AP Seminar Pd 2
16 January 2015
Fashion Influences on Economic Classes
Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion changes, but style endures.” Over time fashion styles went from tight corsets with long dresses in Victorian times to the chic, skinny jeans and basic Tshirt style. Fashion has become an outlet that has placed morals and standards for womens’ clothing in America throughout history. In order for women to purchase clothing, money was an element that separated wealthy fashions from poor fashions. William Norwich, Time’s Style & Entertaining editor, claims that the “
currency of New York's fluidity is cash, and the society of cash is fashion”(Norwich 7). He believes that the way we talk about money is in resemblance to how we talk about fashion. This statement is true for the 19th century where different fashions corresponded to how much money an individual has, however this perception has changed over time
Throughout the 19th century, people could easily identify whether an individual strictly belonged in the upper, middle, or lower class based on their clothing; however, overtime, women have gained the freedom to determine what clothing they want to wear despite their economic class.
In the 19th century, wealthy people participated in balls, went to theatres, attended
operas, enjoyed concerts, viewed horse races and art exhibitions, and went to luncheons. All these events differ in activity, however they all possess one similar classification an elegant dress code.
In order to be seen as being in the upper economic class, proper fashion attire is a
must. These were set social norms that people lived with, usually wealthy people. According to the Victorian & Albert Museum, “fashions worn by the wealthy reflected their lives and aspirations” (V&A 1). This was their way of life and what people usually lived for. Meaning that their life value depended on if they had access to appropriate clothing for the time period and had an ability to maintain inclusion in the upper economic class. This put a lot of pressure on women in this century, where they prepared for numerous hours for events that they were going to attend for an hour or so. This popular culture of elegant clothing for extravagant events created a society where the amount of money defined whether an individual was in the upper class or not. Careers such as dressmakers and tailors thrived since they benefited tremendously from many wealthy men and women who required these services for their everyday clothing. But what was fashion like for the middle class or lower class in the 19th century? A woman who was poor in the 19th century maintained a sole purpose to survive and provide for their families. Due to the lower class’s consistent need to survive and work, “ fashions of the
[19th] century were not practical for working women” (Tussing 3). Women spent all day constantly moving, and the extravagant dresses of the wealthy weren’t specifically fit for high class women. Socially and economically, women of the lower class were displaced and this culture influenced women to wear fashions fit to their economic class.
The luxuries of the
wealthy were things that they desired, but they couldn’t economically afford because the little money they made was focused on eating and paying important bills. Women in the middle class however, possessed clothes similar to wealthy, but they weren’t usually as extravagant or the same elegant fabrics of the wealthy women. Overall, during the 19th century, fashions of
extravagant dresses and elegant clothes resembled wealth while fashions of simplicity and comfort resembled the middle class and poor.
Today, in the 21st century, the wealthiest of Americans are either “lawyers, physicians/doctors, or married” into the wealth ( NY Times 1). Of these wealthy Americans, do ...
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