What Is Fashion?


Fashion is a way of dressing or presenting oneself. It has also been a method of identification and tradition: judges wear robes, members of the military wear uniforms, brides wear white dresses. It is a huge industry, involving millions of people who design, sew, glue, dye and transport clothing to stores. Fashions are influenced by many things, including music, art, films and television shows. They may spread quickly, as happened when blue jeans made the transition from working class communities in the United States to haute couture fashion shows in Paris. Fashions can be fads, as when a short skirt and boots became popular in England in the 1960s, or they can last for years as they do with some styles of clothing, such as kilts.

The term fashion means ‘trend’ or ‘latest developments’, but it can also mean’sameness’ in the sense of a uniform or same practice that society follows during a particular time. It is also sometimes used to describe the resurgence of a style or pattern that was once fashionable but has now been out of favour, such as the revival of the’mop-top’ haircut that had fallen out of popularity for decades after its first appearance in the 1960s.

Changing fashions have long been a source of fascination for writers, historians and social scientists. These changes can be caused by a desire to express individuality, or as a response to the pressures of social change. In modern times, the rapid pace of changes in fashion can be seen as a reflection of consumerist culture and a way to encourage materialistic consumerism. It can also be a form of protest or rebellion against political and economic circumstances, as in the case of resurgent ‘hippie’ clothes of the 1970s.

A person’s fashion can be a good indication of their status in their society, their attitude toward conformity and their taste. For example, the hemlines of a woman’s skirt can be an indicator of her social class and even her family’s background. Fashions are also a means of identifying groups within a society, such as the goths, skaters and preps of high school. Clothes can also be used to demonstrate solidarity with other groups, as when members of the ANC donned yellow armbands in support of their country during the struggle against apartheid.

Fashion is a social phenomenon, and to be considered ‘in fashion’ it has to be worn by a lot of people in a given society. It is easy to see how a certain style can make it from the streets of a city or suburb to the catwalks of a major fashion show, but what is not so obvious is the ways in which people can influence the direction of trends and fads. It is often the case that a fashion starts in a small group and then spreads through a community, or even across the globe, through viral marketing, word of mouth or mass media.