Fashion is a generic term for any specific style, type, and form of clothing and personal adornment at a given time and place and at a given social context. The word itself implies a trend defined by the fashion industry, as what is popular at a given moment and situation. It can be viewed from many perspectives, including those of fashion critics, collectors, and aestheticians. In fact, fashion has become such a large part of our everyday lives that it has become a term that is often heard without even being stated. So what is fashion and how do we define it?
For the majority of Western consumers, fashion is primarily judged by how it makes a person look. The beauty of a garment is its ability to enhance one’s physical appearance and compliment the other components of the individual’s attire. However, fashion is also used in much the same way as language is used in describing and sharing culture. Just like words like beauty, elegance, glamour, and masculinity are not static terms but constantly evolving in relation to societal ideals of beauty, so too are the various trends in fashion. There are new styles, new trends, new concepts, and new elements of dress that are continuously becoming popular.
For designers, the process of defining a trend begins with observation of current fashions. As most fashions are generally rooted in historical periods, designers may choose to analyze the pasts of certain fashions to understand how they have changed over time. By looking back at the history of Western fashion, designers gain a better understanding of what has been successful and what has not. By closely examining historical fashions, the emerging trends can be applied to create similar fashion in the future. For example, if the prevailing style of high fashion in the previous century was knee-length skirts with high cut blouses and dresses, then future fashion trends may center on more feminine, longer-sleeved, low cut fashions. Likewise, if in the past high fashion was centered around the idea of wearing too much, today it is more apt to focus on the idea of not wearing too much.
In addition to studying the history of fashions, another way in which fashion is influenced is through the creation of new designs. In order to create something new, designers look to nature for inspiration, taking note of natural patterns and colours that are relevant to the environment, time period, and the target audience. As such, there are numerous fashion designs that have emerged from nature, such as the corset, which helped to shape the silhouette of the twentieth century.
Due to the close connection between clothing and fashion, clothing designers often choose to work in conjunction with fashion designers. The two often come together in order to create new, unique styles. Designers who work in conjunction with fashion designers on a regular basis will usually find their work to be much cheaper than if they tried to do it themselves. Additionally, working with someone who knows what they are doing will ensure that a designer can create clothes that will meet the ever-changing needs of consumers, as fashion changes seasonally and also depending upon the climate.
So, does clothing really exist without fashion? While there may not be actual physical objects created to represent clothing – such as t-shirts, jeans, or dresses – the idea of the material and craftsmanship involved in creating clothing itself, as well as the ideas behind clothing, does exist without fashion. Therefore, a piece of clothing could exist without any particular style or design. Only when one chooses to wear a certain type of clothes or designs does the idea of fashion come into play.