Conspicuous Consumption Essay

995 words - 4 pages

In 1899 Thorstein Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. In this work, Veblen presented critical thinking that pertains to people’s habits and their related social norms. He explores the way certain people disregard the divisions that exist within the social system, while subsequently emulating certain aspects of the leisure class in an effort to present an image of higher social status. He also presented the theory of conspicuous consumption, which refers to an instance when a person can fulfill their needs by purchasing a product at a lower cost that is equal in quality and function to its more expensive counterpart; however, said person chooses to buy the more expensive product, by doing so, they are attempting to present an image of a higher social status. The almost 110 year cycle between 1899 and 2010 reveals few differences in buying behaviors, other than the differing selection of luxury goods to indulge, or over-indulge in.
It is interesting to consider Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption as it pertains to the modern day fashion industry, specifically the luxury fashion sector. In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen said “we all find a costly hand-wrought articles of apparel much preferable to a less expensive imitation of it;” however, at the beginning of the 20th century, couture clothing was exclusively available to those who were very wealthy, simply because of how much the garments cost. By the mid-1930’s, businesses were beginning to change their ways of thinking after seeing the enormous profit that the Walt Disney Company received once they licensed the making of Mickey Mouse novelty items. Christian Dior was the first of many fashion designers to follow in the Disney Company’s footsteps, thus making luxury fashion more accessible to a wider range of consumers, as well as allowing increasing amounts of consumers to exhibit behavior that is described by Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption.
Veblen’s idea that consumers will pay a higher price for the prestige that is associated with a functionally equivalent product has proven to be true at an increasingly frequent rate; so much so that the concept is now known as “Veblen effects.” In regard to the relationship between luxury fashion and “Veblen effects,” the two key factors that link the two entities are, first, product accessibility and, second, the product affordability. Luxury fashion items can be acquired via several different avenues, as well as at several different price points in today’s market. Previously, the only options consumers had for the acquisition of luxury fashion goods was to purchase directly from the retail store; however, now there are an enormous amount of resources for consumers to opt for a used product at a much lower price by shopping on websites like eBay, or by purchasing from the growing amount of high-end consignment stores. Another option that luxury fashion consumers can...

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