The Language of Fashion

Fashion designer Miucca Prada wisely noted, “what you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today when human contacts go so fast. Fashion is instant language.”  In this fast-paced world, fashion can function as an instant language.  Fashion lets you express who you are as a person, like handing someone a business card without having to say anything. The clothing and accessories that you wear speak for you. Now, you might say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well, we still do.

This presentation of oneself to the world ties in with Thomas Aquinas’ perspective on clothing. Aquinas notes that, “outward apparel is an indication of man’s estate; where excess, deficiency, and mean therein, are referable to the virtue of truthfulness.” Estate is the state of being of a person, which includes, but is not limited to, the person’s age, social class and profession.  Clothing and accessories speak truth to who you are; they say a lot about who you are as a person. It lets others know what you are about.

Clothing may inform others of what you do for a living. Even if you have a job that doesn’t require a uniform, you may still dress in terms of your occupation.  This does not mean that one’s clothing identity is tied to a certain job, only that clothing gives a clue to what a person does for a living. On leisure days, a person’s hobbies may inform what a person wears on those particular days. Sometimes you may want to dress up for a certain special occasion, which signals to others that this is more than just another work day.

Clothing also changes with the passage of time. How a person dressed as a teen or in her twenties may be different than as an older, mature adult. That change signifies growth, movement, evolving. Outward apparel changes as we ourselves change, so again it speaks truth to the person we are becoming. It testifies to the inevitable changes of life.

The more one knows oneself, the more a person becomes comfortable with oneself.  This may get translated in the style of clothes a person chooses to wear.  I think the term “personal style” has much to do with a person’s estate.  Personal style is made up of the pieces that you often wear and feel best in. To find your personal style, it is important to know your body type and coloring, but it also vital to know yourself. Infusing these important factors in one’s personal style yields an effective manner of presenting yourself to the world. You feel good about who you are, and the world receives information about you. Clothing, then, is inextricably tied to your being.

Fashion is a wonderfully complex formation of static and changeable elements. Sometimes I dress for my job, other times for leisure, and other times for creative expression.  Yet in all these occasions, I strive to maintain an overall cohesion that speaks to the person I am.  Fashion not only points to our state in life but in how we would like to be perceived. This perception, though, is still the truth to our being, in that we want to convey a certain meaning to the world.  Clothing and accessories help us enter into that immediately, yet meaningfully.