When we think about the fascinating history of fashion and haute couture, famous names come to mind, such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, among others.
But have you ever thought about the reasons that led fashion to play a prominent role in the development of society?
The word fashion comes from the Latin “modus” and means custom, manner, or behavior.
To understand fashion and its influence, it is necessary to go back to its fascinating history of fashion.
How it all began
According to anthropologists, the appearance of clothing is related to the need manifested by human beings to hide their nudity and to protect themselves from the cold, rain, and heat.
The advantages of using animal skin were soon discovered by our ancestors. In addition to the cold, it was possible to protect yourself from stones and thorns.
The use of clothing by human beings dates back to 600,000 years BC This is easily proven by the many excavations in which needles made of bones were found.
Taking a leap, we arrive at the emergence of weaving in Mesopotamia. At the time, clothes were wrapped around the body and it was possible to keep the original color or dye the fabric with different colors.
In Egypt, clothes and identity went hand in hand. The pharaohs differed from the others for not using ornaments. A lion’s tail and a fake goatee symbolized power.
The Romans, as well as the Egyptians, attributed different meanings to clothes. The robe of Roman magistrates, for example, was used as a way of demonstrating authority.
Major events in the fascinating history of fashion
The standardization in clothing dates back to the time of the barbarian invasions of the Romans and barbarians ( the term used by the Romans to refer to people considered uncivilized) were recognized by the way they dress.
Despite this, the beginning of the Middle Ages did not bring major changes in terms of fashion history.
Expeditions to conquer Jerusalem and contact with a more refined lifestyle were essential for the emergence of the nobility. The female pattern highlighted the woman’s silhouette.
In the mid-13th century, shoes stood out in the fascinating history of fashion. Women preferred shoes that enhanced the delicacy of their feet.
The differentiation between women’s and men’s clothing in the fascinating history of fashion began in the mid-14th century. Dresses were garments worn only by women, academics, and Church members. Tight pants were restricted to men only.
The Renaissance stands out in the fascinating history of fashion for representing a period when men and women were concerned with showing certain characteristics of their bodies.
Men wore clothes that made their shoulders noticeably broader and women sought a guitar-like shape. Women’s interest in their waists was essential for the emergence of the corset, the predecessor of our well-known corset.
The king of exaggeration
The extravagance in fashion history has a king name. Louis XIV is known in fashion history, among other things, for wearing extravagant clothes. The idea was to emphasize French superiority through clothing.
During the reign of Louis XV, the frames responsible for giving volume to French women’s skirts took on a grandiose volume. Historians report that it was nearly impossible for two women to occupy the same sofa due to the bulk of the frames.
The “Father of Haute Couture”
When telling the fascinating history of fashion, it is impossible not to mention Charles Frederick Worth, the artisan responsible for opening the first haute couture studio in Paris, in 1858.
Known as the “father of haute couture”, Worth’s name has become immortalized in fashion. The English stylist is remembered for having replaced the crinoline with the bustle, a type of frame used to give volume to the woman’s hips and buttocks.
The silhouette of Worth’s models dominated the Belle Époque period. The hourglass body style with volume at the hips and shoulders and slim waist dominated the era.
World War I and the women’s wardrobe
Traumatic moments like the First World War had an influence on the fascinating history of fashion.
Due to the moment, comfort became the watchword. Women, forced to work during the war, preferred to wear practical and comfortable clothing.
Another transformation in women’s clothing was the shortening of skirts. The lack of fabrics for making clothes required that skirts be shortened to the ankles.
Hats, like skirts, have been reduced in size. The style is known as “cloche” became popular. The shape of the hat allowed it to fit perfectly into the shorter hairstyle that was dominant at the time.
Chanel’s Importance to the fascinating History of Fashion
When we talk about the 1920s it is impossible not to mention the name of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the stylist symbol of the modern woman. The relationship of Chanel or Coco, as she was known by her friends, with fashion began in 1910, the year she worked in a hat shop.
Before long, Chanel owned two stores where she sold hats and clothing. Maison Chanel’s iconic address No. 31 on Rue Cambon in Paris remains today.
Chanel’s story was also marked by the presence of great love, Arthur Capel, or Boy as he was known.
It was Boy who helped her open her first hat studio and who years later financed Chanel’s boutiques. Boy’s death in a tragic car accident was, according to the stylist, a terrible blow to her life.
Elegance and minimalism were hallmarks of his style. The stylist’s success was so great that it is estimated that in 1930, her brand earned an impressive 130 million francs.
In 1919, Coco Chanel created the “black dress”, a black crepe dress with long, tight sleeves. The stylist’s boldness was manifested through the color of the dress since at the time black was little used in haute couture because it was a tone associated with mourning.
In October 1926, American Vogue described the “little black dress” as Chanel’s “Ford”, adding that the entire world would wear the piece. Vogue’s comparison is due to the fact that the dress, like Ford’s “Model T,” had a strong commercial appeal.
