This essay discusses how fashion helps convey the social identity of the rich and wealthy. Status includes class, gender, and ages. Status is important in today’s society. As Coco Chanel said, ”women should dress as plainly as their maids” (Davis 1992:57). A person who is wealthy is a symbol of a person who is successful and of high income in the society. Being wealthy can upgrade one’s status to a higher class, and to be associated with the upper class society.
Being wealthy will bring about better lifestyle and standard of living, which allows one to move to a better place and area of residence. Naturally, it creates a bigger opportunity to mingle with societies of a different class. This essay will discuss about status and wealth followed by the history of fashion and how important the type of fabric is in differentiating status and classes. We will then discuss about how technology in the 21st century has helped in the development of fashion.
In the late 13th and 14th century, the fabric and gem trade brought back from the east started and spread throughout Europe. These fabric and cloths could only be afforded by the rich, thus wearing these clothes showed the status in the society. This was as Davis (1992; 58) said, ‘Wearing one’s wealth on one’s back’. Different classes of people had very different lifestyles and attended different activities. For example the upper class people went shopping, had afternoon tea, attended evening balls, and were presented the chance to have an education in school.
The standard of living was very vastly different as lower class people had to suffer, go through hunger, and possess no extra money for anything other than their basic necessities. Their source of income were either by working day and night in the factory, working as maids for the rich or operating small business stalls. Aristocrats and upper class people communicated their wealth by wearing luxurious brands, expensive accessories, jewelry, and unique apparels from famous designers, and the men talk about business, cars, property, and women.
In the eighteenth century, male and female of the aristocracy, and of the upper Bourgeoisie who emulated it, were equally partial to ample display of lace, rich velvets, fine silks, and embroideries, on appease. To highly ornamented footwear, to coiffures, wigs, and hats of rococo embellishment, and to lavish use of scented powders, rouges, and other cosmetics (Los Angeles Country Museum of Art 1983 in Davis 1992). In the twentieth to twenty first century, technology started to become more and more advance. People started to be more reliant on computers.
Internet has become a very useful gateway to immediate information. The mass public has fast and direct access to information through the Internet, as an example they can also now browse luxury brands website, watch fashion shows, and do online shopping. Therefore with the ease of access to information, marketing and publicity of a product can reach the consumer level faster than ever before. When a jewelry or luxury brand’s product is worn, people can easily recognize the product and have an idea of a person’s wealth through the worth of their attire.
According to Arvanitidou and Gasouka ‘Dressing is an important and controllable way to communicate one’s values, particularly rich in emotional and psychosocial consequences’. People are willing to pay for luxury brand as the brand name is associated with fashion, elegance, class and value. Some example of the designer brands under the luxury category are such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermes, Versace and others. These luxury brands have been well known in the fashion retail market for a long time.
Buying branded goods is like insurance for women as it can easily be sold in the second hand market apart from it being fashionable and trendy. The other reason luxury brands sell well is due to is timeless, evergreen design. Some classic designs will stand the test of time. Shopping to women has a therapeutic effect, be it in shopping malls, luxury shops, or department stores. They indulge in the moment and make themselves happy, especially when buying from luxury brands. Upper class people have the financial capability to purchase most of the things that they like.
They also like to compare amongst themselves, so they are ometimes under peer pressure to have the latest and the most fashionable product in order to show off and convince people of their status in the society. With this, they would be able to show that they are wealthy enough to enjoy the luxury brand’s quality products and prove their status. Drama and television advertisement has become a major influence in marketing and publicity of products, especially to the young people. Young people in the twenty first century like to idolize film stars, celebrities, and Korean pop stars, following closely their news, styles, actions, and lifestyles.
As the Internet now is very advanced, young people can see live news on the Internet and share the news out to their circle of contact. The standard of living today has changed globally and young people today have higher disposable income. This allows them to chase after branded goods as we are living in a much commercialized world today. We are hit with commercials and advertisements in every direction, from the television, to the radio, magazines, billboards, sponsors of sports, etc. Therefore young people today are also chasing after luxury brands to be associated with status and class.
Young children in the twenty first century are more matured thinking; they use make up, wear sexy dresses, and make themselves looks like an adult. They make up a big portion of market share for new technology products which is in trend such as Ipad mini, Iphone5, and Samsung note two. Possessing either one of these product, people will easily recognize their wealth through the product’s worth. In conclusion, wealth is an important factor complementing status. Historically, there was a big difference between aristocracies, upper class people and lower class people in terms of lifestyle and attire. Wearing the right clothes, the appropriate dress for the occasion, fitting in rather than standing out, is the dominant concerns of most people’ (Twigg 2009: 4). Wearing a classic, elegant gown in an evening party is very important in forming the impression of yourself on status and class. Internet and the latest technological products are very useful in helping people receive firsthand information. The products of latest technology are most of the time expensive, and holding the latest items will show that one is wealthy.