Fashion & television: A Crossed History

Despite the rise of new media, television still remains the reference medium, especially for the fashion industry. It reaches a wide audience while it conveys a strong image. The history of fashion and television are closely linked, as explained during a conference we attended, given by Maude Bass-Krueger and Sophie Kurdjian, heads of #Semmode at the IHTP/CNRS on December 15th. 

Ready-to-wear takes off at the same time than television: these two phenomenons participate in the construction of mass culture. The first appearances of fashion on screen date back to the early 1950s. These are very conventional presentations of the collections of the big names in couture. The camera only takes the place of the eye of the client, without bias or analysis. At that time, fashion is rather present in women’s press, especially with Vogue and Marie-Claire. Roland Barthes describes women’s press as fashion makers, but television doesn’t have that role.

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1950’s TV

In 1965, the show Dim Dam Dom is in breach with this presentation of fashion. Presented by Daisy de Galard who comes from the world of written press, she transcribes this universe with great freedom. Fashion is staged in short sequences where aesthetic research is very advanced. Dim Dam Dom contributes to the rise of ready to wear versus high fashion. There was initially a lot of skepticism around it but it becomes the emblem of the democratization of fashion and television plays an essential role in this movement. Fashion comes into the intimacy of the French, especially thanks to television, a relationship that will continue to develop.

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Clueless, our 1990’s favorite TV show

Therefore fashion becomes a discourse on the woman and on the epoch. But it did not have a dedicated show until the 1990s. This is the beginning of the era of huge fashion shows and famous creators. Without the Internet, there is only television that allows to see the shows and collections. The end of the public monopoly of television allows the emergence of new programs with a new tone, especially on Canal +, launched in 1984. The discourse changes and the conformism of before is challenged, as in the programs of Mademoiselle Agnes. Also, the arrival of remote control helps zapping: it becomes vital to understand the tastes and uses of viewers. Fashion becomes a subject of entertainment and democracy. This phenomenon develops even more with the arrival of bloggers in the 2000s: the barriers fall between the consumer and fashion.

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Tyra Banks for America’s Next Top Model

The 2000s are the scene of the explosion of makeover and reality TV shows. The individual is handed over to the center of fashion shows, through ordinary women. In particular, in France, M6 democratizes this phenomenon. We enter the daily life of women and their personal relationship with fashion. What fascinates is not so much the exclusivity but the transformational side. People look real, authentic and close to the viewer.

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Our very French “Habillé(e)s pour l’Eté”, by Loïc Prigent, with Mademoiselle Agnès

The massification of fashion is therefore closely linked to the massification of television. The empowerment of the individual pushes him to place himself at the center of fashion and its representation on the screen. More generally, the individual wants to be at the center of any fashion experience, whether through personalized service or ever more innovative retail experiences.


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Post written by Amandine Richardot, Contributing Writer
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Graduate from Sciences Po Paris, Amandine is passionate about digital and how technologies change our society. She applied this understanding in various sectors, like fashion, advertising and food.

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