Sunday, July 26, 2009

What is Fashion? What is Style?

By Monica Barnett

I have often used the words "fashion" and "style" interchangeably but, I'm not sure they mean the same thing....or do they? The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion says fashion is, "a sociocultural phenomenon in which a preference is shared by a large number of people of a particular style that last for a relatively short period time, and then is replaced by another style...". Fairchild defines style as, "in fashion, an individual and distinctive type of dress, coat, blouse, or other item of apparel or have a certain flair that is specific and individual."

The fashion industry has left us parsing words and syllables to come up with an answer and, in the end, have we made an perceptible progress? We track backwards to style icons like Valentino, Gabrielle Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent to use their words..."fashions fade - style is eternal" in hopes of an answer.

With each day, I become more brazen in my defiance in saying there is an difference but, the problem is, I'm still not sure what it is. Rather than try to answer this, I am now working toward understanding the question. To do that, there are a few items I am using to factor into my evaluation of the validity of the question at hand:

(1) time - as in 'today' versus 'in the days of ole' - did we ever parse hairs (i.e. fashion vs style) back then?
(2) location - as in do you live in Paris, France, South Bend, Indiana, Seoul, Korea, or elsewhere? - can fashion and style be dependent on where you live and perhaps what information or media you have access to?; and
(3) exposure - as in are you Gabrielle Chanel, a self-proclaimed Fashionista or Fashionelle, a WWD editor, or an unknowing fashion victim?

I'm positive there are many other elements to consider but, consider this the proverbial 'line in the sand' as I move down the road to (possible) differentiation!

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