University of the Arts, London, UK
Although fashion is often conflated with dress and style, most accounts agree that it is distinct from both because of its temporal logic of change, where particular forms or styles of dress are replaced for social and aesthetic rather than for practical reasons.
In general usage, fashion refers to almost anything (from philosophy to architecture) which is subject to changing cycles of popularity and the establishment of collective norms or styles which make them démodé or à la mode, of their time or not, “in fashion” or “out.” Sapir (1931) argues that styles which achieve a permanence “crystallize” into the customs which make new fashion possible. This takes us on to the definition of style: understanding not just what to wear but how to wear it. “Stylishness” is therefore attributed to someone who has the “cultural capital” know-how or “taste” (Bourdieu 1984) to make the right judgment calls. Sapir's work also explains the notion of classic style as something enduring and resistant to fashion's restless pursuit of change and its short-term fads.
Dress, the broadest term, serves three purposes. First, practical functionality: given the climate and the seasons, dress protects us from the elements, for example cold, wind, and rain. Second, modesty or display: concealing or revealing the genitalia and breasts or a mix of these contrary impulses, as in the accentuation achieved by the ...