Explain fashion to the clueless.

Inevitable spinoff of this thread.

It’s laden with remarks like “those low-cut jeans that are in right now,” “those hippy blouses that are in right now,” etc etc.

So how are these trends dictated? By what’s on the runways right now? What’s in the department stores right now? By what everyone’s wearing right now?

If the rule is “what everyone’s wearing right now is in,” then doesn’t it vary by region and locale? For example, I just lived through a Wisconsin winter (we’re alive! we’re alive! hahahaha!) and didn’t see anyone wearing gauzy, flimsy blouses these past few months.

I like to imagine that I’m clothing- and style-conscious, but I’m unable to figure it out: How’s this whole “fashion” thing work, anyway?

Ha, and I forget to cut and paste.

This thread. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s&threadid=164518


Here are my rules, and they never fail.

  1. Levis jeans match everything.

  2. Black shoes = black belt

  3. Brown shoes = brown belt

  4. Tennis shoes = no belt

I, apparently, have a lot of issues with my belts and my shoes.

Good luck, go forth, and provide no more fodder for the secret fashion police.

“Fashion” as far the runway/GQ end of it goes mystifies me… but here are some fashion memos everone should have recieved by now:

  1. Never wear socks with sandals
  2. Everyone knows you have a combover
  3. No one should wear a sweater that Bill Cosby would wear
  4. Long hair for men is requires that you have some on the front/top of your head too
  5. Facial hair is for people who can grow facial hair (unless you are a lady)
  6. As for the ladies… that pants under a dress thing has to go (come on… one or the other)
  7. If you can tuck your tie into your pants there is something wrong with the length of your tie or height of your pants.
  8. Do not tuck your t-shirt into your shorts
    That’s all I know.

Not what’s on the runways, although that may have some impact on everything eventually. For me, though, it’s just a feeling thing. You’re looking for what looks good, you see something, you buy it, and in my case, it’s fashionable. I don’t need to think about what is fashionable, I just am.

I guess than, that it is a combination of what other people are wearing, what’s in stores and how people feel. But in my case, and I’m assuming the case of other people who are instinctively fashionable, I don’t have to go looking. I just know.

(I really don’t mean to sound conceited by saying that I’m fashionable. I just know that I dress well. Which does sound conceited. But… damn. Oh, and I’m not an airhead. I read Shakespeare! I enjoy legitimate the-a-tre!)

It’s my understanding that a lot of the fashions that are worn today are determined by what we see on TV, specifically MTV. Much as I may not like it, fashions are set there.

Those idiotic girls shirts with one arm missing? First seen on J-Lo, if memory serves.

Baggy pants and your boxers poking out? Rap videos.

Skater fashions being worn by non-skaters? Punk fashions (of a sort) worn by non punk folks? Goth clothes? All influenced by MTV and a small selection of movies and TV.

The fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York are all pretty much just make believe… most of the fashions that I’ve seen at those shows are not only impreactical, but many of them are downright unwearable in real life.

Some “wearable” fashion is inspired by the designers. Marc Jacobs does a peasant/boho show, and next Spring everyone is wearing their mother’s old hippy gear or buying it new at the shops. There are fashion editors who decipher trends in various fashion shows and tell us that next season, X will be the new Y, and fashion buyers (eg. for department stores) who purchase X or find people that will make X cheaply for them.

Whoops, I posted a bit prematurely there!

I’d agree that what is seen on the runways doesn’t really register with the public - women aren’t going to suddenly wear nipple-showing shirts just because some designer tells them to. But often what’s shown on the runways is really an exaggerated form of the designer’s ideas, to get the “theme” across if you will, and it’s softened down for ready to wear lines.

I am not very fashionable, in that I don’t own a pair of Capris and I’ve only recently started buying backless shoes. (For me, they have to look pretty and strappy, not those ugly black bedroom slipper things. YMMV.)

I work in a business environment, so I can’t go to work wearing jeans cut so low you can see the shape and color of my thong. Not that I would anyway. For me, fashion is being clean and comfortable and attractive and professional. I think truly attractive clothing never goes out of style.

ivylass: Absolutely right.

