Although we don’t have many clothes left from before the 18th century, sociologists quickly understood that clothing was, back in the day, a sign of social status, which could indicate your status, age, fortune, and first and foremost, the social class you belonged to.
Fashion was dictated by the King and his court, the best examples of this being the “binette” wig created specially for French King Louis XIVth or the Fontange headdress, which was accidentally created by one of his mistresses.
According to Spencer’s model, as soon as fashion codes were appropriated by socially inferior classes, the noble classes would change adopt new ones, in a phenomenon called “la fuite des classes dominantes”, the distinction of higher classes.
To paraphrase Jean Stoetzel, clothing was in society and society in clothing.
The XXth century completely revolutionized these codes. Under the impulsion of creators such as Coco Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent, fashion went down to the streets and the social leveling started ironing out the social investment that people put in their clothing.
At first, with the rise of luxury fashion houses, the investment one could place in clothes wasn’t meant to reflect a social status any longer but rather a monetary status (which was more or less the same).
Then, with the rise of cheaper chainstores, the rules of the game became even blurrier, given that they really brought fashion down to the streets by copying the best pieces of luxury brands for tiny prices. Unless your sight is excessively sharp, it’s quite difficult to distinguish H&M from the pieces of the avenue Montaigne when you’re walking in the streets. This rise coincided perfectly with the erection of individuality and, nowadays, clothing’s significance is no longer social but personal and intimate.
Clothing, nowadays, says more about yourself than your social class. Nonetheless, fashion still doesn’t come from the streets but, in my opinion, from luxury houses: just remember that anthological scene in “The Devil Wears Prada”, when Meryl Streep explains the mercantile mechanisms of fashion, in which futility has no place, to Anne hathaway’s naive character.
But “there is no fashion if it doesn’t go down to the streets”: and indeed, for reasons that are as semantic as they are mercantile, a successful trend supposes the adherence of the masses. And for equally mercantile reasons, the volatility of the client is extremely encouraged by the incessant, permanent and dizzying renewal of collections.
Knowing all of the above, it is up to each one of us to determine whether we prefer fashion or style, which are two very different things. I think you know what I prefer. My coat presented was bought at least a decade ago, the Dior dress and stilettos are half that age, the Valentino belt is from the 90’s and the Gucci handbag is so vintage that Gucci asked me if they could buy it back to expose it.
I may have shot this outfit on the streets – Place de la Concorde, but I quickly climbed up one of the fountains, just to get a bit of altitude 🙂
Dior dress – Tara Jarmon coat – Miu Miu sunglasses – Roger Vivier cuff – Valentino vintage belt – Gucci handbag – Giuseppe Zanotti heels