Research Essay: The Evolution of Fashion
Fashion is a very interesting subject for most teens. Anywhere a person goes, fashion follows. Right from choosing what to wear for the day, walking down the streets and seeing what others are wearing, passing by fashion magazine stands, following fashion trends and accounts on TikTok, down to copying favorite models. Fashion, like everything else, is constantly changing. This history paper focused on fashion will explore the many ways fashion has evolved throughout the years.
History of Fashion
In their original forms, clothing was designed to meet the basic need for body covering, giving warmth or coolness, protection, and to preserve one’s modesty, but have evolved to very complex forms. Nowadays, clothing is used as an outlet to express oneself artistically, to attract attention, to enhance body features, to hide insecurities, and to flaunt beauty.
The discovery of body covering by man was the foundation that led to the formation of the modern forma of clothing. There is evidence that man’s simplest forms of garments included making clothes out of twigs from tree branches, leaves and even the hides and skins of hunted animals.
Clothing has also been used in the history of man, to mark his religious views and inclination and that of the place he occupies. In addition, clothing has been used to indicate the political, cultural and social values of a people. Evolution has resulted following the discovery of new raw materials in the textile industry, met with the desire for man to develop products that give him improved service in garment structure and function.
Fashion is influenced by many things. How clothing looks varies on the location, era, financial capacity, personal taste, occupation, social event, gender, and other cultural and personal preferences. Fashion is a very flexible form of self-expression. Even in countries and eras where clothing choices are restricted in terms of the amount of skin that is exposed, an individual still has freedom to play with colors, designs, and mix and match their clothing according to their taste and capabilities.
A person’s fashion choices can be influenced by certain cultural restrictions, celebrities, trends, and what makes one stand out. These days, students make it a point to plan out and build their college wardrobe before the academic year officially starts. Most working adults who do not have to wear uniforms to work also prefer to prepare what they are going to wear for the whole week in advance so that they do not need to fret each morning worrying what they are going to wear to work.
Before the late 19th century, the practice of visiting tailors and seamstresses is the trend. Clothes just are not bought in shops but are instead tailor-fit to an individual’s body proportion. Every piece of clothing a person wore was specifically made for that person alone. This made clothes so expensive but at least the carbon footprint it left did not make that much of a mark.
In today’s fashion landscape, sustainable fashion is most popular. Mass producing is out and consumers are calling for others to discontinue their loyalty towards brands who refuse to help save the environment . Consumers have become more conscious in what they purchase and are inclined towards ethical fashion companies who choose to recycle plastic or unsold garments into new clothing.
There is absolutely nothing new with the way fashion is evolving now. It has done so in the past few centuries and will not surely stop for any cause as clothing oneself is indeed a necessity. Fashion has indeed evolved from being just a necessity to something used for aesthetics. In this new landscape that consumers have shaped for the fashion industry, things are sure to turn out for the best.
Fashion for Men
Men’s fashion has always been designed as either relaxed or formal. In the 1920s, men are known to mix and watch casual and formal pieces just like the popular trend today. Softer collars and wide lapels are also popular in this era. What men wore for dinner or formal wear were usually double-breasted cotton piques matched with a wool necktie, and a black hat and gloves.
Sportswear were highly influenced by British fashion in the 1930s. Straight cut flannel trousers were on the rise specifically in the sportswear section. When it comes to formal attire, men have switched from choosing a double-breasted jackets to single-breasted ones. They have kept the wide lapels from the previous decade and made a wider version of the collar. They have also switched the necktie out for a bowtie.
By the 1950s, the gray-colored knee-length single breast overcoat has taken the men’s fashion industry in America by storm and was also the era when the cuffless sleeves for formal wear was rebirthed. For sportswear, men now wore a brown single-breasted jacket with narrow lapels and narrow pockets placed on the upper region of the jacket.
After the 1950s, fashion designers have taken notice to men’s clothing and have developed new designs for them. One is the two piece gray suit that had a long jacket – going under the hips. Another new design in this era is a zip-up jacket made of a blend of cotton and wool. It was around this time that clothing made of leather gained popularity as well.
The 1970s was the era when disco-dancing is a thing and thus is also the time when bell-shaped ankle and sleeves were also on the rise. Low rise V-necked tops had been a fashion statement during this era along with leisure suits. Low rise V-necked tops is not the only surprising thing that men wore from this era, but also short shorts made for sports like basketball and volleyball.
In the 1980s, brown-colored suits have replaced black suits that men wore to work. Long narrow lapels have replaced soft and wide ones. The length of the jacket in this era also fairly shortened. The suits in this era were broad shouldered. For casual wear, men often paired denim jeans with a denim jacket.
By the 1990s, sleeveless black leather jackets were in as well as flap pockets. Casual jeans also became more baggy or wide-legged during this era. Polo shirts also gained popularity as well as two piece striped wool suits that features a prominently smaller collar and a narrower pair of trousers.
In the 2000s, muscle tees were on the rise. It is also the era when trucker caps and a collared shirt paired with a plain white shirt underneath looked cool. Men also wore bandanas on their foreheads as a part of casual wear. The jackets for casual wear were now larger and bulkier than those worn for formal attire.
Fashion for Women
Fashion for women is the most colorful out of all the sectors of the fashion industry. It is women’s clothing that has gone through the most changes throughout the years. Right from headpieces to gowns, to shoes. What women wore in each country, in each era varies so greatly from each other that fashion designers will have no trouble drawing inspiration from old or traditional designs of women’s clothing.
