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History of Fashion
Fashion first came from animal furs, leaves, skins, whatever would cover up and protect the body, often draped and tied more than 100,000 years ago from Neolithic cultures and from that came textiles from spinning and sewing and weaving to make fabrics for things like cute casual white dresses. However overall throughout history fashionable clothing was generally made for:
• Farmers, outdoor workers who wore special clothing for protection from weather, cold, rain, snow
• Different styles to attract and bond with others to create chemistry
• Tradition and identification in society such as uniforms, white color dresses for brides or black robes for judges or military outfits
• But most of all communication is key, wearing the proper clothing to express emotions, and for that reason clothing and fashions are always changing, things that change are alive and things that don’t are, well, just dead.
• Fashion is a popularity contest for social power, and for survival
All fashions were hand-made, hand-sewn, seamstresses and tailors became a common trade and the difference between fashionable and just casual such as an off the shoulders dress became easy to distinguish and more and more people learned to express themselves, that is until sewing machines were invented and the clothing industry exploded.
Fashion in Egyptian times was a serious matter because of their religious beliefs about animals as gods with powers so they used white linen usually, besides it was a cooler material during a warmer climate and better for the health of most Egyptians, rather than wool coming from animals which was not allowed in the religious temples. Because of its value, children usually did not wear clothing until reaching puberty and depending on the style of the time women wore straps covering one or both breasts or leaving both breasts exposed with tight dresses or robes while men wore only short skirts or loin cloths but usually no shirts because of the climate, necessity for working conditions, stature in culture, and style. Fashion varied because of a person’s occupation and the linen was usually not dyed, it was a simple life not evolving until the New Kingdom era when fashion became more stylish and complex. However, most common and poor people went barefoot and wore very little clothing while the wealthy Egyptians wore sandals with a full length robe, farmers usually only wore loincloths.
In Roman times the first material to be spun was wool because it was used more than anything else particularly from the sheep of Tarentum which were cross bred frequently because the Romans continually tried to make a higher quality of cloth. After the farmers harvest time a cloth spun from a combination of hemp and linen which was similar to wool, would be skinned, dried, immersed in water and then pressed with a mallet and smoothed out before these tough durable materials were woven into the glamorous dresses and other fashions of the time.
From the high cost of imported clothing high quality white color dresses were woven from nettle because silk was rare and expensive from India and China, though cotton was cheaper and more frequently used for its versatility. Wild silk came from short lengths and was spun after the cocoons were gathered in the wild after the insects had eaten their way out of captivity and made rare beautiful cloth known as sea silk from a golden sheen into popular knitted sea silk gloves in Italy because the long silky filaments came from “Pinna nobilis”, a large Mediterranean sea shell. However, sometimes the wool contained about 50% fatty impurities, silk, hemp, and flax was 25% impure, cotton had only 6% impurities being the more pure of all the fibers which had to be prepared for manufacturing in different ways.
For dyeing Romans used a hand spinner to turn their material into different colors. A common tint such as indigo was used for blue or yellow, madder(a dicotyledon angiosperm) was used for red and was cheaper than most others though black was the preferred color. Wealthy women primarily used “haustellum brandaris” for a purple-red color which was also the color of the emperor of Rome and it was imported from Tyre, Lebanon. Saffron was used for “vestal virgins” or married women which was expensive and yellow in color.
The productions of the Romans were similar to the ancient Greeks however the tilled linen and wool were of a far superior quality and the tilling process was ameliorated. Archaeological findings on Greek vases show the art of spinning and weaving fashions which have survived for centuries producing invaluable data on how materials were grown and transported on different trade routs, different climates, cultures and many other things not to mention where the materials were grown, the quality of the soil and the production means used to create the clothing.
Romans had tools similar to those used in the middle ages because they were quite advanced for their time, for example Roman soldiers were kept warm during cold winters and when traveling with heavily fashioned coats made of tanned leather, though leather was mostly used in as shoes and belts to uphold utilities or clothing for work. Mineral tanning or “tawing”(turning hide into leather without tanning) were the two most common methods used for tanning leather. The thickest and toughest leather was used for shoes because they were used for war and so they used cattle skin because while pig or sheep skin was ideal, goat skin was not as available as the others, and when you’re at war you use what you have, there’s not much time to go shopping on Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills. The taxidermist of the ancient Roman era kept the entire body and head of the skins to tie over the soldiers armor for protection. Even the front line soldier called the aquilifer who carried the symbol of Rome into battle would wear the animal’s head on his helmet as a sign of power and strength of spirit when attacking the enemy (It was during this era that undergarments such as the tunica were worn under the toga or “pallium”).
Generally speaking fashionable clothing was woven on vertical looms in ancient times. During the medieval times cloth was manufactured on foot-powered horizontal looms that was made into clothes by tailors at a later time. These two manufacturing systems from Egypt began around 298 AD. The weaver would work with a horizontal loom producing rectangular lengths of cloth shorter than the distance of the weaver’s two arms reaching the shuttle for obvious reasons, though, if a weaver stood at a vertical loom she could weave a greater width for the cloth, such as a toga which is why the toga had such a complex shape.
People, dignitaries, musicians, artists, and other societal icons have always influenced what we wear. Political figures, royalty, sovereign lords, even Diana, the Princess of Wales were always in the daily news and magazines because of their powerful effect in the high fashion world. Even during the 1700s women and dressmakers outside the French court glared at sketches to see what was happening, what was the latest in the news. “Fashion is a mirror” said French King Louis XIV, who was renowned for his extravagant laces, velvets and style.
Fashion is a huge profitable business then and now. More and more people keep buying and selling and producing clothing more than any business in the world. Fashion is also used as a political weapon, for example in nineteenth century England it was against the law to wear clothes produced in France.
It’s easy to see why high fashion dictates the world, look at the baggy pants of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or the bare mid-riffs and athletic clothes of 90201, though high-fashion remains connected to those who are “plugged-in” to events, music, art, and books. Only twenty years ago women opted for glamorous white color dresses, comfortable off the shoulders dresses, cute casual dresses, rather than the moneyed designer styles of the eighties, fashion is always changing and that’s why it is so exciting. Wealthy people around the world ran to Paris fashion shows and New York boutiques just to purchase directly from designer lines. While not everyone can afford expensive designer dresses, some produce ready-to-wear fashions for those less-affluent.
Fashionable styles and popular apparel are constantly in mixed up, and the fashion world is continuously inundated with fly-by-night spoofs and runway innovations and ideas. Power and money have always dominated the fashion industry depending upon how designers and customers view it, and with so many infinite viewpoints of what’s hot and what’s not around the world, no one can ever know what will come tomorrow, what will be fashionable tomorrow and what will be left behind. And so it is a continuous pursuit, a fun exciting, fascinating game to play for attention, popularity, money, power, and survival.
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