Fashion History – Clothing of the Middle Ages in Western Europe

The Middle Ages encompasses the time from the Fall of the Roman Empire in 400 CE until the beginning of the Renaissance, around 1500 CE.

Clothing of the Early Middle Ages, or Dark Ages, was basically a tunic and under tunic, both sewn from a cross shaped piece of fabric that was folded and hand stitched. Later, the tunic was cut in two pieces, then four piece for a better fit.

Peasants and serfs made their clothes at home of wool and hemp. The shearing, and cleaning of the wool; the spinning, and weaving was a long drawn out chore before the invention of the spinning wheel and the horizontal loom. But the garment were durable and long lasting. One garment could last a life time.

While the upper classes and aristocracy wore basically the same type of clothing, their under tunics were made of linen which was made for them by workers. Upper class women sewed tunics at home and some were made by professional tailors.

Due to the loss of trade that followed the end of the Roman Empire, trade was minimal, so the importation of fine fabrics was expensive and rare. But finer weaves, borders, and embellishments made for better clothing for the elite.

After the invention of the horizontal loom and spinning wheel, the manufacture of clothing became easier. These technological improvements made finer clothing more available and affordable. The Crusades introduced silk, damask, and other luxurious fabrics and designs into Europe. And when Marco Polo’s adventures heralded a new interest in the Far East, trade increased, creating greater availability of textiles, design ideas, and new patterned fabric to Europe.

Clothing worn by the nobility and merchants began to change, introducing the concept of fashion. While the Church dictated certain aspects of dress for modesty, such as veils for women, alterations in the in the types of fabrics used varied the styles that became popular. Women wore veils made of sheer muslin, interwoven with golden threads. Gowns became more ornate with variations in the neckline, sleeves, and hem lengths.

The establishment of guilds and improvements in the manufacture of clothing created an upwardly mobile middle class able to emulate the clothing styles of the upper class. New styles emerged including the elaborate head dresses of the later Middle Ages. The head dresses that looked like horns were wildly popular for a generation, as was the classic fairy tale princess style of hat called a hennin. A hennin was a tall, conical hat worn with a veil, a style much identified with the Middle Ages.

The later Middle Ages saw women’s gowns grow trains, and sleeves elongated so that long flaps reached the ground.

The changing of style and middle class interest in emulating the clothing styles of the elite created what we think of today as fashion.

Teenage Fashion History

The word “teenager” was first coined in the 1950s, a time when teenage fashion had found its place and a niche market was created. Teenagers were now a closed group with their own feelings, style, beliefs, and ways of perceiving life; that is, their own personality.

Malcolm Barnard says in his book Fashion as Communication, “Fashion and clothing have always been explained as forms of communication”. Teenagers have now their own voice to speak their mind and they manage to do it through fashion.

Being teenager is being rebellious. If you check out the decades of teen fashion you might see that they have proven to be a way of rebelling out.

Back in the fifties, when teen fashion firs appeared, it would follow the famous look of James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause”. Although, their clothes did not differ too much from the general trend in fashion, girls could be seen wearing dresses fluffed out with petticoats and crinolines under the skirt. Boys wore tight Levis, Chinos, white or black tight shirts, as well as loafers or Converse shoes with leather jackets.

Fashion is totally influenced and “manipulated” by history. The historical events put a hallmark on fashion decades, as the clothes reveal people’s lifestyle, conceptions, and even prejudices.

In the 1960s, fashion and music started to go hand in hand. Pop and rock music began to influence fashion in a way like never before. Fashion icons, like The Beatles, or rebellious rock stars, like Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, were speaking on behalf of the younger generation and they represented the main force.

In the 1970s, the disco era was loud and colorful. The fabrics of the decade were polyester, acrylic and lycra. Woman’s dresses were getting to their knees and men wore bell bottoms, jackets and gold chains. Platform shoes were big on the dance floor and shirt patterns were dizzying.

The 1980s came with the aerobic craze. The ultimate combination was tight, shiny stretch leggings paired with an over-sized, off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. The pop singer, Madonna was at her peak at that time and she influenced teenagers sense of style very much.

The 1990s, in terms of teen fashion, represented a mixture of a whole lot of different styles. Boy bands and girl bands of pop music were pretty eclectic in terms of clothes and they were admired by the young generation. It was the time of the platform shoe again which shows up in many shoes from sandals to tennis shoes. The colors are dramatic or pastel, while the classic color black was still used for dramatic effects in fashion.

Nowadays, teen clothing is very comfortable in all ways. The basic trends are vintage blue jeans with a trendy. Teenagers clothes need to be accessible in terms of prices, as young people’s expenditure is pretty limited within the amounts of money collected in their piggy banks.

Men’s Fashion History – The Origin of the Top Hat

Humans have covered their heads since the start of time. Initially the head wear was introduced as a protection product but then a whole generation of head wear came into being with top hats being the most favourite among people. The top hat, more commonly known by the nickname “topper” is a tall, flat-crowned, broad-brimmed hat. Starting from a mere head covering, this hat was worn mostly for ceremonial or religious occasions in the beginning but it ended up as a fashion accessory all around the world.

The origin of this hat dates back to the 17th century. It is difficult to exactly tell who invented these hats but generally the first silk top hat in England is credited to George Dunnage, a hatter from Middlesex, in 1793. John Hetherington was actually the person to invent this remarkable head wear. When he wore the hat in public for the first time, rumours have it that women fainted and children screamed, even the dogs got scared which caused an absolute uproar in the elite class and ultimately led to the arrest of this daddy of these hat. The charges filed included “intimidating people with a tall structure having a shining lustre.”

After this incident the game flipped, within the next twenty years almost all the social classes including the working class started wearing them and it was the 19th century when they started to get considered as being the symbol of urban respectability. Hat manufacturers in England made a good amount of money from these hats. These hats gained massive importance in politics and international diplomacy. They made so much of a statement that the word “Gentleman” got directly related to these hats.

This famous hat was not meant to be worn in a simple way. Style and fashion trends were introduced regarding the decision of how they should be worn. It is not known who set the standard but the fashion was to wear it tilted at 10 degrees, in any direction. This act shows that people had fashion and style sense even at that time.

In the 1950s, men wore these hats for business, pleasure and formal occasions, but later in the 1960s this trend started getting too old and classy, only the old men were seen wearing them. Soon the naked head became the new fashion. So, now the trend has become limited to people of a particular age. It’s really remarkable to see how fashion trends change over time.