Fashion is an aesthetic experience and, in its simplest description, is about clothes dressing the body. As a cultural phenomenon, when it is exhibited and discussed in society, it came to the fore during the Renaissance. It was limited to the elite, those who had the means and wealth to purchase clothes that were rich in design and expensive, and this was considered to be the fashion at the time. Fashion became a phenomenon in society, so much so, that as early as the 15th century, the French King Charles VII asked that a separate Ministry of Fashion be established.
It emerged as a widespread cultural and commercial phenomenon in the 19th century as a result of mass production techniques, when clothing became available and affordable to more people. As part of this ‘democratic revolution’, fashion became a way for people to express their individuality, personal freedom and choice.
Fashion entered the mainstream and capitalist interests exploited the demand that followed. In a society keen on appearance and novelty, designers were able to identify and serve the desire of people to dress up. Writers such as Oscar Wilde wrote about the aesthetics of fashion in society magazines around the beginning of the 20th century.
We live in an expressive age in which aesthetics is both a “key social moment and a key means of generating economic value” . When we decide how to spend our time and money, aesthetics increasingly comes into our consideration, as “sensory appeals are everywhere, they are increasingly personalised, and they are intensifying” . This has resulted in the rise of lifestyle consumption which offers the individual far more choices than ever before, and allows the individual to express themselves in many more ways.
Fashion designers intuitively consider aesthetics as they work in a visual medium. They need to understand which aesthetics provide value to the consumer; if it does not please aesthetically, few will buy the product. Companies produce diverse collections that seem to cater to almost every style wished for by the consumer.