“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” -Coco Chanel

Consider James Laver’s theoretical law on the timeline of fashion…

Laver’s Law

Indecent 10 years before its time
Shameless 5 years before its time
Daring 1 year before its time
Smart ——————–
Dowdy 1 year after its time
Hideous 10 years after its time
Ridiculous 20 years after its time
Amusing 30 years after its time
Quaint 50 years after its time
Charming 70 years after its time
Romantic 100 years after its time
Beautiful 150 years after its time

In the Beginning…Ancient drawings discovered on cave walls only included those of animals, indicating that humans did not consider themselves set apart from the rest of the world.

In 10,000 B.C. the history of man was forever changed with the invention of the needle and loom. People made clothing from soaked animal skins, hide, and an early version of felt formed by meshing two skins together.

During the Neolithic Period (6,000 B.C.) people began to settle down. They built bigger looms and made jewelry and weaponry. Natural sources made dyeing fabrics possible. A shell was used to create purple and led to the discovery of indigo. Mordent allowed colors to stay.

Fashion and clothing as the “silent communicator”: protection, modesty, status, affiliation, identification, comfort, superstition, belief systems.

Prehistoric times called for mostly furs, draped skin, and simplicity.

Mesopotamia 3500 B.C.–333 B.C. Basics: wrapped animal skins, stylized tufts, bare chested, dressed not for warmth but for status. (cylindrical silhouette) Assyrians: tunics, squared beards, petals as fringe. (cone shapes) Persians: trousers, fuller garments, cooler climate, women covered up, tunics with surcoats, woven fabrics. (pointed shapes) “Purdah” 1200 B.C.-Assyrians started the custom of veiling women in public.

Egypt 3100 B.C.–30 B.C. Egyptians enhanced and controlled nature through concepts of beauty. Basics: gowns called kalasiris with breasts in full view, clothing used to symbolize status, elaborate wigs and collars, shenti=loin cloths, cosmetics, gold, linen. (angular shapes)

Minoan 3,000 B.C.–1450 B.C. The First European Civilization Basics: tiered dresses with circular skirts, colorful, elaborate detailing in clothing and hairstyles, pleating, exposed breasts, cinched waists, filigree, grooming was important, bathing was a daily ritual. (hourglass shape)

Ancient Greece 1700 B.C.–146 B.C. Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic Basics: chiton, chylamis, himation, drapery, fibulae, wool, linen, patterned fabric, cosmetics, bleached hair to blonde, conditioned skin, cleaned teeth, bathed, exercised, very body conscious.

Etruscan 753 B.C.–509 B.C. Basics: very colorful, not modest about nudity, athletic, joyful people, t-shaped tunic, followed Greek fashions, cloaks, loin cloths, wool, cotton, chiton, Etruscan tebenna later develops into the Roman toga.

Roman 753 B.C.–395 A.D. 509 B.C.–476 A.D. (Fall of Rome) Basics: narrow, simple, dalmatica, tunic, palla, togas, full range of color, linen, wool, silk, cuculus, all about hair, fibulae, layering, bathing, military, Roman brides wore red, modest about nudity, clothes were sewn.

Byzantine (New Rome) The Dark Ages and Byzantium Coexist 324 A.D.–1453 Basics: Greco-Roman influence, dalmatika, chemise, stola, moving toward Medieval fashion, veils, pearls, public baths, clothing was symbolic of stature and rank, robes, silk, taffeta, brocade, damask, perfumery.

The Dark Ages (Carolingian and Romanesque) 476 A.D.–1150. The End of The World Basics: bliaut, cyclas, trousers, plaids, camisa, hooded garments, capuchon, full skirts, tabard, long sleeves, utilitarian, “barbaric,” knots, braids, colder climate.

Medieval, Gothic, Middle Ages 1150–1485. Nationalistic Styling and The S-Curve Basics: influenced by Byzantine dress, vertical shapes, more fitted, flowing gowns, cotehardie, cloaks, tunics, surcotes, silk, brocade, wool, flemish, parti-colored, emblems, dagging, hennins, wimple, barbette, chaperone, pale complexions, poulaines, rise of heraldry, chivalry, Crusades, Black Death.

