Is Fashion Frivolous?

Alexander McQueen AW 2009

Alexander McQueen AW 2009

A blank post with the title “Is Fashion Frivolous?” has been lying unwritten in my drafts page for months now – all the while simmering away in the back of my mind where it has formulated into something vaguely publishable. The title of this post is a question I have toyed with, mulled over in my mind as seasons have come and gone and the fashion world has changed all around me. We all know that fashion is a glamorous, difficult, cut-throat, money-making industry – where people come in and out of the media spotlight faster than you can both discover and remember their name. Some snub it for being purely a business – jumping on the band wagon of a certain Oscar Wilde who was famed for saying “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable we have to alter it every six months”.

There are those who think themselves ‘above’ fashion, those who don’t want be a part of it, those who can’t afford to alter their wardrobe every six months and those who just couldn’t care less what the ‘new black’ is. But then there’s those who think it’s frivolous. There are many definitions of the word but the one that struck me as being suitable in the case of people using it describe their opinion of fashion was this: “Of little or no weight, worth, or importance; not worthy of serious notice”.

Well. Isn’t that a kick in the teeth for the fashion industry.

Not that the majority of people within the industry would be too perturbed by it though – they’re too busy running up sketches for next season’s runway shows and have far more important things to be getting on with than criticising the people who deem fashion as something pointless and unnecessary. They may not have the time – but I do. Because fashion isn’t worthless – it’s incredible. It’s a showcase of truly unique art and is itself a creative art form, encompassing the work of designers who spend painstaking hours perfecting the intricate details of their collections. These people are intelligent, confident, hard-working people who have the ability to send a whole industry lusting after a single sheepskin leather jacket from a single Fashion Week show (Burberry AW10 anyone?).

I always read Alexandra Shulman’s Editor’s Letter in Vogue with interest because let’s be fair, she has to, in around 100 words, sum up all the major events of the fashion world that have happened since the last issue and are going to happen before the next. A lot can happen in a month in the fashion industry, which leads onto the problems facing print publications now information is so readily and freely available on the internet. In one letter which really struck a chord with me Shulman referenced the Libyan Crisis which first came to the attention of global news audiences last February in the context of it being an event which made reporting on what heel height would be ‘in’ this summer risible in comparison. Her words were not written out of spitefulness, however, and instead showed the rest of the world that she knew really well that fashion wasn’t the be all and the end all of life. What fashion is, is a medium of creativity and an art form by which people everywhere can express themselves whatever their age gender or budget.

Fashion is inclusive. Fashion is escapism.

Fashion isn’t frivolous.


5 thoughts on “Is Fashion Frivolous?

  1. There is also the huge financial side of fashion how many people it employs and how much world trade it involves etc. The world cannot stop no matter what is happening in it, there is always some tragedy be it on a global scale or personal one and so we will always need escapism or it would be a very dark place indeed.

  2. It is a question I similarly ponder on a regular basis – wondering as to why I find the world of fashion so enthralling and enticing. For me, like you, it always returns to the art that can be involved. Of course, not every garment is going to be on a par with the dark magic of McQueen, but clothes also serve as a utility – we don’t seeing people walking around wearing nothing!
    I wrote something a little like this on my blog a while ago, and have been mulling ever since. I wouldn’t say that fashion is frivolous, but like any industry it has its pros and cons – but, unlike many other worlds of work, the fashion business appears to attract more than its fair attraction of flak! Clothes are there to be enjoyed, to escape into and revel in. That’s why I dress the way I do – it is personally gratifying, and provides a creative outlet of sorts.
    A wonderful polemic Alexandra, and can’t wait to read more of your writing!

  3. A thoughtful post beautifully written. I don’t think fashion is frivolous, but there are many downsides to it, just as there are many positives. As Roz said above, no one (well, very few people) go around stark naked, and there are few people who don’t care what they look like at all. Even if you don’t follow the trends, fashion is there for inspiration, for you to find your own style and to have fun with it. Even if you pay no attention to the catwalks, you still wear clothes that were made or inspired by them. Therefore only a very select number of people are truly able to say that fashion is frivolous, and I am definitely not one of them!

  4. Very well put indeed. I mulled it over myself a lot following the Observer article my blog was featured in that got such a vitriolic response from the usual Guardian commentator crowd! It’s a debate that will never go away, I guess the thing for us is not to care.

  5. As lovely as fashion can be, the inextricable dark side involving child labor and vast amounts of animal cruelty shouldn’t be overlooked. I absolutely consider the fashion industry to be highly flawed and often vain.

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