Jacquard Coach Field Tote in more colors. City Zip Handbags. Palm strap at major for quick carry. Arm cutting blades straps at features for swift hands free carry. Interior zip wallets.Color and fashion through time. As we can see from the examples above, the use of color has been a key aspect of how people have clothed themselves as a group and how individuals have created unique identities in the quest to both belong and stand out in parallel fashion systems.
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But color has also been used by authorities as a visible marker to regulate clothing habits. As Dominique Cardon (2004: 229), research director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifi que, wrote in the catalog for the “Fashion in Colors” exhibition, even before the invention of the fi rst artifi cial and synthetic dyes, which signaled the start of a new type of intellectual and technological adventure, all civilizations in the world had managed to live in colors—they dyed human and animal skins, hair, teeth, bones, and all sorts of vegetable fi bers and woods, in the whole range of colors of the rainbow.
The colorful basis of fashion is a fascinating place to start our exploration of fashion. At the heart of the modern fashion phenomenon is the belief that fashion trickles down from the selfappointed fashion elite to wider society unless there are regulations (and adequate disincentives) to stop this imitation. However, as the example of sumptuary laws shows, in the case of prostitutes and courtesans, some styles and fashions are emulated by the elite.
However, if we stick to the trickle-down theory for the moment, we can see that this assumes a vertical model of consumption, where the system of production determines the practices of consumption. In this model of production, the designer or tastemaker is accorded a godlike position of infl uence on how fashions are set in motion and how they change.
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• Fashion is not just the province of the modern Western fashion system.
• The fashion impulse is the achievement of distinctiveness in dress through clothing codes and symbols that balance the impulse to belong to a group and the individual desire to stand out and assert the attributes of the self or persona.
• The regulation of clothing codes and habits accompanies the fashion impulse in all cultures as part of the project to internalize status and distinction through a combination of proscriptions and prescriptions.
• Western or European fashion cultures are distinctive in that the objects of fashion are valued as objects from which exchange value is deemed to emanate or in which it is deemed to reside, as opposed to clothing and fashion impulses in gift economies, where clothing habits are driven by the social worth of clothes and the complex social exchanges that take place around them.
• Just as Western fashion systems appropriate the fashion impulse of other cultures, so too other cultures appropriate elements of Western fashion.
• The use of color in fashion demonstrates the universal importance of color codes and symbols to designate social meanings; however, the connotations of colors are context specific and variable.
Of particular importance in European society was the existence of sumptuary laws, which regulated civil conduct concerning, among other things, who could wear what under what circumstances. Sumptuary laws were legislated rules designed to limit conspicuous consumption, in particular, that of clothing and modes of dress. They were passed in a number of European countries between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries—and were fl irted with in North America in the eighteenth century.
Modern fashion systems have created similar informal mechanisms of instilling conformity and limiting transgression or alternative clothing codes. In contemporary culture, brand names epitomize this process. Known brands create a specialist clientele and knowledge of their deemed attributes and associated status.
Those in the know are prepared to pay more for the cachet of association. While this conspicuous display of accumulated cultural capital works for a niche market, should a brand become too popular, the trendsetters move on to a new style or fashion, thus repeating the fashion cycle. In short, the attempts of governments and authorities to regulate clothing behavior refl ected primary moral and status concerns in societies that highlighted divisions between classes, because people subverted the intended visible markers of distinction and difference.
Clothing regulation survived only when coupled with draconian penalties. Otherwise, such regulations spurred the transformation of cultures of clothing to new fashion cycles of modernity.