What is Fashion? Definition, Meaning, Evolution

In current society, fashion consumes everyday life — or at least, it does ours. Style and fashion are deeply embedded into our lives, from being obsessed with the newest TikTok fashion trends to following different fashion influencers to daydreaming of that perfect outfit for the next brunch excursion. 

But what is fashion? Has it always been here? And how has it evolved throughout the years? 

While this may surprise some, fashion has been a concept explored by humans for hundreds of years. That's right; in ancient Asian cultures, fashion was present and examined before the fashion industry we know and love manifested in Europe. 

Are you interested in learning more about the dynamic roots of fashion? Scroll down to read more about this fascinating subject below. 

Related: Fashion Jewelry Trends: The Best of 2023 


Model wearing fashion


What Exactly Is Fashion, Anyway? 

If you want a single definition, fashion refers to the style of clothing and accessories worn by an individual or group of people. Meanwhile, the fashion industry is a multi-billion-dollar global industry that oversees both high fashion and the apparel industry, which is the industry that makes clothes for the masses. 

Yet the idea of fashion is difficult to fully articulate in one or two sentences. Rather than a static definition, fashion encapsulates personal identity, self-expression, and artistic drive. It's a fluid idea that has evolved through the past millennia. The purpose of fashion varies from person to person. In this sense, fashion is more intimate and can be expressed in various ways.  

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What Fashion Really Means

Fashion is more than hopping on trends or movements. Instead, fashion reflects beauty, it reflects what we aspire to be, and it rises above to connect to humanity at a deeper level. 

Fashion is evolutionary and can also reflect the hurdles that one society is working through at any given moment. Fashion reflects the creativity and the struggles of mankind and is a way to express yourself from the inside out. 


rack of different clothes



Geological Regions 

Fashion is a constantly changing aspect of human culture that varies across different regions, age groups, classes, and genders. 

It travels across socio cultural and geo-political boundaries and is influenced by and influences society. As a result, it has received significant attention from various forms of media, such as print, electronic media, TV, movies, music, and advertising. 

These factors have made fashion a prominent area of academic study globally, incorporating various aspects such as fashion design, technology, advertisement, modeling, and management.

Fashion also serves as a subject of study for sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists due to its impact on human social aspects.

The History 

I​n the Western world, it's easy to think that fashion was born somewhere in France or England since that's where the epicenter lies today. 

In reality, fashion as an art originated in Asia during historical periods like the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907) and Heian Period in Japan (795-1185). 

Things began to pick up speed during the eleventh century in Japan. It was here a phrase called "imamekashi," used to compliment something that was considered modern or fashionable, began to pick up speed. Then, a few hundred years later, fashion began to spread to Europe. Europe had a consistent trend of stylistic changes in clothing and interior design by the fourteenth century.

However, it was Germany that developed the first fashion magazine, which appeared in Frankfurt in 1586. Soon, Paris took over as the fashion capital, and by the 17th century, Paris soon claimed its name as the capital of European fashion. That's because Paris was the source of most new styles in women's dress. Yet during the 18th century, men's fashion trends predominantly moved in London.

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The 20th Century and On 

Before the mid-19th century, most clothing was handmade for individuals either at home or by dressmakers and tailors who took orders. At the start of the 1900s, advancements like the sewing machine, global capitalism, and the factory system made clothing production more efficient, resulting in mass-produced items sold at fixed prices.

Although fashion originated in Europe and America, it's now a global industry where clothes are designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sometimes sold in a third country. 

For instance, an American fashion company may get fabric from China, make the clothes in Vietnam, finish them in Italy, and ship them to a US warehouse for international distribution. While the fashion industry remains one of the largest employers in the US, employment has decreased as production moved abroad, primarily to China. 

Still, the concept of fashion generally refers to haute couture or high fashion. When we think of fashion, it typically means the fashion trends, fashion models, fashion and jewelry designers, and celebrities pushing the boundaries with their bold outfits and exciting jewelry

Related: What to Wear to a Fashion Show: Head to Toe 

Final Thoughts 

Fashion is a concept that continually evolves. Instead of being static, it's a more fluid concept that means many different things to different people. Although fashion started hundreds of years ago in ancient Asian cultures, it's now a global phenomenon that unites the world's population. In that sense, fashion is a beautiful uniter that makes us closer to one another and can better connect our internal identities to our outward appearances. 

So hop on the new fashion trends and become immersed in this everchanging, dynamic, beautiful world that is the fashion industry. 

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