How Fashion Changes Culture

Fashion is the way that clothing is designed, made and sold. It involves a complex network of designers, manufacturers, marketers and retailers that sustain thousands of local businesses worldwide. But there’s more to it than that: Fashion reflects and creates culture, influencing the way we dress, interact and think about ourselves. It is a means of identification and tradition, whether we are conscious of it or not. Judges wear robes, people in the military wear uniforms and brides wear long white dresses. Fashion is a powerful cultural force that can even be used as a weapon.

Fashion changes as a result of social and economic change and also because of internal, subjective taste mechanisms. Designers like Guy Paulin and Geoffrey Beene pushed for a clean, simple style that emphasized proportions and harmony, while Carolina Herrera and Bill Blass traveled the country to hear what women really wanted.

It can be hard to trace how a particular fashion develops—it may start with one person who wears something new and others copy it, or it may come from pop culture like a television show or movie. But whatever its source, a change in the fashion system can be sudden and dramatic.

For example, in the 1960s there was a shift from the haute couture designs of Paris to more American styles—think bell-bottom jeans and tie-dye clothes. This was a time of protest and counterculture—which had a big influence on the fashion system.

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