What is the importance of fashion for social life and what role does it play in society? The question is important as we find people often victims of fashion. Fashion promises no utility; it makes no appeal to reason and being a fugitive and transitory deviation has little effect on the major trends of social change yet it has a strong hold over the people. Fashion satisfies two strong demands of social man- the demand for novelty and the demand for conformity. It turns the desire for novelty into social practice and makes novelty the right and proper thing for the group. It is human nature to aspire for distinction. Man does not love by security alone. He yearns for something new for variety and novelty. Fashion satisfies this desire and also succeeds in accommodating this desire to the rule of conformity. Thus fashion satisfies some important desires of man whose satisfaction is necessary for his living in society.
Fashion facilitates social change by providing a transitional stage from one custom to another. It tends to modify the rigidity of custom and the belief in its importance. It prepares the mind for a change so that people may not feel a jerk on changing to customs.Maclver writes, "Fashion plays at the surface where resistance is least responding to the social whim of the moment, discovers on this level a compensation for the restraints of custom and habit and routine of life. Through its passing conformities it helps to bridge the greater transitions of the process of social change. Fashion radiates generally from the higher class people the so called prestige owning people. Some film star or a leader sets in motion a new style in dress or recreation which is later picked up by other people. This enhances the prestige of the upper classes and those imitating them.
Though fashion plays a role in the dynamic interplay of class relations though it satisfies simultaneously the contrary desires for novelty and for conformity, though it introduces a common pattern into the area of indifference and has a special significance in the extensive range of a diversified democratic civilization, yet it is always an item in the cost of living. Some fashions such as polo playing or frequenting night clubs or visiting resorts are limited to those who can afford their expenses. People sometimes engage in expenditure unwarranted by their means. When its control passes beyond the superficialities of life it usurps the place of morals and offers a poor substitute for the more established conventions.