Fundamentals of Social Psychology

Chapter 13: Fashion Imitation

Emory S. Bogardus

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THE fashion process is partly suggestion and partly imitation—suggestion in that new ideas or ways act as stimuli ; and imitation in that they are responded to. It would be as accurate to speak of fashion suggestion as of fashion imitation; the latter term has gained currency, partly because it is the imitation phase of the process to which most people give major attention. Fashion occurs because new departures are developed or old ways are revived.

When a new departure is originated or an old way is revived, it constitutes a stimulus or suggestion, but it would not get far were it not for the tendency to respond and to imitate. Where one person originates or revives the old, a thousand imitate ; thus fashion gains momentum. The call to imitate a fashion is strong, for thereby a person not only makes what may be a natural response to a stimulus or suggestion, but establishes a unity and fellow-feeling with other persons whose social reflections he prizes highly.[1] Conscious and unconscious imitation lead one often against his common sense to adopt the prevailing fashion in his field of interest.

A fashion is a type of reaction common to a considerable number of people. It is often a recurring change in choices; a new way of acting or thinking which only a small percentage of the group has adopted. The field of new and recurring choices ranges all the way from breakfast foods or styles of dress to philosophic theories. If a new thing is out of line with the prevailing choices in its class, it fails of even a partial adoption; it is "laughed down."

If the new thing is meritorious, it will be widely imitated and become permanent. As soon as a new thing is extensively adopted it is no longer a fashion, for its acceptance has passed from the realm of attention to that of habit. Whatever has merit is likely to be accepted, habitualized, and to contribute to progress.

When a new thing or model is launched there is a competition to adopt by those who readily forsake the old and take up with the new.

( 152) If the thing becomes popular and defeats still newer choices, competition disappears ; it is habitualized and becomes a convention or custom. Because of merit, prestige, or some adventitious reason, it becomes established and enjoys the authority of a custom. A convention refers particularly to the formal side of custom. The formal elements are apt to become detached from their social content, and on occasion may endure though void of any content whatsoever. Hence convention is more likely to represent futility and waste than is custom.

Fashion is objectively discernible as a current or uniformity of behavior. After a new choice has been launched purposely or accidentally, for mercenary reasons or through adventure, many rush to adopt it, and therefore taste supreme satisfaction in being of the discerning few, who are accorded special recognition.[2]


The social psychology of fashion includes many significant elements.[3] I. The impulses to differentiate one's self from others gives a basis for the fashion process. As soon as an individual develops a self-consciousness as distinguished from a social consciousness, he seeks to maintain and even to deepen the differences between himself and others, and. particularly to set off himself and his coterie from other groups. The impulses to give one's self an individual stamp are measurably gratified through responding to fashions. A new mode in the field of one's line of interests is promptly seized on. No one desires to be considered "average"; no one wishes to be "taken for" someone else ; one even resents having his name mispronounced.

Fashion often gains for a person the credit of being individual. A shrewd observer has remarked that it is feathers which set off peacocks, turkeys, and pheasants from one another; without the differentiating plumage these birds would look alike. The adopter of a fashion imagines himself raised to a higher social plane than that of the non-conformers. Rarely does either adopter or observer distinguish between the intrinsically valuable fashion and the futile one.

While fashion establishes camaraderie among its devotees, it creates jealousies between classes and individuals. Fashion separates and segregates. Fashion inequalities often set at nought the spirit of democracy,

( 153) especially when social status is determined by one's ability to waste money on non-essentials.

On the other hand, by fashion imitation the lower classes assimilate themselves upwardly into the "higher" strata. Fashion imitation thus levels up and hence in a way democratizes. Even subject peoples rise through imitation, chiefly fashion imitation, toward the levels of their rulers.

2. Human nature responds to the new. The desire for new experience is apparently universal, although because of adverse traditions, Oriental peoples have not had much opportunity to display this trait. Among Western peoples the desire for new experience has had leeway. When given a chance human nature seeks the new ; it soon tires of responding to the same stimuli. New stimuli arouse fresh responses and thus fashions multiply. No matter how attractive a style of garb, it ceases sooner or later to stimulate one's esthetic nature, and is discarded for another style which while not so beautiful, is "new" and hence stimulates.