Characteristics of Chanel’s style, such as simplicity and the use of utilitarian fabrics, are related to the humble life that the stylist had until she found her first job when she was 20 years old.
In 1884, Chanel and her sister were left by their father Henri-Albert Chanel in an orphanage in Aubazine. At the time, the future stylist was 12 years old and had just lost her mother, Eugénie Jeanne Devolle.
Chanel, like her sister Julia, was the only one of six siblings who were born illegitimate. Although her parents had a relationship at the time, they were still unmarried. The wedding took place a short time later, believed to be pressure from Jeanne’s family.
Chanel experienced the international success achieved in the 1930s with the help of famous Hollywood actresses, who came to be seen using the brand’s models.
World War II was a traumatic time for Chanel’s business. In times of war, fashion was not seen as an important issue. Only perfumes and accessories were sold at the Rue Cambon store.
Paris witnessed the return of the legendary designer in 1954. Items such as a cardigan, black dress, and pearl accessories became symbols of the Chanel brand and marked the fascinating history of fashion.
Stylists and World War II
Like the war at the beginning of the century, World War II also had consequences for the fascinating history of fashion. In Europe, the cradle of great drinkers of the time, many Maisons closed their doors.
Influenced by soldiers’ uniforms, women’s clothing began to feature more sober and heavier clothes and shoes. As a result of the war, synthetic fibers, rayon, and viscose took over from the more refined fabrics. Fabric rationing forced stylists to look for alternatives.
As a result of the end of the war, in 1946, ready-to-wear emerged in the United States, that is, production on an industrial scale that allowed a single model of clothing to have different numbers.
Later, the idea was imported to France and transformed into the famous concept of the fashion world, the ready-to-wear.
In 1959, the Italian-French Pierre Cardin created the first ready-to-wear collection. The collection was a partnership with the Parisian department store, Printemps. The idea was to allow customers to enter the store, choose their clothes according to their number, and take them home.
the Dior empire
Another name that stood out in the post-war period was that of stylist Christian Dior, owner of the well-known luxury empire. The launch of the “Carrole” collection in 1947 marked the fascinating history of fashion.
The collection featured pieces such as ankle-length skirts, voluminous dresses, full skirts, bare shoulders, and models with defined waists.
The great highlight of the collection named by the editor of the American magazine Haper’s Bazar, Carmel Snow, of “New Look”, was the model “Tailleur Bar”. A waisted silk jacket with a black pleated skirt at the ankles made up the collection.
The stylist is cited as responsible for the rebirth of Paris after the war and for placing the city once again at the center of international fashion. Dior’s more pompous style, which used extravagant fabrics in his creations, contrasted with Chanel’s elegance and simplicity.
In 1957, the fashion world was surprised by the death of Christian Dior at the age of 52. At the time, the young Yves Saint Laurent was chosen to assume the position of artistic director of the brand.
Saint Laurent’s stay at Casa Dior lasted just three years. Though he spent a short time in the job, the young man’s talent flourished. Dior’s final collections, such as the 1957 Fuso Line, are good examples of Saint Laurent’s creativity.
1960s: hippie movement and freedom of expression
Breaking standards and women’s freedom of choice are keywords to understand the 1960s. The post-war generation of the “baby boomers” generation as it is known, used fashion to demonstrate their state of mind.
The idea was to break free from the behavioral and style patterns of previous decades. Everything that resembled the authoritarianism of the war years was left out.
Rock’n’roll and the bold steps of American singer Elvis Presley marked the decade. When we imagine the 1960s, we certainly think of leather, jeans, sumptuous tufts, and scooters.
Hollywood actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando were style references. It’s impossible not to also remember the Beatles’ influence on fashion. Elegant clothes such as tight-fitting pants and collared jackets, in addition to the haircut, were widely copied by young people.
The period is also remembered for being the first time in the fascinating history of fashion that young people did not dress like their parents.
The 1960s Women’s Wardrobe
In women’s clothing, the miniskirt stood out. The play was associated with youth and the sexual revolution. The invention of the miniskirt is credited to the names of stylists Mary Quant and André Courrèges. When questioned, Mary said the play was an invention of the streets.
As in the men’s wardrobe, famous personalities were the names of reference for women’s clothing. Names like Jean Seberg, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood stood out at the time. Doll of luxury became a film that launched fashions and trends. In addition to the miniskirt, the cigarette pants also aroused the interest of women.
The year 1965 is considered revolutionary in the fascinating history of fashion, thanks to the collection of French artist André Courrèges. The collection featured miniskirts, white boots, and straight-cut dresses. Saint-Tropez-style pants that leave the navel out have also started to appear on the streets.
