In the recent movie The Devil Wears Prada, the editor of a powerful fashion magazine puts the concept of fashion in interesting terms while trying to point out the relevance of fashion even to those who claim to be the most unfashionable:
"'Stuff' Oh, OK.
It's not turquoise. It's actually cerulean. You're also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St. Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets And then cerulean quickly showed up in collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs, so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry, when, in fact, you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room ... from a pile of 'stuff.'" (The Devil Wears Prada)
This harangue neatly sums up what we call the trickle-down theory of fashion, where a look or style begins at the top of the society or in the hands of the visionary designers, who decide what would be worn by people for the next season as the ultimate in up-to-the-minute trends. Fashion is literally supposed to percolate down from the top, and to be unquestioningly adopted by the bottom as the sermon from the high lords and ladies of fashion.
'Most sociological analyses of clothing and fashion, classical ones in particular, have stressed consumption over production. ...