What Is Fashion?

Fashion is the prevailing style of dress and appearance, especially among a population or a group of people. In a cultural context, fashion is often seen as an expression of identity or individuality, and it can be linked to social class, age, occupation, location, and even personality. Fashion is constantly changing, reflecting and evolving through a complex process of influences and feedback. Fashion is often influenced by the media, which can promote or discourage trends through editorial critique, guidelines, and commentary.

A large part of fashion is related to clothing, but there are also many other forms. There are fashions in hairstyles and makeup, jewelry, furniture and other household objects, and of course the countless varieties of food that exist. Fashions can be distinguished by their level of adherence to established aesthetic principles. People who consciously follow or seek out new trends are known as “fashionistas” or “fashion victims.”

The concept of fashion has been studied and discussed for centuries. A basic definition was proposed by semiotic scholar Martine Lauterstein: “fashion is a system of signs that communicate messages about an individual, group or culture.” Changes in garment styles may reflect changes in cultural or historical contexts, but the overall effect remains the same: they signal the wearer’s identity and status. For example, the changing silhouette of a man’s jacket or the length of his waistcoat may communicate power and formality, while the change in style of a woman’s skirt or the way she holds her head can communicate confidence and playfulness.