The Origins of Fashion


Fashion is a social phenomenon that has long had an impact on the world. Whether as a style statement, as a sign of rebellion or as a form of conformism, it’s one of the most recognizable aspects of human culture and can be spotted in every region around the globe. The fashion industry has evolved into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but it also continues to influence the lives of individuals through clothing choices and trends.

The origins of fashion are complex. It is impossible to know how the short skirts and boots of English teenagers influenced fashion designers in Paris, or how the baggy jeans of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air became fashionable in the United States. However, the development of a trend requires that it be disseminated to a significant number of people for it to be considered fashion. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as through television shows and movies (the bare mid-riffs of 90210 or the baggy jeans of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), viral memes, and word-of-mouth from peers.

As the current fashion system privileges financial and cultural capital, it also devalues human and natural capital. Moreover, it presents clothes as shiny, perfect, and auratic products that are sold in shops and mediated through glossy magazines as bright cellophane wrappers. In 1938, Elizabeth Hawes predicted that women would eventually look inside ‘the wrapper’, question its contents, and reject most of it.