The ways in which people have behaved and dressed has changed throughout history and differs from place to place around the world. It is not only influenced by the society and culture of a given place, but also by weather, environment, and the personal experiences, beliefs, and values of an individual. By looking at the way an individual or group of people dresses, we can learn something about who they are and the society they live in.
Sometimes, what people wear is controlled by government regulations. Throughout history around the world, there have been various sumptuary laws that have controlled who is allowed to wear what. In western Europe, such laws were once practiced in order to prevent the rising middle class (bourgeoise) from dressing like royalty. In China, dragons were once symbolic of the emperor and others were not allowed to wear such a symbol. Sumptuary laws are not the only laws that have controlled what people wear. For instance, during World War II in the United States, the length and yardage of fabric for women's skirts was controlled due to fabric rations. Currently, there are laws in most countries worldwide regarding how modest men's and women's dress must be.
Weather can also be a major influence on what people wear. In some countries, layers are necessary in order to protect the body from the sun and/or cold. Additionally, certain natural fibres are better intended for hot weather rather than cold weather, and vice versa. For instance, while wool is a great insulator of heat (even increasing in warmth when first dampened), linen is a comparably worse insulator of heat. This means that wool is better intended for cold climates and times of year whilst linen is better suited for hot climates and times of year. Tights are great to wear in winter because they feel warmer due to their compressive qualities while loose clothing is much preferred in hot climates as it allows for better air circulation.
Fashion can also be used as a form of self-expression and adornment. People may dress to identify with a specific group of people, or with a particular performing artist they adore. Alternately, some people deliberately stray from mainstream fashion because they want to be seen as unique and one-of-a-kind. Others may choose not to follow mainstream fashion simply because it isn't important to them. If the way in which an individual dresses is not accepted by the culture and society in which the person wants to be accepted into, then the way in which the individual chooses to dress may change.
Fashion is ultimately important because it is a form of communication. You are communicating to others who you are and what is important to you, whether or not you realize it. The same way of dressing could be viewed completely different in two or more areas of the world. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what is acceptable and what is not in a given society.
What influences the way you dress?