From culture, circumstances, budget to celebrity fashion trends, a plethora of factors influence the choices that women make about their fashion. We take a look…
Coco Chanel had once said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” And she could not have been more true. Today, when all of us are the sum total of our experiences, the factors that influence how we express ourselves are many. Dressing up is perhaps the strongest way of making a statement and expressing our emotions. And the influences on the choices that women make about their clothes are wide and varied.
Here are a few strong influences that affect women’s choices in fashion.
1.COMMERCE & CASH
Women, working or otherwise, do pay attention to business trends. Fashion trends can be affected by the current prices and price forecasts of certain materials. It is obvious that if the global price of silk begins to rise, fashion and clothing companies will want to use less silk in their clothing, and will instead start marketing different fabrics as “in trends”, which effectively changes fashion. It did happen about four years ago in India when the digital print bandwagon moved to handmade, artisan, local craft after machines and dyes imported from abroad became too expensive. So tomorrow, if gold prices were to drop, more companies will use and market gold embellishments, buttons and accessories. These in turn would be lapped up by any fashion-forward woman.
FASHION CAN BE GREATLY AFFECTED BY POPULAR CULTURES AND SUB CULTURES. IN THE 60’S AND 70’S, WHEN BOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES WORE THEIR HAIR STYLED IN A ROUNDED SHAPE, BOUFFANTS BECAME A RAGE WITH WOMEN OF ALL AGES.
The other factor related to the commerce of fashion buying is purchasing power. The strength of a wallet is a deciding factor about what a woman can and will buy. An interesting trend has been the rising importance of college students as a young consumer group for fashion in recent years because of their growing purchasing power. Luxury comes at a price, and fashion is no different.
Culture, is perhaps, another very strong influence on what is trendy. Fashion can also be greatly affected by popular cultures and sub cultures. In the 60’s and 70’s, when Bollywood actresses wore their hair styled so as to stand out from the head in a rounded shape, bouffants became a rage with women of all ages. Furthermore, ‘activist’ fashion trends – khadi and handwoven sarees donned by activist- actresses such as Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi from the
late 1970’s grew out of a sub culture that included activism and a general rebellious mindset, which was reflected in the clothing. These tumultuous years of growth for the nation resulted in the 70’s, a decade of freedom of expression and exploration. The fashion of the day reflected the changes taking place across the country.
The popular music of the 70’s greatly affected worldwide fashion. The followers of folk and psychedelic rock and hippie bands dressed in bell-bottom jeans and casual shirts with bold patterns such as paisley or floral landscapes. Females wore long, flowing cotton dresses known as maxi dresses. Later in the 70’s, the punk music scene inspired its fans to dress in torn clothing, black leather and rebellious and anti-establishment styles. The Mohawk hairstyle was trendy during that time. The advent of disco music in the latter part of the decade created a completely different atmosphere. Disco ladies wore glittery mini dresses and the guys wore tight polyester pants.
Globally, the civil rights movement inspired many African Americans to express themselves and their African roots. Men wore the small, rounded hats that many Africans wore and both men and women dressed in the flowing robes decorated with the bold patterns and colours of Africa. The late 60’s were an age of spiritual enlightenment for many people and religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism were on the rise in America. People wore the garments and fashions of these religions and of the cultures of India and Asia. Men wore collarless Nehru jackets and linen shirts and pants, women wore flowing, colourful kaftans.
An offshoot of prevailing cultures, the particular circumstances of social sub groups also affect culture. For example, in the West, women’s fashion in the 1920s was a rejection of stuffy Victorianism and the rejection of the “Gibson Girl” look. The 1920s fashion, instead, was the embracement of vice, youth and frivolity. The embodiment of this was the flapper, a cigarette smoking, boozing, young look that tried to hold on to the look of the prepubescent girl while at the same time being overtly and casually sexual. The fashion of the 1920’s, and the culture that created it, was the first youth rebellion in America, one that preceded the rebellion of the late 60’s by four and a half decades. Several factors played into the social changes of the decade – such as the women’s liberation movement, the first World War and the beginning of prohibition. Another was the rapid growth of wealth among the middle class. However, there was also huge amount of anger by the American youth who considered the older generation as the murderers of millions of young men. The wealth combined with the anger as well as the euphoria of the wars end, resulting in a rebellion against the social norms of that time. This had a domino effect for the longest time over cultures all over the world. No longer did the youth desire to dress or act like the older generation. Instead, they embraced their youth, have fun, and enjoy life — every joy that life could offer. The free- spirited, fun-loving outlook of the decade pushed 1920’s fashion to be more casual. Not only was this new attitude seen in women’s clothing, but it was also reflected in the larger Indian culture; and embrace of fast-paced western music, casual inter- personal interactions, even attitudes seen in films. Much of the cultural change of the decade still lives on in the present. Indeed, 1920’s women’s fashion was perhaps the most influential in creating modern tastes in women’s clothes, and the view of and towards women.
