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Fashion is an art form like any other. It's a method of creation, of expression, of reflecting and creating culture. This is why fashion and music intertwine, as well as other art forms. But in some ways, it's an art form unlike any other, in that it pervades every corning of our lives and our world. These inspiring fashion quotes reflect that: fashion is about style, yes, and style is about how we present ourselves to the world. That is something important and profound. And fashion is also about creation, about following the changes in society and in many cases, pushing for changes in society.
“Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.” -Diana Vreeland
As the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for almost a decade, and a long career as a columnist and fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar, Diana Vreeland has been a source of many inspiring fashion quotes. But the quote above is perhaps most relevant to her work with the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute.
In the quote above, Vreeland calls to attention the role of fashion as a reflection of history—and it's true. In history classes, art classes, design classes, etc., you may remember discussing the ways that fashion changed as a result of changes in culture—such as the rise of looser, more versatile clothing for women during World War I, when many women went to work in factories and required more room to move about.
In this example, as with many others, it's not just a matter of fashion passively reflecting changes in society: it has also been actively used to make statements in society, from the scandalous flapper dresses worn by many independent, progressive women in the '20s, to Jean Paul Gaultier designing skirts for men in the '80s. Diana Vreeland's quote isn't just about clothing—it's about every aspect of our culture, and the way fashion is in constant interaction with it.
“When I see beautiful clothes, I want to keep them, preserve them… Clothes, like architecture and art, reflect an era.” - Azzedine Alaïa
Like Diana Vreeland above, Azzedine Alaïa understands the cultural significance of an art form as pervasive and far-reaching as fashion. In fact, the designer has praised Vreeland both for her chic fashion and her management of Vogue, agreeing largely with both, and with the attitude towards fashion to which Vreeland subscribes.
In this quote, he makes emphasized another aspect of the role of fashion in society, not just as a reflection of it or a tool for it, but as a form of art on the part of the designer, a medium through with to channel ideas and creativity.
"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." - Coco Chanel
Perhaps France's greatest style icon and fashion designer, Coco Chanel has been a source of much inspiration in the fashion industry. In fashion and in life, one does not stand out from the crowd by adhering religiously to the trend of the day, conforming to the norms of fashion and of society. In fashion, those who are remembered are those who make their style their own, who set the trends rather than following them. The insight expressed in this quote is that even the highest of fashion, the latest, most elegant creations in the current trends, could be worn or created by anyone. In failing to express anything new, these conformists of the fashion world are thus replaceable—anyone could design more of the same, anyone could wear more of the same. "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."
This is a sentiment that is inspiring in both the fashion industry and the rest of the world—in fashion, it's clothing, style, and design that must add something new to the world. But more broadly speaking, people are not remembered, and exact no change in the world, if they never offer anything new—if they are never different.
"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." - Audrey Hepburn
Is there a style icon more classy, chic, and well-regarded that Audrey Hepburn? Well, it obviously has the form of an opinion and is thus up for debate, but I tend to think not. Though Audrey Hepburn is perhaps most well known for her talents in acting and fashion, she brings the same dignity and inspiration to her other endeavors - most significantly, her work with UNICEF to bring aid to mothers and children in developing countries. I mention this, because the humanitarian and fashion icon did not keep those two worlds separate: the goodness she brought to the world, and the goodness she brought to her style, were one and the same. With regards to fashion and style, she didn't believe that the clothes made the woman, but that style was only possible through kindness, dignity, and love. In fact, many have stated that Audrey Hepburn changed the way Hollywood looked at women. Fashion is a wonderful form of self-expression, a creative medium and an important part of culture and society. But it is also a matter of attitude, of poise and dignity—things that one brings to the clothes, not the other way around.
"I firmly believe that with the right footwear, one can rule the world." - Bette Midler
There are a few different versions of this quote floating around, some attributed to Marilyn Monroe, others to Bette Midler, often the same quote to either or both...the rumor mill churns, churns, churns. But Bette Midler certainly said the above quote in a 1980 interview, even if Marilyn Monroe did in fact say something similar decades before. And either way, the truth of it doesn't change.
No outfit is complete without shoes—the right shoes. And what the right shoes are, of course, depends on the girl and the situation. But there's no doubt that Bette Midler understood the importance of the right pair of shoes—whether it's high-quality sneakers to save your life as you run from zombies in the apocalypse, or daring heels to give you confidence and power as you march into an important meeting. Footwear can make all the difference, between confidence and insecurity, comfort and discomfort, stylish and...well, not so stylish.
"In the building of a basic wardrobe, we cannot go wrong if we strive for simplicity and perfect fitting." - Elsa Schiaparelli
The Italian designer understood that in fashion, there is room for the absurd, but that the roots of good style are not in flashy fads or bold statements. These things have their place, but the basic wardrobe, the set of clothing from which one can build style, is a matter of finding clothing that fits correctly, is versatile, and isn't trying to do 'too much'. Today, it's the spirit of the little black dress: a wardrobe staple that can be dressed up, dressed down, worn anywhere and adapted for anything. Once you have the basic wardrobe, you can build your unique style out of it and on top of it - but those basic pieces must come first. This, in essence, is what makes the little black dress sexy, and it applies to fashion as a whole.
"Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing." - Alexander Wang
It's easy to think of fashion and style as things you 'dress up' for, as things that exist on runways and nights out and in magazines. But style is not just what you wear on the big occasions—it's how you choose to present yourself to the world every day. And there's a lot to learn from this sentiment, because it can be easy to mimic the latest fashion trends every once in a while, and think that you have style. But occasionally wearing what you've seen on the runway or in the latest Vogue does not indicate your style. People, on their days off, are the most themselves—they wear what they are most comfortable in, and put forward a self that is not determined by the current fashion industry. The fashion industry already knows what's trending, what's timeless, what's fashionable—so it is, as Alexander Wang says, what people wear on their days off that is most intriguing.
"Trendy is the last stage before tacky." - Karl Lagerfield
It's easy to be trendy: you watch the latest trends, you buy the clothes, you wear them. You're keeping up with the times.
But trends change—and often, they change quickly. Having style isn't about keeping up with trends—it's about dressing timelessly, about adapting the best of trends, the parts of trends that appeal to you, into your own style. Your style should reflect you, and it can't do that if you're constantly changing it under the pressure of the latest fads.
"A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes." - Vera Wang
The most fashionable, elegant dress will not succeed on a woman who isn't comfortable in it. In order let a piece of fashion shine, the one wearing it must be confidence, comfortable, and authentic. With these inspiring fashion quotes, Vera Wang is not saying that we should all wear sweatpants all day, every day. That, while sounding kind of appealing to be honest, wouldn't ultimately be comfortable for everyone. Because comfort isn't just about soft fabrics and elastic waistbands—it's about comfortably fitting your personality, about feeling confident in your clothing, about not being self-conscious about your style. This is the kind of comfort that makes women their sexiest: the kind that makes them their most confident and their most authentic. That means a different style for everyone, different clothing that fits each woman exactly right, and lets them express their best selves. That is what style is about—using fashion to express and support authenticity and personality. Not making yourself uncomfortable to match the trends of the day.
"The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive." - Coco Chanel
This philosophy can be applied to many areas of life—food, drink, travel. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to market goods, you have to pay for quality. But, it's also worth it to pay for quality. In fashion, this means the clothing that fits, that feels right and authentic, that helps you express a part of yourself and feel confident. But it also means clothing that will last, that is well-constructed, that can remain a staple of your wardrobe and not a one-time wear.
"The joy of dressing is an art." - John Galliano
Many of the most inspiring fashion quotes refer to the status of fashion as an art form. And that's for good reason—for many people, fashion seems like an endeavor of the vain, a frivolity. But that misses the point. Fashion is not just about 'looking good', making clothes that flatter and complement. It's about creative expression, whether as a social/political statement, or a simple matter of self-expression. The joy of dressing is not a mere vanity—it's an art.
"Everything I know, see or hear, every part of my life is transformed into dresses. They are my daydreams, but they have passed from dreamland into the world of everyday items to wear." - Christian Dior
Fashion reflects and influence society, culture, life in general. It is not separate. And so dresses and clothing reflect the lives of their designers, the inspiration that daily life can provide these fashion icons. The most inspiring fashion quotes come from designers, stylists, and other members of the fashion industry who understand the interplay between their work and the world around them.
And here, we see one of the mechanisms for how fashion reflects society—whatever designers see, and like, and think about, will make its way into the world through their designs. So the social, political, cultural aspects of every society cannot help but seep into the fashion industry, and into the styles of the time. Because inspiration can come from everything, from any small detail of any mundane day.
"Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress." - Karl Lagerfeld
We have likely all wished at some point that our two-day-old t-shirt and sweatpants, lazy weekend outfit were high fashion. Because high fashion just seems so hard sometimes. Shoes that hurt, dresses you can't breathe in...when you try to fit yourself to a style, rather than fitting your style to yourself, it tends to be pretty uncomfortable. But I think we all also know that feeling of joy when we find a beautiful dress that feels like it was made for you, or those perfect heels that never gave you blisters. Though it may be hard to find, true luxury is all the comfort of staying home, with the elegance of a developed sense of style.
"A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste...no taste is what I'm against." - Diana Vreeland
There's nothing wrong with wearing something that you may one day regret, of taking a fashion risk that makes you feel bold and confident. Diana Vreeland's inspiring fashion quotes are not just about being fashionable—something you can do by simple mimicry, with no originality—but about making style choices for yourself, in this case about having taste. Even bad taste—as fashions constantly change, what's unfashionable one day may be high fashion the next. Tying yourself down with unoriginality or fear of making a fashion faux-pas is the quickest way to blend into the crowd, to be forgotten, and to deny yourself the opportunity to express your taste and your personality through the art of fashion.