Fashion has rarely enjoyed a very good reputation. Despite its undeniable success as a social and commercial phenomenon, it remains the very exemplum of superficiality, frivolity and vanity. The discourse on fashion assumes the philosophical form of a critique of mere appearances, the cultural-theoretical form of a critique of the market-economy, or the traditional form of a critique of sexual morality; but there seems to be no possibility of a serious concern with the subject that would proceed otherwise than in the mode of critique.
Glittering and blinding, fashion draws attention away from the substance of things. It is the very personification of the individual alienated in the rush of consumption, of the self lost in the brilliant world of commodities. Irrational, capricious, fickle, unpredictable, fashion makes its entrance every season anew, with all the power of seduction of a moody sovereign, certain of conquering.
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The incarnation of all vanity in the world, it carries with it the odor di femmina, of which Don Giovanni sings. The philosophers and the sociologists take it up only in order to denounce it or, at best, contemplate it with a wry and distanced amusement.The discourse on fashion is constructed by the correlation of three major conceptual articulations: the division of being and mere appearance; the division of the sexes; and – inseparably linked to the latter – the division of the classes.