Fashion is a general term for a popular style or practice, especially in clothing, footwear, accessories, makeup, body piercing, or furniture. Fashion refers to a distinctive and often habitual trend in the style in which a person dresses or to prevailing styles in behaviour. Fashion also refers to the newest creations of textile designers. The more technical term costume has become so linked to the term "fashion" that the use of the former has been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while "fashion" means clothing more generally, including the study of it. Although aspects of fashion can be feminine or masculine, some trends are androgynous.
Early Western travelers, whether to Persia, Turkey, India, or China, would frequently remark on the absence of change in fashion there, and observers from these other cultures commented on the unseemly pace of Western fashion, which many felt suggested an instability and a lack of order in Western culture. The Japanese Shogun's secretary boasted (not completely accurately) to a Spanish visitor in 1609 that Japanese clothing had not changed in over a thousand years. However, there is considerable evidence in Ming China of rapidly changing fashions in Chinese clothing. Changes in costume often took place at times of economic or social change, as occurred in ancient Rome and the medieval Caliphate, but then a long period without major changes would follow. In 8th century Moorish Spain the famous musician Ziryab introduced to Córdoba in Al-Andalus sophisticated clothing-styles based on seasonal and daily fashions from his native Baghdad, modified by his own inspiration. Similar changes in fashion occurred in the 11th century in the Middle East following the arrival of the Turks who introduced clothing styles from Central Asia and the Far East.
The beginning in Europe of continual and increasingly rapid change in clothing styles can be fairly reliably dated. Historians, including James Laver and Fernand Braudel, date the start of Western fashion in clothing to the middle of the 14th century. The most dramatic early change in fashion was a sudden drastic shortening and tightening of the male over-garment from calf-length to barely covering the buttocks, sometimes accompanied with stuffing in the chest to make it look bigger. This created the distinctive Western outline of a tailored top worn over leggings or trousers.
The pace of change accelerated considerably in the following century, and women and men's fashion, especially in the dressing and adorning of the hair, became equally complex. Art historians are therefore able to use fashion with confidence and precision to date images, often to within five years, particularly in the case of images from the 15th century. Initially, changes in fashion led to a fragmentation across the upper classes of Europe of what had previously been a very similar style of dressing and the subsequent development of distinctive national styles. These national styles remained very different until a counter-movement in the 17th to 18th centuries imposed similar styles once again, mostly originating from Ancien Régime France. Though the rich usually led fashion, the increasing affluence of early modern Europe led to the bourgeoisie and even peasants following trends at a distance, but still uncomfortably close for the elites – a factor that Fernand Braudel regards as one of the main motors of changing fashion.
In the 16th century national differences were at their most pronounced. Ten 16th century portraits of German or Italian gentlemen may show ten entirely different hats. Albrecht Dürer illustrated the differences in his actual (or composite) contrast of Nuremberg and Venetian fashions at the close of the 15th century (illustration, right). The "Spanish style" of the late 16th century began the move back to synchronicity among upper-class Europeans, and after a struggle in the mid-17th century, French styles decisively took over leadership, a process completed in the 18th century.
Though textile colors and patterns changed from year to year, the cut of a gentleman's coat and the length of his waistcoat, or the pattern to which a lady's dress was cut, changed more slowly. Men's fashions were largely derived from military models, and changes in a European male silhouette were galvanized in theaters of European war where gentleman officers had opportunities to make notes of foreign styles such as the "Steinkirk" cravat or necktie.
Though there had been distribution of dressed dolls from France since the 16th century and Abraham Bosse had produced engravings of fashion in the 1620s, the pace of change picked up in the 1780s with increased publication of French engravings illustrating the latest Paris styles. By 1800, all Western Europeans were dressing alike (or thought they were); local variation became first a sign of provincial culture and later a badge of the conservative peasant.
Although tailors and dressmakers were no doubt responsible for many innovations, and the textile industry certainly led many trends, the history of fashion design is normally understood to date from 1858 when the English-born Charles Frederick Worth opened the first true haute couture house in Paris. The Haute house was the name established by government for the fashion houses that met the standards of industry. These fashion houses have to adhere to standards such as keeping at least twenty employees engaged in making the clothes, showing two collections per year at fashion shows, and presenting a certain number of patterns to costumers. Since then, the professional designer has become an increasingly dominant figure, despite the origin of many fashions in street fashion. For women, the flapper styles of the 1920s marked the most significant alteration in Western women's fashion in several centuries, with a drastic shortening of skirt-lengths and much looser-fitting clothes. With an occasional revival of long skirts, variations of the shorter length have remained dominant ever since. Though there were many variations, the “flapper uniform,” so to speak, consisted of high-heeled shoes, which were often embellished with buckles or gems, significant amounts of jewellery, especially pieces adorned with gems and pearls, and shorter dresses, the upper portion of which could be either loose or form-fitting. Flappers also often wore cloches, small hats often featuring narrow, downward-oriented brims, to frame their short hairstyles. Flappers were seen as especially seductive figures, and their fashion was at the time controversial for many.