In custom-ruled countries the novel gains a foothold with difficulty ; but where fashion imitation has become well established the new takes on false glamor. Habits of responding to the new are established, and thus where fashion has wide recognition, there are some who respond to its appeals habitually, while others give it only scanty attention. Among many persons, however, the importance that is attached to the new increases in proportion to the development of fashion imitation itself. The fad, a special phase of fashion, thrives on the new and will be discussed at length later in this chapter.

3. The spectacular stimulates attention. Brilliancy, highlights, flash and fire, oratorical "fireworks"—these are among the resources of fashion, for they arouse the attention of the whole multitude and impart prestige. When the ermine cloak or the hat with ostrich plumes passes down the aisle there is a craning of necks and a wagging of tongues.

4. Excitement furthers fashion, for it paralyzes one's critical powers and releases the native impulses to act irrationally. If a furore can be created about the new, a large following can easily be secured. Among crowded urban peoples, already subject in a high degree to emotional response, excitement can easily be stirred up so that the novel makes an exaggerated appeal.

5. Reputability aids a fashion. The rumor that the "best" people are adopting a new style or are about to do so, gives a fashion impetus. Many fashions live for a time entirely on the fact that people with prestige have adopted them.

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6. The individual frequently is sucked into the fashion vortex through the fear of social disapproval if he does not conform. Large numbers may remonstrate at first against a new fashion, but presently they are seen to adopt it—rather than be ridiculed for standing out. "One might as well be out of the world as out of fashion," and hence fear of figuring as a dowdy brings one reluctantly into line with fool fashions. This is especially powerful in determining women's responses to the rapidly changing styles of dress.

7. The impulse to be free often promotes the cause of fashion. The cry of every new political party is "free yourselves from the bosses" of the old parties. Every new religious movement sounds the invitation: Throw off the yoke of dogma. The economic panacea flings out the banner : Be rid of the slavery of the industrial master class. This summons to freedom makes a fundamental appeal to certain impulses of human nature. So strong is the response that people rush to the support of this or that propaganda without carefully examining it. The seductive call to be free from old gyves causes people to overlook the yokes which may be hidden in the new. In a fashion epoch the impulse to be free easily becomes organized into habits, and individuals thereby become chronically restless under any rule or procedure that is maintained for some time. They acquire habits which hinder their accepting with fortitude even the necessary disciplines of life.

8. The spirit of progress gives life to fashion. In fact fashion can flourish only in an environment which is favorable to new ideas and objects of attention. It is only in a dynamic society that fashion has full sway.

Progressiveness is willingness to take chances with a new idea or method. It expects that some new methods will prove useless, but in order to discover the worthwhile, it will take broad risks. Immigration creates progressiveness, so that in new countries people will encourage fashion who in old countries gave no heed to it.

A progressive social environment makes fashion possible, and in return fashion contributes now and then to progress. The meritorious idea or object runs the risk of being made a fashion, but by its merit it outlives the short day normally accorded to fashion, and ultimately becomes fixed in the culture of a people.

9. The commercialized activities of designers of new fashions minister to the reign of fashion. Certain people make it a business to create new styles that will appeal to fashion devotees and near-devotees. The designer of new fashions in clothes has achieved a professional status.

( 155) He must understand human nature, the basic principles of social psychology, and be versed somewhat in art. His art, however, must usually be sacrificed to Mammon. Before one style has triumphed, a supplanter, perhaps less beautiful, is being designed. The designer is thus largely the slave of the promoter.

10. Then there are the professional promoters and merchants, that is, the professionals who work in conjunction with the fashion designer and whose business it is to create wants, both false and true; and by almost any means impel people to buy the new fashions which the designers have planned and the manufacturers produced. Many advertisements of fashion shows create a wasteful, competitive consumption of goods. Fashion shows also stimulate many people to buy beyond their means and thus undermine thrift. Moreover, they tend to create unsatisfied and unsatisfiable wants in the minds of the less fortunate classes, and the poorer and lower middle classes are made restless, even frantic. It is for this reason that walking fashion plates spread the spirit of bolshevism in the land. A three-thousand dollar fur coat creates jealousy and social unrest wherever it is worn.

