Fashion History: Tracing the Evolution of Clothing Through Time

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From the ancient fashions of Ancient Rome and Greece to modern day couture, fashion has constantly been evolving and changing to reflect new trends and movements throughout time. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the history of clothing, exploring how it has changed over centuries and giving us a glimpse of many interesting and unique styles. Through our exploration, we can gain an appreciation for the art of fashion and understand the origins of our society’s clothing trends.

1. Fashion Through the Ages: A Visual Journey

Fashion is a never-ending cycle that adapts to the ever changing times, and every decade brings an iconic set of trends that get recreated endlessly. From the battle of the bell bottoms to the shoulder pads of the 80s, let’s take a look at how fashion has transformed over the years.

  • The Roaring Twenties:

The 20s sparked a newfound curiosity for bolder and more decorative clothing. After a period of austerity in the earlier decades, this newfound era of excess brought bright and exuberant clothing silhouettes. Inclusivity was at its peak in this period with designers offering both mens and womens wear and no gender specific apparel upgrades. Feather boas, headdresses and loud makeup dominated the fashion to truly express the wild, thrill-seeking attitude of the age.

  • The Timeless Thirties:

The 30s brought an end to the wild extravagance of the past but incorporated the more fashionable cut of the age. The drapey cuts and high waists of the 20s were replaced by tailored suits and pencil skirts – a fashion norm that remains intact even today. Womens fashion in this decade largely revolved around silky evening gowns for any special occasion. Men’s fashion saw rolled- up blazers, double-breasted coats, belted overcoats and fedora hats that set the fashion trend of an important business man.

  • The Infantry Fifties:

The lifestyle of the 50s was of true opulence and extravagance due to the economic prosperity that followed after the Second World War. Muted shades like pastels, greys and soft pinks complimented the puffed high sleeves and low waists of the time. Womenswear emphasised on the hourglass figure with A – line skirts and hourglass blouses. The men’s style of the day revolved around jackets, slacks and hats that were very reminiscent of military attire – a result of the majority of men coming home from war.

  • The Bright Sixties:

The 60s marked the beginning of a more rebellious era of fashion for the youth. Musical festivals gave way to psychedelic prints, maxi dresses and bell bottoms- one of the trendiest fashion pieces of the time. The hippies of this time used fashion as a tool to break the norms of the society and express protest about the war. Solid colors like hot pinks, daring greens and sunflower yellows were popularly seen dominating the clothes of this era. The men during this time also broke away from the norm by reviving the short sleeved shirts and wearing loud prints, plaids and bold colors.

  • The Groovy Seventies:

The 70s expressed vibrant, loud prints that gradually started to incline towards the more subtle tones of browns and caramels. This period gave rise to the introduction of an even bolder type of clothing that conformed to jeans, t-shirts, quilted jackets and maxi dresses. Disco was a huge inspiration to the fashion of this decade and this was seen through the influx of polyester pantsuits, jumpsuits and wide legged trousers. Men after the late 70s also started to experiment with a more natural hair cut which gave way to the beginning of popular hairstyles like the mullet.

2. From Skirts and Kilts to Denim and Sneakers

Once upon a time, dresses and kilts were the order of the day. People made sure they looked their best as the standard of clothing was high. Over the years, the trend has changed where clothes have become more relaxed and comfortable.

  • Jeans are now the preferred option for many occasions, from dressed up dinner outings to casual movie nights, jeans are a staple in every wardrobe.
  • Women still have the opportunity to don beautiful skirts and dresses, but they are used for casual wear in most cases.
  • For many occasions, sneakers have surpassed the traditional shoes.

Although the switch from formal clothing to comfortable wear has brought a lot of freedom and comfort, it has also brought a lot of freedom for fashion. People still have the option to express themselves through their outfits using the casual yet stylish clothing now available. One can merge their own style with what standard clothing provided in the past, such as a simple dress with a pair of sneakers, or a pair of jeans with a nice crisp white shirt.

No matter the occasion, there are now many options to choose from when getting dressed – and you can look stylish and still be comfortable.From neutral coloured wardrobe staples to bold prints and mix and match options, finding a style that suits you is easy compared to the limited options present before.

When dressing it’s good to remember that not only color, material, fit and style are important, but perhaps most important of all: Comfort! Following the fashion trends is all well and good, but having clothes that you feel comfortable in ensures that you always look your best.

When it comes to fashion trends, it’s an undeniable fact that societal influences have a huge part to play. From Hollywood celebrities to influencers, it’s always been the case that people have been influenced by those who they look up to when it comes to fashion. But how exactly does this shape the fashion trends of the current era? Let’s find out.

Celebrities Are the Architects of Trends
When a celebrity wears something, it has the power to start a new trend. Think back to the early 2000s when stars like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian made diamanté thong sandals the ‘must-have’ item of the summer. It’s fair to say that this wouldn’t have been such a trend had they not worn it. And in more recent times, it’s been reported that the likes of Bieber & Co. have influenced ASOS to become one of the fastest-growing fashion retailers in the world.

