What Is Fashion?

Fashion is a multibillion-dollar global enterprise dedicated to the business of making and selling clothes. There may seem to be a difference between the “high fashion” shown on the runways of Paris and New York and the mass-produced sportswear and street styles sold in malls and markets around the world, but these distinctions are increasingly blurred.

Clothing is an expression of a person’s individual style. The clothes a person wears reveal their personality, emotions, attitudes and beliefs, as well as their social class and status. Throughout history, the clothes people wore have been used to define their identity and show solidarity with other people.

Clothes can also be used to distinguish members of groups, for example: Goths, skaters, preps, herbs and many others. They can also be used to create stereotypes, distance and even to create division within a group. For example, a boy with green hair and multiple piercings could be seen as a freak and outsider by some people, while to others he might simply be following the latest fashion trend.

People have always been interested in what other people are wearing. During the 1700s, people pored over fashion magazines to see what the current styles were and dressmakers drew sketches of the latest looks. But it wasn’t until the rationing of cloth and haberdashery during World War II that mass production of clothing truly developed, as manufacturers were forced to use standardized patterns and materials. This led to the creation of a wide range of styles and fashions that were not available previously.