What Is Fashion?

Fashion is an expression of personal taste, character, and identity. It can be an understated whisper, a high-energy scream or a wink and smile. It is the means of conveying the message that a person feels good about themselves, translating self-esteem into a personal style.

Fashion has always been a major social, economic and cultural force. It is a cyclical process with trends, and fashions are often influenced by the time, place or other social factors. New discoveries and ideas may inspire styles that appear “out of fashion,” but will usually recur in due course. For example, a European country might prefer things Turkish at one time, and Chinese at another, and a new trend will replace it in turn.

Throughout history, clothes have been used to distinguish social status, and they have also been considered a mark of wealth. In ancient Rome, only senators were allowed to wear garments dyed with Tyrian purple; in the seventeenth century, only members of the king’s court could be seen wearing yellow silk; and in the nineteenth century, only the wealthy might wear a cloak made from whale teeth.

The modern concept of fashion is broader than clothing, however, and it encompasses other forms of body art, hairstyles and makeup, as well as lifestyle choices. In modern times, the fashion industry is a multibillion-dollar global enterprise that influences the lives of many people worldwide. Some fashion trends are influenced by celebrity and other public figures, but others develop spontaneously, without influence from outside.