The European women's wear convention, held in August, 1922, illustrates how women or bill-paying husbands are victimized by the suggestions thrust upon them by the profit-seeking fashion promoter.[4] At the convention it was decreed that fashions were to change--in order to keep women buying. "Skirts were to be long; very long. Skirts were to be full; very full. Skirts were to be draped. Waists were to be fitted, to contrast with the billowing below." Three vehicles of dress publicity were used as a means of making the women surrender to the dictates of the promoters. (1) Shop windows and dress shows were exploited; flaring, flaunting flower-beds of skirts were displayed in windows and charming manikins went "mincing down the platform in pointed layers of purple and scarlet chiffon." (2) The theatrical stage, costumed by the leading modistes, was well swept by trains and dragging sashes. (3) Home magazines, presumably devoted to women's interests, fell into the net to conjure woman to buy what she did not need and in which she looked a guy and sometimes a fright.

The professional promoter of fashion must succeed in creating an atmosphere of expectancy and of favorable anticipation among the people who can afford to buy and also among those in the class just below. For this reason, the professional uses of the serial and accumulative advertisement, as well as the fashion show, the manikin, the stage, and the

(156) ladies' magazines, and the unsuspecting victims begin a campaign of talk and of publicity in behalf of the new mode that is about to appear and thus help to "create a demand" for many things that are not needed. The game yields large revenue to a few business men. They become good guessers. They must make designs which will be accepted; with the development of prestige their power increases.

There is a precarious element in bringing out new designs.[5] Since designs must be made several months in advance of the time when needed, a considerable hazard is involved, for not all fashion devotees are of the dumb, driven cattle type. Moreover, most of them respect limits of decency. Their fickleness, too, sometimes makes them difficult to gauge. The human nature basis of fashion is something to which even the designer must conform.


The fashion process, which has been analyzed by E. A. Ross, [6] includes an atmosphere of progress, of imitation, of individualism, and of commercialism. The designer well-versed in human nature sets the patterns. These are heralded even before they are manufactured, and promptly adopted by the ultra-devotees of fashion or pace-setters. The pace-setter leads off with a new style in a given field, and would-be pace-setters immediately follow, in order to share in his enhanced prestige. Then others copy, in order not to be frumps. There are also those who belatedly and conservatively copy in order not to be viewed askance or pitied or set down as "back numbers." A few never copy, and the rest call them "hayseeds." They show the most independence of all, even more individuality than those who precipitately adopt a new style in order to differentiate themselves from the group.

As soon as the mode has perceptibly descended the social scale its originators and promoters devise and introduce a new style. The pace-setters snatch the "latest" fashion and dash off in the new direction. The followers hotly pursue them, while the latter wildly cast about for a new fashion in order to sidestep the pursuers. To this process, which always assumes insane and wasteful proportions, Ross has applied the term "social racing," although perhaps "fashion racing" would be better.

It is not difficult to perceive how the high cost of living is partly due to fashion racing. Many articles are purchased, not because they are needed or are beautiful, but because neighbors or friends have made

( 157) these purchases already and the irrational standard prevails that one must `keep up with (or outdo) his neighbors." The neighbors try to outdo us ; and thus they and we are both guilty of speeding the steeple chase. Fashion racing with its process of endless counter stimulations unduly accentuates fashion.


Craze and fad are exhibitions of exaggerated fashion imitation. The craze arises out of and is characterized by excitement. Under a spell of excitement, many people will temporarily adopt almost any irrational scheme. If the necessary excitement can be created, the result in terms of imitation can be predicted with a fair degree of accuracy. It is note-worthy that the fields of finance and religion have been subject to crazes, especially since these realms are opposites, one being characterized by material and the other by spiritual aims.

