The art of designing the attire probably originated at the very moment humans started weaving fabrics. Initially, it was used for segregating different sects of the society. Eventually, by the early nineteenth century, fashion designing evolved. In 1825, Charles Frederick Worth became the first fashion designer in history to sew his trademark label into the garments created by him. He was an English designer who created his works mostly from Paris. At his peak time, he was designing dresses for royal families in Europe. His influence was so strong that he dictated the couture of his customers. This is the famous dress he made for Elisabeth of Austria:
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The Beginning of the Couture
Shortly before Charles started getting recognition, a designer named Rose Bertin transitioned from a less-popular dress-maker to a person of a high social stature. She got such a recognition for being appointed as the dress maker for the then Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Rose was often referred sarcastically as 'Minister of Fashion'. She later opened a shop in Paris and is believed to have influenced Parisian fashion. Her glory days were interrupted by the French Revolution during which she fled to London.
Beginning of the 20th century:
By this time, all the fashion trends originated mostly in Paris and London.
In the 1900s, outfits popular in the Belle Époque era were extremely popular. Gradually, fashion trends broadened with more well-off, independent women demanding practical clothes. In this decade, the clothing reflected extravagance and ornateness. The S-bend silhouette reigned fashion until 1910.
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In the 1910s, the fashion silhouette gradually became softer and more fluid than before. The popularity of Orientalism ensued in Paris just after its people witnessed a performance of the Ballets Russes. Paul Poiret translated this idea into fashion. Clothing with plenty of geishas, turbans and flowing pantaloons thrived in this era. Also, it was during this period that the first ever fashions shows were hosted; Mariano Fortuny and Jacques Doucet are two influencial designers of this time.
The golden age of the French Fashion is the period between the World Wars. Fashion all over the world was reformed - film actresses, wives of the wealthy and heiresses became the new ambassadors of fashion.
Soon after the First World War ended, there were radical changes in fashion. Bouffant hair-styles and long trains were replaced by the bob cuts and above-the knee attire respectively. This is a photograph of Louise Brooks depicting the 1920s' fashion:
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More and more women chose to dress like boys - this androgynous couture was in full swing by 1925. A waist-less, bust-less silhouette emerged which was punctuated by embroidery, leather boas and conspicuous accessories. The sporty and athletic look also became popular thanks to the magnificent creations by Jean Patou. Coco Chanel was the major fashion brand in the 1920s. Flapper dresses were also a major fashion for women back then. Although they are no longer worn today, they are still very popular with the women attending costume parties. A good collection of flapper dresses can be found here.
The menswear became more informal, especially in America. Outfits mirrored relaxation and youthfulness. Young men of the 1920s no longer hesitated to wear the soft, woolen suits all day long. The old long jackets of the past decade were worn only for occasions and were replaced by short suit jackets. Tuxedo became popular as evening wear. It was in the 1920s that the term "gangster outfits" was coined.
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The fashion in the 1930s saw the effects of Great Depression. Designers, who were reluctant to experiment with the crisis, created the designs that reflected compromise, feminism and elegance. The fashion in this period was influenced by the difficult economic and social conditions of the decade. The daring, brash style of the women's fashion transformed into a feminine, romantic style.
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The aftermath of the second world war saw the major houses of Paris closed; some prominent designers relocated to New York to start afresh. Only 4 meters of cloth was allowed for making a suit and just one meter of cloth was permitted for a blouse. Hats were made out of the scrap materials like wood shavings and paper. This decade was the most difficult period for fashion. However, Christian Dior released their iconic line of clothing that borrowed the extravagance from the Belle Époque era. It was an instant success and the brand rose to fame overnight.
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Fashion recovered in the 1950s and 1960s once again making Paris the center of the fashion world. The 1970s was dubbed as the "me" decade which had a motto - 'please yourself'. The 60s' hippie look, indian scarves, floral-print tunics and kaftans were popular in this decade. The influences from soul music and the then-ongoing movement for civil rights of blacks were evident in fashion. During the late twentieth century, popular western fashion was adopted in all parts of the world, and many designers from different countries gained prominence. Synthetic materials like viscose and lycra became very popular. However, the past fashion trends were always being studied for new inspirations. The history of fashion is celebrated today by many enthusiasts at themed parties and fashion shows. (For more 1950s-1902 fashion pictures click here)
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Written by: Alex Pejak