What social, political, and economic factors influence fashion?

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Fashion is influenced by the world around it. There are social, economic, and political factors that have changed the way fashion is used throughout history.

Clothing is impacted by the social setting. Whether it is because certain attire is mandated for certain activities or because it is more comfortable to...

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Fashion is influenced by the world around it. There are social, economic, and political factors that have changed the way fashion is used throughout history.

Clothing is impacted by the social setting. Whether it is because certain attire is mandated for certain activities or because it is more comfortable to work in a certain way, the environment of fashion changes it. This lends itself to adaptations in fashion. In the 1940s, women entered the workforce and began jobs in manufacturing in much larger numbers than before. Because of this, it became more commonplace for women to wear bandannas, have their hair up, or wear pants and jumpsuits. These items slowly worked their way into the general fashion world and became commonplace.

Politically, certain factors will impact the fashion world. For some regions, like the Middle East, politics and religion directly dictate what is to be worn and not worn. However, prominent political figures have also impacted clothing—such as when American presidents stopped wearing hats. Additionally, activist groups such as PETA have successfully discouraged the use of real fur in attire for quite a large population.

Finally, the economics of fashion have highly impacted it. With the shifting times of the economy, fashion trends have trickled down and become more common for lower classes to afford and wear. Cheaper materials have enabled fashion to spread to the masses regardless of financial resources.

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Sociological and other critical approaches to fashion emphasize that fashion is embedded within social status and exists as a form of what Veblen termed "conspicuous consumption." In other words, fashion is the polar opposite of functional dressing. Instead, it is a way of displaying, often in wasteful, impractical, and uncomfortable manners, that one has sufficient wealth to adorn oneself (whether through clothing or body art) in a way that has little to do with practical necessity.

In many cultures, wealth was historically displayed by wearing large amounts of gems and precious metals. Jewelry served as a form of portable wealth as well as a display of social status. In some cultures, it offered a safe and portable way of wealth storage and could even be used as a form of currency. It obviously lacks a practical purpose in that it does not protect the body from the environment.

Another element of fashion is that by its very impracticality, it is intended to demonstrate that its wearers do not need to do physical labor. From foot binding to high heels and from corsets to large hoop earrings, fashion indicates that its wearers do not need to be physically active or take safety precautions. Instead, they exist within a protected environment in which the main impetus in clothing choice is display.

Another important element of fashion is distinction. In other words, fashion must stand out in some way: Items can stand out because of their timeliness, fragility, or expense compared to what others can afford or choose to wear.

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Fashion refers to a popular trend, especially in dressing, footwear or accessories. The following is an analysis of factors that influence fashion:

Social Influences

Music: This is an important part of the culture of any society. While different cultures have their unique forms of music, people are often able to relate to even the most foreign forms. As such music brings together the cultures of the world, allowing them a means of communication, expression, or celebration. Many musicians also express themselves through their dressing or fashion sense, for instance, hip hop artistes such as Tupac, brought in the sagging jeans and gold chain fashion ensemble; indie music brought on the skinny jeans trend.

Occupation: Every profession has a work culture, which includes dressing code and sense of fashion. For instance, an office worker is generally expected to use minimal makeup, wear formal clothes and shoes. A farmer on the other hand would prefer to don overalls and perhaps gunny boots or other comfortable types of footwear. Factory workers have their own uniforms, and so do the police or people serving in the army or nurses and others working in the medical field.

Occasion: Every occasion has a dress code. For example, while brightly colored clothes and makeup might be appropriate at a casual party, more polished and subdued clothing might be donned for a church service. 

Political Influences

There have been many political figures that have influenced fashion trends, for instance, Jackie Kennedy epitomized simple, chic fashion, and Melania and Ivanka Trump, Michelle Obama and Theresa May (the British Prime Minister) are all present day fashion icons from the political class. Government policies can push for things like the buying of locally made items, through increased taxation of imports, or promotion of the production of items out of recycled products. Animal rights groups such as PETA, have fought against the use of animal skins and furs in the fashion industry.

Economic Influences

During times of high economic growth, consumers have more disposable income that can be spent towards fashionable clothing and accessories. However, during periods of recession, consumers tend to prioritize needs such as basic food, shelter and clothing, thereby restricting spending on fashionable items. Also, most millenials have embraced cost saving measures such as cloth/accessory renting or leasing services, especially for highly expensive designer gowns, tuxedos purses, and jewelry. Companies such as Bag Borrow or Steal and Rent the Runway make use of this concept to cater for those who wish to reduce their spending on fashionable items.

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