A Brief History of Fashion

A Brief History of Fashion

Fashion has existed for thousands of years, and it has survived various civilizations. Looking back at the Egyptian civilization in 3000BC, fashion wasn’t restricted to clothing, it was more of beauty and skin care. People used henna, lead, kohl, milk baths to take care of their skin. Emphasis was on the kind of food that was being consumed, the color of fabrics that was used and the occasion in which they are worn. Since the Egyptians had a lot of gods, colors symbolized different things. They used linen because it was a stronger fabric, however, wool was used for travel.

After the fall of the Egyptian civilization, another civilization emerged. It was the Minoan civilization. They were known for wearing layered skirts with tops that were open in the front. The opening at the front is usually deep which gives the choice to either wear something underneath or to expose the breasts. The Minoan civilization fell after a very devasting earthquake and multiple invasions by the Dorians.

At this time, different tribes began to emerge, the Myceneans, the Etruscans, the Greeks, Roman and each of them had different ways of expressing themselves through fashion. Fashion was a collective thing that must be approved by the society and politics before it could be worn. People lost their lives just for wearing a certain type of cloth, some for wearing certain clothes to an event that it wasn’t meant for. In the roman empire, fashion was regulated.

Things continued to fall apart until the 1400s when the renaissance happened. Fashion became a political agenda, influenced by both politics and religion. It was prohibited to wear sleeveless or short sleeved garments or to use make-up and jewelry. In the Byzantine period, people had to sew their jewelry on to their garments. They had this collar called the ‘super-humeral’. It is made of jewelry that was sewn on. At this time, some wealthy people would still wear make-up, but it was prohibited. Tunics at the time had designs that depicted scenery, and inscriptions from the church. Women wore veils to cover their hair.

In 1095-1099, the first crusaders were sent by the church to go and get the holy land of Jerusalem, this event was what brought economic prosperity to Europe. Trade of fabrics and garments began to happen there, and they became the strongest economy. This gave rise to court fashion. The main fabrics used at the time was silk and velvet. Corsets, square necklines, huge sleeves, bum rolls were the order of the day. There was also a lot of layering going on with lots of flowy sleeves. Men wore doublets with huge square shoulders, hose, hats, and trunk hoses. Shoes were flat. This led to the Elizabethan period.

Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Ann Boleyn. She had a small stature; this made her wear many more layers. She extended the length of her stomacher to be longer to give the illusion of being taller. Garments worn at the time includes, the ruff, a petticoat, farthingale, stockings, gowns, and wrist ruffs. Status dressing was the order of the day. This continued until the Regency period where corsets disappeared. And people wore dresses that were light and washable due to the introduction of cotton. The gowns began to flare out right from under the bust. The use of lots of layers or bum rolls were not needed until the Victorian period when the farthingale came back but this time it was called a crinoline. The crinoline caused the death of many women and then by the mid 1800s it went out of style.

Fashion was then influenced by the war and the military. Women cut their hair short as opposed to the huge hairstyles that trended in the past. The 1900s fashion gave birth to designers, fashion illustrators and a more personalized use of fashion. Fashion became a way to express ourselves. Just like the bloomers were used for activism and zoot suits was a political statement, punk was a political statement also. The rise of fashion designers like Frederick Charles worth, Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivien Westwood, Elsa Schiaparelli, and many more.

Frederick Charles worth opened his design house named: ‘House of Worth’, in 1958. He was known as the father of fashion because he was the first person to put a label on his garments. He was known for his ability to create structured designs. He made a lot of evening wears and ensembles.

Elsa Schiaparelli was known for her surreal designs. She combined fine arts and creativity to create unique pieces.

Vivien Westwood was known for incorporating punk into her brand.

Mary Quant, who passed away recently was the one who introduced short skirts and gowns into fashion in the 1960s.

Coco Chanel was known for her contribution to creating sportswear for women, and her suits. A lines and H lines came back into play and fashion has continued a recycling process of bring back trends that once existed.

Fashion has been used in numerous ways including being a political statement and agenda, activism, self-expression, for fun and to express creativity. And as the fashion industry evolves technology and innovations will continue to be a constant factor that we see.

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