Social Media: A Platform for Influencers
Social media has become a platform for fashion influencers to share the latest looks and trends. From brand ambassadors, styling tips and advice, fashion-loving content creators are taking the industry by storm. With a combined reach of millions, these creators are able to push the latest trends to their wide audience, and cause these looks to become instant successes.

The Popular Choice: Aspiration vs.Pragmatism
When deciding on an item to purchase, many shoppers will seek out the popular or fashionable choice. They may be drawn to the luxurious items in the high-end boutique stores, or to a more affordable option. However, whether the shopper is seeking aspiration or pragmatism will be guided by the societal influences they look up to. And it’s likely that between these two choices, the desire to be a part of the latest trend will win.

The Unavoidable Impact of Politics
Politics always has and always will have an unavoidable impact on fashion trends. In recent years, the UK and US have experienced highly charged political climates that have been visible in the fashion scene. From the ‘power suits’ of the business-smart leader to the ‘feminist icons’ of the female empowerment movement, what we wear has become a powerful reflection of our political views.

The Price Tag: How Celebrity Influencers Influence the Market
Of course, the price of fashion could never be left out of the equation. With celebrity influencers often wearing expensive designer outfits, it’s no surprise that some of the trends they are promoting reflect this. This can cause people to have unrealistic expectations of their budget when shopping for fashion, leading to them viewing the cheaper options in a negative light.

Ultimately, society has an undeniable influence when it comes to fashion trends. From celebrities and influencers to politics and pricing, the impact is far-reaching. It’s likely that this influence will always remain but the trends that it generates will no doubt continue to evolve.

4. Uncovering the Rise and Fall of Style Icons

Throughout fashion history, we have been blessed with a wealth of iconic trendsetters – the lifeblood of the industry. From Anna Wintour to Isabella Blow, countless names have emerged from the crowd, leaving indisputable imprints on high fashion. To delve deeper into these extraordinary personalities, let’s take a look at four leading style icons and uncover their remarkable stories.

Marissa Berenson

  • Her runway debut was at the age of 17, auditioning for Yves Saint Laurent
  • Walked the runways in the 70s for the likes of Halston, Givenchy, Valentino, and Dior
  • Known for her signature red lip

The beautiful Italian-American model Marissa Berenson shone bright in the 70s fashion world. After her stunning success at the YSL audition, she was quickly booked for numerous fashion shows and photoshoots. Her most notable partnership was with legendary editor Diana Vreeland, who appointed her as the guest editor of Harper’s Bazaar in 1971. Berenson’s bold red lip look was her go-to on the runway and – thanks to its instantly recognizable effects – has been replicated by many of today’s stars.

Cathy Horyn

  • Started her fashion journalism career in 1978 as a reporter for the Washington Post
  • Former editor of the sought-after fashion magazine, Women’s Wear Daily
  • Described as “the most-quoted woman in fashion”

Cathy Horyn forged her own powerful reputation in the industry by her captivating contributions to fashion journalism. She kicked it off as a Washington Post reporter before she became Chief Fashion Critic at the The New York Times in 1999. This was when her voice started to be heard loud and clear. Her clear-eyed and witty reviews made her instantly recognizable to industry-insiders and budding enthusiasts alike. Today, she is widely considered the “most famous fashion critic” and is esteemed for her no-nonsense approach to fashion reviews.

Ruth Finley

  • Founder and editor of the Fashion Calendar, which acts as an essential resource for the fashion industry
  • Worked for established fashion names, including Dior and Bill Blass
  • Awarded by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2011

Equally captivating and essential to the industry is Ruth Finley and her influential publication, The Fashion Calendar. This delightful pocket-sized directory was launched in 1945 and has become an indispensable resource for fashion professionals around the world. In addition to this, Finley has a long list of accomplishments, ranging from her reporting of the first-ever recorded Paris Collections in 1947 to her award-winning recognitions by the CFDA.

Joan Burstein

  • Co-founder of Browns – a pioneer in retail buying
  • Awarded OBE and the Legion of Honor for her commitments to style and fashion
  • Usually sat in the front row at London Fashion Week

An undeniable pioneer in British fashion retail, Joan Burstein co-founded Browns in the 1970s, which came to be known as “the birthplace of the fashion street-style culture”. Carrying brands from Christian Dior to Versace and Yohji Yamamoto, the shop made a mark on the buying landscape and paved the way for today’s luxury fashion boutiques. Burstein personally designed the shop floor layouts and edited the staff uniforms with an elegance that was unparalleled. In all of her endeavors, her pioneering spirit and passionate commitment to style remain unwavering icons of our time.

From the ancient Egyptians to the modern influencer, fashion has had a long and involved history. It has constantly evolved, reflecting and helping to shape the cultures and values of the time. The idea that clothing can be an expression of self—a way to make a statement or to influence others—has remained essential through the ages. As fashion continues to move forward and evolve, it’s exciting to consider what comes next.


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