The 1960s is also remembered for unisex clothing, women wore jeans and collarless shirts. A good example is the women’s tuxedo created by stylist Yves Saint Laurent in 1966. As a result of the stylist’s acumen, the piece marked the 20th century.
Emílio Pucci: “the prince of prints”
Stylist Emílio Pucci is also another important name in the fascinating history of fashion. His psychedelic-inspired colorful pieces marked the time.
His name is also remembered for having released, in 1960, the pieces known as “capsules”. These pieces consisted of stretch nylon and silk sets – predecessors of the famous leotard and Lycra gym clothes popularized in the 1980s.
Emílio Pucci was nicknamed by the specialized press of the time “the prince of prints”.
Clothes were also influenced by the hippie movement. Long hair, Indian gowns, long skirts, and bell-bottom pants were part of the young people’s attire.
The hippie movement had as its main flag to oppose the Vietnam War. Stylists like Emílio Pucci were inspired by the counterculture movement of the time. Prints and clothes in light fabrics were incorporated by haute couture.
The Woodstock Music Festival, which took place in 1969, was of unparalleled importance to the hippie movement, contributing to its popularization. Singers like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and groups like Jefferson Airplane participated in the festival. Young supporters of the hippie movement preferred natural fibers, referring to the idea of “back to nature”.
1966 was a very significant year for stylist Yves Saint Laurent and for the fascinating history of fashion. This year, the stylist launched Rive Gauche, a chain of boutiques with cheaper clothes that made reference to the bohemian life of the Paris region of the same name.
The most radical phase of fashion was the protagonist of stylist Paco Rabanne, who in 1967 presented a collection inspired by space. Metal rings and plastic discs were present in the collection.
1970s: decade of glam rock, disco style and punk
The 1970s look was inspired by the hippie movement. Items such as dresses, accessories, and bell-bottom pants were often seen. The hippie look came into fashion in the late 1960s and prevailed until 1975, influencing haute couture with accessories such as flowers, tunics, and embroidery.
The music scene also influenced the clothing of the 1970s. Androgyny, punk, and disco were some of the styles seen in the streets.
The case of the Punk movement is curious. Despite opposing the consumer society, many stylists were inspired by the pieces and accessories used by their supporters.
Studs, graffiti shirts, black leather clothes, boots, and pins are no longer exclusive to punks. The movement was born in London, in 1976, and initially had unemployed youth and students as its main followers.
The 1970s also saw a greater presence of designers of different nationalities on the fashion scene. Names such as Calvin Klein, Jean Paulo Gautier, Claude Montana, Kenzo, Giorgio Armani, and Ralph Lauren contributed to the internationalization of fashion.
In the United States, designers such as Roy Halston Frowick and Calvin Klein stood out. His creations valued the professional woman who needed a more concise wardrobe.
Department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, located in New York, have noticed the growing desire for more sophisticated ready-to-wear clothing. In response, they decided to open internal boutiques to replace the haute couture departments.
The glam rock style
The theatricality and eccentricity in the fascinating history of fashion emerged from glam rock. The movement emerged in the early 1970s in Great Britain and after 1976 with the disco movement in the United States.
Sequins and tight tights were seen in both movements, but the glam rock is considered the most exuberant.
British artists like Elton John and Marc Bolan were legitimate representatives of the glam rock movement. The androgyny of David Bowie who wore looks designed by Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto also influenced the glam rock style. Platform shoes, hand-dyed mullets, print dresses, and face and body painting made up the look of the period.
In London, boutiques like Barbara Hulanick’s Biba and Alkasura were responsible for propagating the glam rock style. Items such as feather scarves, elaborate vests, and sequined jackets were easily found.
The disco style
The heyday of the disco movement occurred in the late 1970s. Latin music, funk, and soul-influenced fashion. Strapless tops with sequins, lurex halter neck blouses (a type of neckline that enhances the female lap), and tight pants were seen more often.
Another cultural product that influenced fashion was certainly the film “Saturday Night Fever” from 1977, starring John Travolta. The film contributed to the spread of the disco style. The streets were taken by synthetic stretch fabrics, spandex dresses (a fabric with a lot of elasticity), and high heels worn with short socks.
The disco style was diffused in the UK with the collaboration of the Swanky Modes brand, which featured sensual pieces made in lycra.
Glam rock and disco were announced to end with the rise of the Punk rock movement in 1976.
The punk rock movement
London is considered the birthplace of the Punk rock phenomenon, despite musical influences that have emerged in the United States, more precisely in New York. The design of the Punk movement consisted of bringing together elements such as loud and aggressive music with clothes with an even aggressive character. The main characteristics of the movement are indignation, self-expression, and experimentation.
The propagation of the Punk style was in charge of the Sex store, whose owners were Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm MacLaren.
In the music scene, the band Sex Pistols stood out. Despite the controversies involving the band, the clothes worn by its members generated a great curiosity. The Westwood stylist incorporated pieces such as “anarchy shirts”, “destruction shirts”, “bondage pants” and “hangman costumes”.
