Profound Fashion : Does a “passion for fashion” entail materialism? The elusive depth of style

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
– Coco Chanel 

 The fashion world and its inhabitants frequently get a bad rep from incredulous outsiders. Perhaps the stereotypic skepticism is by fault of the media, which predominantly portrays fashion via narcissistic trend zombies – cool on TV, not so cool IRL. Consequently, anyone with a Vogue subscription becomes guilty by association.

Whenever the quintessential question would arise, “what do you do for fun?” or “what is your passion?” I always found myself in search of answers that sounded more profound, as if fashion wasn’t something people would take seriously, or that it would make me appear shallow. Having always defaulted towards my art and literature inclination as an appropriate answer, I became restless of my shame. I mean, my heart races at a well-put-together outfit as much as it does when I write.

Is that bad? Does that make me vapid? Selfish? Materialistic?
But what is the difference between one passion and another, except for the medium in which it is conveyed?  Passion is simply a pursuit towards individual expertise, the mastering of the self and then that which makes the self happy. And within that expertise, there is creative and then universal purpose; the expression of which, if untainted by immoral motive, is noble.
Fashion and its enthusiasts can exist apart from the sole acquisition of things and their corresponding vanity. There are a million avenues fashion experts walk that don’t lead straight to the mall.
Fashion can be appreciated and pursued as a creative expression rather than simply as things acquired. Buying things is not a passionate aspect of fashion. It is adrenaline. And adrenaline should not be confused with passion. Adrenaline is fleeting and must consistently seek new thrills in order to attain it. Passion is enduring and self-sufficient upon the inspiration of its own creative desires.
That distinction tiptoes a tightrope, teetering one side or the other with the weight or lack thereof of authenticity. Thus, materialism does not define a passion for fashion but rather the infatuation with things. This is not to criminalize the accumulation of nice things, but to allow fashion to exist within its own entity in which buying things does not solely define it.
At its core, fashion is founded upon basic necessity: to clothe ourselves.
At its core, fashion is founded upon basic necessity: to clothe ourselves. And in its manifestation, it is the artistic embellishment of that necessity. It adds beauty to simplicity and depth to the mundane.
Similar to a roof overhead versus a beautifully decorated home, or food in your stomach versus a fragrantly spiced meal, fashion is an enhanced essential, a creative spin on otherwise uniform necessity.
And perhaps in the excess, where human creativity builds upon monotonous essentials, lies an opportunity for originality, possibility, and ultimately, for beauty.

5 Reasons fashion does not entail materialism


Fashion is art

1. Fashion is Art

Runway shows are simply fashionable museum exhibits, an artist displaying their masterpiece to inspire and indulge the visual senses of its critics. To make a statement or simply to artistically express. Fashion characteristically falls in step with Art’s personality and often blatantly and seamlessly blends the two worlds, and vice versa. Do the two not so frequently take turns ripping pages from the other’s books, in turn to create some divine collaboration? Furthermore, fashion is a malleable art form created by an artist whose masterpiece serves as foundation for other artists to create, each individual interpretation unique to the brushstroke of personal style. Untainted, fashion is a an art form that can powerfully and efficiently communicate messages, themes and beauty, painted upon human canvases, exhibited in a museum of Life.

2. Fashion leaves an Impression 

Fashion is second in line, only to a person’s face, for creating first impressions. It is how we immediately infer the nature and interests of a total stranger before they even open their mouths. This sort of power, to convey messages, simply by wearing a tailored suit, mini skirt, or distressed denim, as an accent to your existence, is compelling; the ability to speak through appearance, to distinguish yourself in a crowd, to attract attention or to slip into the background, all without having to do anything more than get dressed in the morning. Before you get a chance to say anything for yourself, your appearance speaks volumes. Or it whispers. It is memorable. Or forgettable. It is approached. Or avoided.

Fashion leaves an Impression


Fashion is Iconic

3. Fashion is Iconic 

second only to accomplishment for achieving timeless influence. We identify icons by the things they did and then by the things they wore. Often we immortalize their sartorial genius by equating their name to a specific style whenever presented with evocative renditions.  When we reminisce on decades past, we can quickly call to mind what the people wore. Fashion is an archival reference that can define entire eras by a silhouette or stitch. It is a contextual reference that can characterize entire people and societies. Couturiers have found iconic longevity upon one enduring dress, or a single masterful collection, which persisted and inspired long after its debut. Designers shape past, present and future simply by clothing it.


