Understanding Fashion

Fashion is an art of autonomy and self-expression in a certain time and context and at a certain situation, of apparel, footwear, makeup, hair, accessories, behavior, and bodily posture. In its broader usage, the word also denotes a set look generally defined by the fashion industry as what is trendy. While the art of fashion itself is an ongoing work in progress, one can say that there are two schools of thought on this. One school of thought upholds the idea of fashion being a subjective art and something that depend largely on individual creativity, while the other breaks fashion down into a collection of specific principles, like unity, uniformity, contrast, differentiation, proportion, movement, and simplicity. The second school, however, while not breaking down the definition into “theory” or “methods”, still provides a useful framework for understanding how fashion works today.


In the broadest sense, fashion can be said to be the visual language of fashion, which describes the visual conventions used to express different styles, trends, and feelings in clothes, accessories and behavior in the marketplace. The language of fashion is communicated through visible signs, fashion shows, catalogues, magazines, advertisements, fashion trends, gift giving rituals, and fashion shows. People’s response to these signals is the basis for recognition of a trend, style or dress in the marketplace. This is also why people tend to buy the clothes that are in fashion and avoid those that are out of fashion, because “in fashion” and out of fashion are not mutually exclusive terms.

The life cycle of fashion means that the objects of fashion change over time from being in the market only for a short time to being popular among the masses after many years passing by. In some instances, fashion goes out of fashion just as easily as it enters it. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the trend of a clothing item must be forgotten, since it has an inevitable role to play in how people perceive fashion trends and the clothes they wear. Hence, even when clothing items go out of fashion, they still have a considerable part to play in shaping the way people think and feel about fashion trends.

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