The Dictatorship of Fashion

“Fashions” pass away because they are not able to quench the thirst for meaning in life and for true happiness.

Newsroom (02/02/2022 11:00, Gaudium Press) Being fashionable by acquiring and consuming the latest products on the market has the tendency to become the meaning of life for many. Fashion is not simply a way of dressing, although it is expressed with particular intensity in this mode. It encompasses products, customs and tastes that tend to be imposed and standardized by modern marketing resources in a globalized world. Fashion can become a kind of power that controls and manipulates people’s lives and which excludes those who do not submit to its standards. For this reason, many have referred to a kind of “fashion dictatorship” with all its various facets.

When fashion imposes itself, people can end up losing their essential qualities

The way of dressing and wearing clothes, of eating and drinking, of having fun, of deciding which film to watch or which song to listen to, is easily marked by the latest fashion. But these “fashions” pass because they are not capable of quenching the thirst for meaning in life and for true happiness. The false equation between consuming and being happy has fueled consumerism, which in practice proves incapable of ensuring the happiness promised by the acquisition and consumption of goods. It is natural that those who live in society share ideas and customs from their own historical and cultural context, which is an important factor of identity. However, when fashion imposes itself, especially when coupled with unbridled consumption, people can end up losing their essential qualities, their own identity, their freedom, their ability to think and discern critically. It brings with it the atrophying of the uniqueness of the human person, obscuring what makes him or her the “image and likeness” of God.

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The dictatorship of fashion is the dictatorship of beauty or of the perfect body

Fashions favour depersonalization, the loss or fragmentation of identity. One of the strongest aspects of the dictatorship of fashion is the dictatorship of beauty or of the perfect body, conceived according to an ideal aesthetic standard and the object of intense marketing. This standard has caused much unhappiness among many people who cannot reach it, especially teenagers and young people who distance themselves from it and, therefore, get into crisis; but also older people who are not willing to serenely accept the marks of age and time. The way one sees oneself has enormous consequences for one’s life. There are those who evaluate themselves and direct their steps only according to what others think and say about them, especially about their physical appearance, and not from a correct vision of themselves. The dictatorship of fashion reveals itself strongly as the dictatorship of the ideal corporal beauty. The proper care of one’s appearance can be a factor of self-esteem and psychological well-being, while excessive aesthetic care tends to produce the opposite: unhappy people, with low self-esteem.

It is important today to recover the simplicity of life and the cultivation of the beauty that remains and grows stronger with the passing of the years, allowing oneself to be led by God, the One who remains while fashion passes.

By Cardinal Dom Sergio da Rocha – Archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia, Primate of Brazil.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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