What Is Fashion?

Fashion is a system of cultural beliefs and practices involving clothing, footwear and other accessories. It can be viewed as an art, a social movement, a business or an industry. Fashion often refers to the latest styles or trends, but it can also imply uniformity of style over time or across different cultures.

A major influence on fashion trends is the business side of the industry, which influences designers and consumers. Fashion trends are often promoted by businesses for profit, and this can be a negative influence on society as it encourages materialistic consumerism. However, individual creativity and personal expression are important aspects of fashion, and the ability to change and evolve is an essential part of the industry.

For something to be considered a fashion, it must be widely accepted and followed. This can happen through the “trickle-down” effect, when an individual with a distinctive style influences others to adopt their look, or it can occur across social boundaries and via the media. The spread of a particular fashion can be extremely rapid.

Fashion can be influenced by social or political changes, but it is also inherently a social phenomenon. It is impossible for one person to initiate a trend by themselves; there must be a wide dissemination and an audience that responds. Musicians, artists, celebrities and politicians often become fashion icons and can have a huge impact on the way people dress. For example, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s dresses and Princess Diana’s outfits were constantly reported in the news. The fashions of a particular era can also influence the styles of later years, such as when the miniskirt became popular in the 1960’s, reflecting the Liberal revolution.

Clothes can communicate, sending and receiving messages about gender, age, status, personality and social class. They can even reflect life choices, as when nuns wear cassocks to signal a renunciation of vanity. They can also act as a type of identity marker, forming stereotypes and creating distance between groups: goths wear black, skaters wear skateboards, preps wear blazers.

It can be difficult to define fashion, and the distinction between high-fashion shows and mass-produced clothes is blurred. The term may be used to describe a style that is coveted and expensive, but it can also refer to inexpensive or everyday clothes that are fashionable in a particular time. It is a complex and ever-changing subject. It is sometimes used as a tool for social criticism or to highlight an issue, such as when an AIDS awareness campaign utilizes the “Red Ribbon” fashion line. But it is also a way to show off personal taste and individuality, and to express ideas about culture and the world in general. Fashion is a living, ever-changing concept that will always be with us. It is a reflection of our ever-changing society and a means to communicate with each other. It can be a whisper, a scream or an all-knowing wink, but it is in our nature to keep looking for ways to improve, update and innovate.

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