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Fashion Meets Philosophy: Plato’s Theory of Forms

Fashion Meets Philosophy: Plato’s Theory of Forms

by Riley Starling

8 months ago

     Plato believed that every object had a form, the perfect essence of an object that determines the powers and capabilities it possesses. For example, what we call a triangle is not actually a triangle but something trying to achieve the form of a triangle - the form being three straight lines, angles adding up to 180º, etc. The forms always are and will never change. Plato's idea was that once we understand what truly is (the forms), it is our job to lead those who are uninformed to knowledge. Although those who are uninformed may resist, it does not change the obligation of the enlightened. According to Plato, those who recognize the forms live in the intelligible realm, while those who don't live in the sensible realm. The philosopher's most striking assertion was that the form of the human was its soul. Plato believed the soul was an actuality of the first kind, of a natural body having life potentially in it, meaning that we have a lot of abilities but we do not always perform them. It is similar to the difference between being a Spanish speaker and speaking Spanish.

       So, according this philosophy, what do forms have to do with fashion? One Halloween, a friend dressed up as his normal self but accentuated his stylistic quirks. His outfit, representative of his grunge/hippie style, featured all his statement pieces, as well as a label reading "himself". Once he explained his costume, it clicked: he was the platonic form of himself, which got me thinking about the forms and our own sense of style. Are we born with the 'ability' of a certain look? Do our souls determine our wardrobe? I don't think our sense of style is predetermined, however I do think there is definitely a connection between our form, or our soul, and our choice of clothing. Without this connection, there would be no passion for what we put on our bodies, and the fashion industry itself would not exist. But what about the people who have no appeal to fashion? I think that goes back to the soul being a form, but more specifically the actuality of the first kind. We all have the 'ability' of a certain look or style however we do not all chose to practice that ability. Also, I don't believe there's a single person who has no regard about their style, so perhaps this is their form transmitting ever so slightly; some individuals use this part of the soul more than others.

       This range of how we express our form explains the wide variety of fashion retailers, from more basic and toned down stores like Old Navy and American Eagle to shops with more elaborate and distinct styles like Zara and Anthropologie, as well as freethinking high-end designers. Despite the wide range of stores, I've noticed the decline in demand for the more simple pieces and brands. American

       Apparel, a store known for their basic articles of clothing in all the colors of the rainbow, is closing all 110 of its U.S. stores due to lack of sales and a bad reputation thanks to the former CEO's reported sexual misconduct. Gap Inc. and its divisions, namely Old Navy and Banana Republic, are also tanking in sales; shares of Gap stock have dropped 40%. On the other end of the spectrum, less basics-orientated companies like H&M and Zara are becoming the world's most highly demanded retailers in the fast fashion market. Zara's owner, Amancio Ortega, is one of the wealthiest people in the world thanks to the company's booming sales. Does this imply that the fashion spectrum is moving towards more innovative and unconventional designs? It's certainly possible. As the bard said, all the world's a stage, and now's as good a time as ever to push fashion boundaries, so get out there and strut your stuff.


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