The History of Fashion

Fashion is a multifaceted cultural phenomenon reflecting changes in clothing styles, trends and practices. It encompasses design, production and marketing of clothing, footwear and accessories. It is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. The terms “fashion designer” and “fashion model” are often used interchangeably. The fashion industry includes haute couture, which is a hand-made, customized line of clothing, and ready-to-wear, which is mass-produced.

Fashion trends are dictated by a variety of social, economic, cultural and political factors. These include advancements in technology, changes in the environment and lifestyle, the media, and the social expectations of a particular time or place. In ancient times, certain items of clothing were worn only by people of a particular class: Roman senators wore purple cloth, for example, while Hawaiian royalty favored carved whale teeth. Today, fashion is widely available to all due to advances in technology and increased globalization of the economy.

Although it is difficult to determine exactly when a particular item of clothing became fashionable, the earliest appearance of continual change in fashion can be reasonably dated to late medieval times. The first significant change was a drastic shortening of the male over-garment from calf length to below the knee, together with a tightening and narrowing of the silhouette. The start of a unified, Western style of dress can be dated to around this period. New discoveries in the distant past could also have influenced fashions; for example, cloaks of Turkish style with stand collars and trumpet sleeves, or Chinese qipao dresses with long side slits, came into fashion in Europe during the eighteenth century as a result of exploration of the Far East.

In addition to changing styles and tastes, fashions also reflect social status, as shown by the fact that judges wear robes, wedding couples wear white, and military personnel wear uniforms. The clothes we wear can also be a form of self-expression, for example, when rappers or rock musicians develop their own distinctive look. In some cultures, fashion is even considered a way of life.

The creation of new fashions is facilitated by the development of the clothing factory system, which allows for rapid production of high-quality, well-fitting and stylish garments. The mass-market availability of these garments, as well as their relatively low cost, has made fashion accessible to most of the world’s population.

The media has a big influence on the way we perceive and interpret fashion. Magazines, newspapers and the internet provide a constant stream of images and information about fashion, which can either inspire us or simply confuse and overwhelm us. Fashion shows are an important part of the fashion world, which enable designers to communicate their vision and story to the masses. This is accomplished through the use of models, music, lighting and other visual elements. Fashion shows can also act as a platform to launch new brands or ideas, such as sustainable or ethical fashion. The success of fashion shows is often based on the ability of the designer to predict what will sell, and what will not.