Fashion as a Communicator: How What You Wear Tells Us Everything We Need to Know

In a new blog post on the CommsWomen platform, Olivia Taylor, a student at the University of Alabama, College of Communication and Information Sciences, analyses an article on the connection between fashion and communication by Nadzeya Kalbaska, Teresa Sádaba and Lorenzo Cantoni published in Studies in Communication Science journal.

In a 2018 article published in the Studies in Communication Sciences, authors Nadzeya Kalbaska, Teresa Sádaba and Lorenzo Cantoni write about the connection between fashion and communication. They argue that the two are intertwined and that—in actuality—fashion is a communicator in itself. What you wear (and how you wear it) shows the public who you are. Your deepest thoughts and greatest insecurities, flaunted. Whether you’ve been aware of this or not, fashion has hinged “together a desire to belong with a desire for personal expression” (Kalbaska et al., 2018) since the beginning of human culture, and your experiences are no different.

            Clothing has been a part of the world for as long as humans have. It is a distinct part of what makes us human. We have covered ourselves for protection from the elements and for modesty for tens of thousands of years—but this is not fashion. In our modern society, we dress in ways that supersede functionality. We dress for ourselves, our friends and the world. Fashion “is a major way through which we express ourselves and communicate to others who we are and who we would like to be. While covering our body with clothes, accessories and makeup, we unveil—through them—our deepest thoughts, values [and] desires” (Kalbaska et al., 2018). The way we look precedes almost every interaction we have. It is as much a part of our identity as our personalities, and it is much more visible.

            This connection to identity is perhaps the most valuable facet of fashion. Our identities are shaped by many things (including our families, friends, hobbies and education, just to name a few), so it should come as little shock that these defining experiences can be seen through our expression of style, too. Our interpretation of fashion exists on an individual level, and it is through those previously mentioned experiences that our sense of fashion evolves. These external forces work in tandem with our own sense of self to cultivate a visual representation of who we are—or (as the authors mentioned) perhaps who we would rather be—ultimately giving way to an entirely unique form of communication free of words.

            Similar to our identities, fashion exists as an ever-changing visual catalog of what we value and whom we listen to, especially in an increasingly digital age. “Prescription, imitation, influence and personal relations” are just some of the ways trends are established, many of which can penetrate our own perceptions of self and further alter who we are and how we choose to present ourselves. This is more apparent than ever on social media, as popular sites like TikTok and Instagram are meccas for inspiration and influence. People use social media to communicate their own fashion sense, contributing to the overwhelmingly endless loop of content marketed directly to the user. The more we are exposed to others, the more likely we are to have our identities influenced and sense of style changed.

            It is through fashion that the world gets a glimpse of who we are—without words, glances or emotion. Fashion is more than just clothes and accessories, it is a form of communication. A form of communication that brings our identities into a visual, tangible format,  defining us as individuals, as a culture and as a species, at every moment in time.

A full article can be read using this link.


Kalbaska, N., Sádaba, T., & Cantoni, L. (2018). “Editorial: Fashion communication: Between tradition and digital transformation.” Studies in Communication Sciences, 18.2, 269–285.

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