How the Fashion Industry Contributes to Society & Societal Change

January 25, 2018 by Kristy

Beauty may only be skin deep, but the impact of sartorial statement goes beyond the surface. It’s easy to turn your nose up at fashion and dismiss it as something trivial and superficial. But, in actuality, the fashion industry contributes to society.

Torn jeans, simple black long-sleeved shirt and a strand of pearls. Image by Mika Larson Photography
Torn jeans, simple black long-sleeved shirt and a strand of pearls. Image by Mika
Larson Photography

Fashion Industry Contributes to Society: It’s Personal, Fun, Political & Reflective

This is a reductive reaction, and one that is founded more in ignorance than reality. Just like how some people write-off sports as silly ‘games’ with no meaningful impact on the world, fashion falls victim to the same attitude.

However, like sports, there is so much more than fun and frivolity to fashion. Fashion is personal. And the personal, as second-wave feminists convincingly argued, is political.

Political Fashion Pieces
Political Fashion Pieces. Image Source: Love Wild Live Free

Fashion is more than amped up dress up for adults. It’s a reflection of who we are and what we believe. The fashion industry contributes to society by allowing us to express ourselves, our creativity and our beliefs to the world.

Think this is a lofty claim? Then you don’t know fashion. Read on to find out just how fashion industry contributes to society and change in general.

Fashion as a Zeitgeist

Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash
Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

We already pointed out that fashion reflects ideological shifts in our society: the suffragette movement saw skirts getting shorter and clothing in general became less cumbersome.

What is Zeitgeist? It’s the defining mood or spirit of a specific era in history as displayed by the beliefs an ideas of that time. So, how does this relate to fashion?

In the 1970’s, free love was seen in free-flowing clothing and hair. The disgruntled youth of the 90’s expressed themselves with grunge style. Pick any era, and you can see how the fashion reflects prominent schools of thought.

Fashion as an Impetus

Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash
Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash 

But fashion does more than reflect: it can change society. It can act as an impetus to affect the dynamics of the world as a force that makes things move or occur more swiftly.

After all, whether or not you choose to use fashion as an art form, one would be hard-pressed to deny that fashion is a form of self-expression. And self-expression is a kind of art.

Even your decision to slip into sweatpants and your favorite worn-out oversized tee is a form of self-expression: You’re saying that comfort is your kingdom and that you are shedding the shackles of more high-maintenance style, if only for the night.

How the fashion industry contributes to society: Purple Wedding Dresses and other colors are becoming a norm as brides shy away from trendy white wedding gowns.
Purple Wedding Dresses and other colors are becoming a norm as brides shy away from trendy white wedding gowns. Image Source: NFHP Coalition

Your decision to not keep up with trends speaks toward your beliefs, just like not voting speaks to your political beliefs. You can’t get away from what your style says about you, and because it can say so much, it can be a driving force of change, not just a reflection of it.

Take, for example, the death of the white wedding. While many brides still wear white wedding dresses, it is by no means a necessity. In a desire to freely express sexual liberation, many women decided to wear different colored and more seductively styled wedding dresses.

Designer Made Fashion Styles

Image Source: Pexels
Image Source: Pexels

Designers have also made it their mission to use their labels to express their beliefs, in hopes they can affect change in the world through style. Some designers use only sustainable sourced materials to make their clothing: clothing that is meant to reflect the diversity of the world.

Anna Nicole Smith Sporting a Pearl Choker in a GUESS campaign ad. Read about her 2018 'DO YOU MISS ME?' campaign.
Anna Nicole Smith Sporting a Pearl Choker in a GUESS campaign ad. Click here to read about her 2018 ‘DO YOU MISS ME?’ campaign.

Other designers create chic, sexy dresses to promote fearless and unapologetic femininity. And others create style that promotes and reflects a more conservative world-view.

Fashion is not a baseless and frivolous part of our society. It is one of the most obvious and tangible means to track and affect societal change.

Kristy

Kristy

The Pearl Source Guest Blogger at SNDYS
Kristy is with SNDYS (previously Sundays The Label), an online women's fashion and clothing store. The brand is the creation of two Australian friends who ship internationally. They focus on everyday pieces for women of every shape. Kristy currently guest blogs for the Pearls of Wisdom blog.
Kristy