Fashion is an omnipresent feature of human lives. It is not just about dressing up in trendy dresses and shoes but also extends to the way we live, eat, relax and work. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs millions worldwide and is ever changing. It is a topic of discussion and analysis in both popular media as well as academic circles. Various articles, books and research have been done on the subject. It is not easy to define fashion as it can mean different things to different people. For some it might mean following latest trends while for others it might simply be about what makes them feel comfortable and confident. It can also be a way of expressing oneself and can have political implications as well.
The term fashion has its roots in the middle ages when clothes were made to order by dressmakers and tailors for wealthy individuals. In the late 19th century, new sewing machines and textiles allowed clothing to be mass-produced and sold in shops. This marked the beginning of the modern fashion industry.
Changing fashions often reflect the economy, technology and cultural values of a society. The fads of the 1920s flappers, the baggy pants of hip-hop and the bare midriffs of 90210 are examples of such changes. Fashion can also be seen in the designs of furniture, cars and even buildings.
In a more complex way, fashion can be seen as a reflection of the current social system which privileges financial and symbolic capital over natural or human capital. This is reflected in the reductive and glamourised ways that the fashion industry promotes its products. It is also reflected in the way fashion is discussed and analysed in both popular and academic circles – in other words looking into the wrapper.