The four major current fashion capitals are acknowledged to be Paris, Milan, New York City, and London, which are all headquarters to the greatest fashion companies and are renowned for their major influence on global fashion. Fashion weeks are held in these cities, where designers exhibit their new clothing collections to audiences. A succession of major designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent have kept Paris as the center most watched by the rest of the world, although haute couture is now subsidized by the sale of ready-to-wear collections and perfume using the same branding.
Modern Westerners have a wide number of choices available in the selection of their clothes. What a person chooses to wear can reflect his or her personality or interests. When people who have high cultural status start to wear new or different clothes, a fashion trend may start. People who like or respect these people become influenced by their personal style and begin wearing similarly styled clothes. Fashions may vary considerably within a society according to age, social class, generation, occupation, and geography and may also vary over time. If an older person dresses according to the fashion young people use, he or she may look ridiculous in the eyes of both young and older people. The terms fashionista and fashion victim refer to someone who slavishly follows current fashions.
In recent years, Asian fashion has become increasingly significant in local and global markets. Countries such as China, Japan, India, and Pakistan have traditionally had large textile industries, which have often been drawn upon by Western designers, but now Asian clothing styles are also gaining influence based on their own ideas.
The fashion industry is a product of the modern age. Prior to the mid-19th century, most clothing was custom made. It was handmade for individuals, either as home production or on order from dressmakers and tailors. By the beginning of the 20th century—with the rise of new technologies such as the sewing machine, the rise of global capitalism and the development of the factory system of production, and the proliferation of retail outlets such as department stores—clothing had increasingly come to be mass-produced in standard sizes and sold at fixed prices. Although the fashion industry developed first in Europe and America, today it is an international and highly globalized industry, with clothing often designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sold world-wide. For example, an American fashion company might source fabric in China and have the clothes manufactured in Vietnam, finished in Italy, and shipped to a warehouse in the United States for distribution to retail outlets internationally. The fashion industry has long been one of the largest employers in the United States, and it remains so in the 21st century. However, employment declined considerably as production increasingly moved overseas, especially to China. Because data on the fashion industry typically are reported for national economies and expressed in terms of the industry’s many separate sectors, aggregate figures for world production of textiles and clothing are difficult to obtain. However, by any measure, the industry accounts for a significant share of world economic output.
The fashion industry consists of four levels: the production of raw materials, principally fibers and textiles but also leather and fur; the production of fashion goods by designers, manufacturers, contractors, and others; retail sales; and various forms of advertising and promotion. These levels consist of many separate but interdependent sectors, all of which are devoted to the goal of satisfying consumer demand for apparel under conditions that enable participants in the industry to operate at a profit.
The media plays a significant role when it comes to fashion. For instance, an important part of fashion is fashion journalism. Editorial critique, guidelines and commentary can be found in magazines and newspapers, on television, fashion websites and social networks, and in fashion blogs. In recent years, fashion blogging and YouTube videos have become a major outlet for spreading trends and fashion tips. Through these media outlets readers and viewers all over the world can learn about fashion, making it very accessible.
At the beginning of the 20th century, fashion magazines began to include photographs of various fashion designs and became even more influential than in the past. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste in clothing. Talented illustrators drew exquisite fashion plates for the publications which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette du Bon Ton which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925 (with the exception of the war years).
Vogue, founded in the United States in 1892, has been the longest-lasting and most successful of the hundreds of fashion magazines that have come and gone. Increasing affluence after World War II and, most importantly, the advent of cheap color printing in the 1960s led to a huge boost in its sales and heavy coverage of fashion in mainstream women's magazines, followed by men's magazines in the 1990s. One such example of Vogue's popularity is the younger version, Teen Vogue, which covers clothing and trends that are targeted more toward the "fashionista on a budget". Haute couture designers followed the trend by starting ready-to-wear and perfume lines which are heavily advertised in the magazines and now dwarf their original couture businesses. A recent development within fashion print media is the rise of text-based and critical magazines which aim to prove that fashion is not superficial by creating a dialogue between fashion academia and the industry. Examples of this trend are: Fashion Theory (1997) and Vestoj (2009). Television coverage began in the 1950s with small fashion features. In the 1960s and 1970s, fashion segments on various entertainment shows became more frequent, and by the 1980s, dedicated fashion shows such as Fashion-television started to appear. FashionTV was the pioneer in this undertaking and has since grown to become the leader in both Fashion Television and New Media Channels. Despite television and increasing internet coverage, including fashion blogs, press coverage remains the most important form of publicity in the eyes of the fashion industry.
