Elements of Fashion
Although the word ‘fashion’ can mean different things in different contexts, for example, a fashionable car or furniture, it is generally used in regard to clothing. The way fashion is recognised by most people is through the recognition of style and dress on the body. The meaning also includes a reference to the ‘new’, as designers strive to bring out new collections several times a year, and as photographers and other image makers work on producing fashion images that are new and exciting to consumers.
In this essay, fashion is taken to refer to new styles of clothing decided on and or worn by a group of people that will change frequently and that has an impact as a business opportunity.
In philosophy, phenomenology is the study of human consciousness and self-awareness. It studies the structure of various types of experience from the first-person point of view. Its central principle is ‘intentionality’, which is that our experience is always directed toward something, it is an experience of or about some object. Our consciousness is directed towards a body and so we are made aware of it.
The content of an experience is the representation of the object in the mind, and in the mind we arrive at meanings of this representation. Being aware of our bodies, we clothe or adorn it and this gives rise to fashion.
The word ‘fashion’, by definition, is to do with the body. A person is said to be fashionable, a manikin wearing designer clothes cannot be. It is now accepted that the body is a necessary condition to using the word ‘fashion’. The dress has to be worn by somebody to be in fashion as it is “the body that fashion speaks to and it is a body that must be dressed in almost all social encounters”.
The experience of dressing the body is a subjective act of attention to the body; it makes the body an object of consciousness, and there is a constant dialectic between body and self. People desire clothes for various reasons and it often because they find them appealing or think they will make them attractive.
Dress is a basic fact of social life and this, according to anthropologists, is true of all known human cultures: all people ‘dress’ the body in some way, be it through clothing, cosmetics, tattooing or some other form of adornment. Dress or adornment is one of the means by which bodies are given meaning and identity. We become social and cultural beings through the wearing of dress or some other form of adornment.
Style is a way of doing something that shows a distinctive appearance, usually determined by way something is designed. When a thing is in fashion there is a consensus among people for a certain sense of style.
To dress a body is to create a sense of style, however minimal that may be. It’s an appearance that implies some thought about the design of the garment worn and the look it creates on the wearer. An old leather flying jacket indicates a certain style adopted by the person and may be considered stylish by others.