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Fashion and Society - IELTS Reading Passage with Questions and Answers

Updated on 17 January, 2024

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team


Fashion, often perceived as a mere reflection of personal style, goes beyond the boundaries of individual expression. It serves as a mirror to society, capturing the cultural, political, and economic climates of its time. This passage delves into the profound connection between fashion trends and societal changes.

Passage: Fashion and Society

Fashion is an ever-evolving tapestry, reflecting and often influencing the societal norms, values, and transitions of its era. It is not merely about clothing; it is about culture, identity, and history. This passage explores the intricate relationship between fashion and society, delving into various historical periods, significant changes, and the impact of fashion on societal norms and vice versa.

In the Victorian era, fashion was a distinct marker of social status and class distinction. The period, spanning from 1837 to 1901, was characterized by its rigid class structure and moral codes, mirrored in its fashion trends. Women's fashion, for instance, was defined by tightly laced corsets, voluminous skirts, and layers of petticoats. These garments were not just a style choice but a representation of the era's values—modesty, femininity, and social order. Men's fashion, with its tailcoats, top hats, and emphasis on formal attire, further reinforced the class divisions and social expectations of the time. The restrictive nature of Victorian fashion, particularly for women, reflected the limited role and freedoms afforded to them in society.

Transitioning into the 20th century, the world witnessed dramatic shifts in fashion that paralleled societal changes. The Roaring Twenties, a period marked by post-war euphoria and the Jazz Age, brought about a radical change in women’s fashion. Hemlines rose, waistlines dropped, and the flapper dress became the emblem of the era. This shift was not merely sartorial; it represented a fundamental change in women's roles and attitudes. The flapper dress, with its looser fit and shorter length, symbolized the liberation of women, their growing participation in the workforce, and their challenge to traditional gender norms.

The Great Depression of the 1930s and the ensuing World War II had a profound impact on fashion. The economic hardships of the 1930s saw fashion take a backseat, with simplicity and functionality becoming key. Clothes were mended and recycled, reflecting the resource constraints of the time. During World War II, the focus shifted to utility and practicality. Governments even regulated the amount of fabric that could be used for garments to conserve resources for the war effort. This period saw the introduction of women’s trousers and utility clothing—both out of necessity and as a reflection of women's increasing roles in the workforce and society at large.

Post-World War II, the fashion scene witnessed a resurgence of glamour and luxury. The 1950s are often remembered for Christian Dior's "New Look," which introduced rounded shoulders, cinched waists, and full skirts. This return to a more traditional and feminine silhouette was, in some ways, a reaction to the austerity of the war years. It also signified a shift back to conventional gender roles after the war. However, this trend was not unchallenged, and the seeds of rebellion and youth culture that would dominate later decades were already being sown.

The 1960s and 1970s were decades of radical change, reflected vividly in fashion. The '60s, with its counterculture movements, saw the rise of mini skirts, psychedelic prints, and a general defiance of conventional fashion standards. Designers like Mary Quant, who popularized the mini skirt, were not just creating new styles; they were making statements about freedom, youth, and rebellion against the conservative norms of previous generations. The 1970s continued this trend with the emergence of punk fashion, which was not just a style but a statement of anti-establishment and individuality.

As the 20th century drew to a close, the concept of fashion as a means of personal expression and identity became increasingly pronounced. The rise of streetwear and the blending of high fashion with casual attire in the 1990s and 2000s pointed to a more democratized view of fashion. This era saw the rise of fashion as a tool for individualism and self-expression, irrespective of class, gender, or ethnicity.

In contemporary times, fashion has become a platform for social and environmental activism. The growing awareness of the fashion industry's impact on the environment has led to the rise of sustainable and ethical fashion. Brands are increasingly focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, using sustainable materials, and ensuring fair labor practices. This shift is a reflection of a broader societal movement towards environmental sustainability and ethical consciousness.

Fashion is a complex dialogue between society and individual identity. It both shapes and is shaped by the cultural, political, and economic contexts in which it exists. From the corseted gowns of the Victorian era to the sustainable fabrics of today, fashion is not just about what we wear. It is about who we are, what we believe in, and how we choose to express ourselves. It is a narrative of our times, constantly evolving, reflecting, and influencing the world around us.

Questions and Answers

Q1. What did fashion symbolize in the Victorian era?
a) Economic prosperity
b) Social status and class distinction
c) Technological advancements
d) Artistic expression
A1: The correct answer is b) Social status and class distinction. The Victorian era's elaborate gowns and strict dress codes were indicative of a society that placed great importance on class and appearance.

Q2. Fill in the blank: The 1920s fashion, with its shorter hemlines and flapper dresses, reflected the __________ of women.
a) Traditional values
b) Economic struggles
c) Newfound freedom and rebellious spirit
d) Interest in sports
A2: The correct answer is c) Newfound freedom and rebellious spirit. This era marked a significant shift in women's fashion, aligning with their evolving roles in society.

Q3. True or False: Post-World War II fashion was characterized by minimalism and restraint.
a) True
b) False
A3: The correct answer is b) False. Post-World War II fashion was marked by a sense of relief and prosperity, reflected in luxurious fabrics and bold styles, rather than minimalism.

Q4. Which era is associated with the introduction of sustainable and ethical fashion?
a) Victorian era
b) Roaring 1920s
c) Post-World War II
d) Contemporary times
A4: The correct answer is d) Contemporary times. This reflects today's environmental concerns and a shift towards social responsibility.

Q5. Fill in the blank: Fashion serves as a _______ to society, capturing its cultural, political, and economic climates.
a) burden
b) mirror
c) mystery
d) background
A5: The correct answer is b) mirror. Fashion reflects the values, moods, and aspirations of society at any given time.

Q6. What does the shift in fashion during the 1920s signify in terms of societal change?
a) Economic depression
b) Technological innovation
c) Gender role transformation
d) Political instability
A6: The correct answer is c) Gender role transformation. The 1920s fashion reflected the newfound freedom and rebellious spirit of women, indicating significant societal change in gender roles.

Q7. True or False: Fashion in contemporary times has no relation to environmental concerns.
a) True
b) False
A7: The correct answer is b) False. Contemporary fashion shows a clear trend towards sustainable and ethical practices, highlighting environmental concerns.

Q8. Which of the following is not a function of fashion?
a) Symbolizing social status
b) Reflecting societal changes
c) Predicting technological advances
d) Communicating identity
A8: The correct answer is c) Predicting technological advances. While fashion reflects societal changes, communicates identity, and symbolizes social status, it does not directly predict technological advances.

Q9. Fill in the blank: In the Victorian era, _________ were indicative of a society obsessed with class and appearance.
a) simple attire
b) elaborate gowns
c) casual wear
d) uniform designs
A9: The correct answer is b) elaborate gowns. This choice reflects the Victorian era's focus on social status and class distinction through fashion.

Q10. What aspect of society does contemporary fashion's rise in sustainable and ethical practices reflect?
a) Historical traditions
b) Economic prosperity
c) Environmental concerns and social responsibility
d) Technological advancements
A10: The correct answer is c) Environmental concerns and social responsibility. This reflects a significant shift in societal values and priorities in recent times.


Fashion is much more than just clothes; it's a historical narrative and a societal indicator. It evolves with us, reflects our collective psyche, and often predicts the future trends of our society. Understanding fashion is understanding the pulse of humanity.

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