I feel like the idea of ‘conspicuous consumption’ really shows up in Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” and I am also interested in how the concept might relate to our consumption of different foods and beverages. As a quick refresher on ‘Taste’ and ‘taste,’ ‘Taste’ has to do with preferences in things like art and clothing, and ‘taste’ deals with preferences in food. Clearly, Swift’s poem is concerned with Celia’s Tastes as she prepares for the evening, and her desire to look so nice for some sort of social event indicates a form of conspicuous consumption that she likely has in common with the others in attendance. The conspicuousness is emphasized by the comparison of her emergence from her dressing room to her more grotesque nature when she (believes she is) in private. If Celia is not trying to show off her fashions and possessions, then surely she does not need to spend five hours transforming herself from a regular woman who “shits” (118) into a “Goddess” (3). Her extended preparation and Taste for what were likely expensive wares are intended to indicate her social status and, thus, an example of conspicuous consumption; her application of Tastes indicates her position.
So again, I find myself asking what any of this has to do with food and taste, and it turns out, it is pretty easy to make that leap. A person’s tastes for caviar or Dom Perignon and Tastes for Ferraris and gold jewelry are both examples of conspicuous consumption in that they are both going to enhance perceptions of that person. For instance, if I was going on a date back at home and was a bit more superficial, I might ask to borrow my dad’s new car instead of my grandmother’s old Honda, and I might go to a nice Italian place instead of Chipotle. It is not that the Honda is a bad car or that Chipotle serves awful burritos; in terms of function, there really is not much difference at all, but the new car and the pricier Italian food convey a different message, and because that message is intentional, the consumption is conspicuous.