Conspicuous Leisure Consumption and Waste

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According to economist and social commentator Thorstein Veblen, the drive for social mobility moves fashion. In his seminal work, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Veblen claims that the wealthy class exercised fashion leadership through sartorial display of conspicuous leisure, consumption, and waste. The dress of people in this group indicated that they did not carry out strenuous manual work, that they had enough disposable income to spend on an extensive wardrobe, and that they were able to wear a garment only a few times before deeming it obsolete.

Imitation and differentiation: Trickle-down, bubble-up, and trickle-across theories. Although sociologist Georg Simmel is not the sole author of the "trickle-down" theory, the general public still attributes it to him. In his article, Fashion (1904), Simmel argued that upper-class members of society introduce fashion changes. The middle and lower classes express their changing relationship to the upper classes and their social claims by imitating the styles set by the upper classes. However, as soon as they complete this emulation, the elite changes its style to reinforce social hierarchy. But as Michael Carter's research in Fashion Classics (2003) demonstrates, imitation and differentiation does not occur necessarily one after the other in a neat fashion. Instead, there is an ongoing, dynamic interaction between the two. Besides, within each class as well as among the different classes, there is an internal drive to express and assert one's unique individuality.


By the 1960s, the fashion industry had begun to produce and distribute more than enough products for everyone to be able to dress fashionably. This democratization of fashion means that by the twenty-first century anyone across the world could imitate a new style instantaneously. The direction of fashion change is no longer unilinear—it traverses geographical places, and flows from both the traditional centers of style as well as "the periphery." Through global media and popular culture, members of the lower classes, and subcultural and marginal groups, have been able to influence fashion as much as those in the upper classes. Therefore, it has become more appropriate to talk about a "bubble-up" or "trickle-across" theory.

Although social class is no longer a significant category of social analysis, one remains cognizant of it. The display of one's social standing through dress has become more subtle, eclectic, and nonprescriptive. The key to assessment in the early 2000s is often in the details. Higher status is indicated by a perfectly cut and fitted garment, the use of natural and expensive fabrics, and brand-name wear. One's class affiliation is often given away only by the choice of accessories, such as eyeglasses, watches, or shoes. A stylish haircut, perfect and even teeth, and especially a slender body often have become more of a class signifier than dress itself.

See also Gender, Dress, and Fashion. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. Carter, Michael. Fashion Classics from Carlyle to Barthes. New

York: Berg, 2003. Crane Diana. Fashion and Its Social Agendas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Damhorst, Mary Lynn, Kimberley A. Miller, and Susan O. Michelman, eds. The Meanings of Dress. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1999. Davis, Fred. Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. Kaiser, Susan. The Social Psychology of Clothing. New York:

Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990. Simmel, Georg. "Fashion." International Quarterly 10: 130-155. Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Macmillan, 1899.

Katalin Medvedev

SPACE AGE STYLES Humans did not walk on the moon until 1969, but their imminent arrival was slotted on the world's calendar from the very beginning of the decade. Space exploration's grip on the popular consciousness during the 1960s contributed to a new fashion philosophy, becoming a pool of design inspiration; an analog to speculation about a radically transformed future that preoccupied the sensibilities of the decade. In

Andre Courreges Space Look
Space age outfit. A woman models an outfit from Andre Cour-reges's 1994 spring/summer collection. In the 1960s, Courreges was instrumental in developing the sleek, shiny, aerodynamic look called space age. © Photo B.D.V./Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

the April 1965 issue of Harper's Bazaar, Richard Avedon photographed British fashion model Jean Shrimpton wearing an astronaut's helmet and flight uniform. But it was hardly necessary to don an actual flight suit to be part of the styles that came to be known as "space age." Sleek as a fuselage, space age fashion emulated the aerodynamic simplicity and severity of a space capsule. Frills and flounces were eschewed in favor of a new, hard-edged and streamlined silhouette that also incorporated industrial materials. Space age fashion created a brusque and frequently shocking brave new universe within the 1960s fashion cosmos.

Blast off. As a design movement, space age fashion was above all a French phenomenon, promulgated mostly by men in their thirties who had been trained in the old-guard Paris couture, but saw the need to refute some of their pedigree. André Courrèges was perhaps the most creative. Courrèges was a member of Balenciaga's couture house for ten years before beginning his own business in 1961 in partnership with his wife Coqueline, who had also worked for Balenciaga. It took him but a couple of years to find his own feet, and when he did he kicked out the props from under establishment couture. "Things have never been the same since Courreges had his explosion," Yves Saint Laurent said in a 1966 Women's Wear Daily (9 December, p. 1).

Before turning to fashion, Courreges had dallied in both architecture and engineering, and this was reflected in his clothes. His dresses, suits, and trouser suits might be fitted, semi-fitted, or tubular, but they presented a bold and graphic silhouette, delineated as interlocking geometries by welt seaming and strategic piping. He preferred a restricted palette of monochromes and pastels, and was partial to aggressive checks and stripes. Courreges used white a great deal, exploiting its myriad and contradictory connotations of sterility and/or purity as well as all-inclusive spectrum-spanning synergy.

