The Intellectual Fulfillment of Fashion

By: Autumn Castellanos

When I first started learning about the world of fashion, I became surprised at the amount of intellectual fulfillment I was gaining when immersing myself in it. Fashion is an art and in order to understand it, there is a necessity for historical, cultural and artistic knowledge. To be a great artist in the production of design, one has to be aware of their society. For example, the first artists who made fashion what it is today were Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. These three French designers are the pioneers who broke through cultural beliefs and challenged the expectations of fashion for women. Further on in history, their designs would go on to inspire new artists to challenge gender roles in society.

Left to Right: Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent

After WWII ended in 1945, Christian Dior decided that women should no longer be invisible. He wanted to restore life and vibrancy back into women all over the world through his designs. Yves Saint Laurent wanted women to be both masculine and feminine while Coco Chanel wanted women to be confident in a pantsuit rather than a stereotypical silk dress. In the time of change that was the 20th century, women were becoming more and more liberated through fashion. 

Later on in history, around the 1970s, women and people of color were rebelling against society for passing faulty laws that legitimized inhumane treatment. For example, the Black Panthers became known for their black berets, leather jackets and natural hair. Their expression through style became a symbol of rebellion in history. To this day, women and men use fashion not only to express themselves, but to become free of restricting societal norms.

Throughout the years, fashion and the individuals who immerse themselves in it, have often been deemed as strange, genius and even bold. Through taking those risks, which aren't as simple as they're perceived, I am reminded of a question that is still debated to this day. About a year ago, someone asked me if I thought women revealing more skin correlated to a lack of morals. Before responding with my opinion, I pointed out the sexism in the questions because the person was asking about only women, not men. I then brought up some historical background to support my claim.

 Up until the early 1900s, women wore corsets that deformed their anatomy. It wasn't until the 1920s when women earned the right to vote that they experienced more freedom in society. In terms of fashion, women in the '20s were coined as "Flappers," due to their short dresses, haircuts and new found confidence. In a final response to the question I was asked, I do not think women who show more skin lack morals. The amount of respect a person is given is not contingent on their fashion choices.

By understanding the many elements of fashion, one can become aware of who they are and who others are through style. Noticing references to classic paintings and being aware of cultural customs and styles allow us to use fashion as a tool of free expression. To be enveloped in fashion is to retain information on many aspects of art in this world. Possessing such a perspective lends itself to a life worth embracing. This is what creates development and change in our society.