What is Fashion?
Fashion is a way of expressing one’s individuality and solidarity with other people. It can be as subtle as the color of a shirt or as dramatic as a whole outfit. It is a worldwide phenomenon, from the haute couture of Paris runway shows to the blue jeans worn in the streets of New York. Clothing is a big business, employing millions of people who design, sew, glue, dye, and transport it to stores and buyers. It also serves as a source of identification and tradition: judges wear robes, people in the military wear uniforms, brides wear white dresses. In addition, many people use their clothing to convey their attitude and mood.
Fashion trends change as tastes, culture, economics, and politics change. It is hard to pinpoint what causes them to do so; for example, a style may become popular because it was worn by a well-known person, but this doesn’t explain why that person chose to wear that particular outfit. Fashion can also be used to indicate social class, or to accentuate ethnic and gender differences, for instance by wearing traditional Turkish clothing in Europe in the eighteenth century or by the wearing of high chopines by Venetian ladies in the sixteenth century.
Clothes have been a symbol of power and wealth for centuries, and even today expensive designer clothes are often used as symbols of status. Moreover, they are frequently used to distinguish members of the same group, such as when teenagers copy the styles of their favorite pop stars. This can be a problem, especially if the fashions chosen are inappropriate for the age or group they represent.
In addition, some styles are considered to be “in fashion” at a given time and then quickly “go out of fashion.” This happens because new materials, technologies, or ideas come along and replace them. Alternatively, styles that were once considered outdated might be rediscovered by new generations with a fresh interpretation and become “in fashion” again.
Fashion is also influenced by the media and advertisements, whether in print or electronic form, television or the internet. For example, the bare midriffs and athletic clothes seen on sitcoms might inspire men or women to follow suit. In the past, governments might regulate or prohibit certain types of clothing, for example in nineteenth century England laws prohibited people from wearing certain styles of dresses, and during twentieth century communist revolutions, clothing was used as a tool to abolish class distinctions.
Another important aspect of fashion is balance and rhythm. An outfit that is not properly balanced will lose its appeal. From the colors used, to the shape and drape of the fabric, to the details in embroidery, it all needs to be in harmony.