What Is Fashion?

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Fashion is a term used to describe the styles, aesthetics and trends that form a way of dressing. It can also be seen as a cultural phenomenon and a symbol of social belonging, influenced by class, gender, generation and occupation. Fashion is a highly visible aspect of human culture and can have a strong impact on the environment, society and our health.

Clothes reveal who we are, they show our identity and make us feel part of a certain group. For example, a boy with green hair and multiple piercings might be seen as rebellious by business men, but may be embraced and accepted by goths, skaters or herbs.

Fashions are highly influential and can be rapidly spread across the world. This process is often referred to as ‘trickle-down’, where a small number of individuals start wearing a new style and then it spreads to the wider population. Fashions can also be spread through the media, such as films, television shows and viral memes.

As fashion reaches an increasingly sophisticated level, designers and manufacturers are collaborating with science, technology and engineering to create new looks that are not only stylish but functional too. Professor Helen Storey MBE and chemistry Professor Tony Ryan, for example, created the Catalytic Clothing project which explores how textiles can be impregnated with a photocatalyst to purify air pollution. Their dress ‘Herself’ has been touring the world raising the profile of this exciting project. For a trend to be considered fashionable, it must be widely accepted by the general public.