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What’s the difference between old-fashioned, out of fashion, unfashionable and outdated?

  • She wears old-fashioned clothes.

  • She wears unfashionable clothes.

  • She wears outdated clothes.

  • The clothes she wears are out of fashion.

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One difference is that while all four can be used to put down someone, only "old-fashioned" would be used in a positive sense. It is especially positive when not referring to clothes. "We went to my family's cabin this weekend and had some good old-fashioned fun: sat on the porch, ate watermelon, and talked." –  Julia May 9 '12 at 2:27
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2 Answers 2

She wears old-fashioned clothes.

She wears clothes that were fashionable a long time ago.

She wears unfashionable clothes.

She wears clothes that were never fashionable.

The clothes she wears are out of fashion.

She wears clothes that were fashionable when she bought them.

She wears outdated clothes.

She wears clothes that were suitable when she bought them but no longer are.

That last one sounds a little awkward. I don't know how clothes could become unsuitable except by becoming unfashionable (they could be no longer appropriate for the age or maturity of the wearer, but that isn't what "outdated" refers to) but the word makes more sense when applied to a subject that has an object measure of suitability. For example, a medical treatment (or other technical product or service) that was cutting edge in 1980 might be "outdated" now.

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For the second sentence (She wears unfashionable clothes) I think the interpretation is simply (Her clothes do not conform to current acceptable fashion) Whether they did at some time in the past or not is not stated or implied. –  Jim May 8 '12 at 23:46
    
@Jim -- hmmmm. I think there's a dog that didn't bark there. I think if she were wearing out-of-fashion clothes, they should be described as "out of fashion". Yes, technically, unfashionable should encompass both out-of-fashion and never-fashionable clothes, but I would hesitate to actually use it that way. –  Malvolio May 8 '12 at 23:51
    
along the lines of what @Jim said... old-fashioned can also imply prudishness (and usually does when used pejoratively). –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 May 8 '12 at 23:52
    
@Malvolio: Unfashionable definitely includes out-of-fashion. It just means items that aren't fashionable now. It's a superset of out of fashion, they cover the same ground but unfashionable spreads a wider net. –  Optimal Cynic May 9 '12 at 16:01
    
Hi Malvolio, Can clothes from the 1950s be considered out-of- fashion? Thanks. –  atsea May 11 '12 at 0:33
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She wears old-fashioned clothes.

Her attire is neither modern nor fashionable.

She wears unfashionable clothes.

Most people would not wear what she's wearing.

She wears outdated clothes.

Her wardrobe is not suitable for a modern office.

The clothes she wears are out of fashion.

Her microskirt has fallen out of favor with American women.

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Hi Gnawme, Why did you say "She wears unfashionable clothes." means "Most people would not wear what she's wearing"? Thanks. –  atsea May 9 '12 at 1:41
    
Macmillan defines "unfashionable" as "not popular or not what most people like, do, or approve of at a particular time." –  Gnawme May 9 '12 at 2:13
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