clothing size chart

The Progress of Fashion-Part 4

The Progress of Fashion-Part 4

A Hot Date for Saturday Night

You have a hot date lined up for Saturday night. It’s opening night for the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. You’re full of excitement with the anticipation of the upcoming evening. Subsequently, what is one of the first things that you will think of in preparation for this date?

Micah Gianelli

“What will I wear?”

What we will be wearing is always first and foremost in the front of our mind. Whether we are trying to make an impression or we are dressing for the weather, what we have on our body is of importance.

Thus we follow the progress of fashion.

Fashion and Style of Dress

Has it always been like this for people? How did all this worry and concern about the progess of fashion and our style of dress come about anyway?

While this is a vast and complicated subject that could take hours to discuss, I am going to briefly go through the timeline of the ever changing world of fashion.

This is the last of a four-part series discussing styles throughout history and the progress of fashion.   

Part 1: Earliest Known Evidence of Clothing

In the first of my four-part blog, I raised a few questions about the progress of fashion. Why have people always been so concerned about the type of clothes they wear? I portrayed the earliest known evidence of clothing. 

In the beginning, we know that the first coverings were made from primitive elements that could be found in the environment where a person lived. As a result, this meant that plants and animals were used extensively.

Created out of necessity, the garments functioned purely to cover the body for modesty, protection and warmth.

Animal furs and the various plants at hand were put to good use. Later, fabrics made of shorn animal fur or plant fibers were woven into yards of materials. These were usually draped loosely over the body and fastened with crude but functional elements.

The Changing of the Wardrobe

So why did they continue to change their wardrobe when it was perfectly functional as it was? Maybe it was the desire to spice things up, or maybe they just had time on their hands, we’ll never really know.

What we do know is that various fibers from both plants and animals were further enhanced to create beautiful fabrics. From this fabric clothing could then be designed and constructed into delightful and often elaborate outfits.

Fibers and the Fabrics Made From Them

Wool made from the furs of sheep, alpaca, goats, rabbits and camels has always been a good stand by for fabrics and the garments made from them. Wool accepts colored dyes well and has proven to be an excellent insulator. It’s proven to be durable and stand the test of time.

Cotton fabric is made from fibers pulled from the cotton plant. “Cotton fabric is soft, breathable and absorbs and releases moisture quickly”. [1]  Therefore cotton is a user-friendly fabric that is used extensively.

silk worm

“Silk fabric is made by collecting filaments from a mulberry silk moth’s cocoon, combining the output from four to eight cocoons into a single strand of raw silk”.  “Fabrics made from silk was first produced in China around 3000 B.C. Silk textiles have been found in ancient Chinese and Egyptian tombs”. [2]

“Linen textiles appear to be some of the oldest in the world: their history goes back many thousands of years”. Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. Consequently, linen is a very durable fabric which has many uses.

linen harvest

Linen fabric is laborious to manufacture, but is very strong, absorbent and dries faster than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather”. [3] 

Fabrics in Color

Once it was discovered that these fabrics could be dyed using plants, roots and berries, a whole new world opened up to the budding fashionistas.

dyed yard

After learning the types of fabrics that people are using we are left with a question. Does the clothing a person wears display intelligence or moral character?

Part 2: Clothing Worn Around the World

In Part Two of this blog I went over the different types of clothing worn around the world. This often varied greatly with the climate, the objects that they had on hand to embellish their garments, and religious differences.

Doris Imalenowa in traditional African dress.

Some of the clothing designs displayed brightly colored and heavily embellished garments. Perhaps it can be said that the people of this type of clothing were happy and upbeat in personality.

Happy Victorian girls
somber Victorian ladies

Meanwhile, others had very plain and simple frocks showing a more somber, and serious disposition. Consequently, from this, we could get a peek into their possible personality types. 

Part 3: Uniforms and Clothing Worn to Work

Part Three discussed the value of making a lasting impression while following the progress of fashion. While the clothing you wear in your own home may not be that important, don’t discount the encouragement you can feel with your clothing choice. Above all, a better clothing choice can make you feel like a happier person.  

I made note that uniforms in many businesses have been created for work environments. This is to set individuals apart from everyday people.

We often have a different opinion of a person in uniform than we do of someone in casual clothing.

Most noteworthy however, I have shown that conformity and unification are a part of the human desire to bond together. Nurturing the social connection is paramount to the survival of our civilization.

 Part 4: The Progress of Fashion

In conclusion, as we wrap things up with our modern day perspective, have we changed our opinions along with our fashions?

The love-and-adornment-of-self did not begin with our modern day social media. We have had thousands of generations to fine tune the art of narcissism.

