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Controlling Your Image IELTS Reading Academic with Answers
READING PASSAGE 3
Controlling your image
Does what you wear still matter?
In the late thirteenth century in Europe it became the custom to display your wealth through your clothing and a person’s social class became easy to determine on sight. It showed their wealth and status, and somewhat like a uniform, made it easier for people to determine someone’s rank on sight. Clothing was a cultural symbol of power, or the lack of it.
Sumptuary laws were introduced in Europe in the Middle Ages as a way of maintaining social order through the clothes people wore and they were regulated to the minutest detail. The complex sumptuary laws in the crowded court of Elizabethan England were primarily used to know who to bow down to. Queen Elizabeth I decreed that only people of very high noble rank could wear textiles such as velvet, silk and fur, or carry swords. Purple silk and sable fur were restricted solely to her own use. The laws even controlled the size of the white lace neck collars that were fashionable at the time.
The queen declared that she had passed the laws to stop young men form falling into debt from buying luxurious clothing, but it was most likely to stop the growing middle class dressing like nobles. It may also have been for monetary reasons. Much of the materials needed to make these clothes had to be imported, which was detrimental to the English balance of trade. For people who flouted these laws there were heavy fines (200 marks for the wearer and £40 for the tailor), which would have raised money for the crown. Sumptuary law was not restricted to Britain alone. There were similar laws enforced all over Europe. These laws were all repealed by the middle of the eighteenth century as the lines between wealth and class became more fluid. ielts-reading
What actually is social class? When there is excess production, a hierarchical system develops in society. The higher social classes generally have more wealth or possessions, and those in lower sections of society strive for upward mobility. It is argued that those in more privileged classes block this upward movement to protect their own power. In all societies, the wealthy elite tends to have more prestige and power than those lower down the class ladder and as a result, society’s rules, values and tastes have been historically dictated by the upper classes. When these are threatened, hostility between the social classes grows.
Karl Marx theorized that there were two main groups in society, the people that owned the means of production and those that did not. He argued that the two groups were perpetually antagonistic, trying to either maintain or undermine the balance of power. Sociologist Max Weber further defined social class groups saying that not only were they made up of people who occupied similar positions of authority and privilege due to their economic rank, but they shared a similar lifestyle. These early social class theories are still valid, but the fact that they are quite generalized tends to make them problematic. Before globalisation and mass immigration, the lines between classes were easier to distinguish. In this century, assessing even your own social class is not easy, as the categories of class have changed and the boundaries between them have become blurred. ielts-reading
New measures of affluence now exist that cover lifestyle choices, social interaction, educational level, time spent on leisure, personal values, political leanings, health and nutritional standards and even the level of happiness. Mobility between classes is now both socially acceptable and even encouraged, and societies tend not to develop class consciousness or a distinct class culture as seen in the past. Through education and travel, people can choose their own peer group and vie for acceptance within it. Technology has assisted this by giving people of different classes around the world access to similar status symbols to aspire to. Along with these massive social changes, the role of fashion as a class delineator has changed.
By the time the swinging sixties came around, quality clothes had become accessible to all classes and fashion became less of a way of depicting status and more of a democratic way of expressing oneself. The situation has not changed much since then, though the fashions themselves regularly do so. Even the top fashion houses and other traditional centres of style are influenced by and compete with the forces of popular culture and global media, which have their roots in all levels of society and culture.
Although the defining of social class is no longer as significant when observing how the fashion industry and trends function, it does not mean it no longer exists. It is just that it has become fractured and less easy to define as populations become wealthier and different styles of clothing become more accessible. People still aspire to upward mobility but merely being able to purchase expensive clothes is not the key. Displaying social position through dress has become more subtle and is often in the details. Perfect cut and fit in a garment is harder to come by, or expensive natural fabrics. Accessories such as watches, bags, scarves, belts and shoes might be a greater indicator of an association with a certain class than the clothing itself. Even more so, straight teeth, a fashionable haircut and a good physique can often signify class more than dress itself. ielts-reading.com
Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in Reading Passage 3?
YES – if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO – if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN – if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
27. In the past fashion was used to identify people socially.
28. Clothing was the most important indicator of wealth.
29. Sumptuary laws were highly controlled.
30. Elizabeth I allowed her family members to wear purple silk.
31. Elizabeth I probably passed the laws to stop people from overspending.
32. The punishment for breaking sumptuary laws was costly.
Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.
33. According to the writer, social hierarchy is dependent on
A. an imbalance of power.
B. people wanting to better themselves.
C. high levels of poverty.
D. the overproduction of goods.
34. The aesthetic and moral standards of society have been set by elite classes to
A. protect weaker, poorer citizens.
B. consolidate their position.
C. encourage upward mobility.
D. prevent resentment between classes.
35. The writer infers that the ideas of Karl Marx and Max Weber
A. might be too simple to be practical.
B. should be regarded as the authority.
C. contrast with each other.
D. no longer have any value.
36. What does the writer mean by the word ‘blurred’ in line 31?
37. The class system has changed because
A. upward mobility occurs less regularly.
B. people no longer aspire to be part of a group.
C. wealth is now measured in different ways.
D. technology has encouraged more equality.
Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-E, below.
38. What people wear is no longer a great indicator of social class
39. The elite dictators of fashion now have to share their leadership
40. Members of a class now reveal their affiliation
A. with other social and cultural influencers.
B. so they can remain the dominant players.
C. by more than just the clothes they wear.
D. as most people now have access to fashionable clothing.
E. because it no longer understands trends.
Controlling Your Image IELTS Reading Answers
28. NOT GIVEN
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