Financial speculation, and especially gambling, has been perhaps the main center of craze whirlpools. At this writing the morning newspaper on my desk contains several quarter page advertisements of oil wells that „are about to produce.₤ I notice that several of these wells are more than a thousand miles distant—where I cannot investigate them—and that the drills are going down, that oil has been struck (only yesterday!) on adjoining territory, and that the prices of shares are rapidly rising. Within five days the price will positively go up from three to five cents. In fact, I am informed that a gusher may be struck at any moment, in which case the value of the stock will increase beyond the most sanguine anticipations and I, if I own sufficient shares, will find myself a millionaire. An "uninterested" business man telephones that he has wired a purchase, and that I can make no mistake if I do as he has done. The excitement and the prospect unsteady my pen and send my thoughts racing through "air castles in Spain." And then I remember how many drills have never reached oil, how many persons have invested their hard-earned savings in oil and lost, how little I really know about the proposed investment and the specific oil conditions—and after awhile my excitement passes, and I continue with equipoise in planning the remainder of this chapter.

An analysis of the real estate boom, a special type of financial craze, has been made by T. N. Carver.[7] Something happens to create an economic interest, such as the building of a new railroad, or perhaps

(158) merely a new subdivision in a population-increasing district, and money is doubled in buying and selling lots, and the excitement starts.

Everyone wants to buy lots for the sake of selling again. The first effect is to increase greatly the number of buyers, and the effect of this is to send the price still higher. These buyers, as a consequence, also make money rapidly. . . . So long as buyers are increasing faster than sellers, prices continue to go up; but when the buyers become less numerous than the sellers, which must inevitably happen, prices begin to fall. Suddenly, everyone becomes a seller, and there are no buyers at all. Stagnation, depression, bankruptcy, and general ruin ensue.

As the greatest financial craze perhaps was that which occurred about 1720, when the slow-moving, conservative English mind was seized with the excitement attendant upon the financial prospects of the South Sea Company, so the greatest religious craze was probably known as Miller-ism, which developed in the United States between 1840 and 1845. William Miller went about preaching that the end of the world would catastrophically occur at a given date. As a result of a large number of addresses, he secured thousands of followers who, upon the appointed day, donned their ascension robes and went out into the open fields. Although the end of the world did not occur at the appointed time, a new date was set, and the followers of the false prophet ultimately established a new religious sect.

Another expression of craze is seen in the "pogroms" in Russian Poland, for example, under the régime of the Czars. The peasants become frantic under the extortions of the Jews, who in turn have been compelled to pay large sums of money regularly to the Russian authorities for relatively meager privileges. Often aroused by the Russian authorities and sometimes stimulated by the Church, the peasants start wreaking vengeance upon the Jews, the class directly above them, and who they are easily led to believe are the cause of all the harsh conditions of peasant life. In blind rage thus a "pogrom" is started, and does not stop with destruction of property. The frenzied peasant-mobs tear helpless children from terror-stricken parents and may even slay them before the eyes of those parents. The excitement spreads from village to village and then after a few days subsides, and the peasants return to their accustomed tasks, without having improved their conditions in the slightest degree. In the case of a "pogrom" an accumulated sense of gross injustice reaches the point where it breaks over the bounds of personal control and viciously spends itself on any human groups who happen to be in the path of its fury.

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In all cases of craze, excitement is produced by a variety of factors ranging from the hope of sudden material gain or of religious glorification to the anger arising out of a long-swelling sense of injustice. It is important that people understand the social psychology of the craze in order that they may protect themselves against its ravages.


In order to obtain as many representative judgments as possible, rather than to rely on an individual judgment, I have each year for the past ten years called upon from ninety-five to one hundred and seventy persons to coöperate. Each has had some knowledge of social psychology. Together these persons have represented several leading professions and occupations with the teaching profession in the lead, including principals and teachers of many years' experience as well as students in training.

Each person was asked to indicate what he considered the five leading fads at the particular time. Of the total number of fads reported, all were discarded from each annual list except those being cited by at least five persons, which left a total of 735 different fads to be tabulated. Before each individual made out his personal list the point was emphasized that fads relate to many phases of life, not to one, and that the list should be representative of the varied human interests.

