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Research Papers on the History of Fashion

The history of fashion, effectively, dates back to when the first humans decided to cover their nakedness. Since then, every culture in every era has had a unique style and manner of dress, for both men and women. History of FashionThe ancient Chinese dressed vastly different than the ancient Greeks, who dressed differently than Native Americans, while all three cultures may have been flourishing at the same time. Therefore, the history of civilization can, and often must, include the history of fashion.

A very popular genre of film is the historical. Costume designers must therefore know how people in that time and place dressed, in order to provide period accuracy. The history of fashion documents important aspects of how people lived. For example, many people might not give a second thought to pajamas. Yet many people have been wearing something to bed for centuries. Even choosing to sleep in nothing speaks volumes about the fashion of the time and place. The history of fashion also traces the rise and decline of certain items, such as stovepipe hats, or ladies’ gloves. For a time, each of these items was popular, yet have faded in usage.

The history of fashion can also reveal cultural attitudes. Consider burqa of Islamic nations, foot binding in traditional China, or stiletto heels in modern America. Each of these items displays some cultural attitude about women’s bodies and the ideal of beauty.

Fashion definitely reflects what the current or anticipated social issues are or will be.   For example, the French Revolution was said to influence the way clothes were designed during that period.  In a journal article by Karin Baumgartner, she says about the French Revolution’s effect on fashion that it “liberated the body from the restricting ‘clothes’ of the ancient regime.  The new structures of society were signified by new forms of dress and habit.”    In conjunction with deeper political issues, people began to revolt against behavior and dress that was dictated to them through the social climate that was being overturned.  This was also true of the period during World War I in Russia when the war was said to have changed the direction of fashion trends as a result.  Men were being called to war and women were needed to fill the positions that they had traditionally been kept out of.  In addition, there was a limited supply of fabric and resources so the designers began to modify cuts to emulate the military designs that men were wearing.  (Vassilier, p.37)  This included, dark colors, double-button jackets, sailor-type hats and other signature ‘male’ accents that became stylish (and copied repeatedly by designers since then) during a shortage.

In the 1990 era of Reagan-omics, a fusion of fashion and music emerged as a reflection of the financially (thud, emotionally) depressed times.  The “grunge” style replaced the “power dress” on the runways and the streets.  People wore combat boots, flannels, and styled their hair in ways that made it look unkept and dirty. This was yet another time period where the fashion was dictated by social phenomena or the end of a regime. More current examples are of the effect that animal right activists are having on the fashion industry, as well as, the way the current war has caused a fashion trend of patriotic motifs. 

The trends of fashion seem to often revert back to a retrospective period.  A time when there was youthful rebellion and the focus was basic comfort due to depressed economics, war or the rejection of traditional roles and stereotypes of dress.  I definitely think that designers will continue to experiment with different fabrics and continue to try to replicate those that come from animals.  The past trend of ‘ultra-suede’ and animal print may be recycled as a time-honored retro style once again.  Thus, 2015 will look in the fashion world like it does around the globe, politically.

It has been said that the clothes drive the music and music drives the market. Designers rely on hoe impressionable consumers can be when it comes to buying products.  The model, actor or performer is a walking billboard and provides free advertisement for designers.  In doing so, they showcase the package; provide promotion for the style and once imitations surface, price is not as much an issue.  When major issues surface, designers scramble to be the first to provide a way for consumers to express the event in their form of dress.  For example, designers could only follow as hippiedom took over the world:

  • The anti-Vietnam War peace sign
  • The flowers and the festivals
  • The post-Pill sexual freedom
  • Marijuana were driving both fashion and the market.

All of these relics of the 60’s may cause one to ponder which the chicken is and which the egg is.  No one said that marketing had to be an original creation.  It could be inspired by someone else or something else but it is packaged, advertised and priced which brings that idea to the forefront.  In the case of societal changes, it unites everyone by allowing them to wear visual statements of what a generation, community, country or world can identify with whether it be grunge, flowers or the American flag.

For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population will have access at least to ordinary phone service which due to the convergence of technological, economic and political forces will provide an even larger audience to express responses to societal issues through fashion. The accessibility of media such as the Internet for advertising has definitely been a market driver to date.  People are able to access news stories about the current war and use a link to purchase a t-shirt with the American flag on it.  They no longer have to rely on creating local trends due to lack of access to those on the runway but, the trends are becoming more global amongst citizens and not just high fashion designers.  One of the most highly publicized fashion shows ever on the Internet and on ABC television recently was the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  Of course it drew in a record crowd for obvious reasons but, most people are not used to having high fashion shows as part of their primetime programming.  They are accustomed to seeing what was trendy based on what performing stars or actors were wearing.

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