My au courant take: how fashion is the mirror of our society

As fashion evolves in response to our changes in values and style, here is my humble observation of a truth woven within the fabrics.


Fashion changes according to us; what do we lend to the trends?

Jasmin Parrado, Staff Writer

There is an undeniable shift in the fashion world—one that urges me to stop and peer into its stream of thought, to, like a surgeon hard at work, dissect and explore the unspoken connotations of the coats in my closet and pants in my drawer. I am an observer; and quite openly, my observations of everyday life do tattle to me about the patterns of social behavior. I simply choose to take a step back and see through the special lens we’ve all created through decades of superficial tendencies and energy into statement in style; the first thing I always see is clothing drenched in communication.

Oftentimes I find that we underestimate the provisions of the fashion world to societal identity and individuality; we take for granted the sheer impact of its development that has echoed through generations upon generations of trends and turnarounds. The evolution of fashion, through the colorful scene of cultural integration and style re-emergence, has so vibrantly struck our senses and perception with its strong correlations to various forms of identifiable characteristics. Now, we stroll the streets and instinctually assume the very character, background, morale of the next passerby. We certainly can’t outdo Miranda Priestly in haughtily yet fabulously reading one’s fashion, but we do subconsciously  recognize its relevance to some degree; it overtakes a hot majority of one’s persona and is telltale of numerous other things.

Now, when we are called to evaluate the course of fashion influence within our society, we tend to mistake the presentation of fashion sense as a sole representative to each other of our absolute character; it is the most convenient conclusion to establish and justify from seconds of an initial encounter. And I must owe some credit to that conclusion; I myself have, through only so much time, perceived many people based on their appearance. The next stranger on the street wearing spiked heeled boots and a long black trench coat appeared distant and rejecting in nature; the next woven-cardigan wearer three blocks away looked gentle and approachable to me.

I believe that somewhere along the lines of us molding certain personas to different styles, we’ve made those personas synonymous to our actual personalities. And I must remind you of a particular truth that applies to more people than you think: what you intend to emanate might not always reflect your truest self. I’ve met many individuals from varying walks of life who have presented a completely different profile of their nature than what they’ve turned out to be in actuality. Sweet bubblegum and sugar-coated words beneath flower dresses and cherry tees enticed my welcome nature, rather reminiscent of the Plastics welcoming a clueless Cady Heron to their lunch bunch in retrospect. And of course, by the same token, those sugar-coated words turned quite sour in due time; of course, I was still inevitably enamored by their sense of style and beauty. But it does take us back a couple of steps, these upside down outcomes, and in the end we have to wonder why those people try so hard pretend to be something they really aren’t.

But that’s the beauty of fast fashion. The throw-on statement clothing, the brand logos plastered on pants and purses; they culminate to the persona we want to give off, and we embrace it, because on some deeper level we may want to embody that persona. We want to feed into it, become it, whether it be simply for our own self-satisfaction or the comfort and convenience of succumbing to a particular character subset that protects us from the harsh tones of societal standards and stereotypes. This is why you may see people sheathed in hyper-masculine, hyper-feminine, hyper-certain-style clothing; we do not take a second thought into who else they could possibly be, because they may not want to reveal their dysphoria or knack for nonconforming fashion. Our clothing brings us a gift and a curse; it can very well be the manifestation of our aspirations and desires; but it can also be our disguise, our black mask tightened over our cheeks.

Fashion does this to us; it not only covers and colors our bodies, but also hides our undesired and predisposed associations with images that we don’t envision ourselves successfully living within. Women are told to dress only a certain way to evade attention from one group and attract attention from the other, and men are told to dress only a certain way to feed into a fragile concept of prevailing masculinity. I have found that such directions warp and distort our styles; society responds to fashion by trying to tame it on a leash, feeding it labels and definitions, not to make sense of it, but to impose its own agenda upon it. Subsequently, it sharpens it to a fine point and stabs into itself, gnawing at old wounds that we’ve tried so hard to steer away from. Heed the word; to society, fashion can also be a weapon.

And as I back away and translate my awe of our correlation between fashion and character into words on a screen, I inevitably accept that such behaviors exist within all of us; to some extent we’ve conformed to something, whether by our own interest or a further, complex motive from within. I will not state that one thing we do is bad. We have our reasons, and fashion is none but a simple medium of exchange—communication. Messages in our color schemes and love notes in our knee-high boots—it is a powerful thing. A power in itself, in us.  I respect its impact from within. But I wonder; if we were to all channel collective awareness of this power, how much further can we change fashion? How can we break the barriers and rip the leashes that always form from introducing fashion to society? Will our willingness to more positively embrace our styles in true reflection of our personalities come about? Will our personas one day represent us as we are, as we try to be for our own happiness? Will fashion one day become the truest reflection of ourselves, the mirror untainted and undistorted by constructs of societal influence? I truly do not know; but I imagine.

Today, you might be experiencing those very constructs as of now. If so, I speak to you; I challenge you. Try fashion without limitations, labels, or judgments. Those will all come later. But in the here and now, what do you want to put on? What do you want to embody, emphasize, become? Or rather, who are you? Speak to yourself before you speak to society, because now you have learned that society will always have something to do or say about you in the unforgiving hereafter. Do not let that stop you. Be your own foundation to expression. Your own cutting edge.

When you stand in front of the mirror today, do not merely look at yourself; see yourself.