Fashion is a multifaceted term describing a style of dress, a form of personal expression and a reflection of culture. It also encompasses the fashion industry which is a global multibillion dollar business dedicated to designing, manufacturing and selling clothes and accessories. Fashion can be influenced by a wide range of factors, including social changes, economic shifts and cultural dialogues. This multifaceted nature of fashion makes it hard to define and even harder to understand.
To some, fashion is a way of life. It is a constant search for the new, the next big thing. To others, it is a form of art. It can be an understated whisper or a high-energy scream. Fashion is a language that can be used to communicate anything from a sense of self-worth to a desire for change.
There is a distinction between fashion and style. While fashion is a trend-driven business with a lot of emphasis placed on the latest and greatest, style is rooted in more timeless concepts of beauty. Trends, in comparison, tend to be much more short-lived and can quickly become unfashionable. Fashions can also be a victim of their own success; once they have become incredibly popular during one era, they are often difficult to wear in any other era without looking outdated or costumey.
It is often assumed that fashions reflect societal changes or the financial interests of fashion designers and manufacturers. However, there is evidence to suggest that fashions can exist independently of both of these factors. For example, the resurgence of 1970s fashions in recent years was partially driven by a nostalgia for that decade and not any particular changes in society.
For the most part, the most recognizable aspects of fashion are the clothing. While it is possible for individuals to create their own fashions by mixing and matching items of clothing, it is more common for people to follow the trends set by the bigger fashion houses. These trends are often reflected on the runways in Paris and New York, but they can also be seen in malls and markets around the world.
The Fashion guide provides a selection of resources in the Library of Congress that may be useful for researchers studying the history and development of this complex and ever-changing industry. This list is by no means exhaustive; interested researchers are encouraged to use our online catalog and other research tools in order to find additional materials on this topic. The Library of Congress also has a broad collection of scholarly publications and other primary sources related to the study of fashion. These are available through the Reference Desk at any of our libraries. Those interested in learning more about the history of fashion may want to consult the Fashion and Costume collections in our reading rooms at the Main Library or the Research Center at the Brooklyn Historical Library. This list is subject to change as the library collects new materials on this topic.