Fashion Word Origins

Fashion is a broad term, but it usually refers to a style or type of dressing. In common usage, fashion generally means a trendy look defined by the fashion business as what is fashionable at a given time and place. It may mean a dress with a certain design, cut, or size; an accessory (e.g., shoes); or a hairstyle. The word “fashions” generally refers to those designs, styles, and trends that are considered to be in vogue.


Broadly speaking, there are four types of fashion: classical fashion, Romantic fashion, contemporary fashion, and exotic fashion. Classical fashion is older than modern fashion. It is often referred to as traditional or classic fashion. Classically fashionable clothes and accessories were considered appropriate for formal occasions, while exotic fashion shows more personality and is used more for humorous or whimsical occasions.

The etymology of the word “fashions” has a different origin from its English original. Originally, in the French language, it meant the fashionable ornaments of the times. However, as we read in the etymology of the word, it meant “a loose collection of articles, mainly metals, that were worn for their appearance, but not for their functionality”. Thus, we end up with “a fashion for fashionable ornaments”. “Fashions” eventually took on the meaning of “arts & crafts”.

So, “fashions” now means “articles for personal appearance”. The second definition is most commonly associated with high fashion magazines and the designers that have created them. “Fashions” and “articles” are not interchangeable, even though “articles” is often used to refer to all articles related to art, whether they are articles of clothing or decorative objects. “Fashions” on the other hand, usually refers to the clothing and accessory designs of particular designers. The third definition is the most popular and therefore, the most used in any discussion of fashion.

The definition of “fashions” as used in the context of modern day dress codes and style manuals is dependent on the use of “style” as a synonym for “classical” or “girly”. The classical term fasoun, for instance, meant “formal dress” while “faience” referred to the type of leotard worn by classical dancers. In contemporary usage, fashions refer loosely to anything that appears in modern or conventional design that is considered fashionable. The most common modern examples of this are dresses, leotards, tights, shoes and jewelry. To describe clothing accessories would be more appropriate for the second definition of “fashions”.

There is also a second way in which the word “fashion” is derived from its etymology and that is through the influence of two French words that translate into modern day words as “mode” and “taste”. Mode and taste are terms used to define the aesthetic sense or attitude of a culture’s people towards fashion. From these French words, fashion can be indirectly derived from the word “seasons” which means the cycles of the year. The word seasons can easily be transformed back into its original meaning through etymology and be related to the concept of “fashions” through modern day definitions. Both of these ways of looking at fashion demonstrate the etymology of “fashions” and their relationship to seasons.