In today’s world, the position of fashion is thoroughly discussed. In addition to the diktats of the fashion industry (whether it is in magazines or within the modeling agencies), the question of limits has reemerged, engendering new ones such as ‘Is fashion harmful to society?’. The latter question will merely appear as rational to some, whilst others will remain astounded. Lately, the debate on dress code in American schools has arisen time and again when stories emerged in the news shedding light on female students humiliated for wearing leggings or knee-long dresses (Identities.mic, January 2016, J. Zeilinger ). Besides, in some areas of the globe, women still get shamed for wearing skirts with heels or other outfits seemingly too eccentric according to certain people.
Now, I really wanted this piece to be a well-researched and fully neutral paper but it probably won’t be.
Not only are clothes considered mere cloth to cover human skin to some, but, from their viewpoint, fashion itself is also seen as the embodiment of narcissism. The idea that fashion is harmful is often extended to the plain definition of people who like fashion: shallow, narcissistic and ignoring beings.
This topic is thoroughly discussed on Debate.org under the title ‘Is fashion harmful to society?’. Although the results are narrow, the positive answers remain a majority (51% Yes – 49% No, link here).
Among the responses are the following arguments: it deviates young people from their studies, wanting to look good will make you lonely, you will be indebted, it is solely based on appearance, it will push you to make bad lifestyle choices… However, all of these arguments are mere generalities solely based on stereotypes and unproved statements, it is almost an extrapolation. Subsequently, my point is not to counterbalance those arguments as they seem to be pure nonsense to me.
From another perspective, fashion interferes with ethical discourses praising and imposing a strict way of dressing up. Whether it is too short, too see-through, too revealing, men as well as women criticize a certain type of clothing and therefore allege that the notion of respect or dignity does not appear in this person’s nature. At first, to some people, it is an appealing attribute, although, at times it can turn into a plain provocation.
No, dressing well does not echo self-absorption, or shallowness. Dressing well is part of feeling good about oneself, taking care of oneself. It does not have to take hours nor a quantity of money. Fashionistas do not pick up their accessories for the eye of the Other. It is a form of expression, an art, a way to transfigure oneself at another level. It is about reinventing oneself. It is both personal and universal, in the sense that people can relate to it.
So, is fashion still harmful to society? Leaving out of account the problems and dangers that are prominent in the modeling industry such as eating disorders or regarding representation, fashion does no harm. Indeed, the word ‘fashion’ does not revolve around that. Designing, styling and making are also a part of it. Moreover, although fashion, in its primary meaning, considers trends. I do not perceive it that way. On the contrary, I believe that fashion is unique in the sense that anybody can actually control his or her style. Yes, fashion is fun. It is a way to express creativity. Fashion is freedom! There is fashion and then there is the fashion industry, however, these notions must, and actually are, separable entities.
My point here is that you can wear whatever piece you want, however weird or anomalous it may seem to your peers. There should be absolutely no limits to fashion. While in some fields dress codes are sometimes required, no boundary should be imposed on individuals in society at large. My hope is that you never restrict yourself from wearing a particular outfit — it may start with clothing but you do not know where it can end. You are defined by your own choices, not by what others tell you nor by what they think of you.
Fashion was never about the others. It is only about yourself.
- A fun piece to read — Miss Tobé, Dress Up And Live! (page 2), Delineator Magazine, 1937
- ‘As far as fashion goes, there’s more than meets the eye.’, Fashion: Why Is It Important?, April 2012, K. LaGrave, HuffingtonPost.com
[Just wanted to show you how much fun it can be, and how much freedom it can give you!]