Fashion is a system of clothing styles, fabrics, and accessories that communicates a wide range of social, cultural, and historical meanings. Different elements of fashion can symbolise personal identity, social status, cultural norms and values, historical and political context, gender roles, mood and emotion, group membership, life stages, seasonal changes, fantasy and imagination, and ethical and sustainable values.
Fashion can be an expression of individual style, with clothes acting as a means of conveying confidence, playfulness, elegance and even power. It can also be a form of identification and tradition, with judges wearing robes, military personnel wearing uniforms, and brides wearing white dresses. Fashion can also be a way to make political statements, with designers taking on various social and environmental issues through their collections.
Popular trends can be difficult to trace, as there are many factors that contribute to the rise and fall of a certain look. From the bare midriffs of the 1980s to the baggy jeans of the 1990s, from the ripped jeans of punk rock to the designer jeans and boots of the 2000s, these changes can be influenced by music, movies, art, books, and other current trends.
Some historians, such as James Laver and Fernand Braudel, date the beginning of continual and accelerating change in clothing styles to the middle of the fourteenth century, although earlier changes may be documented in illuminated manuscripts. However, it is impossible to accurately record what was worn in previous eras, as clothing styles can be misinterpreted or hidden under layers of paint and lace.