The constant in fashion is change. The change may be slow or fast but fashion is never static. This element of change is recognised in the definitions
of fashion by the use of such words as prevailing or a given period of time or currently.
The current fashion is always in harmony with the prevailing era. In terms of clothing, for example, fashion is the way of dressing that is currently accepted. Fashion, thus, is a social phenomenon which reflects the same continuing change that rides through any given age. Changes in fashion correspond to the subtle and often hidden network of forces that operate on society. In this sense fashion is a symbol of times and also the mirror of the economic status of society.
People had become weary of drain-pipe trousers when loose bell-bottoms made their way and when, bell-bottoms too became stale to the psyche, wisdom colours, heavy pleating and narrow beltlines. A change has already been experienced, bell-bottoms have made their way and they are here to stay. The changes for psychological reasons occur also in the fashion for products other than clothing.
Changes in fashion also occur due to rational reasons-social or environmental factors that create new needs. A classic example of social changes making way for a new fashion ethos is offered by the dawning of more economic and political freedom for women in the early decades of the 20th century. Their new identity and activities encouraged them to discard the constricting garments that had been in fashion for centuries. They adopted shorter skirts relaxed waistlines, bobbed hair and fashions appropriate to their more active lives. Many decades later as women moved into top executive positions in the business world, the tailored suit, soft blouse and attaché bags became and dressing for success fashion among career women.
Similarly, after world War-II, when sub-urbanisation (fight to suburbs) began, those who joined the exodus from the city found themselves needing cars, garden furniture and casual clothes for backyard barbecues. The physical fitness movement in the 1970s and 80s brought about a need for new and different exercise clothes, and fashions appropriate to various active sports. Similarly, with the women’s liberation movement of the mid70s, girls became more conscious of their masculinity, and lycra body-hugging clothes became common. The trend has now reversed towards feminity as the masculine look had become wearying.
So fashions change, and they change constantly. New ones appear almost every season and old ones either disappear or follow a discreet direction. In retrospect, although changes in fashion may seem marked or sudden but in reality they are evolutionary and come about as a result of a series of gradual shirts from one season to another.
For example, when women’s skirts began inching up from midcalf in the 1960s, this gradual shortening was not noticeable at first but when it moved thigh-high in form of minis and micro-minis, people took notice of the approaching extreme. Similarly, when men began to abandon ultra-narrow ties and suit lapels for more and more width, the changes went unnoticed initially. When wide ties made their appearance, people realized that changes were gradual.
Eventually evolutionary paces too result in changes as all fashions end in excesses and an extreme is bound to be reached. An example, of extremes can be given by the 18th century hopskirts and 19th century crinolines which ballooned to diameters of eight feet. They were replaced later by far slimmer silhouettes.
Similarly, the miniskirts of the 60s moved up to micro-minis in the 70s; then hemlines moved downwards, moving extreme upwards, moving extreme upwards again last year. Men’s trousers took the be-bottom shape and attained an extreme of even 40 inches before they were replaced. The present trousers with a lot of heavy pleating and excessively loose pyjama type fitting are also bound to change. And the bell-bottoms may well be back.