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Thoughts on fashion and style

Thoughts on fashion and style

Thoughts on fashion
Thoughts on fashion

Thoughts on fashion and style, reflections, opinions, ideas and original criticism about fashion, style, and clothing culture by famous authors and writers.

Fashion is the great governor of this world; it presides, not only in matters of dress and amusement, but in law, physic, politics, religion, and all other things of the gravest kind; indeed, the wisest of men would be puzzled to give any better reason why particular forms in all these have been at certain times universally received, and at others universally rejected, than that they were in or out of fashion.
Henry Fielding

In our culture, futility plays the role of transgression and fashion is condemned for having within it the force of the pure sign which signifies nothing.
Jean Baudrillard

Today, every principle of identity is affected by fashion, precisely because of its potential to revert all forms to non-origin and recurrence. Fashion is always retro, but always on the basis of the abolition of the passé (the past): the spectral death and resurrection of forms. Its proper actuality (its ‘up-to-dateness’, its ‘relevance’) is not a reference to the present, but an immediate and total recycling.
Jean Baudrillard

Fashion is unjustly spoken of as presiding only in the festive dance, the lighted hall, the crowded court. Would that her influence were confined to these alone! but, alas! we find her in the most sedate assemblies, cooling down each tint of coloring that else might glow too warmly, smoothing off excrescences, and rounding angles to one general uniformity of shape and tone. Her task, however, is but a short one here, and she passes on through all the busy haunts of life, neglecting neither high nor low, nor rich nor poor, until she enters the very sanctuary, and bows before the altar, not only walking with the multitude who keep the holy day, but bending in sable sorrow over the last and dearest friend committed to the tomb. Yes, there is something monstrous in the thought, that we cannot weep for the dead, but fashion must disguise our grief; and that we cannot stand before the altar, and pronounce that solemn vow, which the deep heart of woman alone can fully comprehend, but fashion must be especially consulted there.
Sarah Stickney Ellis

While the fashion industry may, at least at the top end, be thriving, the notion of fashion itself is becoming more and more meaningless. Any discipline in fashion has long since evaporated; the idea of a single fashionable skirt length, or heel height, is incomprehensible. The definition of the fashionable has become so skimpy that it refers not to the mode of dress of everyday people-the clothes that have sufficiently caught the popular imagination to be worn in a widespread manner–but only to the styles that momentarily excite members of the fashion caravan.
Rebecca Mead

A designer who is not also a couturier, who hasn’t learned the most refined mysteries of physically creating his models, is like a sculptor who gives his drawings to another man, an artisan, to accomplish. For him the truncated process of creating will always be an interrupted act of love, and his style will bear the shame of it, the impoverishment.
Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion is the most intense expression of the phenomenon of neomania, which has grown ever since the birth of capitalism. Neomania assumes that purchasing the new is the same as acquiring value. If the purchase of a new garment coincides with the wearing out of an old one, then obviously there is no fashion. If a garment is worn beyond the moment of its natural replacement, there is pauperization. Fashion flourishes on surplus, when someone buys more than he or she needs.
Stephen Bayley

Why does fashion utter clothing so abundantly?… It is not the object but the name that creates desire; it is not the dream but the meaning that sells… What is decided on, imposed, finally appears as necessary… For this to take place, it is enough to keep the Fashion decision secret; who will make it obligatory that this summer’s dresses be made of raw silk?… Every new Fashion is a refusal to inherit, a subversion against the oppression of the preceding Fashion; Fashion experiences itself as a right, the natural right of the present over the past… One detail is enough to transform what is outside meaning into meaning, what is unfashionable into fashion, and yet a detail is not expensive… In short, the woman who wears fashion finds herself asked four questions: Who? What? When? Where? Her utopian garment always answers at least one of these questions… There is, however, one point at which the Woman of Fashion differs in a decisive manner from the models of mass culture: she has no knowledge of evil, to any degree whatsoever… The magazine’s speech is a sufficient social act, whatever its contents: it is a speech which can be infinite because it is empty yet signifying… Take the following utterance: Women will shorten skirts to the knee, adopt pastel checks, and wear two-toned pumps.
Roland Barthes

Thoughts and ideas on fashion
Thoughts and ideas on fashion

Roland Barthes: Semiology and the Rhetorical Codes of Fashion. Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System is a much misunderstood and maligned text but, as the author himself argued, ‘ … it poses the problem of knowing if there really is an object that we call fashion clothing’. At the heart of his inquiry is the hypothesis that real clothnig – that is what we wear in our everyday existence – is secondary to the ways in which it can be articulated in the verbal and visual rhetoric of fashion editorials and fashion spreads: ‘Without discourse there is no total Fashion, no essential Fashion’. In this essay, therefore, I analyse the dialectic he evinced between two key terms – written clothing and image-clothing – to explore the repetitive performativity of word and image in fashion texts. At the same time, I mobilise key works such as ‘The Semantics of the Object’ and The Pleasure of the Text to consider the relevance of his ideas concerning the status of fashion as a sign and the semiological meanings of garments, photographs and advertisements.
Paul Jobling

