Not-so-Hidden Meaning; What Celeb Clothes Strive to Say

‘Fame and Fortune’ are two well-known traits of most celebrities today in American culture. A celebrity is a person who has a prominent profile, commands public interest, and has a major influence on social media/news sites. Fashion and trends are driven by social needs, in which the upper, social celebrity class determines what fashion trend is desirable for the current season. In turn, others use their wealth to emulate celebrities, so they can be associated with them and their social class. While many celebrities are not very accessible to the public, numerous celebs have created their own clothing and/or jewelry line to be more accessible through their designs, allowing for their fans to feel more connected with them. Another form of celebrities are bloggers: who observe and set fashion trends and have many online followers/readers, but tend to be more accessible to their readers because they are available to converse with their readers. The social hierarchy is visible through celebrities who influence fashion trends; this depicts social groups based on celebrities at the top controlling people at the bottom through status of high-end fashion items.

Fashion has the capability of uniting people of a social status and segregating those from others. Thus, celebrities are able to use their high social status and influence the world of fashion. As Georg Simmel discussed in his article “Fashion,” “Fashion is a form of imitation and so of social equalization, but, paradoxically, in changing incessantly, it differentiates one time from another and one social stratum from another. It unites those of a social class and segregates them from others” (Simmel, p. 541). Simmel’s discussion of uniting social classes based on their fashion sense, can be understood when taking a peak into famous, reality star Khloe Kardashian-Odom’s closet, chock full of designer heels.

Khloe Kardashian's Shoe Closet

Khloe Kardashian-Odom’s Shoe Closet

Most of which are the famous red-soled Christian Louboutins, while others consist of Prada, Fendi, and Nicholas Kirkwood designs.

In keeping with Simmel, other women who own and wear Christian Louboutins, along with other high-end designer shoes, can be seen (from an outsider’s perspective) and associate in the same social class. Most celebrities hold the same social status and are wealthy individuals who hold a lot of attention by the public. Khloe Kardashian-Odom, a proven high-status celeb has been constantly spotted on the blog In Her Closet: Celebrity Wardrobes Demystified! Most recently, on March 29, 2013, Kardashian-Odom was seen wearing Karen Walker Super Duper Strength Sunglasses, worth $280, along with mainstream pop artist Rihanna, and style blogger of Atlantic-Pacific, Blair Eadie.

Karen Walker Sunglasses

Karen Walker Sunglasses

Khloe Kardashian-Odom and her peers prove they are of the same social class because they have the means to afford these sunglasses, and the social status to impart their fashion sense on their fans. This can be understood because this article gives four alternatives, if one wants to emulate these fashionable ladies’ style without the heavy price tag. Similar style shades range between $6.95 on Amazon to $26.60 on ASOS.

Celebrities have created a fashion trend, take the sunglasses for instance, once the masses catch on and try to replicate it, this is when celebs change their style. If everyone is wearing the same outfit or style, then the social hierarchy is diminished. To maintain a high status, “the elite initiates a fashion and, when the mass imitates it in an effort to obliterate the external distinctions of class, abandons it for a newer mode-a process that quickens with the increase of wealth” (Simmel, p. 541). Celebs will change their style so they never would be misconstrued as to represent the masses. They keep their trends ahead of the masses, so they can be admired, but by the time we catch on and try to emulate them, they are already onto the next trend. Celebs are always one step ahead of all people beneath their social class.

Similar to In her Closet, another site, OufitID, allows anyone to send in a question they have about a look they recently spotted a celeb wearing. OutfitID will respond quickly by reposting the original question, a picture of the celeb in the outfit in question, and answer the question that was posed. On April 15, 2013, a post was made of Jessica Alba, who was spotted on April 13, wearing sunglasses, a jean jacket, and a maxi skirt. The inquisitor asked who made her skirt and sunglasses. Usually the site’s authors will respond with details of the designers and links to the particular item in question.

Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba

In regards to Alba’s skirt, the author knew it was from the designer Show Me Your Mumu, but they could not find a site in which to purchase the exact same skirt. However, they did find and set up links to purchase the same material and pattern of the skirt, but in different clothing styles. For instance, there are links to a shirt, dress, and pants, all by the same designer made out of the exact same fabric. But, there were no links to the same skirt that Jessica Alba was wearing. With my knowledge of this site, this tends to happen a lot, in which celebs will wear certain clothing items, and the site will only know the designer of the item. Many times, the site’s authors will be able to find numerous items in question in a similar style, different color, and/or similar fabric. This leads one to believe that celebs are always ahead of the curve, forcing people to adopt their styles, but never being truly obtainable.