The 735 fads were tabulated according to the phase of human life which they represented. Seven main fields were found, which together with the number of fads in each field and the correlative percentages are given herewith :

Classification of Fads

    Nos. Per Cent

Women's dress and decoration    534    72.7
Men's dress and decoration     80  10.8
Amusements and recreation    42    5.7
"Slanguage"      27    3.6
Automobiles        23    3.1
Architecture        16 2.0
Education and culture         13 1.7

Total      735   100.

The table indicates that matters of dress and personal decoration predominate. Recreation on its amusement side comes next. Language or "language" ranks third. Automobile styles, especially accessories, and architecture in its dwelling house phases follow. Education and culture

( 160) bring up the rear. A comparison of the lists of fads for each year shows no outstanding changes in the order of emphasis.

A further analysis of the data shows that (t) most fads relate to the superficial, ornamental, accessory, gew-gaw phases of life. Note these examples :

Kewpies on autosPhrase : "Ain't we got fun."
Feathers on men's hats   Split sleeves at shoulders
Fake moles Marathon dancing

An examination of the lists for ten years reveals no important changes in superficiality from year to year—no improvement or decadence.

(2) Approximately eighty per cent of the total number of fads appear in only one annual list, showing that the life of most fads is less than one year. For the last three years lists of fads have been secured twice a year—in April and November. About sixty per cent receiving five votes or over in any one list do not receive that number again, indicating that most fads survive less than six months.

(3) Last year, lists of prevailing fads were obtained in April, August, and November. Forty per cent of the April list received five votes or over in the August list, and forty-two per cent of the August list appeared in the November classification with five or more votes, denoting that the ordinary fad is prominent for three months or less. For example, at one time during the European War (before the United States entered) the carrying of kewpies upon automobiles was common; a few months later they were displaced by the American flag, and then by allied flags. In a similar way, Charlie Chaplin fads passed over the country, rivaled only by Mary Pickford curls, and by one new joke after another on the Ford.

(4) A fad curve is also discernible, showing a somewhat rapid incline or quick adoption, an extreme popularity or plateau of perhaps two or three months, and a sloping decline. Where a fad has real merit or is connected with an object of universal interest, its plateau may be greatly prolonged.

(5) A small percentage, not more than two per cent of the total, appear in three successive annual lists. Nearly all of these have definite utility and have been or are being generally adopted. They have survived the whirlpool of fashion and have been added to "progress." Samples are :

Men's wrist watches Stop signs on autos
Tonneau windshields     Bobbed hair
Home radio sets   Tortoise shell rims

( 161)

(6)Fads sometimes cluster. They have points of polarization. For example, the "King Tut" fads included King Tut dresses, waists, cafés, interior house decorations, and many kinds of trinkets. "Liberty" fads included "liberty boy," "liberty bond," "liberty fair," "liberty parade," "liberty steak," "liberty sandwich." In these cases the central theme is a person or object of widespread interest, and the plateau of the fad curves may be prolonged beyond the usual time length, continuing as long as the widespread interest in the main theme is maintained.

In addition to these primary deductions, more psychological ones may be made. I. The kaleidoscopic changes in superficialities of life that most fads represent, give their devotees little opportunity to develop and appreciate the truly beautiful or worthy. Unstable and quick-changing habits as well as superficial habits of judgment are produced. It is doubtful whether the exponent of fashion after these habits have been formed, discriminates at all regarding true progress in the fields where fads follow one another in quick succession.

2. Fads arise out of a background of fashion imitation. They thrive because of a favoring public opinion. Where the novel is rated high and the "old" is treated disrespectfully or lightly, fads easily take the limelight honors. Fads flourish among those to whom "novelty is next to godliness." The faddist abounds where prestige is accorded the new.

While progress comes through giving a hearing to the new, yet giving leeway to fads overemphasizes the superficially new and that designed to be glamorous rather than real contributions to progress. Faddishness swings so far to the fashion extreme that it overlooks sensible and enduring values and thus may actually defeat progress.

