History of Women's Fashion

The buzz around New York Fashion Week is always exciting. It's wonderful to see people from all over the world gather together for their love of fashion.
It makes you realize how important fashion is. One of the first things we do in the morning is decide what to wear. Whether we're heading out for a day of leisure or getting ready to make a big sales pitch, our clothes help us tell our story throughout the day.
Fashion has always been key to how women have presented themselves to the world, and how society has wanted to present women to the world. From panniers that emphasized wide hips to shoulder pads that emphasized "power," the fashion of the time tells our history in great detail.
Whether it's fashion week or not, MAKERS is taking a look back at the history of women's fashions from before the French Revolution up to the modern century. Take a look in the gallery above.
Panniers, or side hoops that extended the width of a dress while keeping the front and back relatively flat, were worn at court with formal gowns at court.  
The fashion-forward shoes of the mid-18th century had high, curved heels and were made of fabric or leather, with separate shoe buckles. The shoe became known as the "Louis heel." Interestingly, the height of heels have been seen as economic indicators; the higher the heel, the wealthier a nation.
By the 1830s, the silhouette of the time had almost fully transitioned from the Empire silhouette of the early 19th century to a silhouette that accentuated the fashionable feminine figure with its sloping shoulders, rounded bust, narrow waist and full hips. Leg 'o mutton sleeves and wider skirts highlighted a narrow waist achieved through corseting.
Trends remained similar into the 1840s, characterized by a narrow, natural shoulder line following the exaggerated puffed sleeves and lower waistlines. 
The hoop skirt has also become associated with the American Civil War "southern belle." The most iconic southern belle is, of course, Gone With the Wind's Scarlett O'Hara.  
Surprisingly, the 1860s also saw an emergence of alternative fashions known as the Artistic Dress movement. Artistic Dress rejected the highly structured and heavily trimmed Paris fashion of the day in favor of simplicity and beautiful materials.
At the turn of the century, fashion took on simpler, more pragmatic lines with a rise in women's sportswear. With changing attitudes about what was acceptable for women to do, such as bicycling and playing tennis, fashions were created around the activities. 
The early 20th century is characterized by tall, stiff collars, broad hats, and "health corset" that removed pressure from the abdomen and created an S-curve silhouette. 
Huge, broad-brimmed hats were worn, trimmed with masses of feathers and occasionally complete stuffed birds or decorated with ribbons and artificial flowers. 
The full "Gibson Girl" hairstyles were also popular, as seen on "Gibson Girl," Evelyn 
Lack of money during the Great Depression affected everyday clothes, but Hollywood was an escape from harsh realities. It was the golden age of Escapism and glamour, and that included the fashions on screen. The bias cut made popular by starlet Jean Harlow was made of silk or satin and clung to a woman’s curves, highlighting the feminine 
When women went to work during the war, they needed safe clothing that wouldn’t snag in machinery, like men's pants. Trends followed suit such as the high waisted trouser Katharine Hepburn made popular.
Following the war, fashion saw a resurgence of haute couture. The harder military look was replaced by soft femininity of Christian Dior's "New Look" silhouette, characterized by a small, nipped-in waist and full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which contrasted greatly to the 1940s fabric austerity.
In the 1950s, Lucille Ball was the first woman to show her pregnancy on television! I Love Lucy brought new attention to maternity wear.
The 1960s saw a number of diverse trends that mirrored the time's social movements. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was a style icon of the early 1960s with her pillbox hats and geometric suits. 
Fashion in the late 1960s was just as revoluationary as the times. Mod and hippie chic reigned. Mod fashion meant flat shoes, sleek, almost andorgynous lines. Pictured is queen of mod, Twiggy. 
Representing the counter culture, hippie fashion was almost the opposite of mod. The emphasis of their style was on comfort and flow. Women wore jeans, brightly colored, psychedelic patterns and non-Western inspired clothing.
The 1970s was the age of disco! The wrap dress, orginated by Diane Von Furstenberg, was a staple for the woman going to the office in the day and out at night. Platform shoes gave way to mules and ankle-strapped shoes, both reminiscent of the 1940s, at the very end of the decade.
Pop culture infiltrated the 1980s with superstars like Madonna introducing risqué trends like visible bra straps and wearing underwear as outerwear.
Fashion in the 1980s rejected the non-materialist hippie values that had inspired much of the fashion in the 1970s. People were earning more money, and bigger meant better. The soap opera Dynasty popularized shoulder pads, which gave women, now more prevalant in the workplace, a "power dress" to feel equal to men in the office. .

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