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The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen - 1899

Chapter VII torna a Indice

Dress as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture

It will in place, by way of illustration, to show in some detail how the economic principles so far set forth apply to everyday facts in some one direction of the life process. For this purpose no line of consumption affords a more apt illustration than expenditure on dress. It is especially the rule of the conspicuous waste of goods that finds expression in dress, although the other, related principles of pecuniary repute are also exemplified in the same contrivances. Other methods of putting one's pecuniary standing in evidence serve their end effectually, and other methods are in vogue always and everywhere; but expenditure on dress has this advantage over most other methods, that our apparel is always in evidence and affords an indication of our pecuniary standing to all observers at the first glance. It is also true that admitted expenditure for display is more obviously present, and is, perhaps, more universally practiced in the matter of dress than in any other line of consumption. No one finds difficulty in assenting to the commonplace that the greater part of the expenditure incurred by all classes for apparel is incurred for the sake of a respectable appearance rather than for the protection of the person. And probably at no other point is the sense of shabbiness so keenly felt as it is if we fall short of the standard set by social usage in this matter of dress. It is true of dress in even a higher degree than of most other items of consumption, that people will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in the comforts or the neCessaries of life in order to afford what is considered a decent amount of wasteful consumption; so that it is by no means an uncommon occurrence, in an inclement climate, for people to go ill clad in order to appear well dressed. And the commercial value of the goods used for clotting in any modern community is made up to a much larger extent of the
fashionableness, the reputability of the goods than of the
mechanical service which they render in clothing the person of
the wearer. The need of dress is eminently a "higher" or spiritual need.
This spiritual need of dress is not wholly, nor even
chiefly, a naive propensity for display of expenditure. The law
of conspicuous waste guides consumption in apparel, as in other
things, chiefly at the second remove, by shaping the canons of
taste and decency. In the common run of cases the conscious
motive of the wearer or purchaser of conspicuously wasteful
apparel is the need of conforming to established usage, and of
living up to the accredited standard of taste and reputability.
It is not only that one must be guided by the code of proprieties
in dress in order to avoid the mortification that comes of
unfavorable notice and comment, though that motive in itself
counts for a great deal; but besides that, the requirement of
expensiveness is so ingrained into our habits of thought in
matters of dress that any other than expensive apparel is
instinctively odious to us. Without reflection or analysis, we
feel that what is inexpensive is unworthy. "A cheap coat makes a
cheap man." "Cheap and nasty" is recognized to hold true in dress
with even less mitigation than in other lines of consumption. On
the ground both of taste and of serviceability, an inexpensive
article of apparel is held to be inferior, under the maxim "cheap
and nasty." We find things beautiful, as well as serviceable,
somewhat in proportion as they are costly. With few and
inconsequential exceptions, we all find a costly hand-wrought
article of apparel much preferable, in point of beauty and of
serviceability, to a less expensive imitation of it, however
cleverly the spurious article may imitate the costly original;
and what offends our sensibilities in the spurious article is not
that it falls short in form or color, or, indeed, in visual
effect in any way. The offensive object may be so close an
imitation aS to defy any but the closest scrutiny; and yet so
soon as the counterfeit is detected, its aesthetic value, and its
commercial value as well, declines precipitately. Not only that,
but it may be asserted with but small risk of contradiction that
the aesthetic value of a detected counterfeit in dress declines
somewhat in the same proportion as the counterfeit is cheaper
than its original. It loses caste aesthetically because it falls
to a lower pecuniary grade.
But the function of dress as an evidence of ability to pay
does not end with simply showing that the wearer consumes
valuable goods in excess of what is required for physical
comfort. Simple conspicuous waste of goods is effective and
gratifying as far as it goes; it is good prima facie evidence of
pecuniary success, and consequently prima facie evidence of
social worth. But dress has subtler and more far-reaching
possibilities than this crude, first-hand evidence of wasteful
consumption only. If, in addition to showing that the wearer can
afford to consume freely and uneconomically, it can also be shown
in the same stroke that he or she is not under the necessity of
earning a livelihood, the evidence of social worth is enhanced in
a very considerable degree. Our dress, therefore, in order to
serve its purpose effectually, should not only he expensive, but
it should also make plain to all observers that the wearer is not
engaged in any kind of productive labor. In the evolutionary
process by which our system of dress has been elaborated into its
present admirably perfect adaptation to its purpose, this
subsidiary line of evidence has received due attention. A
detailed examination of what passes in popular apprehension for
elegant apparel will show that it is contrived at every point to
convey the impression that the wearer does not habitually put
forth any useful effort. It goes without saying that no apparel
can be considered elegant, or even decent, if it shows the effect
of manual labor on the part of the wearer, in the way of soil or
wear. The pleasing effect of neat and spotless garments is
chiefly, if not altogether, due to their carrying the suggestion
of leisure-exemption from personal contact with industrial
processes of any kind. Much of the charm that invests the
patent-leather shoe, the stainless linen, the lustrous
cylindrical hat, and the walking-stick, which so greatly enhance
the native dignity of a gentleman, comes of their pointedly
suggesting that the wearer cannot when so attired bear a hand in
any employment that is directly and immediately of any human use.
