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Fashion throughout the ages
The ancient Greeks are probably the first people who left a clear history of
their fashion. Both men and women wore simple tunics creatively draped around
the body. Brooches, belts or pins were used to create elegant shapes and
folds. Cloth was too valuable to be cut up and was worn whole. Social status
was mainly reflected in the length of the outfit, with peasants wearing short
tunics and wealthier citizens being able to afford more cloth for longer
While Greeks were fairly unpretentious, women did use their hair to create
flair and individuality. Hair was crimped, plaited and woven and decorated
with gold and silver pins and tiaras
Fashion remained relatively unchanged during Roman times. It was the demise of
ancient civilizations and the rise of medieval kingdoms which changed the way
people thought about clothes.
By the seventeenth century, the French royal class had become totally insular
from the rest of society. The Sun King, Louis XIV, declared himself absolute
ruler. In his eyes, clothes made the man – or king. Clothing among the French
aristocracy became elaborate. Cravats, gloves, pants and ornately embroidered
jackets were the order of the day. The body was put on display, down to the
inevitable cod piece.
Woman wore decorative gowns draped over hoops. Much material was used for
these dresses and no expense was spared. Like ancient Greece, hair became a
fashion accessory, with wigs as high as six feet.
British royalty was quick to copy the French fashions and used the finest of
silks and brocade. Only royals were permitted to wear silk. Common people
could wear stylish fashion, but it consisted of wool.
Following the French revolution, such ostentation was no longer fashionable.
With the rise of Puritanism, clothes become simple, modest and lacking in
Morality started to rule fashion.
This Puritanism continued throughout the Victorian Era, where even women’s
hocks and buttons were kept out of sight, lest they convey that there was a
body beneath. Colors were somber. Puritans setting out for the New Land
brought with them heavy black cloth for both women and men’s clothes.
The Roaring Twenties ushered in the era of fashion as a means to
self-expression. Women with bobbed hair and make-up wore shockingly short
dresses and displayed body parts unseen in Victorian times. While World War II
toned down some of the roar of the twenties, in the sixties, Mary Quant’s mini
skirts put the fun back into fashion.
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