Simmel on fashion

Georg Simmel's treatise on fashion as a social system was fascinating for its comprehensive understanding of the various mechanisms that create the dynamic flow between the elite and the mass, rooted in imitation. Simmel's definition of imitation is wonderful:
"We might define it as the child of thought and thoughtlessness. It affords the pregnant possibility of continually extending the greatest creations of the human spirit, without the aid of the forces which were originally the very condition of their birth."
It is this ability to access an original invention that intrigues me about fashion, or any other meme for that matter; that we can appropriate and disseminate an idea without needing to start from scratch. Fashion or memes take hold and move through whatever medium in which they live.

On the other hand, it makes me sad that much of the imitative dynamic is rooted in class hierarchy. Fashion as a means of expression is a pure endeavor, but the truth of Simmel's analysis is that without this hierarchy there can be no fashion as we know it. His example of 14th-century Venetian nobles illustrates this point; they dressed in a way to maintain a low profile, lest they be discovered by the populace at large. This, however, ran contrary to the "visible differentiation from the lower classes" necessary for the propagation of fashion.

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