Another ‘circumstance’ that was a milestone in the way fashion was interpreted and embraced was the World War, especially in America. Manufacturing goods to be used in the war was the primary focus. So usage of raw materials and textiles in non-war products was restricted. Restrictions were placed on how much fabric could be used in clothing. Certain fibers were heavily restricted, such as silk and nylon. Because of this, stockings were hard to find, and women resorted to use leg makeup to compensate. Leather was also hard to find. As s a result, shoes were increasingly made from canvas, and heels and shoe soles were made from wood and cork.
Because of rationing, dresses and suits became slimmer with just enough fabric to be able to sit or walk. Skirts and dresses were knee-length. Because of the need to reduce the number of clothes items that people owned, and the need to use those clothes items throughout the year, American designers introduced the idea of separates and coordinating components. By mixing and matching different items, this gave the illusion of having more outfits than actually existed.
For the first time, it became acceptable for women to wear pants. Women also began to wear overalls for more heavy work. Hair had to be pulled back and covered to prevent it from being caught in machinery. Sportswear became popular on college campuses where they spread to the wider population. Women would frequently wear tight rayon or cotton shorts and playsuits during hot weather.
THE FREE-SPIRITED, FUN-LOVING OUTLOOK OF THE DECADE PUSHED 1920’S FASHION TO BE MORE CASUAL. NOT ONLY WAS THIS NEW ATTITUDE SEEN IN WOMEN’S CLOTHING, BUT IT WAS ALSO REFLECTED IN THE LARGER INDIAN CULTURE; AND EMBRACE OF FAST-PACED WESTERN MUSIC, CASUAL INTER-PERSONAL INTERACTIONS, EVEN ATTITUDES SEEN IN FILMS.
Films and TV’s and the stars that wove magical dreams on these media also have a profound impact on fashion. Most women trust celebrities more than their own friends and mothers when it comes to personal style. New research shows that this trend of following celebrity fashion is now impacting on the traditional ways that young women seek clothing advice. In a new survey in the latest edition of HELLO! fashion monthly, 1,000 women aged 18-34 were questioned about their style influences. An astounding 48 percent of women confessed that celebrities have the strongest impact on their personal style. Stars including Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne Victoria Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge have become increasingly influential in fashion. Kim Kardashian is often seen front row at shows like Balmain, Givenchy and Balenciaga, while Cara has
recently designed a backpack for Mulberry and an entire clothing range for DKNY. Women were also inspired by film and television. Rewind to 1977. Actress Diane Keaton appeared in Annie Hall and soon women across the nation were wearing baggy pants, men’s ties and hats. Farah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels inspired big, feathered hairstyles for women.
The worlds of showbiz and fashion have become increasingly intertwined in India too, with stars like Kangana Ranaut and Sonam Kapoor regularly seen on the front rows of fashion shows globally. In 1994 Madhuri Dixit in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun wore a green embroidered choli, white lehenga and purple embroidered saree that became very popular with audiences. Furthermore, the suits and the saree in Bunty Aur Babli worn by Rani Mukherji created a rage and in a reverse inspiration were spotted on ramps after their film appearances. And in news detrimental to the advertising industry, only four percent of women admitted to being highly affected by clothing that they see in adverts.
According to a research by veteran market research firm Mintel, online sales of women’s wear is expected to skyrocket by more than 77 percent by 2019, alongside mobile sales. Based on projections, purchases made on a mobile device will comprise 25 percent of all online sales by 2017.
In the same survey by HELLO! fashion monthly, quoted above, 48 percent of the women asked stated that reading about or following celebrities on social media has the strongest impact on them above all others. The blogger community is also being hailed as a source of unique perspectives on fashion, and also insider looks into local style scenes, asides from the obvious news and trend stories. The Blonde Salad in USA is a popular fashion blog, while back home in India, Akanksha Redhu (www.akaknksharedhu.com), Rhea Gupte (www.fuss.co.in) and Ruhi Sheikh (www.republicofchic.in) are some bloggers who have a large number of followers.