Not having received training in fashion design, Westwood’s pieces were more intuitive. One of his techniques was to cut the fabric over the body, relegating the use of flat surfaces. To make the torn shirt seen in 1979, the stylist’s technique was used.
Westwood’s color palette featured red, black, white, fluorescent pinks, and blue. The plaid print also stood out in the designer’s pieces. Regarding the theme of clothing, she favored modernist urban themes and Celtic history.
1980s: the decade of exaggeration
The word that best defines the 1980s is certainly extravagance. Pieces such as shoulder pads, overlays, vinyl, and different colors and shapes marked the decade.
If the 1960s were influenced by the baby boomers, the yuppies (Young Urban Professional) dominated the 1980s. The ideals of the hippie movement, such as opposition to unbridled consumption, were left aside. Now, consuming pieces from great stylists and brands made young people’s minds.
The greater presence of women in leadership positions was an essential factor for the emergence of a new feminine ideal. As a result, tailoring and sharp-shouldered suits dominated women’s clothing.
A similar case happened with the long skirt. The piece, previously associated with ingenuity in the 1960s, came to represent power and freedom in the 1980s.
The suit’s popularity was essential for the German company Hugo Boss to gain international prestige. Since its foundation in 1923, the brand has produced work clothes and uniforms.
Despite this, the ready-to-wear suit made with quality fabrics and with a silhouette considered more masculine placed Hugo Boss in the fashion spotlight.
In addition, the brand is also remembered for having starred in one of the first merchandising cases. His label was seen on Miami Vice, one of the most popular series at the time.
In addition to clothes, the advertising industry at the time encouraged young professionals to wear accessories such as the Rolex watch, the Gucci moccasin, and the Filofax diary.
Rauph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Giorgio Armani knew how to take advantage of the frenzy of fashion consumption. Consequently, their names were eternalized in the fascinating history of fashion.
In the United States, Ronald Reagan’s presidency signaled a return to a formal reception. Events organized during his tenure, such as charity balls and state dinners, required the use of formal attire and long dresses.
Fiction also helped to build the most glamorous lifestyle. TV series like Dallas and Dynasty featured actors in pompous costumes. The work of American designer Nolan Miller was exalted.
The ostentation of the 1980s
In addition to the clothes, ostentation was also present in the expensive accessories worn by the actresses. Historians regard the 1980s as the decade of social exhibitionism.
Factors such as the deregulation of the financial market by Reagan’s policy and tax reforms contributed to the increase in the income of the wealthier classes in the United States.
In relation to accessories, the luxury bag started to be considered a collectible item.
Faced with this new scenario, North American women preferred the refined clothing of the Carolina Herrera brand to compose the daytime look and for events that took place at night, they resorted to luxurious pieces by Arnold Scaasi.
The fascinating history of fashion experienced an important fact in the 1980s. It was the first time that clientele and stylists mixed at social events. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was seen circling the events of American high society. Oscar was even invited to formal receptions at the White House.
Hip-hop and street fashion
The hip-hop movement that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s in American cities showed their faces. Among the issues emphasized by the movement, the African-American culture and the concern with the social problems faced by urban populations stand out.
Like many other movements, hip-hop influenced fashion history. Clothes in kente fabric (popular in African culture) and colors like green, black, yellow, and green dominated the clothing of his admirers.
In 1989, the first company specializing in hip-hop culture clothing appeared. The person responsible for the initiative was Karl Kani, who inaugurated a brand that bears his name.
As a result of the movement’s expansion, artists such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Run-Dmc have contributed to the widespread use of sportswear and streetwear. As a result, high fashion and traditional brands came to be rejected by the hip-hop community.
1990s: the decade of style diversity
The word that best describes fashion in the 1990s is diversity. Different styles and compositions coexisted together. Despite this, pieces such as colored jeans and second-skin blouses were trends at the time.
As in other decades, music also influenced young people in the 1990s. Grunge, a subgenre of rock, was a big influencer on the style and behavior of young people.
More laid-back pieces like baggy pants and shorts and plaid shirts made up the Grunge look. A milestone in the advent of the Grunge style was the Marc Jacobs collection for Perry Ellis, an American sportswear brand. Despite the initiative of Marc Jacobs, the collection was considered a fiasco. Consumers did not react very well to pieces that referred to a more sloppy style.
In addition to the influence of the musical field, the decade was also marked by reinterpretations of 1960s styles, with light colors, and 1970s, with platform shoes.
The return of 1990s fashion
Pieces widely used during the 1990s seem to have conquered the famous in recent years. High-waisted pants ripped jeans, a plaid shirt, and round glasses are worn by celebrities and people in love with fashion. A lot of these trends can be seen in the Berbely Hills preppy movie!