The Renaissance 14th–16th century. Fashion For Fashion’s Sake Basics: shapes becoming rounder, accentuated physique, farthingales, corsets, drawers, pleated cloaks, lace-making, codpieces, peascod belly, padding for men, slashing, flamboyant, tailors, looser, sexier clothing.

Elizabethan/Jacobean 1558-1603 Basics: fairly rigid, stiffness, linearity, ruffs, flatchested look, V-waist, farthingale, bumroll, Venetians, blouses with exposed chests for men, pearls, heeled shoes, whisks, tight, elaborate, heavy and luxurious fabrics.

Cavalier (Early Baroque) 1620-1660. Spain No Longer Dominates Fashion…France Does Basics: sensual, soft look, doublets, canons, breeches, busk, frock, corset, less stiffness, waistlines rose, embroidery, muffs, hat and plume, very ornamented, falling lace collar, turned down boots, loose hair, echelon: ribbons and bows.

Baroque/Restoration 1660-1715. “L’etat c’est moi”~Louis XIV Basics: wealthy era, imposing, heavy, vertical look, moving toward Colonial fashion, coat, vest, britches, canons, stockings, busk, Manteau gown, plunging neckline, high waisted, fontages, lace, ribbons, silver and gold embroidery, high heeled shoes, jewelry, elegance, decolletage, fontanges, poor hygiene, lots of perfumes.

Rococo 1715-1775. The Dressmaker is Revered as a Designer Basics: The Englightenment glorifies women through art and philosophy, light basket around waist as undergarment, pannier (overskirt), silk brocade shoes with heels, Watteau gowns, silks, brocades, jacquard loom invented, fullness from Baroque moves to sides, knee britches, riding boots, powdered hair, mob cap, powder and rouge on faces, corset with V-bodice, softer sleeves, lace collar, sweetheart necklines, sausage curls, pastels, ribbons, lace, birds, flowers, feminine feel, pretty, tricorne, vest, coat, jabot, bag wig, bombazine, King Louis imposed an idealistic pastoral influence on trends. (Rounded hourglass shape)

Neoclassical 1775-1795 and the Revolution 1790-1795 Basics: dresses are called robes: Robe a la Englais (fitted all the way down) and Robe a la Francais (fitted in the front with a Watteau back), fashion dolls become popular, poor hygiene, cosmetics are used to hide bad skin, children get play-clothes!, toilles (scenes depicting an idealized countryside) become popular in mid 18th century, jacquard, satin, silk, seersucker (striped linen with a pucker), French Revolution shuts down fashion in France, Phrygian bonnet resurfaces, waistcoat, trousers, hair is getting bigger, the English wore waistcoats cutaway to reveal underskirts, redingote, stock, mobcap, fullest and most unrealistic proportions after the Baroque period, bicornes, military costumes become ornate, Spencer jacket, stripes.

Directoire/Empire 1795-1815 Basics: high-waisted sheer dresses, revealing bustlines, messy hair for men, cropped jackets, fascination with the classical lines of Greece, tophat, shawls, pouf, time of the first male fashion plate, carrick greatcoat, Incroyables, Marveilleuses, reticule, moving toward Romanticism.

Romantic 1815-1848 Basics: bateau neckline, Bertha collar, Byron collar, frock coat, crinoline, leg-o-mutton sleeves, opera cloak, stock, Zouave jacket, emphasis on small waist, rounded sloping shoulders and slender necks, fashionable women took on a porcelain doll quality, women were ‘fashionably ill’ or faint, women looked like tea cozies-“Tussy Mussy,” hourglass shape for men and women, hair pulled up, corsets, wasp waist for men, men were generally clean shaven and later had small mustaches, the Hoop Skirt became popular mid-century, trousers, stirrups, modern evening attire for men.