Elegant dress serves its purpose of elegance not only in that it
is expensive, but also because it is the insignia of leisure. It
not only shows that the wearer is able to consume a relativeLy
large value, but it argues at the same time that he consumes
without producing.
The dress of women goes even farther than that of men in the
way of demonstrating the wearer's abstinence from productive
employment. It needs no argument to enforce the generalization
that the more elegant styLes of feminine bonnets go even farther
towards making work impossible than does the man's high hat. The
woman's shoe adds the so-called French heel to the evidence of
enforced leisure afforded by its polish; because this high heel
obviously makes any, even the simplest and most necessary manual
work extremely difficult. The like is true even in a higher
degree of the skirt and the rest of the drapery which
characterizes woman's dress. The substantial reason for our
tenacious attachment to the skirt is just this; it is expensive
and it hampers the wearer at every turn and incapacitates her for
alL useful exertion. The like is true of the feminine custom of
wearing the hair excessively long.
But the woman's apparel not only goes beyond that of the
modern man in the degree in which it argues exemption from labor;
it also adds a peculiar and highly characteristic feature which
differs in kind from anything habitually practiced by the men.
This feature is the class of contrivances of which the corset is
the typical example. The corset is, in economic theory,
substantially a mutilation, undergone for the purpose of lowering
the subject's vitality and rendering her permanently and
obviously unfit for work. It is true, the corset impairs the
personal attractions of the wearer, but the loss suffered on that
score is offset by the gain in reputability which comes of her
visibly increased expensiveness and infirmity. It may broadly be
set down that the womanliness of woman's apparel resolves itself,
in point of substantial fact, into the more effective hindrance
to useful exertion offered by the garments peculiar to women.
This difference between masculine and feminine apparel is here
simply pointed out as a characteristic feature. The ground of its
occurrence will be discussed presently.
So far, then, we have, as the great and dominant norm of
dress, the broad principle of conspicuous waste. Subsidiary to
this principle, and as a corollary under it, we get as a second
norm the principle of conspicuous leisure. In dress construction
this norm works out in the shape of divers contrivances going to
show that the wearer does not and, as far as it may conveniently
be shown, can not engage in productive labor. Beyond these two
principles there is a third of scarcely less constraining force,
which will occur to any one who reflects at all on the subject.
Dress must not only be conspicuously expensive and inconvenient,
it must at the same time be up to date. No explanation at all
satisfactory has hitherto been offered of the phenomenon of
changing fashions. The imperative requirement of dressing in the
latest accredited manner, as well as the fact that this
accredited fashion constantly changes from season to season, is
sufficiently familiar to every one, but the theory of this flux
and change has not been worked out. We may of course say, with
perfect consistency and truthfulness, that this principle of
novelty is another corollary under the law of conspicuous waste.
Obviously, if each garment is permitted to serve for but a brief
term, and if none of last season's apparel is carried over and
made further use of during the present season, the wasteful
expenditure on dress is greatly increased. This is good as far as
it goes, but it is negative only. Pretty much all that this
consideration warrants us in saying is that the norm of
conspicuous waste exercises a controlling surveillance in all
matters of dress, so that any change in the fashions must
conspicuous waste exercises a controlling surveillance in all
matters of dress, so that any change in the fashions must conform
to the requirement of wastefulness; it leaves unanswered the
question as to the motive for making and accepting a change in
the prevailing styles, and it also fails to explain why
conformity to a given style at a given time is so imperatively
necessary as we know it to be.
