What Is Fashion?

Fashion is a style or practice of dressing. It varies from person to person and can be influenced by culture, age, geographical location, social status, religion, political views and other factors. In its most basic form, it is a way to make yourself look good. Moreover, it is an industry that encompasses the designing, manufacturing, distribution, retailing and marketing of clothing for men, women and children. It covers everything from haute couture (literally, “high sewing”) and designer labels to inexpensive ready-to-wear clothes.

Fashion also reflects cultural movements and historical eras. In the past, some clothes were worn as a sign of wealth or status: Roman senators wore purple dyed cloth; high-ranking Chinese officials wore yellow garments; and Hawaiian chiefs wore cloaks decorated with carved whale teeth. Today, the influence of fashion on society is more subtle, but it’s still evident: celebrities wear new trends, and people imitate them.

What’s more, it can have psychological effects: a study conducted by Dr Shakaila Forbes-Bell from the University of Hertfordshire found that wearing certain kinds of clothes can make you feel good about yourself and even give you a temporary dopamine boost. That’s why some people love to follow the latest trends and dress according to their desires.

The fashion industry is a massive business with more than 300 million people globally employed in the design, manufacture and selling of apparel. It is a worldwide phenomenon that affects all countries and regions, with the highest concentration of fashion houses in London, Paris, Milan and New York City.

While the definition of fashion is subjective, some defining characteristics include an awareness of current and past styles and the ability to identify and create trends. Moreover, it is an industry in which mass media plays an important role. News and information about current and upcoming trends is widely disseminated via newspapers, magazines, TV, websites, blogs, and social networks.

The most important figure in the history of fashion was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (1883–1927), a French designer. Her modernist thinking and pursuit of elegance revolutionized the way women dressed in the 1900s. She was often referred to as “Coco” and her designs were a departure from the restrictive corsets and other heavy fabrics that dominated the time. She also said, “luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Her philosophies and design aesthetics are still influential today.