Why am I so determined to put the shoulder where it belongs? Women have very round shoulders that push forward slightly; this touches me and I say: “One must not hide that!” Then someone tells you: “The shoulder is on the back.” I’ve never seen women with shoulders on their backs… The hat is not for the street: it will never be democratized. But there are certain houses that one cannot enter without a hat. And one must always wear a hat when lunching with people whom one does not know well. One appears to one’s best advantage… Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics.
Coco Chanel

If one considers how much reason every person has for anxiety and timid self-concealment, and how three-quarters of his energy and goodwill can be paralyzed and made unfruitful by it, one has to be very grateful to fashion, insofar as it sets that three-quarters free and communicates self-confidence and mutual cheerful agreeableness to those who know they are subject to its law.
Friedrich Nietzsche

What is line? It is life. A line must live at each point along its course in such a way that the artist’s presence makes itself felt above that of the model. With the writer, line takes precedence over form and content. It runs through the words he assembles. It strikes a continuous note unperceived by ear or eye. It is, in a way, the soul’s style, and if the line ceases to have a life of its own, if it only describes an arabesque, the soul is missing and the writing dies.
Jean Cocteau

You always hear about fashion’s success stories. How a starlet lost an earring one night and by the next morning, the entire country was wearing one earring. Or how sweaters made a comeback in a drugstore, or a First Lady influenced how we dressed during her reign. But what about the losers? The fashions that came and went out the same day? The hopes and dreams of designers that were shattered by the sound of fifty million women … laughing themselves to death.
Erma Bombeck

A style does not go out of style as long as it adapts itself to its period. When there is an incompatibility between the style and a certain state of mind, it is never the style that triumphs.
Coco Chanel

I would argue that fashion is a space where industry articulates issues of identity and signification for the purposes of competitive advantage to such a degree that culture and economy become mutually constitutive to the extent of being analytically inseparable.
Adam Briggs

A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it’s a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself – or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.
Katherine Anne Porter

The same costume will be Indecent 10 years before its time, Shameless 5 years before its time, Outre (daring) 1 year before its time, Smart, Dowdy 1 year after its time, Hideous 10 years after its time, Ridiculous 20 years after its time, Amusing 30 years after its time, Quaint 50 years after its time, Charming 70 years after its time, Romantic 100 years after its time, Beautiful 150 years after its time.
James Laver

In hindsight, my initial love for fashion was about hope and evolving to become the type of woman I wanted to be: strong, confident and feminine. I always loved the idea of dressing up–my wardrobe and how I present myself reflecting how I feel on the inside. That is what I do for other people now. I give women the means to express themselves and be who they are and who they aspire to be, and I think there is a real beauty in this.
Rachel Roy

Fashion thoughts and ideas
Fashion thoughts and ideas

While one should always study the method of a great artist, one should never imitate his manner. The manner of an artist is essentially individual, the method of an artist is absolutely universal. The first is personality, which no one should copy; the second is perfection, which all should aim at.
Oscar Wilde

The perfection of dress lies in the union of three requisites: in its being comfortable, inexpensive, and in good taste. It should not be so far removed from the prevailing mode as to excite attention, nor yet so far within the fashion as to imply a weak submission to it.
Christian Nestell Bovee

The air of fashion, which many young people are so eager to attain, always strikes me like the studied attitudes of some modern prints, copied with tasteless servility after the antigue; the soul is left out, and none of the parts are tied together by what may properly be termed character.
Mary Wollstonecraft

The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.
Raymond Chandler

Fashion is a poor vocation. Its creed, that idleness is a privilege and work a disgrace, is among the deadliest errors. Without depth of thought, or earnestness of feeling, or strength of purpose, living an unreal life, sacrificing substance to show, substituting the fictitious for the natural, mistaking a crowd for society, finding its chief pleasure in ridicule, and exhausting its ingenuity in expedients for killing time, fashion is among the last influences under which a human being, who respects himself, or who comprehends the great end of life, would desire to be placed.
William E. Channing

Fashion is a product of a society with more than one class in it and where upward movement between classes is both possible and desirable. Thus it would seem that, as soon as this kind of society exists, as soon as modern, capitalist society exists, fashion exists.
Malcolm Barnard

The kinetic, open personality of fashion is the personality which a society in the process of rapid transformation most needs. No longer derided as superficial, frivolous or deceitful, fashion thus has an important role to play, not merely in adorning the body but in fashioning a modern, reflexive self.
Caroline Evans

