Do you pick out the clothes you wear to school each day? When you’re deciding what to wear, what do you think about? What things are important to you?

If you look in your closet, you realize that you have a certain number of clothes to choose from. But how did those clothes get there? Did you help pick them out? Why did you or your parents choose the clothes you have?

Who decided that blue jeans and t-shirts are “cool” for kids to wear today? Who designs the clothes you see for sale in stores? All of these questions revolve around the world of fashion.

Fashion refers to the styles of dress that are currently popular. Fashion goes beyond just clothes, though. It can extend to shoes, jewelry and even how you style your hair.

For many people, fashion is a high priority. It’s important to some people to wear only the latest fashions and styles. For others, though, keeping up with the trends isn’t that important.

And keeping up is certainly something you have to do if fashion is important to you. The one thing that stays the same with fashion is this: it always changes!

Don’t believe us? Spend some time on the Internet looking at fashion over the ages. In the 1960s and 1970s, hippies made bell-bottomed blue jeans popular. In the 1980s, Michael Jackson made parachute pants all the rage. Now try to find these items in today’s clothing stores!

Why do fashions change? The answer is probably as simple as the fact that people change. Over time, the new replaces the old. People are influenced greatly by popular culture, including athletes, musicians, movie stars, politicians, royalty, as well as popular films, television shows, books and music. We also are influenced by the fashion industry’s advertising.

The stars of popular culture don’t remain stars by doing the same things over and over again. Instead, they’re always searching for a new angle to maintain their popularity. Often these new angles come in the form of new clothing or hairstyles.

When people see these new styles, they often want to imitate their favorite stars. To do so, they seek out the latest fashions — clothes, shoes, jewelry and the like — to make themselves look like the people they want to imitate. In this way, fashions evolve and constantly change over time.

And it’s been happening for hundreds of years! Ever since clothes were invented, they’ve been used as a way to express something about yourself. As far back as the 1700s, the French were known to spend hours looking through fashion magazines to learn about the latest styles.

For years, clothes have been used to separate people into groups. Even today, brand-name clothing that is more expensive than other types of clothing can be used by some people to distinguish themselves from others.

Unfortunately, this can often have the effect of distancing certain groups from others. Don’t forget that it’s always OK to develop your own sense of style that is unique and separate from what the fashion world dictates! Stay true to yourself and let your personality — not your clothes — speak for who you are!

40 Join the Discussion

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  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I loved today’s wonder! I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about falling.

    I didn’t leave a comment yesterday or the day before because I was too busy.

    Remember back on wonder of the day #650 – What is bastille day? I thought wonder of the day #651 was about Chameleons and I was right. Wonder of the day #651 was about Chameleons. Wonder of the day #651 was Why do Chameleons change their colors?

    TJ

    • Hi there, TJ! It’s so GREAT to hear from you today! Way to go on guessing about Wonder of the Day® #651! We really like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too! Thanks for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  2. This was a great wonder. We learned about this in my AP Human Geo. class this year. I was taught that the main reason things like fashion change, is because of popular culture and everyone wanting to fit in or be “popular.” Thanks again! Had fun reading about this.

    • Happy Tuesday, boyWONDER! Thanks for sharing what you learned about changing fashions from your AP Human Geography class! That must be a FUN class that helps you WONDER about the world and its many different kinds of people! We hope you had as much fun visiting today’s Wonder as we did! :-)

    • We’re SUPER glad to hear that, VolleyballGirl13! Thanks for letting us know you visited today’s Wonder by leaving us another COOL comment! You are a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hello, Julie! We are really glad you liked exploring today’s Wonder and learning about changing fashions with us! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis and THANKS for sharing your comment! :-)

  3. Do fashions change or just repeat in a cycle? Some fashions seem to make a comeback. There is also the retro look, which is really just a fashion that has made a comeback. I think fashions may change over the duration of a larger span of time, but fashion is really more of an incremental change.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about fashion cycles, Wolf01! We appreciate hearing your point of view and think your question about whether fashions actually “change” or just merely make a comeback is a GREAT one! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  4. Thank you for shearing that fashion flash back to 1911 that is something I never thought I would see. :)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked it, Room 12 New River Primary! We’re so happy you stopped by Wonderopolis today! :-)

  5. I once had fashion in the Margate Elementary play called “grease lightning”. I look pretty good, and handsome. I had a black jacket, blue jeans, turn-over hair style, black shoes, and I am one of the characters of grease lightning friends. :-)

    • We bet you were AWESOME in that play, Carlos! We think ALL of our Wonder Friends are super stylish…because WONDERing is ALWAYS in fashion! Have a GREAT evening and THANK YOU for leaving us another SUPER comment today! :-)

  6. Dear WONDERpolis,

    I was WONDERing what was the oldest fashion throughout the world? What year was it?

    I WONDWER what the next WONDER is?

    • That’s a LOT of WONDERing, Sophie…and we think it ROCKS! You know, we’re not really sure what the oldest fashion is or what year it came into style. We are having FUN using our creativity to imagine what it must have looked like, though! Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  7. Hey Wonderopolis!
    We learned a lot from your article. We have never heard of parachute pants.
    We think that tomorrow’s wonder of the day is Why do people faint? We have a few questions for you, Why are police officers uniform dark blue pants and white shirts? Where did fairs get there name? And Where did the Titanic sink exactly?

