Fashion is, according to Webster’s, the prevailing
custom or style of dress, etiquette, socializing, etc. For the purposes of
this website, we are interested in dress. What this means is that we will
look at dress (or clothing) in regards to cut, silhouette, texture, color,
and more qualities and how these qualities change in popularity.
When a particular style or look is “in fashion” or “in vogue,” this means
that it is either accepted by the mainstream consumer culture (everyday
people on the street) or the elite fashion culture (designers, stylistics,
fashion journalists and photographers, etc.). Before the industrial
revolution, it sometimes took years for a particular style to fall out of
fashion and be replaced by a new one. However, what is in fashion now
changes rather quickly because machines and new methods of production
allow garments to be made rapidly and in large numbers. Each season
designers create new looks to replace the old and fresh ideas and old
ideas are recycled and revamped, in and out, in a never-ending cycle.
Supermodel Heidi Klum’s Project Runway catchphrase couldn’t be more true:
“As you know in Fashion, one day you’re in, and the next you’re out.” The
Irish Victorian-era wit and writer Oscar Wilde, known for his flamboyant
clothing and dandy style put it a different way: “Fashion is a form of
ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
Many times people use the words fashion and style interchangeably.
Although the meaning between the two words are subtle and overlap, there
is a distinct difference. Style indicates a particular shape or type of
apparel, as in the skirt is in a mini-skirt (or broom, circle, mermaid,
pencil, etc.) style. The different types of styles are constant, it is
fashion that changes.
Another use of the word style is to indicate a constant mode of dress of a
particular person or group of persons. For example, Audrey Hepburn had a
distinctive style. We can identity certain looks that create a preppy
When pondering the difference between fashion and style, an easy way to
distinguish the difference is the oft quoted eloquent adage of designer
Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”