Fashion Movement: Principles and Theories

Fashion Movement: Principles and Theories

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India


1. What is Fashion Movement?
As per the fashion is concerned, it involves change, novelty, place, and wearer. Blumer (1969) suggests fashion influence as a process of “collective selection” whereas the development of taste emerge from a group of people responding collectively to the “spirit of the times.” Consider any definition of fashion is simply the relationship between the designed product and how it is distributed and consumed. The movement is defined as the distribution of fashion has, a flow, or trickle from one element of society to another. The merging of influences from center to periphery may be consists of in hierarchical or in horizontal terms, such as the trickle-down, trickle-across, or trickle-up theories.

2. Principles of Fashion Movement

2.1 Consumer acceptance or rejection defines a fashion
It is commonly found that, customers express acceptance by purchasing fashions or reject those fashions by not purchasing. Designers, manufacturers, and retailers can encourage acceptance of particular product but cannot force customers to purchase it.

2.2 Price does not states a fashion acceptance
When the successful styles are introduced at a high price, they are soon copied and made available at various price ranges to the customers. Customers whose purchasing power is not strong, simply wait to purchase when an affordable knockoff is available. Knockoff: A design copied from a more expensive garment. So, it is clear that the price a customer pays for a fashion item does not indicate whether it is fashionable or not.

2.3 Sales promotion does not determine fashion
If customers are not interested, no amount of promotion will change their rejection of the design. Promotion cannot save a fading fashion.

2.4 Fashion movement is evolutionary rather than revolutionary
As per the fashion concerned it evolves gradually rather than changing quickly because consumers generally do not accept drastic, sudden changes. Because of technology the evolutionary process to move faster.

2.5 Fashion extremes cause reversals or abrupt changes
Fashion styles can go only so far in one direction and must eventually change. When fashions reach an extreme in styling, a new and different look will begin.

3. Fashion Movement Theories

3.1 Trickle Down

  • It is one of the oldest theories, described by Veblen in 1899.
  • This trickle-down movement depends upon a ranked society and looking for upward mobility among the various social strata.
  • In this theory, a particular style or fashion is first presented and adopted by people at the top part of society and then gradually becomes accepted by those lower in the strata (Veblen; Simmel; Laver).
  • This distribution theory presume a social hierarchy in which people seek to identify with the wealthy and those at the top seek both distinction and, eventually, distance from those socially below them.
  • Fashion is considered as a vehicle of prominent consumption and upward mobility for those seeking to copy styles of style.
  • The affluent reject that look for another, once fashion is adopted by those below.
  • Here, the elite class differentiated itself through fashion; the lower classes copied the look, because of which elite class adopting another look to maintain the social differentiation.
  • It is seen that the styles spread slowly downwards through the class structures but never reached all levels.
  • In modern times, it is found that the new, highly visible class comprises those in positions of power in business, politics and media. There is a directional change in the way in which trendy fashions from the fashion capitals of Paris, London, Milan and New York are utilized until more affordable versions of these styles become available to the consumers.
Trickle Down theory
Figure 1: Trickle Down Theory (Courtesy: Glamobserver)
Trickle down fashion
Figure 2: Trickle down fashion

3.2 Trickle Across

  1. This theory claims that fashion moves horizontally between groups on similar social levels (King; Robinson).
  2. In the trickle-across theory, the lag time between adoptions from one group to another is very less.
  3. Evidence for this theory happens, when designers show a particular style simultaneously at prices ranging from the high end to lower end consumer.
  4. While supporting trickle-across theory, Robinson (1958) states that any social group takes its sign from contiguous groups in the social stratum.
  5. He presented reasons for this pattern of distribution, such as rapid mass communications, promotional efforts of manufacturers and retailers, etc.
  6. This theory is sometimes also, called the Simultaneous Adoption theory in a horizontal flow.
  7. In today’s world, there are many influences and simultaneous ways in which modern communications bring fashion and style from around the world into the homes almost instantly.
  8. Various different markets have developed to deal with different ages, lifestyles and tastes. Designers and brands reach out to their respective target market segments, each with its specific price points and offer them customization in garment.
  9. The fast fashion chains are closer to the target visualized by the trickle-across theory because of their quick approach to market, mass production processes that speeded up the process of moving fashion ideas from the runway to the store.
  10. Because of this, it is possible for different styles to trickle across for wider acceptance at the same time.
Trickle across fashion
Figure 3: Trickle across fashion

3.3 Trickle Up

  • The newest of the fashion movement theories is trickle-up or bubble-up pattern.
  • In this theory the design or style is initiated from the street, and adopted from lower income groups.
  • The innovation eventually flows from lower income groups to upper-income groups; thus the movement is from the bottom up.
  • Examples of the trickle-up theory of fashion distribution are a very early proponent, Chanel, who stated that fashion ideas are generally originated from the streets and then were adopted by couture designers.
  • Many of the ideas she followed were motivated by her perception of the needs of women for functional and comfortable dress.
  • After the World War II the young discovered Army/Navy surplus stores and began to use pea jackets and khaki pants. Another category of garments includes, the T-shirt, initially worn by laborers as a functional and practical undergarment has since been adopted universally as a casual outer garment and a message board.
  • In the 1960s Youthquake decade, the older generation adopted the styles such as bright shirts, polka-dot ties, sportscoats and jeans which had been pioneered by teenagers and the young.
  • Designers and manufacturers found innovative concepts in street style. In the 1990s, street fashion was transported to the high fashion ramp with the transformation of the humble safety pin into a oversized glamorous decorative detail in Gianni Versace s famous Safety pin Dress.
Trickle up fashion
Figure 4: Trickle up fashion
4. Conclusion
In today’s era, fashion is not just limited to a set of trends but a social process, a way of behaving that a noticeable proportion of a social group temporarily accepts the fashion and which is perceived to be socially correct for a particular time and situation. This point is mainly important, since something that might be considered fashionable for one situation (e.g., a class lecture) might not be fashionable in another (e.g., a business office), and in this manner the fashion changes and move from one group to another.

5. References

  1. Theories of fashion, By Marilyn Revell DeLong,
  2. A rebuttal to the “trickle-down” theory. In S A. Greyser (Ed.), Towards Scientific Marketing (pp. 108–125). Chicago: American Marketing Association.
  3. , A. (2012). Fashion as a dynamic process. In S. A. Miller-Spillman, A. Reilly, & P. Hunt-Hurst (Eds.), The meanings of dress (pp. 43-51). London: Bloomsbury.
  4. 5 Principles of the fashion movement,
  5. Dress, Appearance and Diversity in US Society,
  6. Theories of Fashion Adoption,

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