Numerous celebs have partnerships and relationships with luxury brands, which may allow them to obtain certain clothes that are on trend for the season, and match what is in the store, and yet a little different so the masses can never truly emulate them, regardless of how much money they have. In this regard, status of celebs outplays wealth. Dr. Alice Marwick, author of “Conspicuous and Authentic: Fashion Blogs, Style, and Consumption” wrote:

“But consider the celebrity relationship with a luxury brand. Celebrities are valuable commodities for brands as their endorsement can create trends and spur sales. …Very few people will actually see Angelina Jolie wearing a Versace dress at the Oscars. However, millions will see pictures and videos of the event, making the outcome of this act of consumption extremely conspicuous.” (Marwick, p. 4)

Angelina Jolie at the Oscars in Versace

Angelina Jolie at the Oscars in Versace

Marwick is proving the point that celebrities can alone create trends, and as a result create a lot of business for a certain brand, or any other company that is creating the same look celebs were seen wearing. Having a high status position in society will allow for this. Celebrities are the most sought-after people because they are so famous; and cyclically, they are famous because they are sought-after.  This is partially because their enormous public expose allows for them to be seen by millions of people in movies and on social media sites, but also because they are stylish people who everyone else wants to be like.

Readers and fans see celebs sporting new trends, and donning high status items (very casually too, as if it is not a big deal their bag is worth thousands of dollars!). Fans are also likely to assume that some products celebs wear were obtained because of their high social status, which causes designers to want celebs to wear their designs, or because they are so wealthy it is easy for them to afford such an exorbitantly priced item.

Hermes Birkin Bags

Hermes Birkin Bags

Take the Hermès Birkin Bag for instance, countless A-list celebs have this pricey handbag, which ranges between $9,000 to $150,000 depending on the material used (IxLuxury). Aside from the pice, these bags are hard to come by because they are distributed to Hermès boutique shops on unpredictable schedules and in limited quantities (IxLuxury). Plenty of celebs have this bag, adding fuel to the fire that celebrities create their own trends that are too expensive and exclusive for the general public.

Celebrities have the means to afford trends that usually reach beyond the pockets of most other people. According to the article, “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence” by Young Han, “The rich were not just wealthier; they were “better.” They merited their success, and as such, affluence increasingly became a marker of social status. Wealth and social status have been inextricably linked ever since.” (Han, p. 18) In his article, Han proves that status and wealth are two characteristics that go hand-in-hand with one another; likewise, celebrities and their ability to create and maintain social hierarchy through fashion are also intertwined.

As Georg Simmel so eloquently states, “Fashion does not exist in tribal and classless societies” (Simmel, p. 541). In America, fashion trends are created and determined by people who have a high social status, and a large budget. Fashion exists in our world, but it is decided solely by the elite.

Works Cited:

“ELLE & The Coveteur: Khloe Kardashian.” ELLE & The Coveteur. 13 Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.<http://www.elle.com/fashion/spotlight/elle-the-coveteur-khloe-kardashian-561000? click=main_sr>.

Han, Yong J., Joseph C. Nunes, and Xavier Drèze. “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence.” Journal of Marketing. Vol. 74, July 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

“Hermes Birkin Bag — IxLuxury.” IxLuxury. N.p., 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http:// ixluxury.com/?p=4786>.

Irina. “Real vs. Steal – Karen Walker Super Duper Strength Sunglasses.” In Their Closet. N.p., 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://intheircloset.com/karen-walker-super-duper- strength-sunglasses>.

King, Joyann. “Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace.” Harper’s BAZAAR. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-articles/angelina-jolie-atelier- versace-oscars-fashion-2012>.

Marwick, Alice. “Conspicuous and Authentic: Fashion Blogs, Style, and Consumption.”Tiara.org. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.tiara.org/ papers.html>.

Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” Chicago Journals (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 62. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1957. 541-58. Print. Ser. 6.

“Who Made Jessica Alba’s Sunglasses, and Print Maxi Skirt That She Wore on April 12, 2013?” OutfitID. Identify Celebrity Fashion, 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http:// outfitid.com/>.

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