For a creative principle, capable of serving as motive to
invention and innovation in fashions, we shall have to go back to
the primitive, non-economic motive with which apparel originated
-- the motive of adornment. Without going into an extended
discussion of how and why this motive asserts itself under the
guidance of the law of expensiveness, it may be stated broadly
that each successive innovation in the fashions is an effort to
reach some form of display which shall be more acceptable to our
sense of form and color or of effectiveness, than that which it
displaces. The changing styles are the expression of a restless
search for something which shall commend itself to our aesthetic
sense; but as each innovation is subject to the selective action
of the norm of conspicuous waste, the range within which
innovation can take place is somewhat restricted. The innovation
must not only be more beautiful, or perhaps oftener less
offensive, than that which it displaces, but it must also come up
to the accepted standard of expensiveness.
It would seem at first sight that the result of such an
unremitting struggle to attain the beautiful in dress should be a
gradual approach to artistic perfection. We might naturally
expect that the fashions should show a well-marked trend in the
direction of some one or more types of apparel eminently becoming
to the human form; and we might even feel that ge have
substantial ground for the hope that today, after all the
ingenuity and effort which have been spent on dress these many
years, the fashions should have achieved a relative perfection
and a relative stability, closely approximating to a permanently
tenable artistic ideal. But such is not the case. It would be
very hazardous indeed to assert that the styles of today are
intrinsically more becoming than those of ten years ago, or than
those of twenty, or fifty, or one hundred years ago. On the other
hand, the assertion freely goes uncontradicted that styles in
vogue two thousand years ago are more becoming than the most
elaborate and painstaking constructions of today.
The explanation of the fashions just offered, then, does not
fully explain, and we shall have to look farther. It is well
known that certain relatively stable styles and types of costume
have been worked out in various parts of the world; as, for
instance, among the Japanese, Chinese, and other Oriental
nations; likewise among the Greeks, Romans, and other Eastern
peoples of antiquity so also, in later times, among the, peasants
of nearly every country of Europe. These national or popular
costumes are in most cases adjudged by competent critics to be
more becoming, more artistic, than the fluctuating styles of
modern civilized apparel. At the same time they are also, at
least usually, less obviously wasteful; that is to say, other
elements than that of a display of expense are more readily
detected in their structure.
These relatively stable costumes are, commonly, pretty
strictly and narrowly localized, and they vary by slight and
systematic gradations from place to place. They have in every
case been worked out by peoples or classes which are poorer than
we, and especially they belong in countries and localities and
times where the population, or at least the class to which the
costume in question belongs, is relatively homogeneous, stable,
and immobile. That is to say, stable costumes which will bear the
test of time and perspective are worked out under circumstances
where the norm of conspicuous waste asserts itself less
imperatively than it does in the large modern civilized cities,
whose relatively mobile wealthy population today sets the pace in
matters of fashion. The countries and classes which have in this
way worked out stable and artistic costumes have been so placed
that the pecuniary emulation among them has taken the direction
of a competition in conspicuous leisure rather than in
conspicuous consumption of goods. So that it will hold true in a
general way that fashions are least stable and least becoming in
those communities where the principle of a conspicuous waste of
goods asserts itself most imperatively, as among ourselves. All
this points to an antagonism between expensiveness and artistic
apparel. In point of practical fact, the norm of conspicuous
waste is incompatible with the requirement that dress should be
beautiful or becoming. And this antagonism offers an explanation
of that restless change in fashion which neither the canon of
expensiveness nor that of beauty alone can account for.
The standard of reputability requires that dress should show
wasteful expenditure; but all wastefulness is offensive to native
taste. The psychological law has already been pointed out that
all men -- and women perhaps even in a higher degree abhor
futility, whether of effort or of expenditure -- much as Nature
was once said to abhor a vacuum. But the principle of conspicuous
waste requires an obviously futile expenditure; and the resulting
conspicuous expensiveness of dress is therefore intrinsically
ugly. Hence we find that in all innovations in dress, each added
or altered detail strives to avoid condemnation by showing some
ostensible purpose, at the same time that the requirement of
conspicuous waste prevents the purposefulness of these
innovations from becoming anything more than a somewhat
transparent pretense. Even in its freest flights, fashion rarely
if ever gets away from a simulation of some ostensible use. The
ostensible usefulness of the fashionable details of dress,
however, is always so transparent a make-believe, and their
substantial futility presently forces itself so baldly upon our
attention as to become unbearable, and then we take refuge in a
new style. But the new style must conform to the requirement of
reputable wastefulness and futility. Its futility presently
becomes as odious as that of its predecessor; and the only remedy
which the law of waste allows us is to seek relief in some new
construction, equally futile and equally untenable. Hence the
essential ugliness and the unceasing change of fashionable
Having so explained the phenomenon of shifting fashions, the
next thing is to make the explanation tally with everyday facts.
