Fashion is a system of cultural production as defined by Thompson and Haytko (i), as such a system, it has been heavily critiqued for its ideological nature. Because it is presented and has been addressed as an ideological system, it creates and promotes a system of rapid flux in styles. With this in mind it can be proposed that there are two core values within the current dominant fashion ideology, they are perpetual change and the emulation of certain collective ideals (ii). These values are closely intertwined and reciprocate notions such as the imitation principle (ii), the emulation of styles seen in self-help style guides and consumer magazines. Such principles are dependent that consumers closely monitor the styles, trends and rules. This however is constantly being reassessed and altered, and redistributed with a new announcement of the “in and out”, and the “do and don’t”. This constant change places pressure on the consumer and emphasises the necessity to current. (ii)
Therefore to be able to maintain and circulate these values of novelty, excess and appropriation, to the consumer market cultural inter-mediators play a crucial part. Such distributors capitalise and manipulate the dominant consumers through subtle (and not so subtle) techniques. This is commonly expressed through three stages: The designers, who propose new style. The “glossy magazines”, this has a much larger production team, that are constantly re-evaluating the effectiveness of their promotions; this consists of editors, models and advertisers etc, that showcase and promote the new styles and trends. Finally the celebrities who wear the styles, the paparazzi photos presented in glossy magazines are especially effective due to the reality of the situation, normalising the garment but also glamorising it due to association, this in turn creates desire. (ii)
Magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, act as an important conduct manual to the feminine appearance. The editors of these magazines in particular assume the role of authority, dictating what the new female body should be this season. To reiterate Delhaye, in relation to the dominant fashion ideologies, the magazines construct impressions of urgency and necessity, furthermore allude to connotations that such items are integral to “survival” until the next style period or season (iii). Albeit research from Mikkonen, Vicdan and Markkula’s article; “What Not to Wear? Oppositional Ideology, Fashion, and Governmentality in Wardrobe Self-Help”, shows that recently different types of cultural discourses in dress have become apparent, offering an alternative to the predominant ideology of fashion, however this is the minority. Although some of the traditional media outlets have indeed have adopted and utilised (for example) the “real women” in the photo shoots or reporting on street fashion, rather than focusing of the catwalk shows. They are still highly contrived and do not necessarily portray any true realism, furthermore the agenda of the magazines still remain the same.
Thompson. C, and Haytko, D, 1997 “Speaking of Fashion: Consumers’ Uses of Fashion Discourses and the Appropriation of Countervailing Cultural Meanings”, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 24, pp. 15-42
Mikkonen, I., Vicdan, H. & Markkula, A. 2014, “What not to wear? Oppositional ideology, fashion, and governmentality in wardrobe self- help”, Consumption markets culture, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 254-273.
Delhaye, C. 2006, “The development of consumption culture and the individualization of female identity: fashion discourse in the Netherlands 1880-1920”, Journal of consumer culture, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 87-115.