What Is Fashion?


Fashion is a multifaceted term that describes the ways in which people dress. It encompasses styles, trends, and even the cultural aesthetics that dictate what clothes to wear. Fashion is a reflection of society and its dynamics; different eras, social movements, and even political views can be traced through the evolution of fashion.

In the past, clothing often served as a symbol of status and social distance. Judges wore robes, soldiers wore uniforms, and women wore dresses or skirts long enough to cover their legs. Today, however, clothes have become a form of identification and communication: judges wear robes that reflect their legal expertise, military personnel wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from civilians, and brides wear white dresses to symbolize purity.

Clothes can also communicate a person’s personal preferences and interests. The miniskirt, for example, was a symbol of freedom and feminism in the 1960s. Special garments can mark a person’s place in the world: only Roman senators could wear purple, and Hawaiian chiefs would display their rank with carved whale teeth.

In addition to its role as a mode of expression, fashion is an industry that employs millions around the world. Designers and manufacturers create clothing to meet specific market demands, and they promote these designs in a variety of media. In the past, magazines such as Vogue were the primary source of information about current fashion trends, but in recent decades, the explosion of cable and satellite television has led to saturation coverage of fashionable events, including fashion shows. Some designers have taken on a more activist stance and are known to promote political ideas through their work.