Fashion trends

What is Fashion?

Fashion is something we deal with every day. Even those who say they don’t care what they wear choose clothes that say a lot about them and how they feel that day each morning.

One thing about fashion is that it changes. We are constantly bombarded with new fashion ideas from music, video, books and TV. Movies also have a big influence on how people dress. Sales of Ray-Ban sunglasses increased following the release of the movie Men in Black. Sometimes a trend is global. Back in the 1950s, teenagers all over the world were dressing like Elvis.

Who decides fashion?

Musicians and other cultural icons have always influenced what we wear, but so have politicians and royals. Newspapers and magazines covered what Hillary Clinton was wearing. The recent death of Diana, Princess of Wales has been a blow to the haute couture world, and her clothes are in the news every day.

Even people in the 1700s would peruse fashion magazines for the latest styles. Women and tailors outside the French court relied on sketches to understand what was going on. The famous French King Louis XIV said that fashion is a mirror. Louis himself was known for his style, and he loved luxurious lace and velvet.

Clothes divide people into different groups.

Fashion is revealing. Clothes reveal the group people are in. In high school, groups had names: “Goths, skaters, preppies, herbalists.” Styles show who you are, but they can also create stereotypes and distance between groups. For example, a businessman might see a boy with green hair and multiple piercings as a freak and an outsider. But to another, the boy was a strict conformist. He was dressed in a certain way to send a message of rebellion and separation, but within that group, the look was unified. Accepting or rejecting a style is a reaction to the society we live in.

“In order to look like the rest of the world, what you’re talking about is very necessary.”

—Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, May 1, 1780

Fashion is a language that tells a story about the people who wear it. “Clothes create a way of communicating that doesn’t require a language we all understand,” says Katherine Hamnett, one of Britain’s top fashion designers. When several rock bands wear big words like “Choose Life” Hamnet became popular when the t-shirts came out.

We wear what we wear for many reasons.

Protection from cold, rain, and snow: Climbers wear high-tech jackets to avoid frostbite and overexposure.

Physical appeal: Wear a variety of styles to inspire “chemistry.”

Emotions: We “dress up” when we’re happy and “low-key” when we’re unhappy.

Religious expression: Orthodox Jewish men wear long black suits, Islamic women cover every part of the body except the eyes.

Identity and Tradition: Judges wear robes, soldiers wear uniforms, and brides wear white dresses.

“Clothing often portends men.”

– Shakespeare, Hamlet

Fashion is big business. More people are involved in the buying, selling and production of apparel than any other business in the world. Every day, millions of workers design, sew, glue, dye and deliver garments to stores. Advertisements on buses, billboards, and magazines teach us, consciously or unconsciously, what to wear.

Clothing can be used as a political weapon. In 19th century England, the law prohibited people from wearing clothes made in France. During the communist revolutions of the twentieth century, uniforms were used to abolish class and racial distinctions.

Fashion is a never-ending popularity contest.

High fashion is the style of a small group of men and women with a certain taste and authority in the fashion industry. Rich and powerful people, buyers of major department stores, editors of fashion magazines and writers are all part of haute couture (“haute couture” in French). Some of these expensive and often artistic fads may prevail and become the fad for most people. Most stayed on the runway.

Fashion is almost impossible to track. No one can tell how the skirts and boots worn by teens in England in 1960 took to the Paris runway, how blue jeans became so popular in America, and how hip-hop took off from the streets of the Bronx. Haute Couture shows in London and Milan.

It’s easy to see what’s trending by watching sitcoms on TV: crop tops and tracksuits from 90210, baggy pants from Bel-Air Fresh Prince. But fashion’s direction relies on “plug-in” individuals who respond to events and trends in music, art and books.

“From a clothing-historical point of view, the clothing of any given period is very well suited to the actual climate at that time.” According to renowned British clothing historian James Lovell. How did flared pants go from the designer jeans and boots look of the 1980s to the baggy look of the 1990s? Nobody really knows.

Once established, fashion began to change.

International Fashion Editor Cynthia Durcanin answers the question, “What is fashion?”

Fashion is a state of mind

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