Clothing is a powerful symbol that can communicate a range of personal and social meanings. Different elements of fashion (style, colour, pattern, material, accessories and brand) can represent personal identity and style, social status, cultural norms and values, historical and political context, mood and emotion, gender roles, group membership, life stages and milestones, fantasy and imagination and ethical and sustainable values.
Trendsetters set the tone for what people wear, influencing their tastes and creating a look that others want to copy. Trends in fashion can also reflect or challenge dominant cultural norms, values and beliefs.
What is considered fashionable is decided by a group of influential individuals, referred to as the “fashion industry.” Fashion designers create new trends and designs and manufacturers produce clothes to meet consumer demand. Fashion also changes over time as older styles are replaced by newer ones.
For a garment to be considered fashionable, it must first be embraced by the masses, then adopted by the elite and then trickle down from the elite into the rest of society. The process is called diffusion and it can happen both vertically – from the top down (“trickle-down”) or horizontally – across cultures or through viral memes.
The terms style, mode, vogue and fad are synonyms for fashion and mean the popular usage of any particular way of dressing or behaving at any given time. Vogue and fad are also used to describe trends in music, books, movies and art.