However, over the past several years, fashion websites have developed that merge traditional editorial writing with user-generated content. Online magazines like iFashion Network and Runway Magazine, led by Nole Marin from America's Next Top Model, have begun to dominate the market with digital copies for computers, iPhones, and iPads. Example platforms include Apple and Android for such applications.
A few days after the 2010 Fall Fashion Week in New York City came to a close, The New Islander's Fashion Editor, Genevieve Tax, criticized the fashion industry for running on a seasonal schedule of its own, largely at the expense of real-world consumers. "Because designers release their fall collections in the spring and their spring collections in the fall, fashion magazines such as Vogue always and only look forward to the upcoming season, promoting parkas come September while issuing reviews on shorts in January", she writes. "Savvy shoppers, consequently, have been conditioned to be extremely, perhaps impractically, farsighted with their buying."
Ethnic Fashion is defined as the fashion of multicultural groups such as African-American, Latino, Asians, etc. Examples of ethnic designers are FUBU, Baby Phat, Phat Farm and Sean John. It is estimated that Ethnic Fashion has contributed over $25 billion in revenues, thus making it an important part of the fashion industry.
Anthropology, the study of culture and human societies, studies fashion by asking why certain styles are deemed socially appropriate and others are not. A certain way is chosen and that becomes the fashion as defined by a certain people as a whole, so if a particular style has a meaning in an already occurring set of beliefs that style will become fashion. According to Ted Polhemus and Lynn Procter, fashion can be described as adornment, of which there are two types: fashion and anti-fashion. Through the capitalization and commoditisation of clothing, accessories, and shoes, etc., what once constituted anti-fashion becomes part of fashion as the lines between fashion and anti-fashion are blurred.
The definition of fashion and anti-fashion is as follows: Anti-fashion is fixed and changes little over time. Anti-fashion is different depending on the cultural or social group one is associated with or where one lives, but within that group or locality the style changes little. Fashion is the exact opposite of anti-fashion. Fashion changes very quickly and is not affiliated with one group or area of the world but is spread out throughout the world wherever people can communicate easily with each other. For example, Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation gown is an example of anti-fashion because it is traditional and does not change over any period whereas a gown from fashion designer Dior’s collection of 1953 is fashion because the style will change every season as Dior comes up with a new gown to replace the old one. In the Dior gown the length, cut, fabric, and embroidery of the gown change from season to season. Anti-fashion is concerned with maintaining the status quo while fashion is concerned with social mobility. Time is expressed in terms of continuity in anti-fashion and as change in fashion. Fashion has changing modes of adornment while anti-fashion has fixed modes of adornment. Indigenous and peasant modes of adornment are an example of anti-fashion. Change in fashion is part of the larger system and is structured to be a deliberate change in style.
Today, people in rich countries are linked to people in poor countries through the commoditisation and consumption of what is called fashion. People work long hours in one area of the globe to produce things that people in another part of the globe are anxious to consume. An example of this is the chain of production and consumption of Nike shoes, which are produced in Taiwan and then purchased in North America. At the production end there is nation-building a hard working ideology that leads people to produce and entices people to consume with a vast amount of goods for the offering. Commodities are no longer just utilitarian but are fashionable, be they running shoes or sweat suits.
The change from anti-fashion to fashion because of the influence of western capitalist civilization can be seen in eastern Indonesia. The ikat textiles of the Ngada area of eastern Indonesia are changing because of modernization and development. Traditionally, in the Ngada area there was no idea similar to that of the Western idea of fashion, but anti-fashion in the form of traditional textiles and ways to adorn oneself were widely popular. Textiles in Indonesia have played many roles for the local people. Textiles defined a person’s rank and status; certain textiles indicated being part of the ruling class. People expressed their ethnic identity and social hierarchy through textiles. Because some Indonesians bartered ikat textiles for food, the textiles constituted economic goods, and as some textile design motifs had spiritual religious meanings, textiles were also a way to communicate religious messages.