Thus began the origin of fashion design. Not to be outdone, the competition commenced. Not only did the types of fabrics used play a big role, but the colors and various embellishments were of utmost importance.

Does this make us vain and self centered? Well, yes and no. It is certainly not self centered to want to dress comfortably for the weather. Nor is it out of line to dress appropriately for the occasion or dress to be noticed once in awhile. Dressing sharp makes a person feel good about themselves and self confidence is important to well being.

Being consumed about dressing to be noticed each and every time you go out in public may become a problem however. The problem with your bank account could be number one. And then there is the deflated ego when you are not noticed in the way you anticipated.

With research in published studies by Forbes Magazine, it was found that “What we wear speaks volumes in just a few seconds. Dressing to impress really is worthwhile and could even be the key to success.”

So how did simple dressing become so complicated? 

Let’s start with Fashion as far back as the 14th century when things really started to get interesting.

The Renaissance: 14th -17th Centuries

The Renaissance began in FlorenceItaly, in the 14th century.[4]  This Renaissance — or rebirth — also hailed the beginning of a new era in clothing, when one’s station in life was often determined almost exclusively by apparel. Sumptuary laws prohibited who could wear what, making it easy to judge people simply by what they wore.

However, “Sumptuary laws were rarely enforced. The poverty endured by the lower classes was enough to prevent them from attempting to imitate their betters. Finer fabrics and embellishments increased with the wealth of the wearer.” [8] 

In this we notice that clothing makes a large distinction between the haves and the have-nots. Most noteworthy is that a distinction was always made between the rich and the poor.

 “Italy, Germany, England and France each had their own distinctive looks during the Renaissance” writes Scott Robinson of Central Washington University.

So while the class distinction continued, it varied from one country to the next.

Corsets Worn During Medieval 14th to 15th Centuries

Iron Corset

Catherine de’ Medici certainly had an incredible influence over the clothing worn at the time. Considered to be the originator of the steel cage corset, “On top of it all this formidable woman influenced fashion for the next 350 years by banning thick waists at court” “Since then waists were diminished by whale bones and steel cages”. [6]

Elizabethan Era 1558-1603

During the Elizabethan Era, between 1558-1603, sumptuary laws restricted commoners to garments of only one color and of mostly rough unrefined linen. The wealthy upper class could wear multiple colors, fabrics and jewels however, putting their wealth on display.   

On an interesting note, yellow was a popular color in 1510. That is until prostitutes began to wear the color hence it soon fell out of desire with the wealthy.

Enter the 1700’s

Hoop skirt and corsets remained the mainstay for women to display the female form. “The French aristocracy clung to the lavish displays of court fashion just as they held on to their luxurious lifestyles, despite changes in the economy. They ended up racking up debt as high as their hairdos”. [7]

Court etiquette demanded rigid, formal attire. Women wore corsets that accentuated an extremely stiff posture. Called stays, corsets were made of stiffened fabric with boning in front and back. They laced in back, in front, or at the sides. Court costume was made of high quality, expensive materials including silks, satins, and taffeta”. [7]

French fashion in 1700

As we have learned, America leaned heavily on the styles of European fashion as a representation of haute couture.

“By the mid-1760s, women’s magazines (in America) offered even rural women glimpses of current styles”. Because of this, it “gave women the ability to become fashion consumers” while remaining countrified.

1800’s -1900’s Fashion  

“1880  was the decade of severely tight and restrictive corsetry that was worn under dressed (sic) with long bodices, tight sleeves and high necks”.[9] Pleating was evident in most dresses and skirts and a dress could easily weigh from 15 to 20 pounds.

 “During the 19th-century men retained the white waistcoat and black tail-coat and trousers of the early 19th century for evening wear”. [9]

So as we can see from this, there was a standard of dress for both men and women that was adhered to on a daily basis. What was worn in the home also differed from what was worn in public. There was also  a change in clothing from day to evening.

Our Fashion Standard for Today

From here on out we will talk of the American ideals and our form of dress in the progress of fashion.

By far the majority of our fashion ideas and icons here in America have stemmed from European beginnings. Therefore, we have followed the hierarchy of European court dress throughout our history to a degree.

Standard of Dress

Up until after World War Two there was a certain form or style that was typically followed by most people as a standard of dress. Women wore skirts and dresses, men wore pants and jackets or suits.

garment factory circa 1950

This changed with varying degrees as the age of industrialization came into play. Clothing began to be mass produced in factories. As a result, this made it possible for more variety in the wardrobe.

World War Distinction 1914-1946

The war times produced a military look to clothing with an emphasis on suits for both men and women. Pride in our nation was paramount hence this was displayed in both clothing and patriotic attitude.

