What is fashion?

In the dictionary we can find two definitions of the world fashion:

the way we dress, comb and do makeup which is most popular at the specific time and place,

and also

short-term popularity of something new in some field.

It can also be defined as a particular field of study focused on forms of decorating the body. The first researchers in this area were explorers describing the outfits of the natives observed in different parts of the world. As a result, studies on ways of body adornment has become an important part of social anthropology – the science of life, customs and culture of human beings.

Mosaic of empress Theodora from Ravenna

Empress Theodora- Byzantine style, 5th century

The questions lead us to undetermined dilemma. Do the first covering of people occurred from mental reasons: the prohibition, according to the Bible; shame, according to ancient scholars; desire tastes, according to the theory of modern psychologists, whether from a practical reasons – protection from the cold, as claimed the ancient Greeks and Chinese. What is certain, since the beginning, clothing except from the utility functions have to fulfill additional tasks, e.g. magical. Sometimes the raiment will evoke emotion such as fear or obedience. This way clothes create attributes define men’s profession or membership in a particular collective.

Portrait of Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth I of England – Renaissance splendor, 16-17th century

The research on the history of fashion and mores results in conclusions that in all societies, both primitive, as well as more civilized, clothes are designed to provide information about the group to which they belong. Dress is a kind of non-verbal communication. In the process of cultural development different items of clothing take on a symbolic meaning, facilitate the identification of “foreign”. The analysis of these meanings studied Ronald Barthes. I’ll write more about his work soon.



  • Sue Jenkyn Jones, Fashion design, p.24
  • Francois Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment,  p.13
  • S. J. Jones, op. cit.,  p. 34


« What is fashion? Semiotic analysis made by Roland Barthes