Courreges's work surely owed a debt to London ready-to-wear, but ever present in his work was the active, constructing hand of the couturier. His fabrics were flat, tailored wools, more intractable than what ready-to-wear was espousing. In a Courreges suit a woman herself became a Brancusi-like distillation, an avatar of streamlined strength. Courreges inveighed against the traditional appurtenances of femininity and foreswore the curvilinear. Reaching his meridian in 1964 and 1965, he advocated very short skirts as well as pants for all occasions, at the time a highly controversial proposition.

Women of the future. "Working women have always interested me the most," Courreges said in Life Magazine in 1965. "They belong to the present, the future" (21 May, p. 57). Yet what he produced could not be easily transferred to the workplace, although his clothes and mass-manufactured imitations were seen on streets around the world. He offered what might be considered fashion manifestos. For him, high heels were as absurd as the bound feet of Asian women. He outfitted his models, instead, in flat Mary Jane slippers, or white boots that enhanced the graphic rectangularity of his silhouette.

After six years working for Balenciaga, Emanuel Un-garo assisted Courreges for one year before opening his own doors in 1965. He also promised a radical departure from couture business-as-usual, pledging that there would be no evening clothes in this first collection, since he did not believe in them. He was certainly Courreges's disciple during these years but his suits and dresses in childlike flaring shapes were gentle and more ingratiating. Essential to the success of the young house as unique fabrics designed exclusively for him by his partner Sonia Knapp. Knapp worked as closely with Ungaro as Co-queline Courreges did with her husband.

A decade older than Courreges or Ungaro, Pierre Cardin began his own business in 1957 after apprenticeships at several couture houses. During the epoch of space age, Cardin offered some of the couture's most outré designs, offered like so much during the 1960s as provocative hypothesis rather than empirical prototype. His shapes might resemble floral abstractions that devoured conventional clothing dimensions. His enormous collars and frequent use of vinyl evoked outer-space gear. Cardin was a Renaissance man whose many endeavors included his own theater. Both Courrèges and Ungaro established ready-to-wear and licensing franchises, but Cardin's endeavors were waged on an exponential scale. His empire included a highly successful men's wear line—"Cardin's cosmonauts" presented a complementary vision of men's apparel.

Like much of Cardin's ideas, Paco Rabanne pushed space age fashion toward wearable art. He too trained as an architect, then designed accessories, before the young designer created a sensation in 1966 with ready-to-wear sheaths of plastic squares and discs attached to fabric backing. They were le dernier cri of Paris fashion, memorably commemorated in William Klein's film of the same year, Qui Etes Vous Polly McGoo. For him the new and ultimate frontier of fashion had become "the finding of new materials." His investigation of plastics and other hardware as possible human carapaces proclaimed a new epoch in Paris's wonted tradition of clothes so intricately constructed that they could stand on their own.

Space age fashion was gestated in a salon environment that was just as stark and unadorned as the clothes. New-style fashion shows went hand in hand with the fashion experiments they showcased. They were hectic rather than stately, built around mysterious theatrical effects rather than the old-style hauteur.

Splashdown. In the early 2000s, space age styles seem a paradigm of the teleological mentality of the 1960s, a last glorification of industrialization before the realization of its downside. Hard-edged fashion stayed influential all through the 1960s, eventually being vanquished by the unconstructed fashion that prevailed during the first half of the 1970s. The leaders of space age fashion have all remained in vogue, and from time to time pay homage to their bellwether work of the 1960s.

See also Extreme Fashions; Futurist Fashion, Italian. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lobenthal, Joel. Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties. New York:

Abbeville Press, 1990. Ryan, Ann, and Serena Sinclair. "Space Age Fashion." In Couture. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972.

Joel Lobenthal

SPACE SUIT While there have been many different ensembles of clothing worn by astronauts, the term "space suit" generally refers to the total life-support system for Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) that takes place outside the shelter of the spacecraft. The extreme conditions of

Consumption Leisure Space

Apollo 12 astronauts. Astronaut Alan Bean holds up a sample of lunar soil during the Apollo 12 mission. Commander Charles Conrad can be seen reflected in Bean's visor. The space suits used by the Apollo astronauts were custom-made for each astronaut and were the first suits capable of operating with a portable life support system, freeing astronauts from physical connection to a space ship. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Apollo 12 astronauts. Astronaut Alan Bean holds up a sample of lunar soil during the Apollo 12 mission. Commander Charles Conrad can be seen reflected in Bean's visor. The space suits used by the Apollo astronauts were custom-made for each astronaut and were the first suits capable of operating with a portable life support system, freeing astronauts from physical connection to a space ship. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

outer space demand ensembles for EVA that are among the most complex clothing items ever designed.

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