A Brief History of Fashion


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In general, clothing from the ancient Greek and Roman times was based more on function rather than style. Clothing was loose and flowing, never tight fitting. Tunics covered with layers of draped cloth were common for both men and women.

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  • In Ancient Roman and Greek periods and before were very simple, as clothing expressed practical function over stylistic form. The most basic garment for women was the “Doric peplos” which were commonly worn through the beginning of the sixth century B.C.. Made from a rectangle of woven wool, the Doric peplos measured about six feet in width and about eighteen inches more than the height of the wearer from shoulder to ankle in length. The fabric was wrapped around the wearer, with the excess material folded over the top and pinned on both shoulders. The excess material was allowed to fall freely, giving the impression of a short cape. Pins used for fastening the shoulders of the peplos were originally open pins with decorated heads, but they were later replaced by fibulae or brooches. Fabrics were plain and for the most part, undecorated. The cloth was usually white or off white and commoners were forbidden to wear red in public. Asian countries used bright colors and lots of embroidery, because of their abundance of dyes and silks. Cosmetics were also used by women from ancient times. As for hair, women often braided their hair or kept their head covered by fabric draped about the face like a hood.
  • Clothing tended to be heavier also, which suggested a climate change across the European continent. Shoes were generally worn instead of sandals. Women's clothing was also based upon the general design of the tunic. A loose tunic was worn over a sleeved, fitted tunic. This period saw a widening of sleeves and hems, often flared and using far more fabric than before. By this time, Europe had learned from Eastern cultures how to make velvet, and Western clothing became more lavish. Several factors contributed to this trend towards extravagant and highly decorated clothing. Increased trade from the East brought fine fabrics, as well as new ideas for decoration, while Western countries improved their own textile-making techniques at home. The upper, noble classes also grew during this era, as personal wealth was gained by survivors of the Black Plague. The fashionable, wealthy classes experimented with often extreme styles, from hooked shoes called "poulaines" to cone-shaped hats with long veils.
  • After the turn of the 15th century, Renaissance fashions began to follow German styles. The simple, natural styles of the early period were replaced with horizontal, massive styles. Hoops were held together by ribbon or tape. The hoopskirt, called the farthingale, reached its maximum width around 1600, when it became a cartwheel or drum shape. Sleeves were puffed and necklines were adorned with high-standing collars with expanded ruffs or circular lace. Women began wearing headdresses, at first a simple hood which then became peaked.
  • During the Elizabethan period, fashion served as a mode for self expression for all social classes. Gowns were characterized by a fitted bodice to accent the wearer's small waist, square shoulders, and a ruffled yoke (particularly for the upper classes, as ruffles indicated high social status)
  • This style marked a distinct change from the fashions of the prior age. Starched, stiff fabrics were replaced with natural satins and silks.
  • Properly dressed ladies also wore stockings gathered at the knee and made from rich silk fabrics with woven patterns or embroidered designs, and high-heeled shoes covered with silk to match the gown. Women's tresses of this period were gathered and piled high, with wildly enormous hairstyles emerging near the turn of the century. In addition, elaborate and often frivolous caps were fashionable.
  • Fashion of this period was greatly influenced by the Greeks. (Statues). Regardless of the wearer's social class, fashions of the Regency era were lighter and simpler than those of past decades. The stiff brocades and embroidered silks of the Georgian period were replaced by lightweight fabrics in plain, subdued colors. Properly dressed ladies wore spencers (long-sleeved jackets cut beneath the bosom) or pelisses (long-sleeved jackets cut three-quarters down the length of a skirt)
  • During the Victorian era, the precise cut, material and color of a garment revealed the social class of the wearer. With the growing prosperity of the day, fashions for women of the higher classes became increasingly complex. Bust lines rose, as Victorian modesty gained widespread adherence; and waistlines fell as designers revived the popularity of formal dresses reminiscent of Georgian France. Finally, the invention of sewing machine revolutionized women's fashion on a practical level, as ladies devoted themselves to designing, customizing and making their own garments.
  • The curvaceous clothing line of this period resounded with the curving lines of Art Nouveau style. In addition, ladies' hats became larger, a trend that continued steadily until 1911. The Art Nouveau style also invaded women's jewelry styles, as peacocks, dragonflies and moths created out of dazzling enamels and gold filigree became standard adornments for ladies' combs and brooches. Throughout the Edwardian period, women's fashions were highly influenced by the advancing feminist Suffrage movement. As women began participating in athletics, casual and comfortable "sport clothing" also became popular. Women's fashions also generally became lighter in construction and materials.
  • A Brief History of Fashion

