FASHION IS…

Fashion Defined by Designers, Artists & Thinkers Across the Ages

Quotes Compiled by Tyler Malone

February 2012


What is fashion?

Dictionary.com defines it as “a prevailing custom or style of dress, etiquette, socializing, etc.” To Oscar Wilde, of course, it was “merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.” But others have taken a more positive view. Here’s how some of our favorite artists, thinkers and designers have defined fashion (in both positive and negative ways):

Dante Aligheri: “Fashions change like leaves on the bough, some of which go and others come.”

Giorgio Armani: “The difference between style and fashion is quality.”

Francis Bacon, Sr.: “Fashion is only the attempt to realize art in living forms and social intercourse.”

Bettina Ballard: “Fashions are born and they die too quickly for anyone to learn to love them.”

Charles Baudelaire: “All fashions are charming, or rather relatively charming, each one being a new striving, more or less well conceived, after beauty, an approximate statement of an ideal, the desire for which constantly teases the unsatisfied human mind.”

Jean Baudrillard: “Fashion is always retro, but always on the basis of the abolition of the passé (the past): the spectral death and resurrection of forms. Its proper actuality (its ‘up-to-dateness’, its ‘relevance’) is not a reference to the present, but an immediate and total recycling.”

Geoffrey Beene: “Fashion is treated too much as news rather than what it is, what it does and how it performs.”

Ambrose Bierce: “Fashion is a despot whom the wise ridicule and obey.”

Stella Blum: “Fashion is so close in revealing a person’s inner feelings and everybody seems to hate to lay claim to vanity so people tend to push it away. It’s really too close to the quick of the soul.”

Napoleon Bonaparte: “Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave.”

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton: “The secret of fashion is to surprise and never to disappoint.”

Oleg Cassini: “Fashion anticipates, and elegance is a state of mind…a mirror of the time in which we live, a translation of the future, and should never be static.”

Sebastian Roch Chamfort: “Change of fashions is the tax which industry imposes on the vanity of the rich.”

Coco Chanel: “I don’t do fashion, I am fashion.”

Coco Chanel: “Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportions.”

Coco Chanel: “Fashion is made to become unfashionable.”

Coco Chanel: “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: “Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.”

Edwin Hubbell Chapin: “Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.”

Pye Henry Chavasse: “Fashion is a sapper and miner, and is ever hard at work sapping and undermining the constitutions of its votaries.”

Lord Chesterfield: “If you are not in fashion, you are nobody.”

Winston Churchill: “Fashion is a word which knaves and fools may use to excuse their knavery and folly.”

Jean Cocteau: “Art produces ugly things which frequently become beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”

Charles Caleb Colton: “Fashion is the veriest goddess of semblance and of shade; to be happy is of far less consequence to her worshippers than to appear so.”

Edward Counsel: “Fashion is a sieve, and money spent on it as dust.”

Quentin Crisp: “Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are.”

Bill Cunningham: “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”

Paul De Man: “Fashion is like the ashes left behind by the uniquely shaped flames of the fire, the trace alone revealing that a fire actually took place.”

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach: “As soon as a fashion is universal, it is out of date.”

John Fairchild: “Style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.”

Henry Fielding: “Fashion is the great governor of this world.”

Tom Ford: “Fashion creates a bit of a dream. That’s the whole point I think of dressing up…is you feel better about yourself. It’s an enhanced version of who you are.”

Tom Ford: “Fashion is a business. Fashion is something that is deemed by popular culture to be the thing that you should be wearing or you should have.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “What is called fashion is the tradition of the moment. All tradition carries with it a certain necessity for people to put themselves on a level with it.”

Duane Alan Hahn: “Fashion ignores safety, comfort, and common sense. A guaranteed attractant for millions of vacuous minds.”

William Hazlitt: “Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity and afraid of being overtaken.”

William Hazlitt: “Fashion is an odd jumble of contradiction, of sympathies and antipathies. It exists only by its being participated among a certain number of persons, and its essence is destroyed by being communicated to a greater number.”

Marc Jacobs: “Fashion isn’t a necessity. It pulls at your heart. It’s a whim. You don’t need it. You want it.”

Donna Karan: “Fashion is really about sensuality–how a woman feels on the inside.”

Yuniya Kawamura: “Fashion is not created by a single individual but by everyone involved in the production of fashion, and thus fashion is a collective activity.”

Rene Konig: “Fashion is as profound and critical a part of the social life of man as sex, and is made up of the same ambivalent mixture of irresistible urges and inevitable taboos.”

Michael Kors: “Fashion is not for people low on energy.”

Karl Lagerfeld: “I am a fashion person, and fashion is not only about clothes–it’s about all kinds of change.”

Karl Lagerfeld: “Fashion is ephemeral, dangerous and unfair.”

Karl Lagerfeld: “Fashion is the healthiest motivation for losing weight.”

Adriana Lima: “Be sure what you want and be sure about yourself. Fashion is not just beauty, it’s about good attitude. You have to believe in yourself and be strong.”

John Locke: “Fashion for the most part is nothing but the ostentation of riches.”

Queen Marie of Romania: “Fashion exists for women with no taste, etiquette for people with no breeding.”

Golda Meir: “Fashion is an imposition, a reign on freedom.”

Alfred W. Momerie: “It is as absurd to suppose that everything fashionable is bad, as it would be to suppose that everything unfashionable is good.”

Bruce Oldfield: “Fashion is more usually a gentle progression of revisited ideas.”

Blaise Pascal: “Fashion is a tyrant from which nothing frees us. We must suit ourselves to its fantastic tastes. But being compelled to live under its foolish laws, the wise man is never the first to follow, nor the last to keep them.”

Gilda Radner: “I base my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.”

Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”

Yves Saint Laurent: “I have always believed that fashion was not only to make women more beautiful, but also to reassure them, give them confidence.”

George Santayana: “Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.”

Edward Sapir: “Fashion is a custom in the guise of departure from custom.”

Elsa Schiaparelli: “In difficult times fashion is always outrageous.”

Elsa Schiaparelli: “Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.”

Seneca: “We live not according to reason, but according to fashion.”

William Shakespeare: “The fashion wears out more apparel than the man.”

William Shakespeare: “What a deformed thief this fashion is.”

George Bernard Shaw: “The novelties of one generation are only the resuscitated fashions of the generation before last.”

George Bernard Shaw: “A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic.”

Werner Sombart: “Fashion is capitalism’s favorite child.”

Edmund C. Stedman: “Fashion is a potency in art, making it hard to judge between the temporary and the lasting.”

Henri B. Stendhal: “Nothing is so hideous as an obsolete fashion.”

Henry David Thoreau: “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”

Vera Wang: “Fashion offers no greater challenge than finding what works for night without looking like you are wearing a costume.”

John Wesley: “As to matters of dress, I would recommend one never to be first in the fashion nor the last out of it.”

Vivienne Westwood: “Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.”

Oscar Wilde: “Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.”

Oscar Wilde: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

Quotes Compiled by Tyler Malone

Design by Marie Havens

Captions:

Photography from Previous PMc Magazine Fashion Stories

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