Among these everyday facts is the well-known liking which all men
have for the styles that are in vogue at any given time. A new
style comes into vogue and remains in favor for a season, and, at
least so long as it is a novelty, people very generally find the
new style attractive. The prevailing fashion is felt to be
beautiful. This is due partly to the relief it affords in being
different from what went before it, partly to its being
reputable. As indicated in the last chapter, the canon of
reputability to some extent shapes our tastes, so that under its
guidance anything will be accepted as becoming until its novelty
wears off, or until the warrant of reputability is transferred to
a new and novel structure serving the same general purpose. That
the alleged beauty, or "loveliness," of the styles in vogue at
any given time is transient and spurious only is attested by the
fact that none of the many shifting fashions will bear the test
of time. When seen in the perspective of half-a-dozen years or
more, the best of our fashions strike us as grotesque, if not
unsightly. Our transient attachment to whatever happens to be the
latest rests on other than aesthetic grounds, and lasts only
until our abiding aesthetic sense has had time to assert itself
and reject this latest indigestible contrivance.
The process of developing an aesthetic nausea takes more or
less time; the length of time required in any given case being
inversely as the degree of intrinsic odiousness of the style in
question. This time relation between odiousness and instability
in fashions affords ground for the inference that the more
rapidly the styles succeed and displace one another, the more
offensive they are to sound taste. The presumption, therefore, is
that the farther the community, especially the wealthy classes of
the community, develop in wealth and mobility and in the range of
their human contact, the more imperatively will the law of
conspicuous waste assert itself in matters of dress, the more
will the sense of beauty tend to fall into abeyance or be
overborne by the canon of pecuniary reputability, the more
rapidly will fashions shift and change, and the more grotesque
and intolerable will be the varying styles that successively come
into vogue.
There remains at least one point in this theory of dress yet
to be discussed. Most of what has been said applies to men's
attire as well as to that of women; although in modern times it
applies at nearly all points with greater force to that of women.
But at one point the dress of women differs substantially from
that of men. In woman's dress there is obviously greater
insistence on such features as testify to the wearer's exemption
from or incapacity for all vulgarly productive employment. This
characteristic of woman's apparel is of interest, not only as
completing the theory of dress, but also as confirming what has
already been said of the economic status of women, both in the
past and in the present.
As has been seen in the discussion of woman's status under
the heads of Vicarious Leisure and Vicarious Consumption, it has
in the course of economic development become the office of the
woman to consume vicariously for the head of the household; and
her apparel is contrived with this object in view. It has come
about that obviously productive labor is in a peculiar degree
derogatory to respectable women, and therefore special pains
should be taken in the construction of women's dress, to impress
upon the beholder the fact (often indeed a fiction) that the
wearer does not and can not habitually engage in useful work.
Propriety requires respectable women to abstain more consistently
from useful effort and to make more of a show of leisure than the
men of the same social classes. It grates painfully on our nerves
to contemplate the necessity of any well-bred woman's earning a
livelihood by useful work. It is not "woman's sphere." Her sphere
is within the household, which she should "beautify," and of
which she should be the "chief ornament." The male head of the
household is not currently spoken of as its ornament. This
feature taken in conjunction with the other fact that propriety
requires more unremitting attention to expensive display in the
dress and other paraphernalia of women, goes to enforce the view
already implied in what has gone before. By virtue of its descent
from a patriarchal past, our social system makes it the woman's
function in an especial degree to put in evidence her household's
ability to pay. According to the modern civilized scheme of life,
the good name of the household to which she belongs should be the
special care of the woman; and the system of honorific
expenditure and conspicuous leisure by which this good name is
chiefly sustained is therefore the woman's sphere. In the ideal
scheme, as it tends to realize itself in the life of the higher
pecuniary classes, this attention to conspicuous waste of
substance and effort should normally be the sole economic
function of the woman.
At the stage of economic development at which the women were
still in the full sense the property of the men, the performance
of conspicuous leisure and consumption came to be part of the
services required of them. The women being not their own masters,
obvious expenditure and leisure on their part would redound to
the credit of their master rather than to their own credit; and
therefore the more expensive and the more obviously unproductive
the women of the household are, the more creditable and more
effective for the purpose of reputability of the household or its
head will their life be. So much so that the women have been
required not only to afford evidence of a life of leisure, but
even to disable themselves for useful activity.
