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Fashion: Self-expression or mass culture?

By Madonna Caiado

The concept of fashion has evolved throughout the centuries in very different ways. The art of creating fashionable apparel for society dates back to the 1800s, when Charles Frederick Worth, who is believed to be the first designer, set up his fashion house in Paris, starting a trend that survives till this day. The industry took the chance to profit from the designing of exclusive pieces of garments by letting the clients decide on what they wanted specifically for them. This was made by showing the patterns to them and then starting to sew, contrary to what they had been doing before.

It was not until the 20th Century that mass production of clothes began. The bulk of production increased, giving space for more choices than people had ever had before. A new wave of self-expression was born, and purchasing fashion as an individual statement began: instead of relying on the trends prevailing in the market, both women and men were able to choose their own outfits. This also resurfaced during the 80s and 90s rebellion against the established roles of man and woman, when the latter began to understand the power they wanted to hold in businesses and social environments.

The self-expression movement born from the independence revolution remains today: fashion has become a reflective mirror of what is happening inside people’s minds. It is also a reflection of the level of creativity of both designers and what normal people do with the pieces themselves. It begins the eternal debate about fashion: does it exist as a consequence of the heights of individualism or is it just another example of mass production and culture?

While fashion was made originally with the vision of fitting a specific image of the female (and male), the importance of these roles in society has changed a little since then. People now purchase clothes because they see others wearing them, and with the rise of low-priced brands (Primark, H&M, ZARA) the effect it causes is the same: everyone dresses the same way others do, narrowing the gap between different bodies and social statuses. Yet, how individualistic is to purchase from big corporations that mass-produce? Has it truly changed in its concept?

What has really changed is the distinction between male and female fashion. One of the marketing strategies that accept that both sexes can wear whatever they desire to wear, therefore they focus their campaigns on the existence of the Unisex label. Example of this was Parris Goebel’s label, Runaway Motel, that had success betting for the modern sense of equality.

Altogether, one must agree that fashion, though true to its concept of beauty and style, is not made anymore for either men or women. No more corsets, jacket tails or long skirts: the concept of fashion is ever-changing, and as much as we decide to stand out as individuals, we will always be influenced by the trends that compose it.

Available in the January '21 Issue on page 16 - Read Here!

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