What Is Fashion?


Fashion is the way in which people dress. It can reflect the current taste of a particular time, or it may represent an attempt to change that taste. It can also be used to distinguish different social groups. For example, judges wear robes, soldiers in uniform, and brides wear long white dresses. Clothing also serves the practical purpose of covering and gratifying vanity. It can communicate a person’s age, social status, occupation, or mood. People often use clothes as a form of self-expression, for example by displaying their sexual preference or political leanings through the type and color of shirt worn. Fashions can be influenced by significant events in history, as in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed people’s attitudes and priorities towards health and hygiene.

The word “fashion” derives from the French words for new styles and customs—la mode nouvelle, meaning “new style”—which were first introduced in the seventeenth century by the development of Parisian haute couture (“highly-skilled tailoring”). In fact, many scholars believe that the evolution of clothing was one of the driving forces behind the revolution of French culture—as well as the spread of democracy and modernization throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Some fashions are more durable than others. The emergence of the bourgeoisie in nineteenth-century France, for instance, resulted in more sophisticated dress codes, especially among women. In other cases, the lines between fashion and anti-fashion become blurred as elements of clothing that were once considered antiquated or “uncool” are rediscovered, popularized, and adopted by fashionable cultures—such as the tattoos that traveled from sailors, laborers, and criminals to the mainstream.

It is hard to determine exactly when the onset of continual and accelerating change in clothing styles began, but historians have generally agreed that it did not begin in Western society until the late medieval period. Then, with the rise of industrialization and the advent of a booming textile industry in the nineteenth century, a great variety of new clothes were produced and made available to the general public.

People use clothing to express their personality and interests. Changing trends in fashion allow them to signal their social class, generation, or gender identity. In addition, some fashions have a symbolic value: the miniskirt in 1960 represented liberation and emancipation for young women; cassocks or nuns’ robes symbolize a renunciation of vanity.

Fashion can be a tool for characterization, and it is important to keep up with the times. However, writers should be cautious about using it too much. Trying too hard to be fashionable can ruin the readability of your work. A writer who has a strong knowledge of fashion can incorporate it into his or her writing in a subtle way that will add depth to the character and story. Fashion can also be an interesting subject to write about, as it is a global phenomenon that is constantly changing. Writing about it is a great way to explore new ideas and perspectives.