A reader recently asked, “Who decides what is fashionable?” The answer to that question is simple: We decide what is fashionable. As consumers, we determine whether a style is accepted. If we wear a new design and it gathers popularity, it may become fashionable. If we leave it hanging on the rack at the department store, it will eventually go away.
To better understand how a new style becomes an accepted fashion we must know the difference between the terms “classic” and “fad.”
A classic fashion is a style that lasts for several seasons, sometimes even years, and is accepted by a wide range of people. Classics are those styles that you don’t even have to think about. You just know they will be acceptable from one year to the next.
Running shoes are a good example of a classic style. Even people who have no intention of ever running own running shoes. Granted, the details may change from one season to the next, but the basic design remains the same.
A simple black dress, a worsted wool suit, a leather bomber jacket - these are all classic fashions that repeat themselves year after year.
A fad, on the other hand, is a design that lasts only one season, or sometimes even less than a season. Fads tend to be at the extreme end of a design.
Chartreuse, a bright green-yellow color, is a fad that raises its ugly head about every 10 years but never quite makes it into the mainstream.
One reason fads come and go so quickly is they appeal to a very small number of people. There are only a few brave souls who can wear chartreuse and not look like they are on their way to a Halloween party.
Other fads from the past that never quite made it into general acceptance include platform shoes, leather pants and paper dresses.
So you see, there isn’t a group of clothing designers secretly meeting in a smoke-filled back room in Paris deciding what will be fashionable next season. We decide what will or will not be accepted by voting with our hard-earned dollars when we go shopping.
MEMO: Shanna Southern Peterson is a Spokane writer and home economist. The Clothesline appears weekly. Ideas for the column may be sent to her c/o The Spokesman-Review Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.
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