WHY IS FASHION DIFFICULT TO DEFINE? Perhaps not surprisingly, most of us would have seen ourselves into situations where we are so fundamentally required to define a term to essentially move forward and we somehow every single time come up either with an over the top subjective explanation for the term or end up giving the most cliched textbook definition we could possibly find. This is rather an overlooked occurrence and is not brought into the jarring day light. This article aims at explaining ‘Why fashion is difficult to define’ with a series of statements or arguments proposed from several standpoints like philosophy, history, relevance to the modern era and so on.


As and when we try to define fashion, we come across a factor called subjectivity. Giving a subjective definition to fashion or any term for the matter of fact is the most common type one can find as it branches out of oneself. Since there are no two people with a striking resemblance in their preferences, the explanations get vividly different, every single time a genuine response is to be recorded. So fashion to one person can not be the same to another.


This is an attempt that I usually dig at when I feel the need to make a good reasoning for an event or an occurrence. So basically, teleologically explaining something means to define an act in terms of the purpose of committing it. When we try to make sense of fashion, by understanding why we undertake fashion or even exhibit fashion, yet again the responses are unsettlingly different. Ultimately we have managed to bring all the purposes under a not so wide umbrella and that makes it highly difficult to define the term and also be relevant at the same time.


Formally defining something is another philosophical approach taken to explain the subject matter. The question proposed to its audience to define fashion plays an extremely crucial role in bringing about a successful response as the success can generously and solely depend on the contextual details in the question. If the question is made to have a really narrow spectrum, the answer can be easily attained.


When we try to look deeper, putting aside the question and the context in which it occurs, everything how intangible may it be, has a certain kind of form associated with it and one can try to define the thing in question using its form. However, it gets a little tricky in our case as fashion always changes its form from time and again.


Since fashion has come to become a relatively common term that is being tossed around everywhere one turns, the benefactor of the question and the audience around it usually have subjective preconceived notions and there is bound to be a clash in the agreeability of the latter’s answers by the former.


Another possible reason for stumbling upon the question and feeling the heat to provide a sensible answer is the implications associated with the concept of fashion. I call these the pillars of design and some of these are namely, lifecycle, modesty, silhouettes, craftsmanship, expression. Delivering a good and meaningful definition taking into account all of the above pillars, gets a tad tedious at times.


Fashion as a field and as an industry has several contemporaries namely architecture. Both the fields are exclusive in some respects yet share some rudimentary principles. So the fact that one is overlooked while the others are celebrated, exerts an overwhelming pressure and urge on the former to provide a moral justification for the existence of the field in its definition.


When an idea or an occurrence is associated with a prized quality coming from the person or the vertical undertaking the idea, there tends to be quite a devoted following for the same from the masses and they try to imbibe the principles into their own lives to make them feel a step closer to their heroes. This factor of attempting to experience heroism often intervenes in the process of proposing a definition of the term fashion. Apart from the above arguments, we can still think of several reasons why we don’t ring a bell with our own ideologies about the field. Being a fashion student and being asked to define my own stream is sometimes mind-numbing as you have a lot to express but there is a constant rivalry and disagreement happening on what the mindful and sensible notion is. Well, there can be more than one right answer, can’t there?


Nithya Shree E

Fashion Technology,

Batch of 2021

President of Studio KCT

Intern at Advanced Clothing Concepts