On Fashion, Style and Choice

The relationship between style and fashion is an idea I see so often visited. To some people, there is little difference in their meaning. Others, have written many articles on comparing and contrasting them. I figured I would write my own version of the “style vs fashion” article. I will also talk about the power of choice in the relationship between the two.

While I appreciate the value of both style and fashion, I would say that the use of these concepts are not mutually exclusive. Fashion can be seen as the consumer trend, the latest and greatest clothing pieces. These trends are constantly cycling and rotating. From an economic perspective, fashion is frequently used as a marketing device used by corporations to move product. On the other hand, fashion can also be an indicator of current social, cultural and economic trends as well as an outlet of creative expression. In this article, I will use the distinction of fast fashion as opposed to fashion in general.

A stylish fashion show, or a fashionable style show? Credit: Kris Atomic

Style, which has been touched on before, is an intrinsic quality. A person can be stylish without being fashionable. An example of this would be well dressed people that are not wearing clothes that on trend. Case in point- the stylish grandfathers (again with the grandpa style). Those men have no idea what silhouettes are trending or the Pantone colour of the season. They just want their pants to be comfy and their head to be dry on their morning newspaper walk.

Just fetching the paper. Credit: http://www.ilcolorblu.com/

Conversely, a fashionable person may not necessarily be stylish. An illustration of this is found in people simply wearing the clothes that fast fashion brands are pushing. This form of mimicry is widespread, in part because the pieces are so widely marketed and accessible. This is not to say that one concept is worse than the other, they are just concepts. The real question to ask is whether or not style or fashion serve you in your life.

Fashion, in particular fast fashion, is efficient in enabling quick access to clothes that are on trend. This allows people to dress in a way that is socially popular without having to put much effort into their choices. In this way, fashion may serve us by freeing up some mental bandwidth in terms of choosing the clothes we wear.

With that being said, there are downsides to following fashion trends. The constant need to update one’s wardrobe with “in” pieces can be time consuming and costly. Imagine having to spend the time shopping for new pieces every season to add to your closet.

Another detriment of fast fashion is the environmental impact. By structuring an entire industry to produce garments quickly and cost-effectively, there are devastating consequences. One of the most prominent of them being the sheer amount of textile waste created as a result of creating and disposing of garments.

This is what happens when you need all the colourways of a garment. Credit: www.trustedclothes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/landfill-1-537x402.jpg

The move to counteract fast fashion, was a resurgence towards the slow fashion movement (name checks out). This idea focuses on changing the mindset towards the consumption of fashion. I use the term resurgence here because garments used to be made with quality craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The overarching idea behind slow fashion is to reduce the speed at which we produce and consume clothes. Ideas including things like buying quality products over a quantity of products as well as garment styles that cycle less frequently. In addition to this, the movement as focuses on employing sustainable practices towards clothing production. By being aware of how fast fashion operates, we are given the choice of how we subscribe to it.

The idea of being a consumer of fast fashion versus a creator of style has an interesting analogy to life. I liken fashion to the cultural and societal norms that we are subject to during the course of our lives. Messages along the lines of: “go to school, get good grades and get a good job,” seem very cliche at this point. However, many people still identify with and carry out this societal expectation, much of the time unknowingly.

Go to school. Check. Get good grades. Check. Now what? Credit: Faustin Tuyambaze

Living one’s life subscribing to these norms may seem like be an easier way to live, as less decision making is required in the short term. This issue comes up when we realize we are living life on a predetermined path. This realization can be refreshing to some and crippling to others. Much like the fast fashion industry’s impact on our wardrobes, we end up with a bunch of stuff (or a life), that we do not truly identify with. The irony in fast fashion is that it promotes the latest trends for people to distinguish themselves from the crowd, even though most people end up looking the same due to the mass distributive nature of the industry.

Outfit of the day, week, month, year. Credit: https://lifegivingwater.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/conformity-2a.jpg

Being a creator of one’s own style can be liberating, much like blazing one’s own trail in life. I know, comparing something like a career change to revamping a sock drawer seems like a stretch, even though similar principles apply. Whether is it staying in a career that makes you unhappy or choosing clothes because everyone else wears them, it is the choices we make in life that define us, and not choosing is also a choice. In closing, I would recommend taking a look at your life to identify the choices that are being made (or not made). Life becomes rather refreshing when every decision is framed as a choice of your own.