Fashion – History’s Bread Trail

Just as the rings of a tree tell its age, fashion acts as that ring. Immediately seeing a particular style of fashion, you can, with most certainty, tell its age. Clothing has the ability to be an excellent indicator of time. When you turn on an episode of say, COPS, by examining the clothing and hairstyles you can almost immediately decipher the decade. The same can be said for when one is watching say a movie preview, is it a period piece? What era? All you need to do is look at the clothing and think back to your middle-school history class. Let us not forget to mention what intense and indelible effect clothing has on culture and society. The first thing we see has a tendency to say a lot about who we are as people, as well as a society as a whole. In the beginning clothing was about protection and heat regulation. There are so many theories as to why homo-sapiens (man) began to loose the hair covering their bodies. Perhaps no one wanted lice living on them and eating them alive. Whatever the reason, the shift has shaped culture, questioning what may be acceptable and challenging that which is not acceptable, in addition to its primary purpose of shelter for the body.

Marie Antoinette, a woman famous for her fashion sense and ability to create trends, indulged her passion for fashion. While prominent heads of state lived off the yearly wage of 50,000 livres, Antoinette spend double that, around 100,000 livres on her wardrobe alone every year. Although well known for her high style, she kept some of her more extravagant spending a secret from the King. Antoinette not only set trends and presented new ways to express oneself through fashion it may have been a secondary function to her spending. Antoinette was unable to bear children, frustrated and childless, she kept tails waging with her wild wigs and costuming, diverting attention from the fact that she could not produce an heir.

The period of 1911 to around 1925 saw a lot of change in the way of women’s rights as well as women’s hemlines. The social upheaval that occurred as a result of World War I created a shift in the economy, which also created a shift in society’s role for women. As men went off to war, women were left behind to rear the children, tend the home, and now more than ever bring home the bacon. After the war, the Age of Jazz was ushered in, an era when prohibition looms large and styles changed dramatically, creating quite the controversy in the streets. In 1910 the hemlines were ankle-length; in 1919 they hiked up to the mid-calf and finally by 1925 hemlines were all the way up to the knee. In the span of 15 years, men and women were exposed to more feminine flesh than previously experienced in history. As women fought for their rights, they also questioned what society told them to wear and how to dress. If they had to take on both role of mother and father, they had better wear whatever makes them feel good.

Since its conception, the movie industry wanted to uphold the values and morals of the time. In 1922 the industry created the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), headed by the former postmaster Will H. Hays. Later nicknamed the “Hays Office,” was all about upholding the standards of society, which decent people valued, e.g., regulating what was acceptable to be seen in regards to violence, sex, hemlines and necklines. For a while it was a great self-governing system solution for the motion picture industry, though in the 1940s with WWII, saw a weakening in its governing strength. Independent movie producers like Howard Hughes created films such as “The Outlaw,” a 1943 western, starring Jane Russell that chipped away at the compliance of the board. Considered too sexual and provocative, Hughes cut many scenes, raised necklines, and later was granted a seal approval from the “Hayes Office,” but disgruntled by all the editing, Hughes shelved the project until 1946. In 1946 Hughes, in a strong act of defiance, released his film without any edits and experienced widespread mainstream success despite the board’s obvious disapproval. Finally, in the 1950s the board was disbanded and the ratings system we now have in place started to come to fruition.

During and after the sexual revolution, society saw severe shifts in the styles seen in the streets. Though in the beginning of the 1960s only the hippies were wearing and doing radical practices. As the decade went on, it was more about a self-made expression of social defiance. Hippies wore less clothing, louder styles and even created garments of their own design as an answer to war, hate, ignorance and the values of regimented society. The clothing embraced by the hippie community reflected influences of eastern philosophy, psychedelic rock music, drug experimentation and all other forms of alternative consciousness. It shocked suburbia and shifted the acceptable standards of dress, no longer would women have to leave the house with set hair, a full face of makeup, gloves a coat and of course a hat. After the 1960s women and men have enjoyed much more freedom of expression in personal style. Maybe we were all just happy that some people put their clothes back on, no matter what those clothes might be.

The 1990s were another decade enjoying a new sense of identity, courtesy of the fashion world. Widespread economic productivity, a new way to communicate via the internet and a clear shift in gender roles in industrialized countries worldwide all lent to fashion’s mainstream appeal. Instead of actors and actresses on our magazine covers, it was the faces of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Stephanie Seymour, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington. High fashion’s heavy influence during this decade was certainly a bi-product of increased economic productivity. We started to watch runway shows on cable every Saturday morning, we wanted models in our gossip mags, and we defiantly needed their wardrobes. These big supermodels crossed all mainstream borders, appearing on the runways, as contract faces for the major labels, on TV and even in film. If not for these major crossovers, where would we be today? We would be without our Cameron Diaz’ and Charlize Theron’, both former models who have crossed the lines and influenced what we want to emulate in fashion.

