Fashion is the style or choice of clothes worn by a person. The word is often used to describe trends in clothing, but it can also refer to a particular look or style. People use clothing to communicate their personality and social status, which is why fashion is an important symbol in many cultures. Fashion trends are often created by celebrities, and they can influence the choices of ordinary people.
The fashion industry is a multibillion-dollar business that encompasses the design, production and selling of clothing. It is difficult to define what distinguishes fashion from other types of clothing, although some observers make a distinction between high fashion (designer clothes that are expensive and exclusive) and mass-produced garments. The fashion industry is closely associated with art, and some designers have a reputation for creating revolutionary styles.
Clothing and accessories are often used to communicate one’s social status or to convey information about the wearer’s mood. Fashions vary considerably between different societies, and within a society, between individuals of the same class or generation. The fashions of elites in the west are often based on traditional culture and are modified to reflect contemporary tastes.
Some scholars believe that there is a direct relationship between modern fashion and the development of democracy in the nineteenth century, which saw the rise of mass-production methods and the spread of the new social democratic ideas of freedom, equality and justice. In the twentieth century the rationing of cloth and haberdashery during World War II helped to speed up fashion trends by standardizing the size of fabrics and allowing manufacturers to produce clothes quickly and inexpensively.
The creation of fashion is influenced by many factors, including the economy, the availability of raw materials and production techniques, the social climate, and the media. The media, in turn, influences the tastes of the public and may encourage or discourage certain styles of dress. In the past, fashions were usually transmitted by word of mouth, but today they are more commonly communicated through the mass media.
In addition to influencing the styles of clothing, the fashion industry has also influenced popular music and other aspects of culture. A fashionable haircut, for example, can be a significant factor in changing the way a person looks and feels. Fashion is also a tool for expressing political beliefs, as some designers have taken controversial positions on issues such as sex and AIDS in their collections.
The ability of fashion to encapsulate the changing desires and beliefs of a society is an aspect that makes it unique among the arts. It can be traced in the designs of furniture and automobiles, but it is perhaps most easily seen in clothing, especially in the ways that a new trend can move from the street to the runway in the space of a few short years. It is also evident in the way that a person’s taste in clothes can be reflected by his or her preferences for certain music, art or books.