In the 1920s, the style of women’s dresses was styled with a lowered waistline and a skirt that rose up to the knees. As the years went by, the hemline of women’s skirts rose – to mark an era of fun and decadence – but went down by the end of the decade due to the Great Depression and women felt like they had to go back to more conservative outfits. Jumper blouses with sailor collars were a popular pair of the long skirts during this era. This outfit was often paired with a belt or sash.
By the 1930s, chiffon and velvet became the top choices for fabric to be used for women’s clothing. Dresses were now cut almost fitting a woman’s body – but not too body-tight as they prefer to keep a decorum of modesty. Blouses or tops of dresses also feature broad shoulders due to shoulder pads. These were often paired with a medium-width belt and features floral prints and fur accents.
In the 1940s, during the War, materials for clothing are scarce so women’s clothing were mostly made of rayon and viscose. Because using excessive fabric for clothing was illegal back then, women had to make do and use fabric they can find in their household to craft new clothing items out of.
After the war, there was a boom once again in the fashion industry and A-line skirts were introduced along with pencil skirts. Dresses feature ruffles, laces, and are usually knee-length or a tad bit shorter. After a decade, the skirts became shorter and miniskirts became a trend in fashion. At the same time, maxiskirts and dresses also entered the scene. Flowy fabrics and designs were heavily influenced by the disco era.
By the 1980s, more and more designers have started to work on crafting business suits for women. Women then often wore straight-cut or pencil skirts paired with boxy broad-shouldered blazers to work. Other fashion styles that emerged during this time was influenced by celebrities and fashion icons.
In the 1990s, skirts and dresses started to fade out of the fashion scene as more women are looking into getting more easy to move in clothing like knee-length shorts and wide-leg pants. These were often paired with baby tees, graphic tees, or loose plain t-shirts.
When the 2000s entered, women started to dress more provocatively and had more freedom in expressing themselves through the clothing they chose to wear. Some clothing items like bras which are traditionally worn as an inner can now be worn as by itself or as an outer to t-shirts. Cropped tops and see-through shirts were also in fashion for a few years.
Fashion for Teens
Teens have always been taught to dress modestly or conservatively even back then. They are not given much freedom in choosing what they want to wear as they have to follow a certain decorum in school, at home, and in church. In the 1920s, teenage girls often wore a dress with a skirt that goes below the knee. It is usually paired with a cardigan and a beret.
During the 1940s, in the midst of the World War II , teenagers were only provided with clothing that is made from household materials like curtains, bedsheets, and pillowcases because no household has the capacity to spare expenses for new pieces of clothing. Because of that, by the time the war ended, many trends in fashion for teenagers started to emerge.
After the 1950s, teenagers were allowed to purchase their own clothing. Which translates to the fact that they have now more control over what they wear than in the previous decades. Teenage girls then chose to wear oversized cardigans – like the ones in fashion now – paired with a mid-length tweed skirt. Another outfit of choice was plain t-shirts with an outer covering of baseball jacket paired with rolled-up loose jeans. Some paired those outfits with a patterned scarf.
In the 1960s up to the 1970s, teenagers started wearing miniskirts and minidresses. The length of these garments usually came up to mid-thigh – a very distinctive contrast to how long skirts meant for teens used to be. Bell-bottomed jeans, plain t-shirts, graphic tees, overalls, jersey dresses, and baseball shirts are the pieces that often made up outfits worn by teens.
In the 1990s up to the present, the individuality of teenagers is even more pronounced in the way they dress. However, their personal style is largely affected by what is popular, what is worn by a certain clique, or what they are expected to wear by other people in their age group. More teenagers have started to wear ripped jeans, body piercings, hoodies, and pretty much anything that adults also wear.
Fashion for Children
Dressing children up is always such a fun task for parents. Every parent finds it fun to doll their children up even in the early 1900s. In the 1920s, a famous outfit for girls are rompers with lace on the sides. On later years, a white lace collared bloomer dress was often worn by children. Older children often wore typical schoolgirl outfits that features a plaid velveteen skirt paired with white lacey socks and black shoes. Boys on the other hand wore a woolen jacket similar to what adults wear but children wore shorts instead of trouser pants and paired with knee-high white socks and black shoes as well.
By the 1960s, toddlers wore pinafore rompers over a jersey or blouse. For young children, boys also wore the usual formal clothing items worn by older men. Girls on the other hand wore Gingham high-waist dresses paired with leggings or tights and chunky shoes. However, silky outfits were also mostly worn by children in this time.
In the same decade, school boys wore wool slacks and V-necked checkered vests with a collared shirt underneath. Girls often wore knee-length dresses with round collars. It was also during this time that wearing creative outfits for school and for sports activities became normal. Boys are expected to wear shorts and shirts on a school day where there will be sports-related activities.
The fashion industry will forever be one of the best, biggest, and most innovative industries in the world. Fashion being a necessity alone will ensure that the industry will never face a time where it will be deemed obsolete. Hence, it will only keep on improving and revamping outdated looks to make it modern again.
With countless people prioritizing self-expression this days, fashion will truly never go out of style. As long as there are people to dress and stylists who will find ways to remodel an old style, fashion will continue to evolve and grow. The evolution of fashion will always be exciting as it is an industry full of promise and boundless creativity.
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Payne, C. (2021, January 13). The Evolution of Fashion: 1900s . London College of Contemporary Arts. https://www.lcca.org.uk/blog/fashion/the-evolution-of-fashion-1900s/
The People History. (n.d.). Fashions and Clothes Styles from 50 years what do you remember. https://www.thepeoplehistory.com/fashions.html