Fashion never happens at any fixed point in time or space – that is, individuals and groups are never fully fashionable but are always in the process of becoming fashionable or descending into unfashionability, and, in all probability, doing both at the same time.
Michael Carter

To give style to one’s character – a great and rare art! He exercises it who surveys all that his nature presents in strength and weakness and then moulds it to an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason, and even the weaknesses delight the eye.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Fashion is an inherent part of human social interaction and not the creation of an elite group of designers, producers, or marketers. Because of its basis in individual social comparison, fashion cannot be controlled without undermining its ultimate purpose, which is the expression of individual identity. If self-identity were never in doubt and social comparison never took place, there would be no demand for fashion, and there would be no need or opportunity for style change.
Aubrey Cannon

Thoughts and opinions on fashion
Thoughts and opinions on fashion

Feminist readings of fashion have often portrayed it as a kind of conspiracy to distract women from the real affairs of society, namely economics and politics. Fashion has been seen as a device for confining women to an inferior social order, largely because it demands an unequal expenditure of time and money by women on activities which do not attract the professional attention and efforts of men. Fashion works to intensify self-absorption and thereby reduces the social, cultural and intellectual horizons of women.
Joanne Finkelstein

All fashions are charming, or rather relatively charming, each one being a new striving, more or less well conceived, after beauty, an approximate statement of an ideal, the desire for which constantly teases the unsatisfied human mind.
Charles Baudelaire

It’s not very easy to grow up into a woman. We are always taught, almost bombarded, with ideals of what we should be at every age in our lives: “This is what you should wear at age twenty”, “That is what you must act like at age twenty-five”, “This is what you should be doing when you are seventeen.” But amidst all the many voices that bark all these orders and set all of these ideals for girls today, there lacks the voice of assurance. There is no comfort and assurance. I want to be able to say, that there are four things admirable for a woman to be, at any age! Whether you are four or forty-four or nineteen! It’s always wonderful to be elegant, it’s always fashionable to have grace, it’s always glamorous to be brave, and it’s always important to own a delectable perfume! Yes, wearing a beautiful fragrance is in style at any age!
C. JoyBell C.

Fashion is the most intense expression of the phenomenon of neomania, which has grown ever since the birth of capitalism. Neomania assumes that purchasing the new is the same as acquiring value. If the purchase of a new garment coincides with the wearing out of an old one, then obviously there is no fashion. If a garment is worn beyond the moment of its natural replacement, there is pauperization. Fashion flourishes on surplus, when someone buys more than he or she needs.
Stephen Bayley

1. Find your own style and have the courage to stick to it.
2. Choose your clothes for your way of life.
3. Make your wardrobe as versatile as an actress. It should be able to play many roles.
4. Find your happiest colours – the ones that make you feel good.
5. Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are!”
Joan Crawford

Young people, however, tend to ignore the customs of their elders. Adolescent rebellion has been responsible for all manner of absurd costumes. The more ridiculous a certain fashion is, the more adolescents will cling to it.
David Eddings

I who have been involved with all styles of painting can assure you that the only things that fluctuate are the waves of fashion which carry the snobs and speculators; the number of true connoisseurs remains more or less the same.
Pablo Picasso

Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.
Elsa Schiaparelli

No doubt the artist is the child of his time; but woe to him if he is also its disciple, or even its favorite.
Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of a man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire… Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Best thoughts on fashion
Best thoughts on fashion

Clothes as text, clothes as narration, clothes as a story. Clothes as the story of our lives. And if you were to gather all the clothes you have ever owned in all your life, each baby shoe and winter coat and wedding dress, you would have your autobiography.
Linda Grant, The Thoughtful Dresser

Perhaps the most irrational fashion act of all was the male habit for 150 years of wearing wigs. Samuel Pepys, as with so many things, was in the vanguard, noting with some apprehension the purchase of a wig in 1663 when wigs were not yet common. It was such a novelty that he feared people would laugh at him in church; he was greatly relieved, and a little proud, to find that they did not. He also worried, not unreasonably, that the hair of wigs might come from plague victims. Perhaps nothing says more about the power of fashion than that Pepys continued wearing wigs even while wondering if they might kill him.
Bill Bryson

The pursuit of Fashion is the attempt of the middle class to co-opt tragedy. In adopting the clothing, speech, and personal habits of those in straitened, dangerous, or pitiful circumstances, the middle class seeks to have what it feels to be the exigent and nonequivocal experiences had by those it emulates.
David Mamet

The same costume will be Indecent 10 years before its time, Shameless 5 years before its time, Outre (daring) 1 year before its time, Smart, Dowdy 1 year after its time, Hideous 10 years after its time, Ridiculous 20 years after its time, Amusing 30 years after its time, Quaint 50 years after its time, Charming 70 years after its time, Romantic 100 years after its time, Beautiful 150 years after its time.
James Laver