Victorian (crinoline) 1848-1870 and Victorian (bustle) 1870-1890 Basics: Basque, bloomers, cardigans, bowler or derby hats, bolero, crinoline, morning coat, mutton chops, pagoda sleeves, paisley shawls, pea jackets, sacksuit, Chignon hairstyle, cinched waist and off the shoulder dresses, handkerchiefs, hoop skirts, promenade gowns, carriages, elaborate cloaks, men wore cutaway jackets, equestrian styling for daytime, Charles Worth and Levi Strauss contributed greatly to the progression of fashion and design, the first department store came about in the 19th century, emphasis on propriety, ascot tie, dust ruffle, blazer, bustle, Chesterfield overcoat, Eton jacket, fedora, jersey sweater, tuxedo, swallowtail jackets, Windsor ties, monocle, knickerbockers, wing collar, modern formalwear, sewing machines made ready to wear clothing!, and true couture sets in.

Edwardian 1890-1911. The Unnatural Waistline Persists Basics: seaside trips and bathing suits, promenade costumes for women: jacket and bustle, smart hats, adorable button up boots, fullness flattened down the back giving a centaur-like silhouette, stovepipe trousers, waistcoat, looking more modern, different outfits for different sports, Gibson Girl, idealized womanhood, soft and romantic, Art Nouveau-extravagant, over-civilized decadence, Art Deco-more freedom from corseting, skirts impossibly long and tight at bottom=”hobble skirt,” the advent of film (1910).

WWI and the 1920’s. The War and the Flapper Era Basics: Paul Poiret as the purveyor of eastern fashion, encouraged freedom from corsets, fur shawls and stoles, turban, fantastic headdresses, knee britches for sports, men were static as far as fashion, the war effort called for women to give up their corsets for steel, to be patriotic was fashionable, blouses, skirts, cropped hair, cloches, fashion halts with the war, the invention of birth control-condoms were given to soldiers to prevent Venereal Disease, birth control promoted sexual freedom and the party atmosphere of the twenties, Louise Brooks, cowl neckline, shawl collar, saddle oxfords, trench coat, turtleneck sweaters, pajamas, kimonos, the ‘bob’ or the ‘shingle’ hairstyle, t-shirts, chemise dresses, boutonnieres, jodhpurs, suppressed bustlines, straight and thin figures were in, t-strap shoes with a Louis heel, fashion was dictated by youth, nude hose, the new erogenous zone is the leg, men’s dress reflected uniforms after WWI, zoot suits, crazy times until the stock market crashes in 1929.

1930’s The Golden Age of Hollywood and The Rise of Chanel’s Practical Silhouette Basics: women began to wear pants, Kathleen Hepburn, Gretta Garbo, Marlene Diedrich, during the Depression brides cut their gowns, Gone With The Wind, Wizard of Oz, slinky, long and shiny gowns, Fred Astaire, backless gowns, the waist becomes natural, tanning and swimming becomes popular, erogenous zone is now the back, legs are covered up, poor women made dresses from flour sacks, the zipper becomes acceptable in women’s clothing, bathing suits trim down, tanned skin symbolizes the leisure class.

WWII/1940’s Basics: the aloha shirt, argyle, beanies, Bermuda shorts, culottes, crew cuts, loafers, teddies, windbreakers, flight jackets, halter neckline, cummerbund, platform shoes, sportswear, high fashion is relocated from France to the United States.

1950’s The Dior Revolution Basics: skirts get longer, the hourglass silhouette is very similar to Victorian, the natural waist is corseted again by the “Merry Widow”-breast support and boned down the waist, voluminous skirts, crinoline is replaced by tulle, strapless gowns, silk, evening wear, ballerina look, epitomized by narrow grey flannel suit for men, the ‘new look’ is characterized by the little black dress and pearls, chukka boot, gaucho pants, twin sets, poodle skirts, pageboy haircuts, mandarin jackets, car coats, ballet slippers, the A-line dress, duffle coat, capri pants, shifts, parkas, pedal pushers, women were encouraged to stay home and men had first picks for jobs, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Johnny Cash, France returns as the leader of couture.

