The History of Fashion


The 12th Century

Fashion and costume can be dated all the way back to the 12th Century. In Europe, fashion and costume was simple, men often wore knee length tunics for most activities, and men of the upper class could wear long tunics, with hose and mantles, or cloaks. Women tended to wear very long tunics or gowns, and the women of the upper class wore close-fitting garments, with full skirts and long flaring sleeves, a characteristic that was a trend for both men and women of the era.

The 14th Century
Fashion continued on in this way until the 14th century, when the Fashion world first came into recognizable power. A costume historian by the name of James Laver suggested that the mid-14thcentury marked the emergence of true, recognizable fashion in clothing. The draped garments and straight seams of previous centuries were replaced by curved seams and the beginnings of proper tailoring, which allowing garments to fit more closely to the human form, as well as this, the use of lacing and button was introduced in order to allow for a truly snug fit.

The 15th Century

The introduction of such new luxuries saw extravagance come into force during the 15th Century, as men and women partook in a series of extremes and extravagances involving their clothing. Gowns were voluminousand went by the name of ‘houppelandes’ and also featured sweeping floor length sleeves, and revealing doublets and hose that copied that ofRenaissance Italy. Hats, hoods and other headdresses assumed importance amongst the aristocracy, and were often draped, jewelled and feathered in order to display power and money. As Europe became more prosperous, urban middle classes and skilled workers began to wear more complex clothing that was similar to that of the fashions set by the elites.
– The 1800s

Extravagant fashions continued to play a key role within the fashion of the time until around the 1800s, when fashion was toned down slightly. In the UK, Beau Brummell introduced trousers, perfect tailoring, and unadorned, immaculate linen as the ideals of men’s fashion. Women’s fashions followed classical ideals; tightly laced corsets were abandoned, and replaced with high-waisted, free flowing gowns in order to display the natural female figure.
– 1900 – 1920
By the 1900s, Fashion took a different turn, and employed some of the fashion techniques used over the previous ten years. Styles such as tall, stiff collars worn were adopted by women, a style traditionally worn by men, as well as broad hats and what was known as “Gibson girl” hairstyles. A new, columnar silhouette was soon introduced by the couturiers of Paris later on and signalled the approaching abandon of the corset once more as an indispensable garment of fashionable women.
– 1920 – 1930

The 1920s was an essential year for fashion, as it was the first significant change for fashion, it signalled a continual trend that would continue to change the name of fashion every continuing decade that followed. The 1920s was the decade in which women first liberated themselves from constricting fashions, and began to wear more comfortable clothes, such as short skirts or pants. Men also abandoned formalwear, and began to adopt sportswear for the first time. The suits that you may find today’s men wearing are very much based on the suits worn by men in the 1920s. The 1920s were mainly characterized by two distinct periods of fashion. The early 1920s where nature and change progressed slowly as many were reluctant to adopt the new styles. From 1925, the styles that have been associated with the Roaring Twenties were passionately embraced by the public and would continue to characterize fashion until early in 1932.
– 1930 – 1940
The 1930s saw yet more changed, as attention to the shoulders was a very in thing. Butterfly sleeves, banjo sleeves, and very exaggerated shoulder pads for both men and women were a constant part of 1930s fashion, as well as the first use of man-made fibers such as rayon for dresses, and viscose for linings and lingerie. The zipper also became widely used and suntans, known at the time as ‘sunburns’ became hugely popular, leading to a new category of clothes such as beach clothes, white dinner jackets and halter tops.
– 1940 – 1960
The 1960s was when fashion began to be truly memorable, and featured a wide array of diverse trends, it was indeed a decade that broke many fashion traditions. The mid 60s saw culottes, box shaped PVC dresses and go-go boots come into fashion, as well as the bikini. It was also the year of the mini skirt, invented by Mary Quant, as well as the French manicure. Women also began to wear false eyelashes, pillbox hats and shimmery eye shadows. People were also dressing in psychedelic prints, highlighter colours, and mismatched patterns thanks to the hippie movement which came about quite late in the decade, which saw bell bottom jeans, tie-dye and batik fabrics, as well as paisley prints. It was also when the trend known as ‘Mods’ came in, who shaped fashion for young British men.
– The 1970s
The 1970s saw the continuation of the mini skirt, which was at it’s height in popularity, as well as bell bottoms andthe androgynous hippie look from the late 1960s. However, the 70s was soon characterized by several distinct fashion trends that have left a poignant image of the decade commemorated in popular culture. These includes platform shoes, which often had soles 2-4 inches thick, worn not only by women but by men too, as well as wide-legged, flared jeans and trousers, another mainstay fashion for both sexes. The style became immortalised thanks to the 1977 film ‘Saturday Night Fever’ starring John Travolata. The ‘disco look’ soon became the trend, completed with 3 piece suits for men, and wrap around rayon or jersey dresses for women, and lasted until it was gradually replaced by punk fashion and straight, cigarette legged jeans.
– The 1980s
The 80s saw a decade heavily influenced by film and music. During the Like A Virgin era, Madonna was titled the “Material Girl” and many young girls around the world looked to her for fashion statements. The popular movie ‘Flashdance’ made rippedsweatshirts well-known in the general public. The television shows Dallas and, in particular, Dynasty also had a similar impact, especially in the area of the increasingly oversized shoulder pads. While in the 1970s, the silhouette of fashion tended to be characterized by close fitting clothes on top with wider, looser clothes on the bottom, this trend completely reversed itself in the early 1980s as both men and women began to wear looser shirts and tight, close-fitting pants. Men wore power suits as a result of the greater tendency for people to display their wealth. Brand names became increasingly important in this decade, making Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein household names.
– 1990 – 2009
Fashion in the 1990s and 2000s was characterized by minimalist styles, some of which were dubbed “anti-fashion”, a backlash against the “excessive” fashion of the 1980s. Unlike the 1940s to the 1980s, fashion between 1990 and 2009 was not defined by any one style, but rather a mash-up of past eras and decades. Subcultures such as Grunge, Goth,Emo, Scene, Urban and Preppie defined and influenced the fashion of the era.  Tattoos and body piercings also became increasingly popular over the period from 1990 to 2009.
Fashion of the future
Fashion continues to change as each day goes by, but 2010 has so far seen a continuation of a mash up of decades. Extravagant shoulder pads have seen a come back, and the world has become influenced by music once poor. When popstar ‘Lady Gaga’ shot to fame, her avant garde style of fashion has introduced a range of dresses and shoes mimicking the fashion, although somewhat watered down. Leggings have also made a come back, as more and more females are swapping jeans for ‘jeggings’ and ‘leggings’. The future of fashion is set to be unpredictable and unique, so all that’s left is to sit back and see what 2010 has in store for fashion next.