No matter how one chooses to redefine luxury, there is no denying that fashion is a luxury or an indulgence. The nature of fashion has been birthed and incubated amongst the trappings of wealth and power. Its history defined by “the haves and have nots.” Fashion is illuminated by its inaccessibility and we are lured by the unspoken, yet promised pleasures on display at every catwalk. We want to bathe in its glories and emerge reborn, more beautiful, more dazzling, and more powerful. Fashion’s ability to create and define distinctions amongst individuals is what draws each of us back to it season after season.
Luxury has been defined as either a: something that adds pleasure or comfort, but is not absolutely necessary or b: an indulgence (unrestrained) in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.
Both terms, luxury and indulgence, were introduced during the Middle Ages, circa 14th century…and have long been connoted with negative implications. Historically, luxury has an archaic association of with lechery, lasciviousness, or lust, while indulgence relates back to the Roman Catholic Church when members would ask for atonement for their sins.
The concept of modern day fashion was birthed in the tawdry trappings of luxury and indulgence, as initially only the wealthy could afford to have more than one suit of clothing in the Middle Ages. The upper classes wore exquisite fabrics, velvets, furs, satins, and damasks, as well as bright colors, which were difficult to acquire due to arduous dyeing processes during this time period. Fabrics, either in terms of length or type, as well as colors, began to map out fashion through the development of sumptuary laws. Red was the favored of nobles, while purple fabric was reserved for the extremely wealthy, such as Kings or Popes.
So where does all of these lead us today? Quite honestly, nowhere, as the path has long ago been set and the journey outlined. Fashion is unmistakably the playground of the wealthy, and we, the mass consumers, have only been invited along for the ride. In our quest to blend in, to not appear too conspicuous amongst the wealthy, we have lost sight of fashion’s true meaning and its transformative ability. We must remind ourselves that “bling” does not directly translate to luxury, but is only a mode a fashion.
It is true that we are thousands of miles from the restrictive laws of the Dark Ages and we now have the means through mass commodification and technology to emulate the incomparable creative inventions seen on the fashion runways. We must remember that these are only copies, reinterpretations at best, of the design houses' craftsmanship and innovation.
People often quotes that fashion is a whim or a folly…this simply is not true. Fashion is a luxury to be indulged and enjoyed for its ability to bring light and pleasure to a sometimes dark and gloomy world. What better time than right now to get lost in fashion, to indulge in its beauty, to take pleasure in its artistry, to be inspired by its ingenuity. You may or may not be able to afford to purchase any one piece from the runways, but looking is free and can take you to new levels in the appreciation of the sublime that surrounds us in the every day…and this is a luxury in its own right.