Editorial, Fashion

Challenging Laver’s Law of Fashion Cycle!

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Me vs. James Laver

I have always been of the thought that we, the people of artistic propensity or interests, are most often than not, occupied with a detailed dissection and scrutiny of various matters of taste. Often dismissed for being too ‘picky or choosy’ for everything (as if that is the only way to part away with our ramblings) we are often left to swim in our waters alone. But I admit to love every bit of it. I am a happy loner who would always love to swim my vast sea of imagination and interest.  It’s been quite recently that I got my amazed self introduced to the thoughts of one such famous personality and his law pertaining to the relation of social and economic factors on all forms of art. His name is “James Laver (1899 -1975)”.

James Laver was the thinker, writer, historian who also served as a keeper of paintings, printed documents and drawings at Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1938-1959). In his lifetime, being a keen observer of women’s fashion, he studied its evolution through the time and gave the world a law (published in Taste and Fashion editorial in 1937), most praised(sadly) only posthumously. The famous ‘Laver’s Law of fashion’ might be familiar to many fashion graduates as a part of their curriculum. Only, I stumbled upon this idea rather unexpectedly. It’s an interesting idea though better if he had called it a postulate and not a Law.


The Law……………

Laver’s Fashion Timeline


After reading, I immediately tried to weigh how everything fits into it, in accordance with my knowledge from the past. It was figured out soon that quite a lot of ‘description’ wouldn’t fit in above time frames while some of the times did favor it. It undoubtedly looked like a sturdy interesting idea but better if approached like a postulate and not a Law.

That apart, it then raised a gamut of questions in my brain. Some of which I have previously thought of but never this strongly:

  1. Who decides what is ‘in fashion’ at a particular time? Fashion designers/ celebrities? Why? Why not a common man with a fashion sense of his own? When I choose my style, it’s a product of my personality and its expression and not a part of any other’s thinking process.
  2. At a particular time, different people may choose different fashion as the ‘In fashion’, in relevance to their social and economic standing. Thus, present fashion can’t be a fixed reference point for the whole society especially now, when socio-economic gap is wide enough.
  3. If the reference point of ‘ current in-fashion’ doesn’t hold true for the masses together, the ideas preceding and post it, all signify nothing.
  4. If above law intends to describe a Fashion cycle (as it is most commonly referred for), it forms a loop-hole or a dead-end circle of fashion with no scope for new fashion to emerge. How will new ideas emerge if the cycle regulates the pre- existing ideas?
  5. Can we use this Law to successfully predict fashion in upcoming years? If that’s possible, would it be any beneficial to society?
  6. When Laver broadened this law to encompass other ‘ fine arts’, maybe he fore sought its failure to predict fashion only, through the time.


This law can be seen as a more definitive evaluation/ study of emotional response of people to external influences (economical/ social) and can’t act as a standalone fashion theory at all. Fashion and ‘all matters of taste’ are invariably related to emotions and hence it may feel like an ill-fitting theory that sometimes work. Fashion, according to me, is also a byproduct of various other factors and not just emotional.

It’s a pity  that many interesting observations are often coined and then propagated as ‘Laws’. Why are we not open to accepting newer viewpoints and ideas? Nothing can be so very absolute and definite in this world after all.  The world is too big for that. What say?-


Dior 1948

Dior 2018







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– Subremesa

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