Analysis Of Thorstein Veblen: Dress As An Expression Of The Pecuniary Culture

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Veblen: Dress as an expression of the Pecuniary Culture “Dress as an expression of the pecuniary culture” (1899) expresses Thorstein Veblen’s view on the issue of the representation and abuse of dress in his society. Veblen tries to answer a very important question that, even over a century later, we still ask ourselves. Why do we spend more than we need to on clothes? Veblen views this phenomenon through an economic lens, which allows us to gain a different insight into the motive of dress. What makes Veblen an interesting read is how many of his claims surrounding this question ring true and remain applicable to this day and society. For instance, Veblen tries to explain why people participate in “wasteful consumption” (1899, P.339) using…show more content…
It demands that not only must the dress represent pecuniary standing but it must also “convey the impression that the wearer is not engaged in any productive labor” (1899, p.340). According to Veblen it was viewed that restrictive dress indicated the highest level of social worth. He used the example of the bonnet, high-hat, cane, and corsets that women and men wore. All these materials made it hard for them to move around and exert any physical effort which demonstrates to others their social worth as they can afford to “consume without producing” (1899, p, 341).Veblen’s writing then makes apparent an interesting argument that explains why women are more invested in dress and fashion than men. Veblen explains how a woman’s efforts to look presentable are not a total waste as “the loss suffered [by wearing a corset] is offset by the gain in reputability” (1899, p.341). He then states that a women’s role is to “consume vicariously for the head of a household” (p. 344). In essence, Veblen is asserting that women are another method of expressing the pecuniary standing of men. Men however are less invested as they need to maintain a certain degree of flexibility. After all they are still responsible for the household and finances which requires some labor. According to Veblen this is why women’s dress is much more carefully constructed and reflect the utmost leisure. Therefore, Veblen shows that the principle of conspicuous leisure encourages more wasteful consumption of dress, especially by

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