1940’s fashion

Corsets were set aside to assist in war efforts. Elastic garments called girdles then came into play to enhance the female figure. “Shortly after the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917, the U.S. War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. This step liberated some 28,000 tons of metal, enough to build two battleships”. [11]

In the 1940’s “Men were still pretty dressed up. Suits, ties and hats were commonplace in public. Women wore dresses and skirts — they still didn’t wear slacks yet”.[12]

circa 940

“Another thing women ALWAYS wore: gloves. Preferably a pair that matches your outfit. Fur was very popular, as were animal skins. Crocodile purses, wombat collars, lambskin lining, and leather sleeves — no animal was off limits.”[12]

In short, after the end of World War 2, fashion trends took a distinct change.

The Years of 1950’s-1970’s

The website fondly named Retrowaste.com informs us of the vintage years of 1950’s-1970’s stating, “The important thing is that people were beginning to feel a little more freedom when it came to their fashion choices. No longer did people feel like they had to conform to a certain look for certain situations.” [13]

1950- After WW2-The First Decade

Marilyn Monroe

It was after the great economic depression and the first decade after World War 2. America was once again feeling prosperous and rejuvenated.

1950’s fashion

Clothing was still conservative for the most part, although a lot of satin and silk could be found on women along with polka dots, plaids, and floral prints. The daytime dresses were hemmed to the knees, but by evening they were usually long and flowing to the floor. Trim waistlines were shown off due to full circle skirts.

1960-The Decade of a Nation in Turmoil

The early sixties were more reminiscent of the 1950s — conservative and restrained; certainly more classic in style and design.” [14] The pressure and turmoil of a nation under stress had its effect however, and by the end of the decade a distinct change had taken place.

 “It’s almost like the 1950s bottled everyone up so much that the late 1960s exploded like an old pressure cooker. Women were showing more skin than ever before.” [14]

Fashion in 1960

First of all the assassinations of JFK and MLK shocked the nation. While civil rights movements were in full swing, we merged into the Vietnam War.

Experimentation with psychedelic drugs was rampant among the protesting youth, and the effects were heard in music as well as fashion styles.

Music Impact on Fashion

Music from the Beatles transformed our country. Because of this, any fashion styles that looked ‘straight out of London’ were in vogue. We were still in love with European fashion and “Groovy” became the word of the day.

By the mid to late 60’s “Bright, swirling colors, psychedelic, tie-dye shirts, long hair and beards were commonplace. Woman wore unbelievably short skirts and men wore tunics and capes.” [14] It seems our country had become bi-polar!

Also, men’s pants became flared at the bottom almost like women’s pants. It’s quite clear that at that time, women’s clothes were becoming more masculine while men’s clothes were becoming more effeminate.”[14]

1970- Over Population of Polyester

As 1970 entered the scene bright colors and polyester could be found everywhere. “Men and women alike were wearing very tight fitting pants and platform shoes. By 1973, most women were wearing high cut boots and low cut pants.” [15]

Donny & Marie Osmond

Almost every mans closet had a leisure suit and a few velour ones could be found as well. “And it is probably the first full decade in which women could be seen wearing pants in every walk of life.” [15]

1980-The Decade of Fashion Meltdown

By 1980 our country was exhibiting signs of a fashion meltdown. Designers lost all convention. Because of this, the outcome was interesting if not gaudy. Above all, it was a decade of ‘anything goes’.

Velour was hot and velvet was even hotter. For both men and women, the waistline was a little high.”[16] “It was an exceptionally flexible time when a woman could wear skin-tight cotton stirrup pants with leggings and a giant turtleneck sweater one day — and parachute pants with a small v-neck top and a high-waist belt the next.” [16]

1980’s era

Neon colors, as well as a lot of brown and tan, were worn on a daily basis. Block-shaped clothing, parachute pants, velour, and dressing like a tennis player, were all standard forms of dress. Thankfully denim continued to be a teenage mainstay. 

1990-The Time of Intensity

As we waved good bye to our troops heading off to the war in Iraq (AKA: Desert Storm) beginning in 1991, the military clothing styles slowly crept back into fashion. Hence camouflage material became the ‘in-look’ for civilians as well as the military.

Kim Kardashian leaves her home in SoHo, New York on February 9, 2015.

Clothing of this decade was loose and oversized on top with pant legs tapered in at the bottom. Women were thrilled that the old bell bottom pants from the last decade could be re-fashioned quite easily.

Teenagers pulled from Mom & Dad’s closet re-inventing the 1970’s look which was really hot again.

Rap music burst onto the scene with a younger turnout of musicians appearing. Generation X, hip hop and grunge attire made their first appearance. Flannel shirts and torn jeans re-emerged from hiding to the dismay of many parents. But the teenagers held fast to the look which still can be seen today.   