Fashion is a force to follow, fueling the frenzy of civilization, questioning standards and crossing borders, acting as a permanent marker of what culture values and considers new or acceptable, feeding our dreams, fantasies, fears, and beliefs, and creating a piece of time to teach and test the ages.

Fashion History – How Historical Events Influenced Fashion in the 1930’s and 1940’s

History and world events often create fashion trends. We can not always see it in the lives that we are leading now, in the present; but it is sometimes easier when we look into the past.

The 1930’s was a time of frugality known as the Great Depression, a world wide economic downturn that put people out of work and effected every part of their lives. In the United States, nearly one quarter of the population was unemployed. Bank failures caused people to lose their life savings.The new austerity must have been a heavy blow for the people who had just lived through the Roaring Twenties, a time of heady spending and extravagance.

Women’s fashions made a big change when the economy went south. The exotic frippery of the Jazz Age soon disappeared to be replaced by more simple styles of dress. Waistlines rose and hems fell, as they often do in bad economic times. While a sleek elegance gained popularity, it was a much more subdued look, classic and understated after the exaggerated styles of the 1920’s.

Hollywood offered women a glimpse of glamor, but even the luxurious Hollywood styles had a quieter tone. Gone were the short skirts, long necklaces, and feathers of the 20’s. Evening gowns of the Great Depression hugged the hips and widened at the hem, creating an elegant and graceful silhouette.

By the end of the 1930’s, Adolph Hitler had risen to power in Germany. This worldwide threat, along with the ensuing war had an effect on fashion trends of the 1940’s. As nations were invaded, or went off to war, supplies and materials that went into the creation of clothing fell short. When Germany invaded France, Paris lost its influence over the world of fashion. People in the Allied countries saw the fashion designers of Paris as working in cooperation with the Nazis.

The governments of both Britain and the United States placed restrictions on the production of clothing as cloth and other items needed for garment manufacture were needed by the military. Due to fabric rationing, dress and skirt hemlines rose. Buttons were used for functional purposes only, and lapels narrowed. Women who had lived through the austerity of the Great Depression made jackets and coats out of old blankets, remade dresses, and generally ‘made do’ with ‘war wise’ clothing styles.

It was not until after World War II ended that clothing styles became more extravagant. When Christian Dior unveiled his ‘New Look’ in 1947, people were shocked at the amount of fabric used to create the long, antebellum style skirts and wide brimmed hats.

A Tour of Eyeglass Fashion History

We have all heard the saying, “The suit makes the man.” But, what about the eyewear? With styles changing as quickly as the weather one can be hard pressed to find just the right style. As you will quickly see, in the end the only thing that matters is what you like. But if you want a quick lesson in how it can effect the way others perceive you… take a look at some famous faces that set eyewear trends yesterday and today.

You have come a long way, baby! Or have we? We often tend to think that we have stumbled upon the latest greatest thing when it comes to fashion trends, including eyewear. But if we take a walk back through history just a few years we may find our choices today pale in comparison.

Let’s take stroll down memory lane through to our present day. As we look at people in history who, regardless of their careers, set the standard for eyewear in their own eras we will find styles as different, compelling as anything we can find today. In the 1950’s Grace Kelly was the picture of class and flawless style in eyewear that was never outlandish, yet stood out above the crowd for sophisticated design. Audrey Hepburn put Ray-Ban on the map in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and you thought it was the Blues Brothers?). The Beatles enthralled us all with their small, rimless shades. Janice Joplin in turn appalled us all in her ghastly, large round shades that, despite everything, caught on quickly in the 70’s. Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis hid behind similar shades, large and dark with thick plastic frames. Nothing could have prepared us for The Fly, no wait! That was just Bono. No, wait again! It’s still Bono wearing the same ungodly shades, obviously stolen straight off the movie set.

The 80’s saw the revival of the Ray-ban shades that cost just enough to make any teen feel cool. The early 90’s are certainly to blame for Bono’s poor taste with the inception of Oakleys. No one was cool if they weren’t wearing those face hugging shades that cost entirely too much but made those working the Kiosk at the mall smile big. Today we have seen a resurgence of the big 70’s shades that not only protect our eyes, but our cheeks, ears and noses. Perhaps I am exaggerating, but not by much. I would be remiss to leave out the ever-popular prescription eyewear reminiscent of the Beatniks of the 60’s that I, admittedly, find quite appealing on any man! Today it is all about individual taste. Vintage, classic or futuristic – it is purely a matter of taste. There is a style for any mood, any price, and any trend you wish to follow.