    From
    Your Wonder Friends r and r

    • We’re so very happy to hear that you guys learned some FUN, new facts by exploring this Wonder of the Day® about fashion, R and R! We LOVE all the WONDERs you shared with us, too! :-)

      We will have to do some more WONDERing about police officer uniforms and fair names, but we think you might find some answers to questions you have about the Titanic by exploring past Wonder #193 –
      What Is an Iceberg? You can visit that Wonder here: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-an-iceberg/.

  8. It seems like fashion today is all about what you like and being creative. Everyone has their own style these days. Fashion is all about expressing yourself in your clothes. I love the fashion of today because it allows everyone to be creative and not stuck in a box!! Creativity is the key to fashion. Thanks Wonderopolis!! Excellent!!

    • We TOTALLY agree with your AWESOME post, Jeff! Fashion can mean so many things today, and it all depends on your own style and personal preference! What a WONDERful way to express yourself! Thanks for adding to our Wonder– it’s SUPER to hear from you! :)

    • What a great question, Gina! We love that you’re WONDERing about recycled clothing– and you’re right, they DO have to go somewhere! While some people enjoy the lastest trends, others don’t mind wearing clothing that might be “out of style.” Style and fashion is up to each person, so your style and your friends’ styles may be different than your teachers’ or what your parents like!

      You might be familiar with organizations that collect unwanted or gently used clothing to help those less fortunate. Goodwill, for example, has many locations where you can drop off clothing you’d like to donate if it’s no longer your favorite style.

      Finally, some people wear clothes that are considered a “timeless” style of dress– those clothes are usually simple and do not go along with the current trends. That way, as fashions change, their clothes are “classic” and rarely go out of style. You might recognize older photos of movie stars– some of their clothes are still popular today! Great job WONDERING! :)

    • Cool, Emily M! We’re happy you liked WONDERing about different fashions– it’s fun to learn about the history of our clothes! :)

    • While some people might, it’s important that you get to know a person, not just judge them based on their outward appearance. Thanks for reminding us to see people for who they really are, Girly Pearly 2000! :)

  9. I learned that there are many different kinds of styles for many different people. I was surprised that so many people changed the style over the years. I want to know more about is who was the first person to change the style. I think people should wear whatever they want.

    • Hey Eva, hooray for WONDERing today! We are glad you’re thinking about the importance of history in the fashion world! We agree with you – we think people should wear whatever makes them feel WONDERful! If we all wore the same thing all the time, it would be a very boring world! :)

  10. I learned that fashion changed a lot over the years.
    I was surprised that most fashion is graded on popularity.
    I want to learn more about old fashioned fashion.
    I hope that some day we could bring back all the cool fashion in the world.

    • We think you can definitely bring back fashion from the past, Meredith! Perhaps you can do some more WONDERing at the library to learn about certain styles and fashion eras. For example, you could wear penny loafers or saddle shoes if you like the style of the 1950s! :)

  11. I learned that changing fashions have been going on for hundreds of years.
    I was surprised to find out that stars have changed what people where.
    I wants to know more about older fashions and who came up with them.
    I liked how the video changed from old to right now at this point in time.

    • Thanks for telling us all about what you learned, Lauren! We love observing different fashions around us! We think it’s a cool way to express our own style! :)

  12. I learned that fashion looks way different over the years! I was surprised about how fashion looked over the years. I want to know more about clothes and fashion. I love this video it was really good!

    • Way to go, Peyton, you did a WONDERful job of summarizing what you learned. Now you can Wonder about changing fashion everywhere you go- clothes are part of our everyday lives! :)

  13. I learned that if fashion is important to you. You should keep up with the popular fashions. And to be sure to put the right things together. In this video they dance while they show you the fashions changing over time. You should watch the video.:):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):

    • Hey Crystal, thanks for the fashion tips! You’ve learned a lot from this Wonder, we’re so happy to hear it! We look forward to seeing you again soon- come back to visit us! :)

    • Hey there, Wonderfriend Lily! Perhaps YOU can start the next big trend in fashion! Can you think of any ideas? Thanks for WONDERing with us today! See you again soon! :)

    • Hi, Maddy95! This article originally posted on July 17th, 2012. We are in the process of updating some of our older Wonders. Please look for the new and improved Wonders on the weekends. Thanks for inquiring, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do fashions change over time?
  • Who influences fashions?
  • What fashions were popular when your parents were young?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to check out some fashions from the past? Head straight to your parents’ closet! Ask your parents to let you see some of the oldest items of clothing they have.

What do you think of some of your parents’ old duds? Would you wear them today? Why or why not? Ask your parents about their old clothes. Why were they popular? How have styles changed since then?

Talk to your parents about what fashions are popular with kids your age today. How do you think these fashions will change over time? What types of clothes do you think your kids will be wearing one day?

For even more fun, get out some old photo albums. Check out the clothes from 20, 30 or even 40 or more years ago. Can you imagine wearing any of those clothes today? Of course, fashion goes in cycles and what was once popular might be popular again one day. Never say never! You never know when you might be wearing clothes like your grandparents used to wear just to be “hip” today!

Still Wondering

Check out Smithsonian’s History Explorer to see the Hattie Carnegie Two-Piece Dress, which was made by Hattie Carnegie — one of only a few female entrepreneurs in the early to mid-20th century. Hattie became a symbol of taste and high fashion to many Americans.

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