Design piracy in the United States women's ready-to-wear apparel industry: 1910-1941

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2005-01-01
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Jean L. Parsons
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Marcketti, Sara
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Textiles and Clothing
Abstract

This research investigates the economic conditions of the American apparel industry, as well as the complex interactions of apparel industry members, trade organizations, and the U.S. government to better understand the reasons cited for supporters of apparel style protection versus those who accepted design piracy. The purpose is to examine the concept of piracy within the historical context of the American ready-to-wear apparel industry. Through an analysis of journalistic coverage in trade and popular fashion periodicals, pertinent legal records, economic and census data, governmental hearings, archival sources, and the case study of the Fashion Originators Guild of America, this research analyzes the interrelationships among American access to fashion, the ready-to-wear industry, and design piracy. The precise time boundaries of this research are 1910 though 1941. These years encompassed the rise of the American ready-to-wear industry and coincided with the beginning of the trade publication Women's Wear Daily. The year 1941 marked the end of the Fashion Originators Guild of America's program of self-regulation against piracy. Protection of women's apparel against piracy was controversial and difficult. First, protection of styles against piracy was contradictory to the concept of fashion. Without the social process of imitation, the lucrative business of the women's ready-to-wear apparel industry could not exist. Second, an objective criterion for determining product originality was difficult. These problems were multiplied in the women' ready-to-wear apparel industry which placed thousands of different styles in production each season, each conforming to the prevailing fashion in varying price and quality levels. While the apparel industry continues to debate the rubric of "referencing," the FOGA was an important early case highlighting the ethical, economic, and social considerations of a program of industry-wide self-regulation.

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Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2005