What Is Fashion?


Fashion is a system of symbols that communicates cultural and social norms, values, beliefs and ideologies. Different elements of clothing such as colour, pattern, fabric, size, shape and accessories can symbolise personal identity, social status, mood and emotion, group membership, milestones and life stages. Fashion can be created and spread within groups through peer influence and imitation, and also across cultures through globalisation. It can also be used as a form of resistance and activism.

The emergence of new trends in fashion is usually driven by changes in popular culture. For example, a style might become fashionable after it is featured in a magazine or movie, and then replicated among peers and customers. The resulting trend can be short-lived, and can even be reversed once the public becomes dissatisfied with it. Fashions can also be influenced by the economy, as demonstrated by the short-lived popularity of bellbottom pants in the 1960s, or by societal changes, such as the rationing of fabrics during World War II.

The defining feature of fashion is that it is ephemeral and ever-changing. A coat that was in fashion one season can be considered old-fashioned the next, and it is largely impossible to determine what will be fashionable in the future. The industry encourages people to keep up with the latest trends, as is evidenced by the popularity of Instagram and TikTok accounts where people post pictures of their outfits each day. The terms fashionista and fashion victim refer to people who slavishly follow current trends.