Is fashion an art? This is something I’ve wondered about, because conceptually it seems a lot like other art forms. But it also seems so separate in its execution. So what makes fashion an art, or what makes it not an art?
Is fashion art that we live in?
To quote Nigel from The Devil Wears Prada, “… and what they created was greater than art. Because you live your life in it.”
When someone says ‘art’ what do you think of? Most people think of paintings, music, sculptures, and dance. But maybe some people would think of cooking as an art? Or interior decor? Or fashion design?
Clothing is something that we need to wear everyday, and will continue to need. I’ve heard some people joke that if society decided nudism was suddenly socially acceptable, they would gladly throw out all their clothes and embrace the bareness. I imagine these people must live in some sort of climate controlled dome, where the weather is always temperate, it never rains or snows, there are no biting insects whatsoever, and the sun never causes sunburns.
You see, clothing is like shelter, food, or water. It’s something that’s needed to survive, at least where I live, because exposure to the elements can be harmful, if not fatal.
So clothing is a necessity, as is food and shelter. These things being necessary to life might be part of the reason why most people wouldn’t consider interior decorating or cooking as an art, unless a master was doing them. However, all of these would be considered hobbies if a person dabbled in them.
But something to consider is that art is a necessity in and of itself. It’s human nature to be creative, to create things. We’ve been telling stories, singing songs, and creating paintings for practically forever. So I don’t think fashion can be ruled out as an art form just because clothing is a necessity. If anything, the way people have adapted fashion throughout the centuries adds to it being considered a form of art. Just as painting has evolved and changed, so has clothing.
What about how we treat fashion?
So with all that being said, why wouldn’t some people consider fashion to be an art form? Well, I think the way we treat clothing and fashion as a whole plays a big part in that.
Would you consider the mass produced print sold at Walmart for $40 to be art? I mean technically it is, someone had to have painted it at some point, and it’s pretty to look at. Maybe once you’ve bought it and hung it up on your wall at home you’d consider it to be an art piece. But when it’s sitting in the store, along with a dozen other identical prints, alongside an entire section filled with similar mass produced prints, it certainly doesn’t feel like art.
Now what if instead you found that print in the back of a thrift store, the only one of it’s kind along with other art pieces, but none of them were duplicates, none of them were identical. The print would feel a lot more valuable and a lot more like a piece of art, yes?
Even if the print was being sold with identical duplicates of it, what if instead of buying it at a Walmart you found it in a marketplace? And you knew it was originally painted by a local artist, not to be mass produced and sold in a corporate store, but instead the artist was selling prints to make a living off of their artwork. Would you consider the print more intrinsically valuable then?
Fashion is something that has been reduced as an art form because of all the fast fashion companies that have been created over the years. Because the rows upon rows of identical, mass produced clothing items that we see in most stores make the clothing feel like it’s just… well, fabric in a pretty color.
Perhaps this is why online shopping and thrift shopping have become much more popular. When online shopping you don’t see the rows upon rows of identical clothing pieces, you just see the photos of the clothing piece on a model. It feels more unique.
And of course, when thrifting clothing there are almost never duplicates (I’ve seen it happen a couple of times, but even then the colors were different), so any piece you finds feels like a treasure!
So, what do you think? Is fashion an art form?