Fashion is a global multibillion-dollar industry, encompassing the design, manufacture and marketing of clothing. It is a highly influential social force, both as a mode of self-expression and a means of conveying status and identity, with implications ranging from cultural to economic to psychological. Fashion is a form of mediated culture that is continuously evolving. It is a way of life for the modern world, and is often seen as a mirror of our times.
The term fashion is used to describe a particular style or trend in clothing, hairstyles, accessories or behaviour. In the context of fashion as an industry, it refers to the creation of designs and patterns of clothes, footwear and accessories. It is also the name of a style that is popular at any given time.
Fashion is often seen as a mirror of our society, but it is a highly distorted one. Take a look at the cover of UK Vogue in 1967 or the garments preserved in a museum’s dress collection and you will see an image of a predominantly white, slim, middle-class society. It is a vision constructed by the elites in power to make us believe that this is what society really looks like.
Aside from the obvious, such as a particular colour or a certain shape, some other factors that influence fashion include the way in which people shop. The process of browsing, trying on, purchasing and styling clothes is known to boost dopamine levels, which can lead to happiness and a sense of well-being in many women. In addition, fashion can act as a cultural and social statement by highlighting important events or values through the clothes that are worn.
While fashion is considered a subset of the apparel industry, it has evolved into its own separate entity with its own set of etiquette rules and vocabulary. Fashion is also defined by its relationship with capital. The ever-shifting and glamorous products on display in shops and represented in magazines obscure their origins, ingredients and makers – emphasising instead their symbolic capital and aura. Human and natural capital, the skills of its makers and our world’s stock of natural resources are largely written out of the story that fashion tells.
Although it can be difficult to pin down what exactly defines a fashion, some key characteristics include its fluidity, social and cultural influences, and its association with elitism. Additionally, it can be a reflection of the world around us, such as sports team apparel if you’re a fan or animal prints if you’re an advocate for veganism. As a result, there are both advantages and disadvantages to fashion, but overall, it is a source of happiness and inspiration for most. As John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”