Fashion is an umbrella term for a range of cultural practices and patterns of dressing. It is used to categorize many things from the most common clothing practices to the most intricate details of a person’s lifestyle. This broad term has multiple definitions in many different areas of cultural studies, yet it is generally accepted that fashion is the “right” way to dress given the purpose and the audience. The definition of what constitutes “fashion” is up to each individual and as such its meaning can change significantly with time.
The word “fashions” (as a collective term) is often used interchangeably with the term “culture.” However, in most cases it refers more to a particular style of dressing than to any one particular cultural practice. Fashion, like any other word, can be applied to many things. High fashion, low fashion, conventional fashion or street fashion, is just a small portion of the word. What are high fashion and what is considered high fashion vary widely according to culture and place.
The term “high fashion” itself was developed by the French, originally defining styles of dress designed for a fashionable elite, or the so called haute couture. The word haute couture was created to give an alternative to the highly impractical fashions worn by the peasantry in the past. Today, high fashion clothing is defined by high quality, low cost clothing that is usually worn by the upper middle class. Haute couture fashions typically incorporate the latest fashion trends as well as some degree of creativity.
The history of fashion can be traced back to the earliest civilizations in the Near East and Egypt. The clothes they wore both in their daily lives and in their religious rituals were recorded as being part of the art and culture of those times. Many of the clothes weren’t just functional; they were considered to be beautiful and considered to be a status symbol as well. Egyptian art portrays the people of that era wearing both elaborate clothing and everyday items.
In haute fashion, as it is sometimes referred to today, clothes are selected on the basis of a persons’ personal preference, style and uniqueness. Fashion accessories may be included but not limited to: jewelry, handbags, scarves, sunglasses, caps, hats, shoes, dresses, purses, belts, swimwear, lingerie and perfume. Most of these items of clothing are created from locally available materials that are as natural as possible, using minimal production techniques. There are no artificial ingredients, dyes, or man-made materials used. Haute fashion designers source their materials from local businesses and markets.
Throughout history, fashion has been both a part of and influences the social and political life of various societies. One way that this influence is seen today is through the fashion sense and culture of a country’s people. It is interesting to note that fashion has greatly changed throughout time. For instance, in nineteenth century France there was a widespread use of the couture dress code, while in other countries like China, fashion tended to be more relaxed.