3. Fads flourish because of the human desires for recognition and new experience. Adopting a fad is a quick spectacular way to obtain the attention of one's fellows. A fad dazzles. It attracts rivalrous glances, and makes its zealot the center of remarks exclamatory enough to satisfy the desires for recognition and new experience. By adopting one fad after another a person may keep his desire for recognition superficially satisfied, but personal growth is probably thereby hindered. The harvest of unstable habits is limitless and the waste is incalculable. Not through faddishness, but via discrimination, would seem to be the road to progress.[8]

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Additional light on the nature of fashion is thrown by a further consideration of dress and clothing. Among animals passive adaptation results in the growth of feathers, fur, or other protective covering of the body. Protection from cold or wet is the primary need which clothing serves.

Sex differentiation, for example, in the feathers of birds, indicates another purpose of body covering—adornment. Since the female bird chooses her mate, males with the most beautiful plumage and the singing voice are chosen.[9] Males without resplendence enjoy less chance of sex selection, fail to reproduce their kind, and their strain dies out.

At the lower end of the human scale clothing serves the same two purposes as among the higher animals—protection and sex ornamentation ; want of feathers and fur leads to clothing made from the skins and furs of animals and from fibrous plants. Feathers are artificially used for sex and prestige ornamentation. The male, who is chosen by the female, resorts to all sorts of ingenious, even painful, devices in order to increase his attractiveness. Ornamental scars are made upon the dark-skinned body. With the light-skinned early peoples of the temperate zones scarification, not easily discernible, is displaced by tattooing. Indigoes and similar dark substances are used to make permanent ornamentations upon the white skin. Ornamental purposes are further served by attaching rings, through perforations, to the ears, nose, lips, and by fastening them around the arms and ankles. Fantastic forms of male hair dress develop and beads of all colors are used to enhance bodily beauty.

With the development of clothing for protective and ornamental purposes a third important element appeared—modesty. Ornamental clothing often tended, and still does, to produce sex stimulation. In consequence, clothing not only caused modesty, but modesty in clothing acquired a tangible status. Three purposes thus are served by clothing, which probably developed in the following order—protection, ornamentation (chiefly on sex planes), and modesty.

With the rise of wife capture, the warrior states, and the patriarchal family, man becomes the wooer and woman the wooed. When woman was sought for by male courting and when her restricted sphere of routine work led her to seek variation, she concentrated attention on her clothing

( 163) not primarily from the protective or modesty phases, but for purposes of ornamentation. The more beautiful she could make her appearance, the greater her chances of attracting the competitive glances of suitors, and consequently woman has often assumed a heavy load of sex ornamentation. This burden has weighed her down, wasted her time, and hindered her mental progress.

Among the hereditary leisure classes husbands sometimes encourage their wives; and parents, their daughters; to dress luxuriously—for mere display purposes. By such conspicuous and wasteful consumption of economic goods, husbands and parents are enabled to advertise their wealth.[10] Thereby women are unwisely encouraged to stress ornamentation rather than protection and modesty. There is truth in the assertion that among certain classes man has made woman a clay figure and kept her in a doll's house. The display emphasis, on occasion, reaches such a pitch that considerations of protection and modesty in woman's garb are ignored, while sex attributes are shamelessly flaunted.

So extensively have women of the idle classes given attention to dress (ornament) as distinguished from clothing (protection and modesty), that some women find their supreme enjoyment in surpassing other women in gorgeousness of attire. At an afternoon gathering of leisure class women, each subtly observes how the others are gowned. At a men's club, on the other hand, garb is rarely a subject of interest, while matters of more objective importance, such as business, politics, or sport, engage their attention.

Men have not entirely escaped from the customs of the days when they were the ornamented sex. Kings and courtiers still dress in splendid regalia. The Scotch kilt is a survival of early male embellishments. Members of large fraternal orders indulge yearly or biennially in a reversion to the days of the gorgeous plumage of the male. On such occasions the women are often outdone by the men, but the response of men to dress is collective and results in group uniformity and gorgeousness, whereas the response of women is more individualistic.