In eastern Indonesia, both the production and use of traditional textiles have been transformed as the production, use and value associated with textiles have changed due to modernization. In the past, women produced the textiles either for home consumption or to trade with others. Today this has changed as most textiles are not being produced at home. Western goods are considered modern and are valued more than traditional goods, including the sarong, which retain a lingering association with colonialism. Now, sarongs are used only for rituals and ceremonial occasions, whereas western clothes are worn to church or government offices. Civil servants working in urban areas are more likely than peasants to make the distinction between western and traditional clothes. Following Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, people increasingly started buying factory made shirts and sarongs. In textile-producing areas the growing of cotton and production of naturally coloured thread became obsolete. Traditional motifs on textiles are no longer considered the property of a certain social class or age group. Wives of government officials are promoting the use of traditional textiles in the form of western garments such as skirts, vests and blouses. This trend is also being followed by the general populace, and whoever can afford to hire a tailor is doing so to stitch traditional ikat textiles into western clothes. Thus, traditional textiles are now fashion goods and are no longer confined to the black, white and brown colour palette but come in array of colours. Traditional textiles are also being used in interior decorations and to make handbags, wallets and other accessories, which are considered fashionable by civil servants and their families. There is also a booming tourist trade in the eastern Indonesian city of Kupang where international as well as domestic tourists are eager to purchase traditionally printed western goods.
The use of traditional textiles for fashion is becoming big business in eastern Indonesia, but these traditional textiles are losing their ethnic identity markers and are being used as an item of fashion. Just like Nike shoes that are a capitalist form of fashion for the modern consumer, the ikat textiles of Eastern Indonesia’s Ngada area, which used to be a form of static anti-fashion, are becoming a part of fashion as they are being incorporated into the forms of highly valued western goods.
Within the fashion industry, intellectual property is not enforced as it is within the film industry and music industry. Robert Glariston, intellectual property expert at Creative Business House (an organization specializing in fashion and trademarking), mentioned in a fashion seminar held in LA that "Copyright law regarding clothing is a current hot-button issue in the industry. We often have to draw the line between designers being inspired by a design and those outright stealing it in different places." To take inspiration from others' designs contributes to the fashion industry's ability to establish clothing trends. For the past few years, WGSN has been a dominant source of fashion news and forecasts in encouraging fashion brands worldwide to be inspired by one another. Enticing consumers to buy clothing by establishing new trends is, some have argued, a key component of the industry's success. Intellectual property rules that interfere with this process of trend-making would, in this view, be counter-productive. On the other hand, it is often argued that the blatant theft of new ideas, unique designs, and design details by larger companies is what often contributes to the failure of many smaller or independent design companies.
Since fakes are distinguishable by their poorer quality, there is still a demand for luxury goods, and as only a trademark or logo can be copyrighted, many fashion brands make this one of the most visible aspects of the garment or accessory. In handbags, especially, the designer's brand may be woven into the fabric (or the lining fabric) from which the bag is made, making the brand an intrinsic element of the bag.
In 2005, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a conference calling for stricter intellectual property enforcement within the fashion industry to better protect small and medium businesses and promote competitiveness within the textile and clothing industries.
Fashion for a cause
Fashion may be used to promote a cause, such as to promote healthy behavior, to raise money for a cancer cure, or to raise money for local charities such as the Juvenile Protective Association or a children's hospice.
One up-and-coming fashion cause is trashion, which is using trash to make clothes, jewelery and other fashion items in order to promote awareness of pollution. There are a number of modern trashion artists such as Marina DeBris, Ann Wizer, and Nancy Judd.
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- Braudel, Fernand ISBN 0-520-08114-5
- Breward, Christopher, The culture of fashion: a new history of fashionable dress, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7190-4125-9
- Cumming, Valerie: Understanding Fashion History, Costume & Fashion Press, 2004, ISBN 0-89676-253-X
- Hollander, Anne, Seeing through clothes, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0-520-08231-1
- Hollander, Anne, Sex and suits: the evolution of modern dress, New York: Knopf, 1994, ISBN 978-0-679-43096-4
- Hollander, Anne, Feeding the eye: essays, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999, ISBN 978-0-374-28201-1
- Hollander, Anne, Fabric of vision: dress and drapery in painting, London: National Gallery, 2002, ISBN 978-0-300-09419-0
- Kawamura, Yuniya, Fashion-ology: an introduction to Fashion Studies, Oxford and New York: Berg, 2005, ISBN 1-85973-814-1
- Lipovetsky, Gilles (translated by Catherine Porter), The empire of fashion: dressing modern democracy, Woodstock: Princeton University Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-691-10262-7
- McDermott, Kathleen, Style for all: why fashion, invented by kings, now belongs to all of us (An illustrated history), 2010, ISBN 978-0-557-51917-0 — Many hand-drawn color illustrations, extensive annotated bibliography and reading guide
- Perrot, Philippe (translated by Richard Bienvenu), Fashioning the bourgeoisie: a history of clothing in the nineteenth century, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-691-00081-7
- Steele, Valerie, Paris fashion: a cultural history, (2. ed., rev. and updated), Oxford: Berg, 1998, ISBN 978-1-85973-973-0
- Steele, Valerie, Fifty years of fashion: new look to now, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-300-08738-3
- Steele, Valerie, Encyclopedia of clothing and fashion, Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005
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