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Was fashion a European invention?*

  • Carlo Marco Belfanti (a1)

Fashion was arguably a social phenomenon that emerged in Europe during early modern times, and this paper seeks to determine whether it was unknown in the refined civilizations of the East. The conclusion is that fashion was not a European invention. The analysis of the evolution of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese clothing systems underlines how these societies underwent phases in which, thanks to propitious economic conditions, the accentuated propensity towards consumption stimulated behaviour that challenged the traditional hierarchies of appearance, usually regulated by canons of a prescriptive nature. Fashion was not, therefore, a European invention, but it only fully developed as a social institution in Europe, while in India, China, and Japan it only evolved partially, without being able to obtain full social recognition.

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S. A. M. Adshead , Material culture in Europe and China, 1400–1800, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997.

Donald H. Shively , ‘Sumptuary regulations and status in early Tokugawa Japan’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 25, 1964–5, pp. 123–64.

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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