Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The comic strip’s commentary on the miniskirt as an indicator of robust economy may be seen in the light of fashion in general in relation to, first, production and, finally, consumption issues.
When Betty gushed over how a miniskirt becomes “a sign of a strong economy,” it is a necessary comment on the strength of the economy because of the active role of the capitalists and the labor force in manufacturing the demands of the society depending on the production sector for the realization of their imagined fashion. With the boom of fashion since the last few decades, manufacturers from the advanced industrialized countries (AICs) transferred their resources to less developed countries (LDCs) to cut labor and operational costs. With the exploitation of women and minority workers, i.e. cheap salary, the capitalists can rechannel their sources on more production of fashion as dictated by elite consumers in both AICs and LDCs and, eventually, by the other consumers down the social strata. More capital to use means more production of miniskirts, pantyhose and boots, among others, first for the can-afford elites, and then the larger mass of fashion-hungry consumers. The faddish characteristic of fashion will merit that the elite consumers will demand for new styles (to set trends and to sustain their high-end identity) once their present styles get copied by the rest of the society, and so the production does not die down, sustaining the life of factories empowered by the labor force and funded by the capitalists. Whatever is in vogue, be it a miniskirt, a textured legging and leather boots as was in the comic strip, it will be manufactured by the production of labor.
More importantly, fashion spells consumption issues in that the capacity to purchase indicates an economy alive and well. The class differentiation discussed above shows to what degree consumption is being taken by both the elite and the lower classes. They have both the power to buy, but more so with the elites, so they are the primary targets of producers. They have to show a distinct culture, apart from the rest of the social strata. One such manifestation is the way their fashion distinguishes them from everyone else. Their separation may be observed with outward signs, one of which is fashion. They can buy fashion so they can set its trend. Corollary to this, the bourgeois which is the next closest to the elites will want to copy the elite trend in order to get identified with their social status. They would copy their fashion given their money’s worth of second-class fashion. Emulating the elite gives the bourgeois the sense of superior status associated to the elite. In turn, the classes lower than the bourgeois copy their fashion, still aiming to share superiority of the upper classes and repeating the fashion down the social strata. All of the social strata are now consuming, feeding the economy with its necessary lifeblood: money. When the elite class loses its uniqueness, it will think of novel signs of class differentiation to create yet again the lines demarcating it from the classes down its status. After a trend is set, the classes will proceed with its mimicry, fueling the consumption needed to strengthen the economy. Betty’s miniskirt, whether an elitist or a low-life’s fashion, is generated through the consumption process, and so are the associated accessories of pantyhose and boots, which are essentially copies of elitist fashion itself, given that the “work” to which she will wear her fashion defines her as a labor of production as well and not the elite her expenditure complaints betray her to be, i. e. ranting about the $400 she has to pay for accessories on top of the $125 worth of 12-inch skirt.
Indeed, the economy is strong because fashion fuels the mutualism between production and consumption. As money evolves in the economic cycle, production will have the capital to manufacture fashion, and consumption will be consummated because all of the social strata can afford to have a varying taste of what’s manufactured. As long as this cycle does not get disturbed significantly, economy will remain robust.