Conspicuous consumption: the lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth as a means of attaining or maintaining social status.
The term “conspicous consumption” was coined by economist Thorstein Veblen back in 1899 when he wrote the “Theory of the Leisure Class”. In that thesis, Veblen explains that the excessive spending habits of the leisure class were directly tied to their desire for social esteem. Living in a wealth-based status-system it wasn’t enough to simply have money, you had to show it – be conspicuous about it.
Although Veblen was really the first to “name” the habit, it actually dates back much, much further. Conspicuous consumption has been present for a millenia, but there are certain events that have spurred excessive conspicuous consumption throughout history.
Increased international trade during the Renaissance resulted in a massive jump in imported fashion, food and luxury goods. The increased availability of these goods, of course, led to excessive consumption. By the 14th century many European governments had instituted sumptuary laws in an effort to curb this. In theory, these laws were in place so encourage restraint in spending and to help boost the economy. However, the laws also dictated how someone should dress based on their rank and status. It was an effort to stop commoners who had made money from dressing “above their station” and jumping to a higher class.
|Okay, not the same type of Sumptuary, but I liked the photo!|
Over the years, increased advertising spending has also significantly impacted conspicuous consumption. According to Richard Robbins’ “Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism“, the goal of the advertisers was to “aggressively shape consumer desires and create value in commodities by imbuing them with the power to transform the consumer into a more desirable person.” And advertise they did.
According to statistics, in 1880 only $30 million was invested in advertising in the United States. By 1950, national spending on advertising had risen to $5.7 billion. The discovery of the advertising potential of television doubled annual spending to $12 million by 1960. By the 1970′s that figure reached $72 billion worldwide and $38 billion U.S.!
|Would you buy from this shady group of people?|
|Ohhh yes. I’d buy whatever you’re selling, sir.|
Now, on to today’s questions:
- Do you think fashion blogs are often just conspicuous consumption? Are some? Yes and no. I believe that there are some fashion blogs out there, yes, that only promote conspicuous consumption. Blogs that are essentially advertisments for certain products promote this. Bloggers that encourage never wearing an item of clothing or shoes twice promote this. Blogs that have no editorial content and exclusively feature the latest “it” items promote this. Those blogs do exist, but, they are also few and far between. In my opinion they are also narcissistic and simply a walking advertisment. I believe that the majority of fashion bloggers stay away from this type of behavior. Sure, we are all (likely) guilty of promoting some consumption. I know I am. However, we are all consumers. If you wear clothing you are a consumer. But we can chose HOW we consume. I believe conscious consumerisim is OK. Excessive consumerisim is not.
Fashion bloggers have responsibility to balance any consumerisim they promote with ways to offset their environmental impact. Many do this by promoting vintage and thrift shopping. Many promote DIYs. Many promote repurposing or refashioning clothing. Many challenge themselves to wear what they alraedy have in new and unique ways. Many promote self-imposed buying bans. Many promote cleaning out your closet and donating unused items to charity. Many swap clothing. Some promote green lines like Stella McCartney and edun. I think the majority of bloggers engage in some of these behaviors and stay away from promoting conspicuous consumption.
Furthermore, I often wonder which blog is considered to be more conspicuous – the one promoting F21 items, or the one promoting Chanel, D&G, Marc Jacobs, etc.? The items on the F21 blog will certainly cost less. However, the items on the luxury blog will last much, much longer. Which one is then promoting more conspicuous consumption in the eye of the critics? The blogs promoting spending more by purchasing quality and staple wardrobe pieces, or those that promote spending less by buying more affordable items?
- As bloggers do we have the obligation to explain our personal financial status, how we pay for the things we showcase, if we have debt, etc… I think your personal financial status is private. It’s no one’s business except your own (and any family members who may be impacted by it). I think bloggers have a responsibility to share if items they showcase are provided by retailers. As a human being, they also have a responsibility to act responsibly. This means don’t bankrupt yourself because you are running a fashion blog! That is about it, though.
I don’t understand the mentality that just because a blogger has A, B and C, that means a reader MUST buy A, B, and C. Yes, bloggers introduce me to items I like. They may become items I want to buy. But that doesn’t mean I have to own everything that blogger owns. I am responsible for my own spending habits, not the fashion blogger whose page I may be reading.
- Critics often say that fashion bloggers should use their money to support more worthwhile causes than clothing themselves in a different outfit daily. What’s your reaction to this? How do those critics know what these fashion bloggers support? Being a fashion blogger doesn’t exclude you from being charitable. Being fashionable doesn’t exclude someone from being charitable.
Critics can’t dictate how much of someone’s budget goes to spending versus bills versus charities. That is all an individual choice. I work for a non-profit. I am on a Board of another. I donate to a number of charities, including my own place of employment. I also donate my time. I – like many other fashion bloggers out there – also donate clothing back to charity a few times a year.
Everyone needs to wear clothes. Unless they are a nudist.Since we already have to spend on clothing, why can’t it be clothing that is featured on a fashion blog?
- Since you started blogging, do you spend more money on fashion and beauty products? Right now the answer to this is “no” but I am still new. Honestly, I don’t envision my spending changing because I am blogging. If anything it may have increased slightly when I started to follow fashion blogs. However, I also began going to vintage and thrift shops when I started to follow fashion blogs. I began to dabble in some DIY projects. And I really re-evaluated what was in my own closet.
I may be spending slightly more, but I am now purchasing quality pieces that will last for years to come instead of the lastest fad that will come and go. Being a conscious consumer means being aware of these types of things. My own spending habits have become lest wasteful and more purposeful – albeit more pricey. Isn’t that a good thing?
- Life is about more than what money can buy. What are the things that top your list of what life is all about? Edited to say: Eeekkk… I just realized I neglected to answer the most important question! This is fairly straightforward:
First is the people I love – friends and family alike. It doesn’t matter how much money you have – the memories you create with and have of the people you love are what is priceless.
Second is being passionate about something. I am passionate about a lot of things, and each of them makes my life more full. As Angel of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame said: Passion is the source of our finest moments. (yes, I am quoting vampire here)
Finally: being true to yourself. Never compromise who you are for the sake of others.
What are your thought’s on this topic? Do you think fashion bloggers are being unfairly targeted as conspicuous consumers?