Present tendencies in fashions in dress for women raise several distinct problems. i. The question of economic costs is serious when so much stress is laid upon expensive materials, upon having a new gown for every formal occasion, and when styles dart from one extreme to another. The cost of a fashionable woman is beyond computation. It has well been said that a marriage proposal means much more today (when

( 164) a spring or fall hat costs twenty-five dollars each) than formerly (when a young wife wore on her head a shawl which she had made herself and which would last her several years).

2. Fashion's mandates enslave woman. Women are often nonplussed by the search to find that which is at once stylish and becoming. Continued attention to the forms and details of dress consume an immense amount of energy which might well be released in productive mental activities.

3. The rapid shifting in styles and the prestige of the "latest" arbitrarily set aside a becoming style before it has had a chance to be fully appreciated. If the struggle were for increasingly beautiful clothing, it might be worth while, but under commercialism there is no constant gain from year to year in the beauty of dress.

4. The extremes in woman's dress continually verge on the immodest. It is these extremes which attract most attention, and which cast discredit upon the sex. Newspapers give wide publicity to these abnormalities, which without publicity would tend to disappear.

5. Fashion creates illusions. It fosters personal prestige "by creating illusions of size, wealth, success, age, authority.” [11] Its activities are often limited to ringing simple changes upon these few notes. Its shrewdness in thus appealing to vanity is unanalyzed by its subjects.

6. Efforts by women to establish a Dress Reform League have never been far-reaching. Such protection against the tyrannies of fashion in dress is needed, but attempts of this order have proved futile because of woman's lack of experience in organizing, her lack of training in team-work, the differentiation function of dress, the tendency of leaders in dress reform to impose "mannish" styles of clothing upon women, and the failure to get a nation-wide uniformity of opinion.


There are many evidences that in the realm of fashion styles are changing in the United States more rapidly than ever. The pace is hotter owing to better communication, to the spread of a "hustle" civilization, and to the development of inexpensive methods of counterfeiting the costly. With the return of peace in 1918 fashion racing became frenzied. A buyer for a well-known American dry goods house reported to the writer in 1919 that he was unable to buy goods "expensive, extravagant, and wasteful enough" to meet the demands of the wealthy patrons of

( 165) his store. The pace presumably had been set partly by the eighteen thousand new millionaires which were made in our country during the World War.

On the other hand, the opposition to the tyranny of fashion is gaining ground. Not only is there an increasing number of independent voters in our nation, but also enlarging numbers resentful of fashion's absurdities. In the lead are the business woman and the athletic woman, but the former sometimes by her mannishness hurts the cause, and the latter sometimes by her slouchiness and disregard of the esthetic. There are, fortunately, increasing numbers of persons who place worth of character above stylishness and who withal are progressive in spirit, sane in judgment, and who exercise good taste.


1. Intersocial stimulation is composed of suggestion and imitation, of stimulus and response, being expressed in fashion, convention, and custom.

2. Fashion is a new or revived choice in behavior adopted for a brief time by a minority.

3. The desire for new experience and the impulses toward differentiation prompt to fashion; reputability promotes it; fear of social disapproval sanctions it; and a love of freedom and a progressive spirit multiply it.

4. Commercialism exercises almost arbitrary control over many fashions.

5. The fashion process is characterized by pace-setting and pace-following.

6. A craze is a fashion that flourishes as a direct result of excitement and a fad is one borne aloft on the bubble of novelty.

7. Fashion flourishes most in matters of dress, personal adornments, and amusements.


1. Why is fashion based on suggestion as well as on imitation?

2. What is a fashion?

3. Explain the differences between fashion and progress.

4. How is "differentiation"a cause of fashion?

5. Why is the new a basis of fashion?

6. How does reputability aid fashion?


7. Illustrate : the fear of disapproval promotes fashion.

8. How has commercialism captured fashions?

9. Explain fashion racing.

10. Give a new illustration of a craze.

11. Distinguish between crazes and fads.

12. Wherein lies the tyranny of fashion?


1. Is the cash register fashionable? Why?

2. Is it true that nothing is fashionable until it be deformed?

3. Does extensive fashion imitation refine or debase one's tastes?

4. Do you agree that any particular fashion "can never be generally in vogue"?

5. How do you account for the fact that fashions tend to the extreme?

6. Why has Paris been the center from which new fashions in woman's dress have emanated?

7. Are things reckoned beautiful in proportion to their cost?

8. Why is a given fashion often considered beautiful when in style, and unsightly when out of style?

9. Who are the more subject to fashion caprices, the feeling-swayed or the reason-swayed? Why?

10. Explain: "One might as well be dead as out of fashion."

11. Why is the high gloss of a gentleman's high hat considered more beautiful than "a similar high gloss on a thread-bare sleeve?"

