or flag bearers of the fashion world.

The shadow of legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel looms large over history. This french lady was a true original, inspiring women to dress for themselves and was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the corseted silhouette. She popularized casual chic, simple and feminine style in the post World War 1 era. Chanel’s look was one of elegance, youthfulness, minimalism and liberated physicality, her dresses laced with beads and lots of embroidery giving them a sophisticated and rich look. The concept of the “LBD” is often cited as a Chanel contribution to the fashion world, an article of clothing which is popular even today.

Another famous fashion icon was Elvis Presley, the undisputed king of Rock and Roll, whose dressing generated as much attention as his records. He could be called the Lady Gaga of this day. His clothes could be outlandish some day but they became street fashion the next day. His time signifies high waisted jeans, unbuttoned shirts, head to toe leather; a piece of clothing favourite among rock stars even today. He added studs to his garments giving them a punk edge. He also made flashy men jewellery popular in those times. He embraced all the colours, even wore pink with style and aplomb.

Princess Diana was also a fashion legacy, known as much for her kindness and philanthropy, the scandals, as she was for her unerring sense of style. Trim professional suits were one of her style strengths. Her style was very “fairy tale princess” type, with lots of bows and frills, aristocratic and grandish, she looked every bit the princess she was. However later in her life she developed a more bolder and sexier style of dressing. She was a refreshing change to the otherwise dowdy dressing of the royals, the midnight blue velvet off shoulder dramatic gown she wore while dancing with John Travolta at the gala dinner in the White House, inspired by Edwardian fashion and designed by Victor Edelstein was one of the most famous dresses owned by her in which she looked stunning.

There are many other celebrities who inspired many trends like Madonna whose style  is goth, black , over the top and leather. She popularized the much talked about ‘cone bra’ designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, fishnet stocking, crucifix necklaces etc. Lady Gaga shares a bit similar style but at the same time altogether a different style with her which pertains  more towards the dramatic, eccentric and androgynous style sense.

All these stars leave us with an unforgettable satorical legacy at the same time each expressing their own individual personality and the social mobility.

Thus  fashion changes with the changing times and is a representation of the social era of that time. The Victorian era for example symbolised elaborate corseted ball gowns and dramatic hairdos with feathers etc. After the World War, fashion symbolized the shedding of old vestiges thus evolving to a more minimalistic and simple style of dressing, which was less restrictive and more comfortable, with summer dresses of light fabric, shorts, pants etc. Even the flapper era which denotes rising of the bar culture in which women dressed up more boldly, with short flapper dresses and skirts and lots of beads and drank and danced to their hearts content dismissing societal norms. The symbolic meaning however lies in the rubbishing of the rules of how a society expects a woman to behave and doing what they want fearlessly, the way in  which the women dressed denoted a sense of freedom of action and breaking away of old rules.

In conclusion fashion is a way of expression, it could be either an expression of the inner state of mind, values, beliefs, emotions and confidence or an assertion of one’s self in the otherwise oppressive world, a way to make a statement, these famous people are an example of rebellion against the accepted notions of right or wrong in the society, living their life with their own rules, not bending to the expectations of others, attaining a sense of true freedom and breaking of stereotypes.

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