1960’s and 1970’s. Great Social Change Precipitates Great Fashion Change Basics: the miniskirt emerges from Great Britain, youth movement, bob hairstyles, Twiggy, caftans, Nehru jackets, maxi skirts, micro skirts, mod clothing, pantsuits, the birth of the supermodel, ponchos, punk, Sassoon cut, Velcro, vinyl, the moon girl-space age waif, hot pants, flower children, afros, catsuits, the extreme mod look, the hippie look, and preppy styles coexist, the Beatles, designers look to art, music, and youth for inspiration, individualism in fashion takes hold, patches, parti-colored look, the rise of vintage, peasant look, ethnic influences, the crotch is the new erogenous zone, birth control promotes ‘free love,’ sexuality takes a physical presence as shirts and pants grow increasingly tight.

Influential Designers

France (Paris)

  • Paul Poiret-“hobble skirt”
  • Coco Chanel-adaptation of menswear, more freedom, accessories
  • Pierre Cardin-first designer to license his name
  • Christian Dior-the “new look,” master of construction, the silhouette
  • Yves St. Laurent-headed house of Dior, pantsuit, Rive Gauche
  • Hubert de Givenchy-slim silhouette, Audrey Hepburn look, prominent in 1960’s
  • Karl Lagerfeld (German designer for French houses), supermodel muse, unique look
  • Jean Patou-now a fragrance house, Joy is the costliest perfume per ounce, 1919
  • Andre Courreges-“space-age” look
  • John Galliano-house of Dior
  • Louis Vuitton-durable luggage, monogram dates from 1896, now headed by Marc Jacobs

Italy (Milan)

  • Mario Fortuny-textiles, artists, pleats of silk
  • Gucci-finely crafted leather goods, revived by Tom ford, huge fashion house
  • Salvatore Ferragamo-accessories, shoes, stiletto heel in the 1950’s
  • Valentino-flamboyant Italian clothing
  • Giorgio Armani-classic design, tailoring, understatement, suits
  • Versace-decorative, artistic, emphasis on the body
  • Pucci-modern, bright, fun printed fabrics
  • Prada-originally leather goods, 1910, Miuccia Prada made her bridge line in 1978

American Designers

  • Claire McCardell-sportswear, separates, and bodysuit for women
  • Donna Karan-bodysuit, wrap skirt, worked for Anne Klein
  • Anne Klein-sportswear
  • Bill Blass-suits and licensing
  • Halston-big in the 1960’s and did a lot for the Kennedy family
  • Oscar de la Renta-South American, huge name here, feminine design
  • Ralph Lauren-classic American sportswear inspired by classic style and equestrian attire
  • Calvin Klein-“risqué” ads, simple, classic, American sportswear
  • Victor Costa-known for knocking off French designs
  • Betsey Johnson-known for taking underground looks mainstream, whimsical, fun
  • Marc Jacobs-designed for Perry Ellis and Louis Vuitton


  • Escada-beautiful fabrications, easy fits, big price points
  • Hugo Boss-1923, known for making uniforms for Hitler, now part of Valentino Group


  • Mr. Charles Worth-took dressmaking to couture level
  • Burberry-classic design and label recognition
  • Zandra Rhodes-name “mother of punk” for reworking punk into high fashion


  • Rei Kawakuba-“Comme des Garcons,” unique approach to the silhouette, 70’s-80’s
  • The Black Pack-set the stage for D&G and Prada now with creative and utilitarian looks

Contemporary Fashion as a Business: The fashion industry is made up of tiers based on price point.

  • Couture
  • Designer
  • Bridge
  • Moderate

There are only about three thousand true couture customers in the world (Alexander McQueen and Badgley Mischka). Couture collections fuel ready-to-wear collections. Designer collections maintain serious price tags and inspired styles (Max Azria, Armani Black Label, Dolce and Gabbana). Bridge lines serve as a segway between designer wear and moderate price tags (Betsey Johnson, BCBG, Marc by Marc Jacobs). Moderate labels offer designer inspired looks and affordability for all (Luella for Target).

Pinault-Printempts-Redoute and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy are the heavyweights of fashion holdings. These conglomerates maintain the luxuries of the world-from fashion houses to accessories and champagne. Conglomerates have given the public access to stock options in design houses and have fueled the fashion industry financially…and that is a worthy investment.

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