Are dressmakers and clothing designers a permanent part of our culture?
What is the final word on hem height?
With skirts and blouses getting shorter and smaller, is an even barer look the next logical step?
Will anything ever overtake the classy utility of the little black dress? Click Here for The Little Black Dress: How to Make the Perfect One for You
There is no arguing that clothing came about as a response to physical need. A desire for warmth, protection from the elements, and even the attacks of enemies led to the initial development of human clothing.
As with many cultural evolutions, though, clothing became increasingly ornate, and came to serve a number of functions for the people wearing them. Over the centuries, clothing could signify status or occupation could be used ceremonially, or even as punishment. Nowadays, a person’s choice of clothing says as much about their tastes, station, and personality as any other choice they make – truly, the clothes make the man.
Pure fashion, in fact, is a relatively recent function for human clothing. Believe it or not, the idea of getting dressed up just to socialize or enjoy a night out isn’t something that would have occurred to our ancestors, but is a common part of modern life.
Fashion is used in the same way today as is has been used in years gone by, but the significance of fashion as identity is often overlooked in favor of our gut reaction to clothing.
Fashion is a way to fit in – to identify with your given or chosen social, cultural, or gender group. Visit any frat party, punk rock show, or retirement home and you will see how pervasive a means of group identity fashion is. How many retirees wear rockabilly dresses? How many punk Goths do you see in argyle? Tweed? Fashion is a means of expressing solidarity with those who share our tastes, and sometimes to express our divergent tastes, as well.
As strange as some of today’s fashions may seem, one needs only cast an eye toward history to see that we are not alone in our flights of fashion fancy. Haut Couture has nothing on the leggings, wigs, and pantaloons of Victorian men, nor the rib-cracking oddity that is the corset. These trends are an anthropological puzzle that may never be fully solved. And these are just a couple of examples. Behold common examples from throughout the last century:
A rundown on 20th century fashion
1900: Parisian fashion became the end-all for fashion – a place it held for decades – The corset is slowly dropped from the modern fashion lexicon and is replaced by narrower gowns with less body.
1920: Things start trending a bit toward comfort. Hemlines come up, exposing legs to the rouged knees. The rise of manufacturing means no more must one be laced into dresses – zippers, snaps, and buttons reign supreme.
1930-1945: The first rise of American shoulder pads. Skirt length drops below the knees, and nylon stocking create a silky, nude appearance for the lower legs – seams and all!
1945-1960: A number of designers that remain in power today first made their marks on the fashion scene, including Dior, Balenciaga, and Chanel. Most women could afford at least one luxurious dress, and high waists take the day.
1964: The early days of the sexual revolution saw mini-skirts, then micro-minis, causing quite a stir in the modern world. The flowing tie-dies and peasant skits of the hippies bring peace and love onto the fashion scene, and bell-bottom jeans make their memorable appearance.
1970: Bell-bottoms aren’t gone, yet, but they do bring in some new and exciting friends to welcome disco to the world. Polyester, rayon, and other synthetic fabrics bring their memorable… texture to the fashion world, and skirts finally open up more simultaneous length options, ranging from the ankle to the buttocks!
1980: What a decade! Madonna, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Dirty Dancing, Boy George, oh my! Legwarmers show up, and the second rise of the shoulder pad is ushered in by “Dallas,” and “Dynasty,” on TV. All sorts of blue jean acid and stone washes appear, and Michael Jackson introduces about a million trends, from “thriller,” jackets from single white gloves.
1990: Fashion meets pop culture as fashion models become celebs in their own right. The media and public stop paying attention only to what models wear on the runway or in magazine shoots, and start to take notice of what they wear out and about on their own. Retro and grunge both make their marks on the scene.
2000: this decade was very much influenced by music and musicians. As such, musical artists (and their designers) start to influence fashion to a very large degree through their concert attire and music videos. Low rise jeans and hair product are in vogue.
Fashion’s cyclic nature
With modern fashion, only one thing is certain – that nothing is certain! Industry professionals put in an incredible amount of effort trying to predict where the fashion winds will blow in the next year or two, only to be wrong more often than they are right.
Fashion remains cyclical, though.
What was popular in years past will more than likely come around again, with a new spin or interpretation, or incongruously paired with elements from yet another time. As I write this, the neons of the 1980s are making a return to the stage, but next year – who knows?
The truly fashion conscious never throw anything away, secure in the knowledge that their old clothes will someday be the very height of fashion somewhere down the road. Why not dig into the closet right now, and start a fashion revolution of your own?