The debate on whether fashion is a form of art has been in the pipeline for quite some time with commentators from either side of the substantiating their views and perspectives on the same. This debate is not set for conclusion any time soon as a result of which this paper stands to present a contribution in support of fashion as an art with the aim of strengthening the opinion that fashion is actually a form of art. In delivering this point home, the paper seeks to give illustrations and examples from renowned fashion designers as well as from movies that appear to contribute directly or indirectly to this debate.
As starting point, this research paper asserts that fashion is actually a form of art. People view art from the perspective of fine art with examples of this being what the world sees from the works of Picasso and other such renowned artists. What the world doesn’t probably realize is that even in the age Picasso there were those artists who became famous for pencil artwork, for paint and brush on canvas, and for the construction of famous sculptures using bronze and other such materials. Back then, fashion may not have been a big thing but this is simply because the world never really concentrated on studying fashion trends as is the case today. As such, the perspective and bone of contention should not be on whether or not fashion is an art because that should never be doubted in the first place but on whether fashion is a form of fine art to which this paper asserts that fashion is not a form of fine art. Rather, fashion should be viewed as a form of decorative art if not in the more concrete form of applied art.
Paul Poiret, a famous French designer once stated that it appeared that fashion designers like him worked in the same field as painters and other artists and that he saw the painters as colleagues. The sentiments were taken up by the media and other designers in fashion field. However, many of the decorative artists that did not have anything to show for their art and as a matter of opinion, this could be one of the reasons why this debate has taken too long to conclude. To rationalize this statement, fashion designers come up with outfits most of which are made for specific people or events. Once these events die off, the fashion piece is sold to a wearer who goes and locks is somewhere in a closet. While there is no problem with that, the problem lies in the fact that the wearer of the fashion piece gets more recognition that the artist or fashion designer who took time to design the outfit. Nevertheless, this trend is changing gradually. Mainstream media houses are now focusing on fashion with shows like the fashion cop which analyze fashion pieces and outfits presented on major fashion runways. On the other hand, the media stations now focus more closely on the fashion designers, for instance in the Grammy Awards, where the celebrities are asked who they are wearing.
As a form of applied art, fashion produces wearable outfits most of which do not end up in a museum or another art gallery. These will be out there evolving the fashion trends and putting trend-conscious generations on the run. On the other hand, there are those who will not be seen anywhere close to fashion trends. Instead, these people require the finest of the applied art products of fashion with some even paying a fortune to ensure that certain fashion products have some sort of a trademark for a single person. This is the reason why the purchase of hand-stitched fashion products has been on the rise. These are outfits which are made by first drawing a pencil impression of the product, presenting to the customers and then producing it after a lot of hours of labor. Today there are many people appreciate this art one indication this appreciation gets reflected in The Secret World of Haute Couture, a film that show ladies purchasing pieces of fashion that cost them a fortune ("Secret World of Haute Couture Part 1").
While the above paragraphs indicate the appreciation of fashion as an art, there are critics that emphasize on the negative side of fashion. One argument advanced by the critics of this art is that fashion erodes the culture in the society. The substation of this argument asserts that two decades ago, women dressed in a more decent manner than is seen in the contemporary society. Culturally, the long flowing dress was reserved for dinners and other outside events with the short black dress being left for the private bedroom until fashion art came and redesigned the short black dress making the all-time outfit for dinners and rendezvous parties. Things like the halter tops and shorts were reserved for the private indoors but with fashion trends at hand, these pieces of clothing found their way to public places including schools and places of worship. As a result of this fashion seems to degrade the dignity of women with one of the reasons being that it is the women who mostly get affected by fashion trends with the contemporary trends tending to move towards showing off more flesh. Additionally, the current fashion trends tend to elicit mixed reactions from different cadres of life with the older generations recording resentment of the fashion trends as the connected generations recording that time has changed.
Fashion as an art has resulted to an increase in the amount of textile products that go to waste. According to statistics from environmental authorities in the United States, about 12 million tons of textile waste gets produced annually in North America alone. Globally, textile waste accounts from more than 5% of the total landfills (Desbarats). The argument is that fashion trends are to blame for this waste. This is because people will buy into fashion trends in order to fit in and as a result they dispose their current outfits irrespective of whether the outfits are worn out or not. Women happen to be the most affected by this trend. Some will buy outfits that they will only wear once and before they realize it, the shoe or dress has been superseded by fashion trends and they need to purchase a new one (Desbarats). When they can’t handle it any more, they attempt to give away some of the clothes, shoes, and handbags but most of the time the fabrics will end up in trash bins. The good news is that 95% of the textiles waste can get successfully recycled. However, the cost of collecting this waste happens to be higher than the value realized after recycling and as a result of this only 25% of the waste gets recycled at most with the rest 75% ending up in landfills (Desbarats). This, for instance, was evident in the documentary titled The Tents where the swollen river carried with it a lot of textile waste including the materials used in making the tents (Cantor).
The third problem with fashion as an art is the ridicule that come with it especially with regard to those who lack the financial muscle to cut their coats according to the prevailing fashion trends. Fashion bloggers have worsened this situation with a lot of ridicule on what others wear while at the same time marketing fashion trends they deem appropriate for the time. The result of this is that instead of viewing fashion trends in the light of explaining cultural changes across generations, the trends look at the surface as was themed in the film titled About Face (Greenfield-Sanders). The most affected are girls and boys in the connected generation who will take pictures of their newest piece of fashion, post it on social media and judge its attractiveness based on the number of likes and comments. On many occasions the public will always see a negative perspective about some fashion trends and when the connected generation starts to make comparisons, many of those who get ridiculed get hurt and start pursuing the erosive fashion trends. This scenario has taken place with regard to Muslim girls who were used to wearing the long, large and formless hijabs and other clothing customarily worm by the Muslim community. As a result of ridicule, some Muslim women are giving in to pressure thus wearing other pieces of fashion in places where non one recognizes them as Muslims.
In conclusion, fashion can be viewed as a form of art which is applied art. This is because unlike fine art, fashion produces wearable forms of art which only get recognized in fashion events featuring celebrities. This is probably why many people do not recognize it as a form of art. However, it requires same skills as those of other artists including the creativity employed in personalized hand-stitched products. On the other hand, fashion as an art has a number of disadvantages including resulting in a lot of textile waste and degrading of the dignity of women who are the major victims of fashion trends.