Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: fashion from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Any mode of dressing or adornment that is popular during a particular time or in a particular place (i.e., the current style). It can change from one period to the next, from generation to generation. It serves as a reflection of social and economic status, a function that explains the popularity of many styles throughout costume history; in the West, courts have been a major source of fashion. In the 19th and 20th centuries, fashion increasingly became an profitable, international industry as a result of the rise of world-renowned fashion houses and fashion magazines. See also dress.

Event: fashion

Keywords: fashion


Summary Article: fashion
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

in dress, the prevailing mode affecting modifications in costume. Styles in Asia have been characterized by freedom from change, and ancient Greek and Roman dress preserved the same flowing lines for centuries. Fashion in dress and interior decoration may be said to have originated in Europe about the 14th cent. New styles were set by monarchs and prominent personages and were spread by travelers, by descriptions in letters, and, in costume, by the exchange of the fashion doll. The first fashion magazine is thought to have originated c.1586 in Frankfurt, Germany; it was widely imitated, gradually superseding fashion dolls. Godey's Lady's Book, established in the United States in 1830, remained popular for decades. In interior decoration the influence of designers, such as Chippendale, Sheraton, and Robert and James Adam, was apparent in the 18th cent., but in costume the only influential designer at that period was Rose Bertin, milliner and dressmaker to Marie Antoinette.

In Paris—the leading arbiter of fashion since the Renaissance—the fading influence of celebrities was coincident with the rise of designer-dressmakers in the mid-19th cent. Paris haute couture has remained preeminent in setting fashions for women's dress. Designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Coco Chanel, Lucien Lelong, Elsa Schiaparelli, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent have had fashion houses in Paris. In the latter part of the 20th cent. such American designers as Norman Norell, Mainbocher, James Galanos, Bill Blass, and Pauline Trigère competed successfully with Parisian designers. London, in the early 19th cent., became the center for men's fashions under the leadership of Regency dandies such as Beau Brummell. In the mid-1960s, London was again for a time the center of fashion influence.

The 1970s and 80s saw the beginning of more divergent trends in fashion. This was the result of the increasing popularity of ready-to-wear collections by major designers, which made fashionable label-conscious dressing possible for the middle class. Ethnic-inspired looks and the punk style enjoyed a period of popularity. Successful clothing designers such as Ralph Lauren, Georgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo, and Geoffrey Beene widened their design horizons, licensed their names, and put their distinctive marks on objects ranging from furniture to cars, fabric, and perfumes. The look of luxuriance that emerged in the 1980s was countered in the 1990s with the production of classic understated clothes. Fashions are adapted for mass production by the garment industries of New York, Los Angeles, and other cities.

Bibliography
  • See F. C. C. Boucher, 20,000 Years of Fashion (tr. 1967).
  • Lynam, R., An Illustrated History of the Great Paris Designers and Their Creations (1972).
  • Black, J. A.;Garland, M., A History of Fashion (1980).
  • Batterberry, M. A., Fashion: The Mirror of History, (1982).
  • Laver, J., Costume and Fashion: A Concise History (1982).
  • Tranquillo, M., Styles of Fashion (1984).
  • Hollander, A., Sex and Suits (1994).
  • Editors of Phaidon Press, The Fashion Book (1998).
  • Agins, T., The End of Fashion: The Mass Marketing of the Clothing Business (1999).
  • Cosgrave, B., Sample: Cuttings from Contemporary Fashion (2005).
  • Steele, V., Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (2005).
  • Wilcox, C., The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947–57 (2007).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article FASHION
France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History

It was in the 1920s that Parisian fashion started to play a significant role in relation to art and literature. French high fashion at the turn...

Full text Article fashion
Collins Dictionary of Sociology

modes of behaviour or dress ‘in which the key feature is rapid and continual changing of styles’ (E. Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and...

Full text Article Fashion
Green Consumerism: An A-to-Z Guide

More than any other crop, the mass cultivation of cotton is associated with the overuse of pesticides and results in the misuse of water...

See more from Credo