“Fashion is the analysis of how clothes are worn.” – Anonymous. Fashion is an extremely popular visual aesthetic expression in a given cultural moment and context and in particular, in fashion, shoes, jewelry, attire, accessories, hairstyles, body proportions, and makeup. While a great deal of work has gone into developing individual fashion trends, these ideas still often reflect the more general social expectations that people have about fashion, particularly what is considered to be “glamorous” or what is socially appropriate. The history of fashion continues to evolve as one struggles to describe and influence change through time.
The history of fashion continues to reveal fascinating changes over time. One of the first changes in fashion, which seemed to take place in the 1800s was the rise of higher dress styles for both men and women. This movement away from the simpler and more functional clothing styles of the previous century brought with it a variety of new concerns and behaviors about what was considered to be fashionable among women. These changes represented a new ideal of what a woman should be and these changes largely impacted how women were viewed by the broader culture. The rise of this new ideal made women much more active and influential in the cultural conversation about fashion.
As the nineteenth century continued and the twentieth century approached, fashion began to incorporate larger and bolder prints in bolder materials. Changes in materials, colorization, patterns, designs, and the ability to utilize vibrant colors and geometric patterns increased the sense of energy and freedom that many women experienced during this period in fashion. Women began to have more control and ownership in the decisions about their own fashion. The fashion and media industries responded to these changes in style by creating even more dramatic and exaggerated fashions.
In the 1950s, with the advent of television and the widespread availability of magazines, the public began to understand more clearly the impact of fashion on women’s lives. For the first time, many women were able to see for themselves the influence of fashion on the way they were perceived by the general public. Changes in the media and fashions allowed more women to see themselves as contributing members of a societal group. The more positive and empowered the general public felt about women, the more popular and fashionable styles that were created. As women reclaimed their place in the societal limelight, their opinions about fashion began to change accordingly.
Following closely on the heels of these dramatic changes was the invention of the garment. Garments not only served functional needs by keeping clothes dry and protected, but they also served as the visual center of fashion. Designers and manufacturers quickly saw the benefit of providing women with fashionable clothes that reflected their new identity as individuals who could look and feel alike. A great example of this is how certain brands began to use women’s clothing similar to how men wear suits; by creating tailored and highly stylish clothes that were often highly embellished. However, changes in fashion tended to favor women who were comfortable with their bodies and chose fashions that were agreeable to their particular body shapes and styles.
The changes in the fashion industry continue to impact modern day society. From empowering women to creating new and exciting fashions, women of all backgrounds are influencing the way that the public views them. As fashions become more popular, society also becomes more accepting and fashion-forward. The next time you’re shopping for a new outfit, consider how much your own personal style has influenced the way that you dress.