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Why do people follow fashion trends?




Female model with bleach blonde hair in a fashionable styleAs part of our series of posts exploring a “question-centered” teaching approach, we asked Rebecca Arnold, author of Fashion: A Very Short Introduction, to give us her thoughts on the above question, featured in the new course Q Skills for Success.

Hello, I’m Rebecca, and I’m a London-based fashion historian. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about why people follow fashions, and it seems to be a contradictory mix of impulses and emotions.

Desire and anxiety are at the heart of this. We’re drawn to the new and novel, to things that provide a feeling of change, and, perhaps, progress. We also want to belong – to be part of something recognizable – and there is no more obvious way to demonstrate this than through your clothes. A new outfit that fits with what magazines and advertisements are promoting can be really pleasurable to buy and wear. It can give you a new identity, even if it’s only for one night.

The flip side of these desires is anxiety – about not fitting in, not being up-to-date, and being an outsider. The international fashion industry plays on these negative feelings, to make people feel they must keep up with new trends and keep shopping.

But do you view trend following differently according to the goods being bought? Do you judge someone who has bought the latest Louis Vuitton handbag in the same way as someone who has bought an iPad?

Find out how you can use questions like “Why do people follow fashion trends?” in class.


Dr Rebecca Arnold is Oak Foundation Lecturer in the History of Dress and Textiles at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, UK. She is the author of Fashion: A Very Short Introduction (OUP).

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  1. In our modern world people do not questioning when they buying something new?If you have money you can buy whatever you like but if you dont have you can only wear from a shop of your town.I do not like to idea to look fit/shaped coz the society like to see me shaped! Also I dont have too much money to afford all these trends…

    Why dont they produce affordable clothes for eveyone?

    Regretfully, we force by the international fashion industry, in order to keep up new trends actually we like to make them earn.

    However the question should be asked by us to ourself which why do we let the people to decide on behalf us.



  2. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people on this subject,
    however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

  3. Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Justt wanted to sayy I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Keep up the excellent work!

  4. […] On Oxford University Press, Rebecca Arnold speaks about why people follow fashion trends. One of these reasons was that people want to be a part of something which is recognisable, to have an identity. This is a similar reason to why I like fashion so much. I want to be seen in a way that depicts the person that I am and the way that I dress should give an indication to who I am and what types of people I situate myself with. […]

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