4. Fashion is Influential

Fashion functions within a cyclical influence. The world influences fashion and then fashion influences the world. It sets precedents with respect to the lifestyles they aim to accent. A designer creates, people interpret or install that creation within their own realities, which contributes to a universal observational experience. And then the circle begins again. Fashion trends transcend clothing and often influence decor and design trends, art and literature, music and photography. This circle of inspiration founds the adaptability and the relatability that fashion achieves according to reality’s constant change.
Fashion defines and shapes society and popular culture, by providing a ubiquitous, contextual reference. If fashion has a message it will be heard. If beauty is its goal, it will be seen. Whether syndicated by the objective mass media or subjective individual style, its influence is inescapable.


Fashion is Identity

5. Fashion is Identity

Fashion is capable of defining entire lifestyles and societies. Identity is a major component of fashion and style from individual to cultural levels. You can identify a region or country by their dress. And you can guess the lifestyle of an individual according to their style. Fashion has an amazing psychological effect on social and self-identity. Style nears the top of the list in defining who we are. We identify friends, family, complete strangers, by their style: hipster, boho, girly, preppy, as it infers their style to their personality.
Dressing well also has effects on temporary defining factors, such as posture, confidence, emotions. It is therapeutic what a great outfit does for the soul. “Look good, feel good.” “Dress for success.” These cliche mantras come from a place of truth. Appearance sets your mind and actions towards the culmination of who and what you are physically representing.


Unfortunately none of the above negates the ability for the fashion world and its inhabitants to be wrought in materialism and superficiality.

Consumerism is just a politically correct word for materialism and that is what has built and currently sustains this country, so clearly there’s no denying its existence. Envy is a dreadful but pervasive motivator in society, and who cares about the Jones’ when you have to keep up with the Kardashians. (vomit) The reality is, the vast majority of people are materialistic to a degree. It is not any more unique to one group versus another. It is human nature to desire that which we do not have, and we are constantly inundated with things to want, making it too easy for materialism to ambush your character while simultaneously destroying your credit.  So how do you actually replace that materialism with passion?

5 Ways To Free Yourself From Materialism 

1. Don't Treat Fashion as a Conquest

1. Don’t Treat Fashion as a Conquest 

It will always win. There will always be something newer and better. The thing about materialistic conquests is that they never end. There is no satisfaction threshold. Because after you conquer that pair of shoes, the excitement is gone. And you’ll need to find a new adrenaline rush. 

2. Fashion is not a Contest 

Envy never looks good on anyone. You’ll go broke trying to compare and compete your wardrobe against another’s. This mentality will only keep you starving for whatever is on someone else’s plate. Style is not about the newest or most expensive item; it is simply an intersection between fashion and your personal interpretation of it. If you find that you pull out your wallet in response to jealousy of someone else, rather than in pursuit of your own personal style and satisfaction, you’re doing it wrong. That is not to say you shouldn’t be inspired by another, but rather that you shouldn’t feel compelled to outdo them. Replacing envy with appreciation can often turn excessive spending into simple compliments.


2. Fashion is not a Contest

3. Don't Judge

3. Don’t Judge 

It’s quite simple actually. If you don’t like what someone else is wearing, well, no one asked. The telltale symptom of materialistic people is they always teeter on a line between envy (see previous) and egoism. Everything is a competition or a criticism.


4. Be timeless. Not Trendy

Fashion is innately temperamental. But don’t succumb to the wardrobe overhaul that is often falsely dictated by misguided phrases like “that is sooo last season.” The ability to find fresh ways to interpret and pair existing items is an easy way to recycle your wardrobe, year in and year out, and is exceedingly more skillful than the ability to swipe a credit card. Timeless style doesn’t always feel compelled to break the bank following trends. It doesn’t necessarily pardon you from want, but often it pacifies the want for everything. It is ok to partake in a trend, but don’t overstuff your closet with it, because it will fail you. 

4. Be timeless. Not Trendy.


5. Find Balance

5. Find Balance 

As a collector or curator of anything, there are times when we will inevitably splurge. But balance adds a bit of friction to the materialistic slippery slope. A well-curated, well-rounded wardrobe should also be characterized by balance.
Strategize your wardrobe in order to strategize your spending. Strategy combats impulses. It applies a plan where there’d otherwise be chaos. Define “enough,” according to your style, necessities, obsessions and your finances. It is natural to want more and more and more until more becomes too much. Implement a mindset of balance in your fashionable pursuits, in that it should not weigh more in the accumulation of it than it does in the creative expression of it.


There should always be a timeless essence to the paths you pursue, and fashion has plenty of enduring accommodations that don’t always require you fishing the plastic out of your wallet. And among those enduring qualities, often lies the purposeful element of your passion.

Also published on Medium.


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