Is Fashion Art?


Photo by Vogue

Adrik Nevalainen, Student Writer

Is fashion art? What has long been associated with prestigious paintings is now being compared to the intricate wonders of fashion runways. The attempt to unify a broader concept of art has become a massive debate in today’s society. Much of this comes from fashion designers and critiques who refuse to consider the profession of dressmaking as an art. This stance stems from a pre-existing argument as to what defines fine art. 

Fine art, according to Eden Gallery, is the creation of visual works that have no practical use. This is not to say that art is pointless, but rather its purpose cannot be based on an economic or practical importance. The value of fine art is more so showcased in its cultural significance. Designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs, according to ARTSPACE, believe that art and fashion share the same space in modern culture, but both should not be held to the same creative standard. 

The standards of fashion are not the same for the fine arts. Fashion is what is considered an applied art. Applied art is an artistic commodity produced for the purpose to be useful. From an economic understanding, fashion and art are vastly different. The differences tethered to what is art and fashion is obvious. While both require an artistic eye, they both cannot be applied to the same market or practical significance. Then it’s settled, fashion is not art, or is it?

The idea of what makes something art is extremely subjective. Someone could believe that a history textbook, in some aspect, could be art. For most, the idea of viewing an average history textbook at an art exhibit would be extremely ridiculous. In fact, it would be so absurd that one would refrain from calling it art, much like how one would refrain from calling certain fashion, fashion. 

John Galliano’s Dior spring/summer 2003 couture collection features exaggerated silhouettes that hardly had the intention to be practical (featured image). Therefore, could John Galliano’s collection be considered art, if the collection’s only utility was to entertain? If the collection was not designed for a functional purpose, it then defeats the argument that fashion must always be a commodity. During the later career of Alexander McQueen, many of his expressive runways were labeled as a form of performance art. Many current designers like McQueen and Galliano have started to push the boundaries in how one defines fashion. 

Deciding if fashion is art is all dependent on the viewer. I believe fashion can be art, and art can be fashion. The cultural significance associated with the two is measurably equal. Designers like Vivienne Westwood, McQueen, and Schiaparelli all have unique artistic visions that have impacted our world. Much like artists, they also have the same impact. Although both markets are not similar in terms of commercial value, they each showcase a quality of skill and creativity admired by the masses. Fashion is “a profession, and an art,” (Elsa Schiaparelli).