12. Who are more responsible for fashion absurdities, the women who wear them or the men who are pleased by them?

13. Do women give particular attention to dress in order to please themselves, other women, or the men?

14. For what different reasons do men buy dress suits and overall suits?

15. Who are to be blamed the more for the waste of fashion, the consumers racing for distinction or the manufacturers and merchants racing for profits?

16. To whom are the fashion shows the greater benefit, the merchant or the consumer?

17. How would you explain the fact that there is less rivalry in consumption of goods "among farmers than among people of corresponding means in the city ?"

18. Why is it easier to save money in the country than in the city?

19. Is it true that the standard of living rises so rapidly with every increase in prosperity "that there is scarcely any let-up in the economic strain"?

20. Who are more susceptible to craze "a hopeful, prosperous people,"or a "hopeless, miserable people"?

21. Why is a dynamic society "more craze ridden" than one that moves along the lines of custom?

22. What are the leading fads in your community at the present time?


Aria, E., "Fashion, Its Survivals and Revivals," Fortnightly Rev., 104: 930-37.

Biggs, A. H., "What Is 'Fashion'?", Nineteenth Cent., XXXIII : 235-46.

Foley, C. H., "Fashion," Econ. Jour., III:478-94.

Howard, G. E., Social Psychology (syllabus, Univ. of Nebraska, 1910), Sec. XI.

Linton, E. L., "The Tyranny of Fashion," Forum, 59-68.

Patrick, G. T. W., "The Psychology of Crazes," Pop. Sci. Mon., LVII: 285-94.

Platt, Charles, The Psychology of Social Life (Dodd, Mead: 1922), Ch. VI.

Ross, E. A., Social Psychology (Macmillan, 1918), Chs. VI, XI.

———, Principles of Sociology (Century, 1920), Ch. LIV.
———, "Acquisitive Mimicry," Amer. Jour. of Sociology, XXI: 443-45.

Shaler, N. S., "The Law of Fashion," Atlantic Mon., LXI : 386-98.

Simmel, George, "Fashion," International Quarterly, X : 130-55.

Tarde, Gabriel, The Laws of Imitation (Holt, 1903), Ch. VII.

Veblen, Thorstein, The Theory of the Leisure Class (Macmillan, 1912), Chs. III, IV, VII.


  1. George Simmel, "Fashion," International Quarterly, X : 133 ff. ; cf. Tarde, Laws of Imitation (Holt, 1903), pp. 244 ff.
  2. Gabriel Tarde was the first Continental writer to set forth the nature of fashion, while E. A. Ross was the first American writer to offer a comprehensive social psychology of fashion (Social Psychology, Macmillan, 1908), Ch. VI.
  3. Some of these factors have been presented by Ross, Social Psychology, Ch. VI.
  4. New Republic, Aug. 16, 1922.
  5. Cf. Hazel Kyrk, A Theory of Consumption (Houghton Mifflin, 1923), p. 110; and P. T. Cherington, The Wool Industry (A. W. Shaw, 1916), pp. 7, 153 ff.
  6. Social Psychology (Macmillan, 1908), pp. 99, 103.
  7. Principles of National Economy (Ginn, 1921), p. 434.
  8. Cf. "Social Psychology of Fads," by the writer, Jour. of Applied Sociology, VIII: 239-243.
  9. George Elliott Howard, History of Matrimonial Institutions, I: 203-208.
  10. T. Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Classes (Macmillan, 1912), Ch. IV.
  11. June E. Downey, Plots and Personalities (Century, 1923), p. 70.

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