The Purpose of Fashion Shows Through the Lens of Media’s History

Primary Author: Lindsay McCoy

Faculty Sponsor: Jihyeong Son


Primary College/Unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

Category: Business, Communication, and Politial Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Fashion shows are a popular spectacle that promotes human expression and aesthetic, yet few studies examine their history, purpose, or influential factors. In particular, no study has previously examined how communication technology has impacted fashion shows in terms of media coverage, presentation format, and purpose throughout history.


Using qualitative content analysis with grounded theory utilizing secondary data from print books and internet sources using pre-defined key words and phrases, the histories of fashion shows and media were analyzed and compared to answer three research questions: What is the purpose and function of fashion shows throughout history?; How has the communication of fashion shows changed throughout various media transformations?; How did each of the various media types impact fashion shows and which had the greatest impact?


It was found that the invention of television and the radio had the greatest impact. Fashion shows in earlier decades were reserved for the elite classes, but television and radio allowed all members of society to become involved. The invention of the internet and social media provided the ability to virtually watch shows in real time, regardless of social status or location.


One implication is that fashion shows will continue to evolve with changing communication technology; therefore it is pertinent to monitor how fashion shows adapt in the future to understand how their purpose changes and what role they will play in society. This research study also creates a timeline framework for future research to build upon.