Fashion is a complex thing, far more than it’s typically made out to be. It’s both a mirror and a distortion of our society, and both child and parent of capitalism. It’s both forcefully creative and utterly superfluous, perfect and flawed, beautiful and ugly all at once. The way that we talk about fashion reflects all of this complexity. Fashion is often described as a bright, shiny, glossy wrapper that hides an array of dark, messy and difficult things. This infantilisation negates both the impact of fashion – which is both positive and negative – and its equally diverse complexity and ambiguity.
Fashion changes all the time, and it’s often difficult to pinpoint how something goes from a teenager’s ripped jeans and baggy sweaters on the streets of the Bronx to the slinky dresses on the runways of Paris and London. Fashion is influenced by everything from pop music and sitcoms to political events and royal deaths, but it’s just as likely to influence us when we’re reading books or seeing art. That’s why it’s important to understand that the fashion you wear isn’t just a reflection of your personality, it’s also a response to the world around you.
For example, certain types of clothing are explicitly labelled as men’s or women’s, and any deviation from this gender-specific fashion is known as cross-dressing. This is an important distinction to make, because it’s easy to forget that the things we wear have powerful political and social implications. For example, the pandemic has given rise to new models of how we dress, with some people choosing to reclaim their traditional, sexy clothes in favour of more practical garments such as woolly sweaters and raincoats.
Similarly, fashion is a powerful tool for cultural exchange and understanding. In the past, new discoveries of exotic countries would often prompt a change in fashion, with Europeans at one point favoring Turkish clothes, and then Chinese or Japanese styles at another. Globalisation has somewhat weakened this effect, but it’s still possible to see trends in other cultures that might influence our own.
It’s also worth remembering that there are countless ways to talk about fashion without making it seem shallow, vapid and uninteresting. It’s all too easy to get caught up in writing sensational click-baity articles that seek only to garner as many views as possible, but if you’re going to write about fashion, remember that integrity is more important than any number of likes or shares. It’s also important to keep in mind that there is more than just a superficial layer of glamour and glitz to fashion; there’s an entire history, culture and politics behind it that deserves to be explored. So, keep on researching and stay tuned for more articles on this fascinating topic!