I had an interview once with some German journalist – some horrible, ugly woman. It was in the early days after the communists – maybe a week after – and she wore a yellow sweater that was kind of see-through. She had huge tits and a huge black bra, and she said to me, ‘It’s impolite; remove your glasses.’ I said, ‘Do I ask you to remove your bra?
Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people. And falsehoods the truths of other people. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself. To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
Oscar Wilde

Fashion is not public opinion, or the result of embodiment of public opinion. It may be that public opinion will condemn the shape of a bonnet, as it may venture to do always, and with the certainty of being right nine times in ten: but fashion will place it upon the head of every woman in America; and, were it literally a crown of thorns, she would smile contentedly beneath the imposition.
Josiah Gilbert Holland

Ideas about a person’s place in society, his role, lifestyle, and ego qualities will lose their hold as the cohesive forces in society disintegrate. Subculture values will proliferate to such a bewildering extent that a whole new class of professionals will arise to control them. Such a Transmutation Technology will deal in fashions, in ways of being. Lifestyle consultants will become the new priests of our civilizations. They will be the new magicians.
Peter J. Carroll

We ought always to conform to the manners of the greater number, and so behave as not to draw attention to ourselves. Excess either way shocks, and every man truly wise ought to attend to this in his dress as well as language, never to be affected in anything and follow without being in too great haste the changes of fashion.

The “fashion-beauty complex’,” representing the corporate interests involved in the fashion and beauty industries, has, Bartky argues, taken over from the family and church as “central producers and regulators of ‘femininity’. This complex promotes itself to women as seeking to, “glorify the female body and to provide opportunities for narcissistic indulgence” but in fact its aim is to “depreciate woman’s body and deal a blow to her narcissism” so that she will buy more products. The result is that a woman feels constantly deficient and that her body requires “either alteration or else heroic measures merely to conserve it”
Sheila Jeffreys

Reflections and ideas on fashion
Reflections and ideas on fashion

Fashion is a process in two senses: it is a market-driven cycle of consumer desire and demand; and it is a modern mechanism for the fabrication of the self. It is in this respect that fashion operates as a fulcrum for negotiating the meeting of internal and external worlds.
Christopher Breward & Caroline Evans

Fashion is a striving to overcome the spatial divide between classes, to overcome the invidious comparisons between “them and us”, to catch up and overtake the “in crowd”. In other words, what it would like to do is to abolish the very incline that enables the fashion dynamic to exist.
Michael Carter

The pursuit of Fashion is the attempt of the middle class to co-opt tragedy. In adopting the clothing, speech, and personal habits of those in straitened, dangerous, or pitiful circumstances, the middle class seeks to have what it feels to be the exigent and nonequivocal experiences had by those it emulates.
David Mamet

One of the most perplexing aspects of fashion is its preoccupation with change, and hence with time. Its mutability is the point. Even those who take (or claim to take) no particular interest in clothes will, by accident or passivity, nonetheless go with the fashion flow. A man who wore a doublet and hose in the sixteenth century will not be wearing such an outfit in any of the following centuries unless he’s on his way to a costume party. You would either have to take great care of what you already own so you rarely needed to buy new things or go looking for passé ones to be completely out of fashion, which takes more work than being in fashion.
Linda Grant

Fashion is a mysterious chimera. Elegance, beauty and expense are no longer reliable guides to what is “cool”. Outfits applauded on the runway often never make it to the stores… Just as we get used to one “look”, its counterpart comes into vogue. Why do we need or wish to consistently redefine and adorn ourselves? Who makes the rules and who breaks them? Fashion seems responsible for the mayhem, but it is also the creative source of an exciting and enormously profitable industry.
Sue Jenkyn Jones

Fashion is a state of mind. A spirit, an extension of one’s self. Fashion talks, it can be an understated whisper, a high-energy scream or an all knowing wink and a smile. Most of all fashion is about being comfortable with yourself, translating self-esteem into a personal style.
Cynthia Durcanin

Fashion is not style. Nay, we can say more: Fashion is instead of style. Style is an idiom springing spontaneously from the personality but deliberately maintained. If you have no personality, you may be able to save your face and, possibly, your entire anatomy by following the current fashion, but all we shall know about you, when we see you coming down the street, is that you had enough money to buy a glossy magazine and were sufficiently cunning to work out the cut of the garments shown therein.
Quentin Crisp

Fashion is not a real element of beauty in external objects; and to persons who possess a good endowment of Form, Constructiveness and Ideality, intrinsic elegance is much more pleasing and permanently agreeable, than forms of less merit, recommended merely by being new. Hence there is a beauty which never palls, and there are objects over which fashion exercises no control.
George Combe

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