As we all know from sitting in a high school science or philosophy class, there are a countless number of theories like Darwinism and the Theory of Evolution that have been taught and repeatedly engraved into our memory year after year. But why do they really matter so much? Theories are important because they are a scientifically acceptable general principle that explains a phenomenon. Sounds cool, right? Well it gets even better. Contrary to popular belief, science and philosophy are not the only subjects that use theories – so does fashion!
Thanks to economist and all-around smart guy Thorstein Veblen, the theory of conspicuous consumption was created all the way back in 1899. Conspicuous consumption is the behavior of the upper strata who display wealth by participating in an extravagant lifestyle. Take a trip to Beverly Hills to see this theory being practiced and preached right in front of your eyes. Kim Kardashian-West’s $8 million engagement ring, Kim and Kanye’s $20 million dollar home featuring eight fireplaces and its own vineyard and North West’s $1 million wardrobe are all examples of this upper class theory. Crazy, isn’t it?
Now raise your hand if you have ever gotten a new phone because it was time for an update when your “old” one still worked perfectly? Congratulations, you have participated in conspicuous waste. But don’t worry – although we hate to admit it, we all are guilty of this. Stemming from the theory of conspicuous consumption is the idea of conspicuous waste. Simply put, conspicuous waste is the purchasing of products that are not needed therefore being wasteful in order to demonstrate wealth. Drinking only from bottled water, buying a $9.8 million Ferrari or spending $2 million on a red carpet dress only to be worn once “just because” are all examples of conspicuous waste.
Veblen also labeled the upper class as ‘the leisure class,” associating them with an extravagant lifestyle where they could be seen traveling and entertaining rather than working. In other words, conspicuous leisure is the visible leisure that denotes a social class. The recent fashion trend known as, “vacation style” is a great example of how the upper class uses social media and their extravagant vacations to display their wealth. Scroll through any socialite or blogger’s Instagram and you will most likely see tropical backgrounds, flowy dresses, fashion-forward swimwear and the latest pair of designer sunglasses sitting atop their flawless hairdo. By living in a culture embedded in social media, the upper class has more opportunity to display conspicuous leisure and their luxurious lifestyles.
So now after learning about the theories of conspicuous consumption, leisure and waste, dropping $1,000 on a single pair of shoes make more sense now, right? Just kidding. But what we can take from this article is how important fashion theories really are. They support why certain changes in fashion occur over a period of time. Without fashion theories, we would lack an understanding of consumption habits, styles and trends. So let’s keep it simple and end by saying one more thing, TGFFT – thank God for fashion theories!
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