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What is Fashion Anyway?
We hear about, see and wear fashion every day, yet often don't think about it as a whole. Just what is fashion anyway?
Fashion is essentially a form of speech. For centuries individuals and/or societies have used clothes and other body adornment as a form of nonverbal communication to indicate a wide variety of things. For example, people have broadcast their occupation, rank, gender, marital status, locality, class, wealth and group affiliation through their fashion choices. This includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, hairstyles, beauty and body art. What people wear and how and when it is worn provides others with the shorthand they need to subtly read the surface of a social situation.
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Fashion as a Series of Signs
Basically, fashion is a language of signs, symbols and iconography that non-verbally communicates meanings about individuals and groups. Fashion in its wide range of forms is the best way we have to express individual identity. It enables us to make ourselves quickly understood, at least in general, by onlookers.
Roles and Fashion
The desire to differentiate oneself is an innate characteristic of human beings. Today, without the rigid dress codes of past eras, people can more easily use fashion to identify the many different roles they play every day.
Sociologists borrowed the word role from the theater because, like actors, individuals play many parts and each part must be learned. Roles are continually learned, rehearsed and learned again. They are also shared, because like actors on a stage, fluid interaction only occurs if all the performers know the behavior expected.
Roles and activities are closely linked to what people wear. People are affected by their role-set (basically a set of roles, as people rarely have only one), which includes boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, friends, husbands, lovers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, relatives, employers, customers, clients, coworkers, business colleagues, peer and age groups.
Fashionable clothes, fabrics, or accessories become a visual language that can speak volumes without making a sound. The tools of fashion provide the signs and symbolism that function as information for the role-set.
Occupation, Status and Purpose of Clothing
Those with high status occupations will wear the clothes they think others expect them to wear. They will not wish to experience role conflict by wearing the incorrect clothing. It is from the clothes a person wears that we get our first impression of personality. They provide mental clues to a person's status and occupational role, as well as being a means of conforming to peer group expectations. Clothes also have the utilitarian function of providing protection from the extremes of the elements, keeping us warm or cool or safe.
Until the Victorian Era, a fashion trend took between 10 and 15 years to work its way to country areas. Once rail travel improved mass communication and transportation between cities and the country, the cycle of fashion speeded up so quickly that by the Edwardian Era in 1901 fashion trends were moving in a yearly cycle.
The emancipation of women and the contributions to World War I from women of all classes encouraged them to adopt more practical clothing and to try out new styles in fashion, hair and beauty. By the millennium, everyday changes in lifestyle included fitness and health pursuits, car and air travel, and centrally heated homes. All these developments created the need for fashion designed for the way we live today. How we perceive ourselves and what we want to say to society in a very visually-oriented culture is still expressed through our bodies - the way we wear clothes, jewelry, accessories and body art.
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SOURCE: Fashion-Era.com (fashion-era.com)