The term is the direct translation of the French word mode, which, according to scholars from that country, appeared for the first time in 1482 to indicate a specific type of clothing. Little more than 70 years later there were references to new fashions and to the following of fashion. In Italy (R.L. Pisetzky) the word arrived in the mid-seventeenth century, when “fleetingness, variability, and novelty” were already considered to be essential characteristics of fashion. In the sixteenth century, the word costume was used to indicate a way of dressing that was longer lasting, more uniform, and slow to change. Although the original practice of covering the body and defending and assuring one’s modesty was overtaken by the role of clothing as decoration, a sign of belonging, communication, and individual roles, the changing of garments, colors, and textiles became more complex over the course of centuries with the establishment of new powers, commercial exchanges, and the emergence of new social hierarchies. In Italy, an exporter of many important materials that differentiated specific fashions, from silk to lace, from gloves to embroidery, this new development was present in the towns, in arts and crafts guilds, and also in the aristocratic courts. The frequent changing of clothes was exclusively reserved for the upper classes, who had the means to personalize the image they presented. Although the new role of clothing had a strong influence in restricted circles, it did not enjoy the same degree of diffusion as at the French royal court. However, in different ways, clothing, and therefore fashion, was a means of affirming power: the lower orders struggled to follow it and the sumptuary laws — a mine of information, and which constituted a moralizing echo of the denouncements of saints and preachers — were, in the end, futile. Issued too frequently to be effective, they were unable to prevent the many obtaining access to the luxuries of the few, in order to demonstrate and affirm themselves socially, as well as demonstrate their financial means. Fashion is vanity and — with its mutations from one style to another, and its slavish pursuance of the ideals of beauty and seduction to attract the opposite sex — it promotes waste. But this is precisely the key to its role as a bearer of riches: not only for those who take advantage of and follow it, but also for those who produce it. Fitelieu’s condemnation (La Contre Mode, 1642) had a parallel in Colbert’s revealing desire to procure Italian artisans who would reveal their skills to the lace makers of Limoges and Valencienne, prompted by the huge prices paid for that fashionable ornament, lace. Already, these phenomena, which have been a constant feature of fashion from the fourteenth century to the present, indicate the particular complexity of the competitive, social, and economic factors that underlie it. Hated, opposed or tolerated, fashion has provoked strong reactions in both men and women; it changes and becomes diffused, decays and becomes more complicated, seemingly with no master but itself, while benefiting from the development of new social groups, the progress of craft, art, and wars. It was only in the mid-seventeenth, and above all the eighteenth century, that people began to study fashion as a specific phenomenon, apart from the descriptions and advice on costume that can be found in works such as Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano (1528). Attention to fashion began with the tailors’ books that, during the Renaissance, included sketches and pattern instructions for copying and, the following century, with the work of very careful observers such as Cesare Vecellio who, almost from an ethnographic point of view, recorded and drew the clothing of different populations, certainly without analyzing appearances in terms of fashion as such, but more to pinpoint the evolution of garments. These were the first works to suggest that fashions were initiated by princes and lords. However, taste is derived from a combination of aspects of life. In this respect, the parallel between architectural and clothing forms is important. The circle of the Roman toga echoed the unsupported arch. The severe Romanesque style was repeated in the fluid garments of the Middle Ages and, likewise, the Gothic style was reflected in the peaked cones of women’s headwear and their pointed, elongated shoes. The closed, sixteenth-century schema was translated into magnificent gowns in the Baroque period, just as the fashion of the 1920s embodied many of the merits of Art Deco. It was in the mid-nineteenth century, with the increase in demand from the neo-romantic middle class, and in supply, through the birth of department stores and fashion magazines, that the term “fashion” took on its meaning of “a collective and passing enthusiasm for a type of clothing, design, or accessory.” At the same time, it established the specificity of the industries and professions that made different types of clothing and accessories. During this period, authors (such as Balzac) began to focus their attention on fashion as a descriptive element in order to relate daily life at all social levels. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Proust evoked time lost in the elegances of Guermantes and in the dresses of Fortuny. At a theoretical level, scholars finally began to turn their attention to fashion, analyzing it as the result of a variety of instinctive and individual needs and, formulating a system of appearances (Flugel, Kroeber), they developed its sociological connections through the diffusion of designs in a process of class imitation. Lower social groups imitated those above them, always one step behind, as the clothing models continued so that the upper classes might distinguish themselves (Spencer, Veblen). In recent times, there have been more structural analyses of the fashion phenomenon, functionalist with regard to the individual, thereby drawing closer to the internal laws of the fashion system. Fashion is clothing, but it is also a way of being, of choosing objects, of determining the fortune of a particular form of transport or a tourist resort. After World War II, with a larger proportion of the population enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle, the expansion of the demand and supply of fashion reached new peaks, thanks to prêt-à-porter and runway shows in Italy and France, as was already the case in England, Spain, and the United States. Clothing became an aid to life and work, a way of belonging and communicating. The widely diffused, superficial view that fashion was futile and merely an indication of vanity, had by now been abandoned. Fashion is always strictly linked with its time. Often the half-hidden suggestions of change are very revealing: indicating the encounter between a desire and a particular need to break free, with the result that a new fashion is formed, once the economic climate is right. Sometimes the apparently bizarre nature of a new accessory, or a hairstyle that achieves wide popularity, blinds us to the disappearance of a garment that has been fashionable for years. The fashion for short garments (Courrèges, Mary Quant) during the 1960s was an expression of faith in progress, technology, and a modernity with an unlimited future. During the petrol wars and years of terrorism of the 1970s, feelings of nostalgia for retro and “poor” fashion were aroused. But short or long is one of the recurring extremes of the cyclical changes of fashion. The logical necessity of fashion sometimes takes advantage of that process of constant change necessary for its survival. Equally fundamental for the survival of fashion is the desire on the part of designers and industry to study the styles of the past, even though this type of research is becoming rarer. The irrefutable democratization of fashion has, little by little, halted the “trickle-down” effect, from elites, leaders and stars to consumers whose role is to diffuse and devalue it. In recent times, the creative role of street style has overturned such hierarchies. The jean phenomenon is typical of this reversal.