It is at this point that the dress of men falls short of
that of women, and for sufficient reason. Conspicuous waste and
conspicuous leisure are reputable because they are evidence of
pecuniary strength; pecuniary strength is reputable or honorific
because, in the last analysis, it argues success and superior
force; therefore the evidence of waste and leisure put forth by
any individual in his own behalf cannot consistently take such a
form or be carried to such a pitch as to argue incapacity or
marked discomfort on his part; as the exhibition would in that
case show not superior force, but inferiority, and so defeat its
own purpose. So, then, wherever wasteful expenditure and the show
of abstention from effort is normally. or on an average, carried
to the extent of showing obvious discomfort or voluntarily
induced physical disability. there the immediate inference is
that the individual in question does not perform this wasteful
expenditure and undergo this disability for her own personal gain
in pecuniary repute, but in behalf of some one else to whom she
stands in a relation of economic dependence; a relation which in
the last analysis must, in economic theory, reduce itself to a
relation of servitude.
To apply this generalization to women's dress, and put the
matter in concrete terms: the high heel, the skirt, the
impracticable bonnet, the corset, and the general disregard of
the wearer's comfort which is an obvious feature of all civilized
women's apparel, are so many items of evidence to the effect that
in the modern civilized scheme of life the woman is still, in
theory, the economic dependent of the man -- that, perhaps in a
highly idealized sense, she still is the man's chattel. The
homely reason for all this conspicuous leisure and attire on the
part of women lies in the fact that they are servants to whom, in
the differentiation of economic functions, has been delegated the
office of putting in evidence their master's ability to pay.
There is a marked similarity in these respects between the
apparel of women and that of domestic servants, especially
liveried servants. In both there is a very elaborate show of
unnecessary expensiveness, and in both cases there is also a
notable disregard of the physical comfort of the wearer. But the
attire of the lady goes farther in its elaborate insistence on
the idleness, if not on the physical infirmity of the wearer,
than does that of the domestic. And this is as it should be; for
in theory, according to the ideal scheme of the pecuniary
culture, the lady of the house is the chief menial of the
Besides servants, currently recognized as such, there is at
least one other class of persons whose garb assimilates them to
the class of servants and shows many of the features that go to
make up the womanliness of woman's dress. This is the priestly
class. Priestly vestments show, in accentuated form, all the
features that have been shown to be evidence of a servile status
and a vicarious life. Even more strikingly than the everyday
habit of the priest, the vestments, properly so called, are
ornate, grotesque, inconvenient, and, at least ostensibly,
comfortless to the point of distress. The priest is at the same
time expected to refrain from useful effort and, when before the
public eye, to present an impassively disconsolate countenance,
very much after the manner of a well-trained domestic servant.
The shaven face of the priest is a further item to the same
effect. This assimilation of the priestly class to the class of
body servants, in demeanor and apparel, is due to the similarity
of the two classes as regards economic function. In economic
theory, the priest is a body servant, constructively in
attendance upon the person of the divinity whose livery he wears.
His livery is of a very expensive character, as it should be in
order to set forth in a beseeming manner the dignity of his
exalted master; but it is contrived to show that the wearing of
it contributes little or nothing to the physical comfort of the
wearer, for it is an item of vicarious consumption, and the
repute which accrues from its consumption is to be imputed to the
absent master, not to the servant.
The line of demarcation between the dress of women, priests,
and servants, on the one hand, and of men, on the other hand, is
not always consistently observed in practice, but it will
scarcely be disputed that it is always present in a more or less
definite way in the popular habits of thought. There are of
course also free men, and not a few of them, who, in their blind
zeal for faultless reputable attire, transgress the theoretical
line between man's and woman's dress, to the extent of arraying
themselves in apparel that is obviously designed to vex the
mortal frame; but everyone recognizes without hesitation that
such apparel for men is a departure from the normal. We are in
the habit of saying that such dress is "effeminate"; and one
sometimes hears the remark that such or such an exquisitely
attired gentleman is as well dressed as a footman.
