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Fashion as Art
Modes of Expression and Change
I arrived in Paris on the heels of Fashion Week. We didn’t come for the shows, but there was definitely a feeling of flair going on. It was warm. People were dressed in various styles because it still felt like summer but the stores had changed over to fall and winter clothing displays. This time of year always feels like a mismatch of modes.
What you wear says a lot about who you are. Fashion is the art of being you. It’s not only your clothes, but the way you style them, how you hold yourself in them, the way you accessorize and style your hair and how you walk. It’s also a reflection of societal norms at the time. It’s a way to push boundaries and tell a story. This is fashion. And it’s an art.
What is Fashion?
Clothing has no meaning, but it becomes “fashion” when you put it on with intention and your personal styling. The same two articles of clothing look entirely different on two different people, when worn with other accessories, or mixed with other items. “Fashion” means it took effort, thought, and intention.
Fashion is an expression of style and creativity, but it’s also a manifestation of who we WANT to be. We’re speaking silently to the world about who we are with what we wear. It’s symbolic of individuals, society, and technological capabilities. It reflects culture.
Fashion was when Madonna wore the Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra. Fashion was when Sandy turned up in black leather in the movie Grease. Fashion was when we met the women of Sex and the City and Emily in Paris. It defined their characters. Fashion is nothing without the muses of James Bond, Harry Styles, James Dean, and David Beckham. You can picture not only these people, but their era, their attitude, and their story. You feel like you know them.
That is what fashion does. It shows the trends of the era, the attitudes of the lead characters, and the expressions of who we think we are (or want to be).
What is Art?
Art is any creative expression, with materials or performance. It uses imagination, creativity, and provokes thought and discussion. It has a certain aesthetic- and therefore a voice.
Art is a way to express what’s going on in society and culture as well. Architecture, furniture, street art, sculpture, collectibles, and the subjects of drawings and paintings tell our story that future generations will thematically arrange to understand history. Art is sensual, so it’s no wonder that people consider culinary skills an art, perfumery an art, performance an art.
So most definitely, fashion is art. Both the clothing and accessories themselves are artistically created (or mass produced) and the way you style those ensembles are artistic because you choose what you wear and how you wear it. Great clothing comes at every price point in every city in the world. Great styling comes from your imagination or a little help from a friend or the internet. But make no mistake- your fashion is the art of you expressing yourself.
The Art of Expressing Yourself as You Evolve
Change is inevitable, if only from the marching of time. Our bodies and life situations transform. We change financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We have something to say about the world and ourselves, and we may not realize that we’re expressing our thoughts, but what you put on reflects who you are right now and who you aspire to be.
I have a pair of earrings that my sister left to me, and I wear them when I need to feel her power. I am stronger with them on. I can feel them move and she whispers to me. I also have a certain color I never wear because it’s traumatizing to me. I have pieces I wear that I bought in certain countries and wearing them puts me right back in those moments. I have memories of the first run I took in each pair of my running shoes. When I became a yoga instructor I replaced all of my yoga pants with 3 very specific pairs that felt like the new person I had become after that journey (and I love wearing them for just that reason).
The field of fashion psychology tells us that our fashion choices are made because of our personal human tendencies and affects our emotions and shapes our identity. Brands and retailers capitalize on this when shaping marketing campaigns and store layouts. The more creative and artistic they are with their messaging, the more we identify with certain aspects of ourselves.
There is No Bad Fashion
No art is bad and no fashion is bad. Fashion is only an expression. We dress how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
Of course we see people and think they’re dressed horribly, that their tastes are bizarre or that they might have gotten dressed in the dark. Opinions, all! Style is very personal.
However, being lazy or sloppy is something else altogether. Some people just really don’t care about fashion. They don’t want to create or follow trends. Perhaps their lives are such that just being clothed each day is a win (not everyone has the luxury to actually choose their fashion style or owns multiple sets of clothing). Perhaps they’re intimidated by styles or don’t feel comfortable buying new clothes (I know several lovely people like this). Perhaps they wear a uniform regularly so just to be out of that uniform is its own relief (been there!). If fashion isn’t your focus, you’re probably not reading this, so we’ll let it go at that.
When a fashion style doesn’t resonate, it’s an indicator of who we are not, just as much as who we want to be. I have a friend who wears all black. She doesn’t want to be associated with those who seek attention. I know a lady who wears florals all the time. She is incredibly friendly and outgoing. She wears florals intentionally. Two entirely different personalities, and therefore different styles. You might like or dislike either, but I know you’ll notice. And that’s what they each intend.
Fashion is the art of clothing, accessory, and personal style, and when it gives us something to talk about, that’s the point.