Blog 3: Simmel on Fashion

In Fashion (1904), Georg Simmel addresses how the concept of fashion is “the imitation of a given example and satisfies the demand for social adaptation” that “leads the individual upon the road which all travel, [and] furnishes a general condition, which resolves the conduct of every individual into a mere example” (307). As a society, we tend to look towards fashion as an aspect of social life that is built on the coupling of opposites which allows personal values to be expressed at the same time as norms are followed. We usually conform to the latest in designer wear as a means to aid us with social interactions, as we look towards various groups of people who share common interests in how to conceive a particular form of fashion. Modern individuals who are considered eccentric for not wearing the major name brands may feel pressured to buy the latest fashion trends in their efforts to be with the “in” crowd, become accepted by their society, and not feel detached from traditional anchors of social support. However, there always comes a point when society feels that their acceptance of a fashion is “out of style” and decide to deviate from it, which eventually leads to the ultimate abandonment/failure of this acceptance in order to make way for the establishment of a new taste in fashion.

In the 2012 film The Hunger Games, fashion is a very important aspect for the wealthy citizens of the Capitol, as their outlandish and colorful designer wear exemplifies how they live more lavish and wonderful lives than the citizens of the poor districts. It is also very common for them to tattoo/dye their bodies with bright colors, frequently wear wigs in a multitude of colors, and undergo plastic surgery to alter their appearances; some even go as far to have gems implanted in their skin. With the rise of developing fashion in the Capital, the citizens are able to signal or express their own personality or personal values, and the city intensifies a multiplicity of social relations and increases the rate of social mobility. The district citizens, however, view the people of the Capitol as alien, odd, and distrustful, and despise them and their various tastes in fashion. While being conscious of the fashions of the upper class, these individuals from lower strata formed traditional and small circle settings in which they view fashion as unnecessary and not have any meaning.

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2 responses to “Blog 3: Simmel on Fashion

  1. Your example of style and fashion in The Hunger Games is a great one to bring up, especially when examining Simmel’s point that oftentimes fashionable clothing items have no practical value. The garish and outlandish shapes and colors of the Capitol clothing serves no purpose other than to catch someone’s eye, what one might call “peacocking.” Although in truth, an actual peacock engages in this namesake practice in order to find a mate, a much more useful function. Additionally, the abhorrence that the citizens of the other districts have for the Capitol manner of dress and the way they respond to it presents a vastly different relationship situation between the upper and lower classes than the one Simmel discusses when writing about his conception of “fashion.”

  2. Fascinating post, potent visual. Now I have another reason to finally see “Hunger Games” From what you describe, fashion seems to play an especially strong role in social stratification in this fictional society. The influence of fashion is even evident in the practices of district citizens, who reject it. As Simmel notes:

    “If obedience to fashion consists in imitation of such an example, conscious neglect of fashion represents similar imitation, but under an inverse sign. The latter, however, furnishes just as fair testimony of the power of the social tendency, which demands our dependence in some positive or negative manner” (p. 331).

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