Although clothing has been used to distinguish between the classes since ancient times, the idea of clothing as a form of fashion evolved during the Renaissance in Europe. In fact, it was during the Renaissance that the word fashion became a widely used word throughout many cultures.
The expansion of trade markets and the introduction of new types of fabric facilitated the desire of the wealthy to showcase their wealth. Trade routes from the East created wealthy merchant centers around Europe during the Renaissance. New ideas about clothing design and ways of tailoring clothing began expanding minds. Additionally, the rules of modesty that had been passed down from the church during the Middle Ages had given way to the new focus on art, culture and learning. The new materials, such as silk, imported from the East were expensive, however.
In addition to having tailors sew expensive clothing, people could also purchase an array of accessories to complement their appearance. Mirrors became popular. Artists acted as a form of media in their depictions of their clients. People began to want to emulate what they saw in paintings, and they became much more aware of their appearance and how they may be perceived by others as a result.