Considerable amount of research has been done on fashion. Perhaps the thing that interested the most to the researchers was how fashion moves through the society and how certain things end up being a fashion statement in the first place. The researches have lamented upon the sequence through which the fashion moves and what causes it to move that way.

Flow of Fashion Theories


That’s what the researchers are when it comes to fashion. Because no matter what data they may collect and how they process it, the magic of fashion is unpredictable. Something becomes a fad on its own and the causes are unknown. People end up developing craze and that’s nothing but crazy. No solid theory of origin of fashion exists because it is not explainable at all.

Theorists came up with ideas related to the movement of fashion within the society. So far, research contains three basic theories regarding the flow of fashion. The distribution of fashion has been described as a movement, a flow, or trickle from one element of society to another. Not one statement describes the flow of fashion. Theorists categorize the flow of mysterious fashion in three forms: trickle down, trickle across, and trickle up.

  1. Trickle Down Theory

This is perceived as the oldest theory related to fashion flow. It was proposed by Veblen in 1899. The theory states that the style is first adopted by the ‘elite’ class or the top strata of the society and over the time, the concept of their fashion diffuses in to other strata’s.

Gradually, the people belonging to other social classes start adopting the fashion imposed on them by the rich class. This model is applicable to the society where the lower groups seek to identify with the affluent and those having the top social status desire to achieve distinction. The desire to be different themselves from those socially below causes them to distance from the mundane lifestyle. Once the uniqueness of the rich is adopted by the poor, the affluent reject the look for another. Thus, the unstoppable wheel of fashion goes on forever.

It is the celebrities and the rich class that first adopted the trend of long eyelashes. Over the time it became so diffused in our ecosystem that almost everyone now wears long eye lashes to a wedding or a ceremony. No wonder Huda Kattan is doing tutorials related to ‘shaved eyebrows’ ‘no eyelashes’ ‘zig zag eyebrows’ and what not. The rich is going to strive to be different and rest is going to follow their narrative no matter how stupid it looks.

2. Trickle Across

Yet another school of thought tends to believe in something different.

Researchers who follow the ‘trickle across’ movement of fashion say that rather than fashion being an entity that flows from the high order to the lowest, it is something that is horizontal in nature. Robinson (1958) and King (1963) are the main proponents of this theory. Theorists of this school of thought claim that fashion moves horizontally between the groups on similar levels. There does however exists a time lag in the adoption from one group to another.

Researchers believe that the most vital evidence of this theory occurs when designers show a similar look at the same time, at price ranging from high end to lower end. This is the reason for price ranges of every product. They are not targeting different income groups rather they are selling the same fashion to them at various prices because everyone wants to follow the same fashion statement and its uniform all across the globe.

For example: Tag Heuer releases a series of watches. All of them look alike but some are gold plated and expensive and other’s just have a color to make it look like the original and are less expensive. So the fashion sense across all levels is same.

Hence, we all are sailing in the same boat!

  1. Trickle Up

This theory is also known as the bubble up theory of fashion. It is the flipside of trickle down approach. This theory is the newest addition to the research related to fashion. The theory states that it is not the elites who define and design fashion but rather the ordinary people belonging to low income groups at the ordinary streets cast the magic.

The innovation crafted by the low income groups inspire those at the high levels and is adopted by them in the long run in a rather more refined way.

Thus, the movement of fashion is, bang the drums – from bottom to up. The diffusion of fashion from down to up has been going on since forever but we choose to overlook it because in our opinion fashion has to be something luxurious.

During World War 2, we all are well aware about the rough duties that women were performing. In doing so, they seek comfortable clothing that made work and movement a lot easier. During that era, the Army and Navy surplus stores became a fashion fad for the women. The females went crazy over pea jackets and khakhi pants. Over the years it was adopted and ultimately the elite working women followed the stance.

Chanel, a well-known brand, entered the market with one sole idea. They believed that fashion originated from the streets and then we adopted those in a luxurious manner. Many of the ideas being implemented by the brand were inspired by this notion.

T – Shirts used to be the dress of laborers and rich used it as an undergarment. Over the years, the trends have changed. Most importantly, look around and see how many of the luxurious stores are selling ripped jeans at alarming prices just in the name of fashion.

Mama Mia, it’s the poor who own the fashion industry trends now.


In a nutshell, researches still don’t know what actually gives rise to fashion. It follows no instructions to be honest. At times it will go up side down, across or down to up. You may never know. However, how a fashionable look saturates a given society depends upon its origins. By origins we mean what it looks to the eye, the magnitude of its influence, and the motivations of those adopting the look. But still there is only one thing for certain…

Every fashion will ultimately end up fading

…and new replacement will always be available to take the vacant place

The cycle is going to go on forever