Fashion is a way of dressing that reflects cultural values, social norms, and personal identity. The earliest documented evidence of a fashion trend dates to the late medieval period. Fashion is characterized by continuous and accelerating change in style, design, and taste.
Fashion changes in response to both cultural influences and commercial pressures. The rapid rate of change enables designers to explore creativity and appeal to consumers who desire diversity, but the pace also has some negative consequences. For example, shifts in fashion can create waste and encourage people as consumers to spend money on new clothing they do not need. In addition, fashion trends can be used to enforce uniformity—as in the case of Mao suits.
The speed at which fashion changes has been influenced by the growth of the textile industry and the development of sewing machines. It has also been accelerated by the proliferation of fashion magazines and television coverage of fashion shows.
Although there are many different theories about how fashion is created and changed, one prevalent theory is that the rapid change in fashion reflects a society’s anxieties about its place in history. Some philosophers have criticized this notion and have advocated for slow changes in fashion.
During the course of its life, a fashion can become a victim of its own success and be impossible to wear in any other era without looking dated or out of place. This phenomenon is described in semiotics, a field of study that focuses on how signs and symbols convey meaning to others.