The fashion industry often gets a bad rep. Not everyone, but a good portion of society, tends to see the world of style as an insignificant, superficial part of our culture. If you categorize yourself within this sector, pause, and open your mind for just one second. Hear me out. If you’re someone like me, who does already acknowledge the importance of fashion, also pause and see if you, too, can relate to what I find to be an irksome form of judgement placed upon a world of fancy dresses and high heeled shoes. I am by no means suggesting that we all need to go out and spend thousands on high end designer items. I’m a college student- I don’t usually have access to such commodities unless they enter my wardrobe in the form of generous gifts. Rather, I simply intend to revise the way fashion is often viewed by the public, for my own sake, as well as that of the many other young women and men who consider their personal style to be an inherent part of their lives. Fashion is NOT just a hobby for materialistic girls,or a frivolous subject of conversation among women. Fashion IS important. Actually, Fashion is necessary.
Fashion IS history
Take the color purple, for example. From the time of Queen Elizabeth and perhaps even before, only those associated with royalty were permitted to don plum hues. Purple became a color for those with the big bucks back in the day, derived from a Phoenician dye only wealthy rulers could afford.1 So next time you throw on that violet scarf or slip into your grape skinny jeans, besides feeling like princess, know that there is greater importance lying behind your color of choice. Ever wonder how white weddings dresses came to be the choice of costume for holy matrimony? You can thank Queen Victoria for that one. In an attempt to save traditional textile industries during the Industrial Revolution, she requested her dress be fashioned out of a sizable piece of handmade, white lace.2 Lesson to be learned here? Don’t be so quick to assume that there isn’t some greater significance surrounding some of the most common items of clothing today.
Fashion IS Identity
Have you ever referred to someone as a “hippie” , “skater”, or a “prep”? Where do those titles come from? Well, what you’re seeing, is, not to be superficial, their image, more specifically, their style. This is not to say that fashion gives way to stereotypes. Rather, it helps to develop and express personality, interests, and character. Think about why you dress the way you do. Maybe it’s because your mom still picks out your clothes, or you simply buy whatever appears cheapest or most comfortable. Either way, it still says something about who you are. So you may not be a hippie, or a skater, or a prep. But you could be a parent pleasing mama’s boy or an avid bargain shopper. Your clothes speak louder than words.
Fashion IS Global
We’ve covered that fashion creates identity, but on a greater scale, fashion is a form of cultural communication. If you’ve ever studied abroad or embarked on a family vacation to another country, you may have realized you stick out like a true tourist particularly because of what you’re wearing. Your choice of apparel isn’t necessarily wrong or inappropriate (although in some countries certain styles or manners of wearing or, not wearing, clothes are considered offensive), but rather that you are from somewhere else, as are your clothes. Fashion is shaped by climate, religion, politics, and social guidelines. Consider the Abaya, the full length robes worn by Muslim women in respect to the Shar’ia law that dicates they must be covered in front of all men they could possibly marry. 3 Or, scottish kilts, a symbol of pride in one’s country and true honor for Scottish patrons.4 Rather than view other cultures as having costume-esque or foreign (no pun intended) style choices, look past the unfamiliar dresses, skirts, pants, whatever, and consider their origins.
Fashion IS Therapy
Have you ever noticed you tend to frequent the mall post breakup ( after you’ve downed a couple pints of icecream and watched one too many romantic tragedies, that is)? What about right after you finish a final exam and have incredible amounts of built up stress? For some reason, whether it’s for a confidence boost when you’ve been dumped, or a distraction when you can’t seem to think about anything but math equations, shopping has a way of transporting us to “another world”- one of creativity with clothing. Ladies Home Journal magazine reports that 82% of their readers experience happiness while shopping.5 Not surprising, well not to me at least. It makes perfect sense. You walk through the mall, spotting various items and imagining yourself wearing them to this or that event, and all the compliments you’d receive, and how a dress or a pair of shoes fits the image in your dreams of walking the runway. And, there you have it. You’ve at least temporarily forgotten about your problems and have become excited and interested in quite a different subject matter- how stunning you’re going to look in that cocktail dress at the christmas party.
And, most of all Fashion IS important
I love clothes. I love reading Vogue or Instyle or Glamour or whathaveyou. I love perusing the mall and flipping through my favorite online retail sites. Am I somehow dumb or superficial or materialistic? No. I prefer the term observant, or even artistic. Fashion is a form of art-it’s a medium for self expression, for communication, even for emotion (think demure colors at somber events like funerals, or bright neons at lively musical festivals) . While I’m no renowned designer or famous fashion guru , I’m not the only one fighting this stigma against style lovers. Take Coco Chanel’s opinion on the matter for proof. As perhaps one of the most prominent figures of her forte, she maintains that, ”fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”6
Imagine life without fashion. It would be like a canvas without the paintbrush, a stereo without the sound, or a plate without the food. Dry, dull, and somehow vacant. Do I think petitioning for Fashion 101 courses to be offered at elementary schools is either realistic or necessary? Well, no. But do I think we need to dole out a little more credit and a little less eye rolling to the middle aged women leaving Bloomingdales with five plus Big Brown Bags and the eight year old girl playing fashion show in her mom’s closet? Without a doubt.
Featured Image from: realsimple.com