Fashion, a general term for the style and custom prevalent at a given time, in its most common usage refers to costume or clothing style. The more technical term, costume, has become so linked in the public eye with the term "fashion" that the more general term "costume" has in popular use mostly been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while the term "fashion" means clothing generally, and the study of it.
This linguistic switch is due to the fashion plates which were produced during the Industrial Revolution, showing the latest designs. citation needed For a broad cross-cultural look at clothing and its place in society, refer to the entries for clothing, costume and fabrics. The remainder of this article deals with clothing fashions in the Western world.
Modern Westerners have a wide choice available in the selection of their clothes. What a person chooses to wear can reflect that person's personality or likes. When people who have cultural status start to wear new or different clothes a fashion trend may start. People who like or respect them may start to wear clothes of a similar style.
Fashions may vary considerably within a society according to age, social class, generation, occupation, and geography as well as over time. If, for example, an older person dresses according to the fashion of young people, he or she may look ridiculous in the eyes of both young and older people. The terms fashionista or fashion victim refer to someone who slavishly follows the current fashions.
One can regard the system of sporting various fashions as a fashion language incorporating various fashion statements using a grammar of fashion. (Compare some of the work of Roland Barthes.)