    1. 1. A Brief History of Fashion By Valerie Broeckelman
    2. 2. Ancient up to 400 A.D. <ul><li>In general, clothing from the ancient Greek and Roman times was based more on function rather than style. Clothing was loose and flowing, never tight fitting. Tunics covered with layers of draped cloth were common for both men and women. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Medieval 400-1400 A.D. <ul><li>With the beginning of Christian influence, dress became more modest than before, with longer hemlines and sleeves. However, because of increased trade, clothing became more extravagant with embroidery and beading. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Renaissance 1400-1550 A.D. <ul><li>There were many style changes during the Renaissance period. Dresses gradually lost their long trains, women wore robes, (dresses with an attached bodice and skirt), and women began to show their hair again, which was adorned with jewels and veils. Later in the period, sleeves became puffed and necklines were adorned with high standing collars, as well as voluminous skirts supported by hoops made of wire or wicker. Slashing, (cutting the outer layer of cloth to reveal the inner layer of cloth),was also very popular. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Renaissance (cont.)
    6. 6. Elizabethan 1550-1605 A.D. <ul><li>During the Elizabethan period, clothing was designed to cover every inch of the body. As the period progressed, waist lines became straight (as opposed to a V-shaped “princess” cut of before) and sleeves became tight fitted rather than ruffled. Wealthy women wore large gold pendants and a French “hood” on the neck for adornment. Snoods, a type of hairnet, and other similar designs were very popular during this period. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Elizabethan (cont.)
    8. 8. Baroque 1605-1670 A.D. <ul><li>The &quot;Cavalier&quot; style of dress became popular during the early part of the Baroque period. Trimmings were simple and confined to buttons, buttonholes, and lace. Women's bodice necklines were cut wide and square, and waistlines heightened. By 1630, sleeves became full and draped softly below the elbow, revealing the wearer's lower arm for the first time in centuries. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Baroque (cont.)
    10. 10. Georgian 1670-1790 A.D. <ul><li>The richly decorated gowns worn by wealthy Georgian women were often adorned with an &quot;eschelle stomacher&quot; (a fancy corset designed to be worn in public and adorned with bows of decreasing size) above the waistline and an embroidered and trimmed petticoat below. Ladies' skirts were supported by hoops made of cane or rattan. Under the hoops and corset, ladies wore &quot;shifts&quot; (knee-length undergarments with elbow-length sleeves adorned with a froth of lace). </li></ul>
    11. 11. Georgian (cont.)
    12. 12. Regency 1790-1840 A.D. <ul><li>The stiff brocades and embroidered silks of before were replaced by lightweight fabrics in plain, subdued colors. Regency designers raised the waistline to just below the wearer's bosom. The waistline was often defined by a wide sash tied in a bow at the back of a dress. Properly dressed ladies wore spencers or pelisses out of doors, along with a broad-brimmed hat tied under the chin with a ribbon. </li></ul>
    13. 13. Regency (cont.)
    14. 14. Victorian 1840-1890 A.D. <ul><li>In the Victorian era, dresses were composed of several layers of different shades, cloths and trimmings, and intended to be worn with both under-dresses and over-dresses. In the beginning, puffy &quot;mutton-leg&quot; sleeves became all the rage, but these were later replaced by fitted sleeves and eventually bell sleeves. Victorians thought the &quot;hourglass&quot; shape to best flatter the female form, and women wore restrictive corsets to achieve this ideal. The Victorian era also saw the progression from crinoline skirts to hoop skirts and finally to bustled skirts. </li></ul>
    15. 15. Victorian (cont.)
    16. 16. Edwardian 1890-1914 A.D. <ul><li>During this era, the shape of women’s dresses were designed with an “S” curve. This allowed women to cast off confining corsets and wear new “health corsets” that supported the spine and abdomen. The “Gibson Girl” became popular as well as the suit, hard collar, and tie (creating appropriate clothing for women entering jobs that were formerly occupied by men). During the later part of the era,, fashions changed from the “S” shape to the pre-flapper, straight-line clothing of the late 1920’s. Clothing over all became more comfortable and practical during this era. </li></ul>
    17. 17. Edwardian (cont.)
    18. 18. Bibliography <ul><li>*Books </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ventura, Piero. Clothing . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brooke, Iris. English Costume in the Age of Elizabeth . London: A.&C. Black, Ltd 4, 5 & 6 Soho Square, 1933 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bailey, Adrian. The Passion for Fashion . Limpsfield, Great Britain: Dragon’s World Ltd, 1988 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>*Websites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> http://www.eresofelegance.com/fashion4.html </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www. costumegallery .com/1900.html </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://web2. unt . edu / tfc /images. cfm ? viewdate =1839 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.fashion-era.com </li></ul></ul><ul><li>*Encyclopedia </li></ul><ul><ul><li>World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 7.Chicago: World Book- Childcraft International, Inc. , 1980 </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. The End