Fashion as a category of discourse has been attracting scholars’ attention since the late nineteenth century. In many prominent studies, researchers have focused on various social, psychological, and economic theories of fashion. Topics addressed include costume history, behavioral research, and fashion merchandising, together with marketing and advertising. They often examine the forces and historical contexts driving fashion phenomena to find out what satisfaction people derive from their obedience to fashion, why this satisfaction compensates for physical and economic sacrifice, and how fashionable clothing can be transformed into profitable commodities.
What has been most notably overlooked in fashion research, however, is arguably fashion’s most important feature, namely, “the aesthetic.” As the art historian Anne Hollander has pointed out, the essential aspect of clothing is its visual impact and “all other considerations are occasional and conditional” (Hollander 1978: 311). Agreeing with Hollander’s notion, the sociologist Elizabeth Wilson has also emphasized that we should see fashion as “a form of visual art, a creation of images with the visible self as its medium” (Wilson 1987: 9). Moreover, George B. Sproles, the well-known behavioral scientist, has asserted the following: “The approaches of the aesthetician are easily overlooked when analyzing fashion, since aesthetics is thought of as the study of art, not fashion. This is a serious oversight, for fashions are aesthetic products and any theory of fashion will necessarily include aesthetic components” (Sproles 1985: 63).
The identified categories of high-level interpretation (psychoanalytic, cultural, sociological, political, technological, and economic) were similar to Howard Smagula’s seven guiding principles of postmodern art criticism (sociological, political, feminist, psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, ethnological, and economic) (Smagula 1991: 1) and to Arnold Berleant’s external factors of the aesthetic field (biological, psychological, material/technological, historical, and social/cultural) (Berleant 1970: 74–90). In the analyses of the fashion writings, various postmodern critical viewpoints were found. As the language of the writings demonstrated, the authors reflected the use of postmodern terminology and categories of criticism. It is also suggested that the factors once regarded as external to the aesthetic domain are now emphasized as much as formal aesthetics in interpretations of fashion objects and events. This indicates that postmodern concepts of fashion tend toward an interdisciplinary approach so as to embrace diverse aesthetic forms and practices that enrich human experience in the same way as postmodern art. It seems that fashion has become a recognizable subject within the postmodern artworld as a result of broadened conceptions of fashion and art.