My advice:

  1. Black is indispensable.
  2. If you are tucking a shirt in, make sure you are wearing the right jeans for it.
  3. And if you are, wear a black belt
  4. Jeans match everything.
  5. Low-cut jeans only work if the shirt is down far enough to cover up all the times your underwear shows. Personally, I never wear them.
  6. If you are wearing baggy jeans (which I wear a lot) wear good shoes. Preferably boot-style. Sandals = no.
  7. Baggy jeans also need the right shirt. A solid-colored tight shirt would work, but a peasant blouse would not.
  8. Plain turtlenecks = no. Colorful soft sweater turtlenecks = yes!
    And the most important advice:
  9. Go with what you like and what’s comfortable. If you can wear it all day, un-selfconsciously, without constant readjusting, and it matches and fits, it LOOKS GOOD.
  10. And if it does LOOK GOOD, wear it without caring whether all the other girls (or boys) are wearing the same sort of thing. Following trends that never last won’t get you anything but a wardrobe that you’ll never be able to wear again.

9 and 10 is what I follow the most. That’s IThinkNot fashion for you. :slight_smile:

Lindsay’s Rules of Fashion (for girls):

  1. Tight pants need a tight shirt. If you wear tight pants with a giant baggy shirt, you will look terrible. However, your shirt should cover your belly.

  2. Baggy pants need either a tight shirt or a loose shirt that has some shape. You will look like a guy if you wear huge baggy pants with a giant shapeless shirt.

  3. Do not wear sneakers with your nice skirt. Wear nice shoes and stockings. Sneakers are fine for a denim skirt or a sporty one, but not one you would wear to a nice restaurant.

  4. Those jeans that have bleached spots on your butt and thighs? Don’t buy them. If you your legs are not chicken leg skinny, they will just make them look even bigger. And they’re just plain ugly, anyway.

  5. Take the tags off your clothes. You are not that old lady off of “Hee Haw.” (Minnie Pearl?)

  6. If you are trying to look feminine, it doesn’t work to wear a huge bling bling chain with a bigass pendant on it.

  7. I realize that sometimes it is impossible to stop your pants from having a gap at the back, but investing in a nice belt will help cut down on these times.

  8. Sweatpants are ugly, and even if J.Lo can pull it off, you can’t.

I believe this is Dao’s actual question, although this seems to have turned into a “Offer your fashion tips” thread.

Anyway, like any other kind of trend, fashion trends are dictated in part by what consumers demand and in part by what the producers are offering. A good way to see what current mainstream trends are is to look at the department store racks; those are the clothes being offered for sale, so if people want new clothes that’s probably what they’re going to get.

The world of high fashion is different. Paying attention to the runways and what the top designers are up to can be helpful in following trends there, but such things have little direct impact on what clothes ordinary people buy.

“What everyone’s wearing right now” can be helpful but not always that helpful if you’re curious about widespread, rather than local, trends. As you pointed out, “what everyone’s wearing right now” is affected by local weather conditions, not to mention income level and access to fashion media/shops selling the “latest styles”. Fashion trends that begin in urban areas can take a year or more to reach smaller towns, and may never hit some rural areas at all.

What if trends are started by the “common person” who gets seen on the street by the “trendy designer.” What if all trends are started by a cool person seeing and uncool person and liking what they were wearing. If a trend has to come from somewhere and it most likely comes from designers and the like, where do they get their ideas. Wouldn’t they be the trendy fashionable one?

Trends have to change b/c once everyone is doing or wearing it, it is no longer trendy. So then would’t the “untrendy” person with a really bad fashion sense be a almost a step ahead instead of a step behind?

Or am I just trying to make myself feel better? :dubious:

The designers pretend like they control fashion trends, but they only copy what fashionable people are already wearing. Basically, fashion is decided by the people downstairs from me. Seriously. People in New York are much more aware of what they wear because they spend all their time walking around checking each other out. Trends spread like wildfire. Then there are the small-scale designers who manage to scrape together their own boutiques, thereby reinforcing the street trends. Eventually this gets picked up by the bigger designers who bring clothes to your local department store.