Certain apparent discrepancies under this theory of dress
merit a more detailed examination, especially as they mark a more
or less evident trend in the later and maturer development of
dress. The vogue of the corset offers an apparent exception from
the rule of which it has here been cited as an illustration. A
closer examination, however, will show that this apparent
exception is really a verification of the rule that the vogue of
any given element or feature in dress rests on its utility as an
evidence of pecuniary standing. It is well known that in the
industrially more advanced communities the corset is employed
only within certain fairly well defined social strata. The women
of the poorer classes, especially of the rural population, do not
habitually use it, except as a holiday luxury. Among these
classes the women have to work hard, and it avails them little in
the way of a pretense of leisure to so crucify the flesh in
everyday life. The holiday use of the contrivance is due to
imitation of a higher-class canon of decency. Upwards from this
low level of indigence and manual labor, the corset was until
within a generation or two nearly indispensable to a socially
blameless standing for all women, including the wealthiest and
most reputable. This rule held so long as there still was no
large class of people wealthy enough to be above the imputation
of any necessity for manual labor and at the same time large
enough to form a self-sufficient, isolated social body whose mass
would afford a foundation for special rules of conduct within the
class, enforced by the current opinion of the class alone. But
now there has grown up a large enough leisure class possessed of
such wealth that any aspersion on the score of enforced manual
employment would be idle and harmless calumny; and the corset has
therefore in large measure fallen into disuse within this class.
The exceptions under this rule of exemption from the corset
are more apparent than real. They are the wealthy classes of
countries with a lower industrial structure -- nearer the
archaic, quasi-industrial type -- together with the later
accessions of the wealthy classes in the more advanced industrial
communities. The latter have not yet had time to divest
themselves of the plebeian canons of taste and of reputability
carried over from their former, lower pecuniary grade. Such
survival of the corset is not infrequent among the higher social
classes of those American cities, for instance, which have
recently and rapidly risen into opulence. If the word be used as
a technical term, without any odious implication, it may be said
that the corset persists in great measure through the period of
snobbery -- the interval of uncertainty and of transition from a
lower to the upper levels of pecuniary culture. That is to say,
in all countries which have inherited the corset it continues in
use wherever and so long as it serves its purpose as an evidence
of honorific leisure by arguing physical disability in the
wearer. The same rule of course applies to other mutilations and
contrivances for decreasing the visible efficiency of the
Something similar should hold true with respect to divers
items of conspicuous consumption, and indeed something of the
kind does seem to hold to a slight degree of sundry features of
dress, especially if such features involve a marked discomfort or
appearance of discomfort to the wearer. During the past one
hundred years there is a tendency perceptible, in the development
of men's dress especially, to discontinue methods of expenditure
and the use of symbols of leisure which must have been irksome,
which may have served a good purpose in their time, but the
continuation of which among the upper classes today would be a
work of supererogation; as, for instance, the use of powdered
wigs and of gold lace, and the practice of constantly shaving the
face. There has of late years been some slight recrudescence of
the shaven face in polite society, but this is probably a
transient and unadvised mimicry of the fashion imposed upon body
servants, and it may fairly be expected to go the way of the
powdered wig of our grandfathers.
These indices and others which resemble them in point of the
boldness with which they point out to all observers the habitual
uselessness of those persons who employ them, have been replaced
by other, more dedicate methods of expressing the same fact;
methods which are no less evident to the trained eyes of that
smaller, select circle whose good opinion is chiefly sought. The
earlier and cruder method of advertisement held its ground so
long as the public to which the exhibitor had to appeal comprised
large portions of the community who were not trained to detect
delicate variations in the evidences of wealth and leisure. The
method of advertisement undergoes a refinement when a
sufficiently large wealthy class has developed, who have the
leisure for acquiring skill in interpreting the subtler signs of
expenditure. "Loud" dress becomes offensive to people of taste,
as evincing an undue desire to reach and impress the untrained
sensibilities of the vulgar. To the individual of high breeding,
it is only the more honorific esteem accorded by the cultivated
sense of the members of his own high class that is of material
consequence. Since the wealthy leisure class has grown so large,
or the contact of the leisure-class individual with members of
his own class has grown so wide, as to constitute a human
environment sufficient for the honorific purpose, there arises a
tendency to exclude the baser elements of the population from the
scheme even as spectators whose applause or mortification should
be sought. The result of all this is a refinement of methods, a
resort to subtler contrivances, and a spiritualization of the
scheme of symbolism in dress. And as this upper leisure class
sets the pace in all matters of decency, the result for the rest
of society also is a gradual amelioration of the scheme of dress.
As the community advances in wealth and culture, the ability to
pay is put in evidence by means which require a progressively
nicer discrimination in the beholder. This nicer discrimination
between advertising media is in fact a very large element of the
higher pecuniary culture.