Fashion is a form of expressing oneself through clothes. It is a form of semiotic distinction that can be used to signal status, social group membership and adherence to specific styles of dress. Fashions can also differ significantly by age, social class and generation. Changing fashions reflect changing values and lifestyles, and they are often connected with particular events or seasons.
In modern Western societies, people often follow trends in clothing and accessories. These trends may be inspired by celebrities, other popular culture figures or a particular time period. Fashions can also be influenced by changes in technology and social attitudes. For example, the availability of more efficient fabrics allowed for the development of streamlined production techniques and the mass manufacturing of clothing after World War II.
A clothing style is considered a fashion when it enters the market. During this phase, the trend is popularised by media and retailers. It is expected to have a life cycle that lasts for about 20 years. Eventually, it will reach a point of diminishing returns and be replaced by a new trend.
It is difficult to define fashion. There are some observers who distinguish between haute couture and apparel, the latter being mass-produced clothes that are sold in stores around the world. However, these distinctions are blurred in practice. Clothes produced by elite designers are often based on and influenced by popular trends. This is exemplified by the way that some elements of anti-fashion – such as tattoos and piercings – become incorporated into mainstream fashion after they have been adopted by members of subcultures, such as sailors, laborers or criminals.