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Vanity Fair- Indian Contemporary Tale

Vanity Fair- Indian Contemporary Tale

By Priyanka Dey

My dictionary tells me , ‘Conspicuous’ as an adjective is ‘ Noticeable’ or ‘attracting attention ‘ which is something very different from what it becomes the alignment of consumption to it . Conspicuous consumption is spending of money and acquiring luxury goods and services to display economic power publicly —which can be either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth. Sociologically, it is like spending on those goods which decide the social status just by the ownership of the same. Termed after economist Thorstein Veblen, the founder of Conspicuous Consumption theory, Veblen goods are those commodities whose demand is proportional to their price, an inconsistency to the law of demand. These goods are often priced incredibly higher than the cost price to maintain their exclusivity. In some cases, the raw materials used or the design implemented has given the exclusivity, known as the designers touch to vest the exclusivity on the commodity. Due to these factors, commodities being out of reach of most people helps the sellers to maintain the power of price makers. The behavior of sporting money, self, accomplishment and possession is inherent in consumers across the world. It is indeed true for Indian context, however, empirically the medium of understanding exclusivity has been different.

Social Structure

Primary Objects of Consumption

Drivers of Behavior


Principal Behavior Dimensions

Pre capitalist-Feudal

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Slaves, Women, Food

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Military and Political Powers





Pure Ostentation


Very Expensive Products e.g. Diamonds

Social Power and Status

Nobility and Upper-middle Class

Ostentation and Signaling and Uniqueness


Image and Experience

Self- expression and Self- Image

Middle-class and the “Masses”

Uniqueness and Social Conformation

Culturalism *

Handloom , related to culture , art

Indigenous , micro form

Higher class and middle class

Ostentation , global acclamation and uniqueness

A Structural Analysis of Conspicuous Consumption Behavior

‘* Culturalism ‘means the phase where the social ethics, morals and art is given priority. It is not any legitimate school of thought but a potential explanation.

The typicality prevailing in the Indian social construction, class behavior, and economic resource allocation are dissimilar from the Western societies and so is the consumption culture. However, recent socio-economic transitions have significantly changed Indian consumption habits. The Indian society has been deprived of Coco Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Aquascutum, and Guccio Gucci etc. It was mostly due to western influence in the early ages and also due to the colonial rule, the British taste on the influence was imperative. The post Liberalization found a heterogeneous supply of commodities across the world. Some succeeded to make their mark and some were washed by, but the local handloom industry suffered due to competition. But all the good that has been tried to be done in this sector has led to a revolution. The present clan of designers who use the homespun textiles and improvises the traditional stiches have created an international demand of Indian fine clothing. Even in the household, the luxury sofa sets are getting replaced by the bamboo or wooden carved sofa, a testimony of the home décor, being influenced by primitive Indian handicraft, is the taste symbolization. No empirics is required to prove this, just a visit to a nearby handloom fair solves it all.

From the pre-colonial era the rajas and maharajas have been engrossed in showing off their aristocracy and richness in terms of the luxury expenditures. From having elephants and tigers as pets, to getting engaged in hunting as a hobby, to organize big festivals and of course, flaunting heavy exclusive craftsmanship. They were known by the exceptional artisans present in their court. History shows the exclusive jewelry, clothing and other possessions in royal courts. However, these hobbies were limited to the highest of the class. The lower being deprived of subsistence. In today’s era, the same scenario’s occur with just the social alteration where these crafts men are no more loyal to one noble court but to a market facility. The branded designer wears are the exclusivity at disposal of rich.

The image of Indian society has been highly influenced by the media, Bollywood in particular has been the avenue for trend setting. The novel ‘Devdas ‘written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was depicted in two very different ways. In 1955 by Bimal Roy Production ,

‘Paro’ was a simple girl from next door adored by her simplicity , cotton saree , low make up and self- esteem and lived in a low profile house as written in the novel . Whereas in 2002, the version of the same story premise presented by Sanjay Leela Bhansali choose a mansion, nothing less than a royal closet, exquisite make up and exceptional beauty to play ‘Parvati’, the so called girl next door. The definition of girl next door has changed so rapidly.

The profile of a house hold is understood in present day with a lot more
variables. The car, refrigerator, plasma television, air condition is the dire necessity of life which used to be luxury not very long back. There has been prominent trickledown effect in consumption but the mystery remains in the ever increasing gap of rich and poor people. Whether a populated middle class will be a bust or boom for the Indian society remains a mystery. The rapid intrusion of market research firms claims the global urgency of socio economic study of Indian market influences.

 Passionate for love , economics , dance, fashion and living life . Hope to keep getting inspired in life. I believe bringing a change is the cause of our existence and every step that one takes change options in superstructure . Keen in deconstructing anything and everything . I believe we all know what we actually want and eventually achieve that and the rest that comes in the path is just knowledge creation .

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