Dipset Boys

As the decade progressed, name brand designers re-emerged to the scene bringing sexy and glamorous styles back for the more discriminating fashion follower.

Fashion Today

So where does that leave us with fashion in our present day?

Well, after hundreds of years of fashion consciousness it seems we have finally reached a time period in history where “anything- goes”.

Chanel Fashion Line

Today, more than any other time in history we are witnessing a fashion acceptance of every style ever created. Gone are the standards that a person is expected to recognize in order to be considered in-fashion.  

Alstair Tombs of the University of Queensland, writes in his conference paper for a Global Fashion Management Conference, ‘Fashion is “me too”, style is “only me” Consumer preferences toward fast fashion and luxury fashion’: “The fashion industry has been dramatically transformed in the last 20 years with the introduction of fast fashion: a style of instant cutting edge fashion at affordable prices. Collectively the findings present strong supporting evidence that the differences in consumers’ need for uniqueness are likely to affect some fashion style preferences and not others”. “Fashion consumers are uniqueness seekers and have their own ways of portraying their individuality to society. (Workman & Caldwell, 2007) “.

“With the invention of cell phones along with social media, we have the evolution of a society that spans generations, in expressing their individuality.  They endeavor to interpret fashion trends and adopt the clothing style that suits their value and traits” writes Nithyapraksh Venkatasamy of the Bannari Amman Institute of Technology. [17]

Firstly, for the people in this era, it’s not just about throwing on some clothing to protect and cover themselves up. It is about self-expression and individuality. It’s about making a statement, sometimes even a political one.

We have certain fashion designers making bold political statements with their designs, and others boasting sustainability by using recycled and renewable materials.

And we have sports athletes that make protests using their work attire.

The tennis pro, Serena Williams, wore a green leotard on the court after having her previous ‘black catsuit’ banned from the game.

She then wore a black tutu to further her resistance to authority.  President Bernard Giudicelli said in the 500th issue of Tennis Magazine that stricter rules will be in place as ‘sometimes we go too far.’ 

PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 29: Serena Williams of USA during Day Three of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Serena Williams green leotard
Serena Williams in a Tutu on the court

People are using clothing as a means of expression more than ever before. But it’s not just about expressing your beliefs and emotions; it’s a cultural movement that is in full swing.

It’s a movement that says “look at me!” Are people feeling left out, or are they just wanting to be noticed more?

While viewing the everyday current headlines and social media strings we will see a little of both. It seems like everyone wants to make a statement one way or another.

But in all honesty, there are worse things than having our visual senses jolted by a person’s fashion statement.

I believe the fashion designer Ralph Lauren said it best. “Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something that comes from within you”.

Victoria Beckham attends her Flagship London Store in Mayfair.


References

[1] https://www.reference.com/beauty-fashion/cotton-made-fabric-36d339098e037173 How Is Cotton Made Into Fabric?

[2] https://www.reference.com/hobbies-games/silk-fabric-made-fb7b95352e47bc83 How Is Silk Fabric Made?

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linen Linen from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4]  Burke, P., The European Renaissance: Centre and Peripheries1998

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Medici Wikipedia, House of Medici

[6] https://corsethistory.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/its-all-catherine-de-medicis-fault/   History of Corsets

[7] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Womens-Fashions-of-the-1700s by Dolores Monet

[8] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Fashion-History-Clothinig-of-the-Early-Middle-Ages-Dark-Ages-400-900-CE by Dolores Monet

[9] https://prezi.com/px9toowamfqr/fashion-from-the-late-1800s-to-the-early-1900s  by Savannah Pesch

[10] https://bellatory.com/fashion-industry/Renaissance-Fashion-Womens-Clothing-in-Elizabethan-England by Dolores Monet

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_corsets Wikipedia

[12] https://www.retrowaste.com/1940s-fashion     1940s Fashion: Clothing Styles & Trends

[13] https://www.retrowaste.com/1950s/fashion-in-the-1950s  

[14] https://www.retrowaste.com/1960s/fashion-in-the-1960s

[15] https://www.retrowaste.com/1970s/fashion-in-the-1970s

[16] https://www.retrowaste.com/1980s/fashion-in-the-1980s

[17] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282571020_Fashion_trends_and_their_impact_on_the_society

[18] https://www.popsugar.com/fashion/Serena-Williams-Green-Bodysuit-Australian-Open-2019-45678912 Serena Williams’s Outfit Isn’t a Leotard — It’s a Badass “Serena-tard,” Thank You Very Much , 1-19-2019 by Victoria Messina