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Fashions linked to social history?

(15 Posts)
TinyDiamond Tue 12-Mar-13 09:53:08

painting down the back of the leg to look like a seamed stocking

FrugalFashionista Tue 12-Mar-13 08:37:10

I bet there are lots of great books about history and social history of fashion in your local library. Mine had a Japanese book about the urban tribes/subcultures of 20th century (mods, BCBG, niche music subcultures I had never heard of) and their rules, dos and do nots are incredibly intricate. It must be hard-wired in us, we are like birds in a sense.

Fashion is a language. What you wear brodcasts your values, beliefs and aspirations. Not paying attention to what you wear is a strong statement too - it says 'I'm above it all/ not required do this/ have other more stringent issues on my mind".

Am particularly fascinated by religious orders. You'd think it's simple - it is not. Each order has their specific rules and preferred footwear. Not to mention wimples (?) and the way of tying the rope belt and sack cloth just so. Not to forget the lacy gowns and striking colors and pink umbrellas cardinals wear. Witnessed two nuns shopping at a discount store some time ago. It was a white sale but they were incredibly excited about choosing just the right bargain handkerchiefs grin

And don't get me started on rappers dressing as bankers and football tribes (politicians wearing football scarves) and princesses and first ladies wearing high street...

Saw a lady wearing a full-length black silk Victorian dress with a small hat and a bustle and period jewellery to a party the other day. (She was not a waitress or performer, it was not a costume party). Now that's a strong statement grin

VioletGoesVintage Tue 12-Mar-13 07:59:29

The fashion for wearing purple, green and white extended beyond suffragettes at the turn of the twentieth century to their female - and male - supporters. Some people wore whole outfits in those colours, others trimmed a hat in appropriately coloured ribbons and some even had special jewellery designed. I have just such a piece of jewellery - a brooch - handed down from a relative. Social and political history in my jewellery box!

louloutheshamed Tue 12-Mar-13 07:16:30

I love all this stuff it's so fascinating!

FrugalFashionista Tue 12-Mar-13 06:05:28

I agree with Flora that fashion, history and sociology are tightly linked.
Take certain colors (purple in ancient Rome for example): producing the dye was very costly, use of it was limited to certain classes and signified social rank and wealth just like a Hermes bag does now.

In Northern Europe at various times, certain styles of dress (use of color and pattern) have been regulated by legislation and taxation. (Again, to show people's class membership but also as a form of a luxury tax / tax on conspicuous consumption). There were rules about how many stripes your cloth could have and how much lace was allowed. This of course meant people went in to a lot of trouble to make the impression that they belonged to a higher class using allowed materials.

I think I'm terribly individual when I choose an outfit, but the formulas are in place to show group membership and aspirations (skinnies, tunic, the right boots when I want to underline that I am a new mother - a breton really drives it home) - suit, structured jacket when I want to convey authority and financial independence (see what emancipation / feminism did to clothes - women adopted menswear), a designer dress, designer bag and chunky jewellery ("I belong here" even if I don't, "I am someone important" even if I am not).

Now we want to think we live in a pluralistic society, and everything is in fashion, but our society is full of groups who enforce a strict dress code (goths, various other street culture groups; bankers and other professionals; art students/ creatives; celebrities and celebrity wannabes; religious groups and orders). I think MN has a fairly strict dress code too (mum boot and jean threads).

Even the history of polyester is interesting. It's imitation silk, essentially plastic, made from oil for pennies, so that the masses could wear something that looked and felt almost like silk.

Does any elderly relative of yours hate viscose? It was all that was available during wartime rationing when cotton and wool were scarce and reserved for uniforms. My grandmother associated viscose/ramie with hard times (wood and paper shoes worn in winter).

Could go on but getting out of breath grin

DawnOfTheDee Mon 11-Mar-13 19:17:29

The fashion for wearing jeans that are very low slung so you can see people's underwear poking out of the top is from america and can be referred to as 'prison chic'. Obviously in prison they take away your belts so inmates trousers would appear very low slung. The look was then popularised by 'gansta' rappers and then went mainstream.

BikeRunSki Mon 11-Mar-13 19:14:46

Full skirts in the 1950s when fabric became more available and affordable. Flip side is narrow / A line skirts in the 1940s.

littlehalo Mon 11-Mar-13 19:13:06

This image celebrating 150 years of the London Underground springs to mind also:

littlehalo Mon 11-Mar-13 19:11:24

The mod style, or if we want to be label-specific Fred Perry:

florascotia Mon 11-Mar-13 19:08:05

Surely, all clothing is linked to social history? It doesn't just happen. For instance, we would not have had Jane Austen style draped, high-waisted muslin dresses without French Revolution admiration of ancient Greece combined with British/French commercial and military intervention in India (where fine white cottons came from). Similarly, factory mass-produced cheap and washable cotton cloth revolutionised British working women's clothing in the 19th century. So did the self-conscious conspicuous consumption of the new upper-middle-class of the late 19th cent, where luxurious but impractical clothes for the wives of self-made men were an advertisment of their riches, because the clothes were so obviously impossible to do manual work in. If it matters, so were many of the Downton Abbey garments.

Further back in time, medieval women's all-covering garments were influenced by contemporary religious and secular attitudes towards women's sexuality. And the high-waisted/full-bellied look fashionable among upper classes in the 14th/15th centuries reflected noblewomen's most important function - to produce a male heir to continue the family and inherit the land and title. Even the colours of women's clothes in many medieval images contain a code for how the woman should be 'evaluated'. (Blue = virgin, yellow = prostitute, etc). So do medieval female hairstyles (roughly: loose hair = loose woman or else (depending on context) extreme ingenue/virgin). The flapper dresses (and short hair and no corsets) of the 1920s deserve whole books to decode them, and have had them. At completely the other end of the timescale, an archaeologist I once worked with used to say that tunic plus trousers were the first, 'basic', clothes for all humanity, whatever their gender
Terribly, terribly sorry to go on so. By profession, am a historian.

bigyellowfish Mon 11-Mar-13 17:24:50

This is interesting, I was talking to someone the other day about the idea that there is a correlation between women's hemlines and the economy. Short skirts mean a time of wealth and vice versa.

Mominatrix Mon 11-Mar-13 17:14:13


- Lutheranism/calvinism/puritanism and their chosen dress, which was very different from the ostentatious costume of the day

- punk and the late 70s

- 80s and the power suit/huge shoulder pads/ chunky gold jewellery

- Dior and the New Look

- Neoclassicism and the change in dress during the early 19th century

Just a few off the top of my head. Dress during each era all has social connotations

louloutheshamed Mon 11-Mar-13 17:07:29

Ooh what was the reason for those? I always thought it was a v dramatic shift from victorian style to flimsy little dresses!

Trills Mon 11-Mar-13 17:00:58

Flapper-style dresses and short hair in the 20s?

louloutheshamed Mon 11-Mar-13 17:00:29

Can you think I any other examples except for the miniskirt?

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