Generally, New York’s behind Europe, though there is some cross-pollination there.

Kind of, but not really. Designers do co-opt what people on the streets are wearing, leading to a never ending circle of fashion (I feel like Quinn from Daria right now) but they’re only going to be taking stuff from people who know how to dress.

And this is the important thing. There is a difference between knowing how to dress well, and dressing fashionably. Both can lead to good results, but one who knows how to dress well doesn’t have to be wearing the latest fashions to look good.

A lot of people whose clothes look terrible don’t look bad because they’re not wearing the latest trends, they look bad because they’re not thinking about the clothes they wear, and they’re just not dressing well. I know people who spend $10 on an outfit, and because they know how to dress well, they look good.

So, no, untrendy people aren’t going to be influencing fashions any time. But people who can dress well, but aren’t necessarily wearing the latest fashion can.

For instance, the theory about the eighties revival:

Poor uni student goes to op shop looking for clothes. Finds cheaps stuff from the eighties, buys it, looks good. Big designer notices, sells imitation for $100.

Oh, and I also disagree with this:

Trends have to change b/c once everyone is doing or wearing it, it is no longer trendy.

Trends change because people become interested in different things and like different things. There’s no concious decision to become different, only an adapted change.

So, how does one ‘dress well’?

But why is Europe the place where fashion trends are decided. What if they’re not correct or good trends. Who gave them the title of supreme fashion guru of the world? After Europe or even NeW York picks a trend, who then agrees to it, or decides that it is a fashionable trend. I’m not just asking to further the thread, but I think I really don’t know why a trend is determined in a certain place or by certain people. Can one person, or a small griop of people really be that much more fashion conscience than others?

Fashion is an artificial construct to enforce conformity. No one ever expressed their individuality by adhering to current fashion. Wear what you are comfortable in, and quit looking at other people.

I have to believe that a change in interests is a conscience decision on at least some level.

Not that I am trying to get off the OP but I guess the main question that I am trying to have answered is: If trends are established by those who are considered to be trendy, then trends continue to be to be set by someone simply b/c that person is trendy. I guess what I’m getting at is…who decides? How do we know if that person is right or not b/c they seem to be the ultimate factor in the decision at hand.

For the sake of discussion I’m going to get a little off the topic to give an example. I have spent a good time studying the work of Andy Warhol and it has been determined that he was famous and continued to be famous because he was famous…am I making any sense with that. Well, he never touched any of his work with his own two hands (he had a team of assistants who did all of his dirty work for him) so he basically decided what color to change the can of Cambells soup to. His work continued to be trendy because it was his. He was a pop icon and therefore all of his work was trend setting in the pop culture.

So then, how is this different than clothing? If there is a person in clothing industry with the same type of iconic status as Warhol (Ralph Lauren, Hilfiger, Calvin Klien) sp? isn’t “trendy” all relative to who is picking it?

By dressing in colors and styles that look well on you and are appropriate to the situation. A person who dresses “trendy” or “fashionably” would wear a blaze orange bodysuit if that were the latest trend, no matter how hideous it looked on them (and it would be hideous on most people), but a person who “dresses well” would ignore this trend and dress in something more flattering.

What on earth are you talking about? “Correct or good trends”? It’s just fashion. There’s not some sort of moral system behind it. If blaze orange bodysuits were to come in then there’s no way that could be “incorrect”, and it could only be considered “bad” because it would be a trend that would make most people look unattractive.

You’re making this far more complicated than it needs to be. If all the stores are selling blaze orange bodysuits then some people are going to buy them. Ta-dah! We have a trend of blaze orange bodysuits. Of course, since there is little to love about blaze orange bodysuits and they are going to look terrible on most people, there probably won’t be a lot of people buying them. Unless a popular singer takes to wearing blaze orange bodysuits, or there’s a sudden rise in accidental shootings during deer season, this probably won’t be a trend that spreads very far or lasts long. So the designers will come up with something new, and if they’re lucky their new thing will go over better with the public and become a major trend. Then they can sell lots of clothes and make lots of money.