Menu Close

Evolution of Fashion

There’s no question that fashion has changed drastically over the course of human history. There are so many trends and pieces to account for that there’s no way we could list them all here, but it wouldn’t be a throwback issue without a highlight reel of some of the most notable fashion looks from ancient history to modern day. Here’s a quick rundown, thanks to the Fashion History Timeline created by the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Ancient History

  • Roman Clavus
    • Vertical bands running down the front and back of usually white tunics
    • Could be simple or detailed (florals, animals, mythological scenes)
  • Egyptian Linen Headdress
    • What most people think of when they hear traditional Egyptian fashion
    • Brightly colored, stiff linen that was meant to frame the face of the pharaohs who wore them
    • King Tutankhamun usually depicted with one
  • Peplos
    • Greek outerwear usually worn by women
    • Sleeveless, long piece of wool, silk, or cotton pinned at the shoulder and belted at the waist
    • Usually ankle-length, many Goddesses depicted wearing them at knee-length
  • Kohl
    • Popularized by the Egyptians
    • Black, gray, or colored eyeliner also worn for eye protection
    • Worn by men and women 
  • Toga Picta
    • Celebratory Roman toga worn in honor ceremonies
    • Usually dyed purple with gold embroidery
    • Loaned to people for specific occasions, emperors the only people allowed to own them
  • Himation
    • Greek cloak worn specifically over the left shoulder
    • Worn by men and women, but women often used them as veils
    • Could relay class status depending on how it was worn

Middle Ages

  • Barbette
    • 1200-1350 CE
    • A linen wrap worn under the chin and pinned at the sides
    • Worn by women when they were wearing other head coverings to keep it all in place
  • Tablion
    • Popular in the fifth through tenth century
    • Colorful embroidered panels attached to the front of cloaks
    • Accessory worn by Byzantine emperors, empresses, and other important figures
  • Dalmatic Tunic
    • T-shaped, Byzantine tunics with wide sleeves
    • Usually adorned with woven tapestries

14th Century

  • Cochineal Dyes
    • Red dyes taken from cochineal beetles, usually found on prickly pear cacti
    • Popular in Southern Mexico and Guatemala
    • Used for clothing and home décor
  • Labret
    • Lip piercing usually used to indicate wealth and beauty
    • Popular in Aztec and African cultures, but had slightly different meanings 
  • Pattens
    • Platforms with wooden soles worn over shoes
    • Meant to protect feet from mud
    • Sometimes depicted as long and pointy, but usually looked like modern sandals
  • Poulaine
    • Soft, slip-on shoes with long pointy toes
    • Popular in Poland
    • Toes were stuffed and whale bones were inserted for support
  • Doublet
    • Fitted men’s jacket that became cropped over time
    • High-standing collars 
    • Could be sleeveless or long sleeves
  • Dagging
    • Decorative element added to the edges of clothing
    • Fabric cut into different shapes, like scalloping 
    • Some viewed the act of wearing dagged clothing as sinful

15th Century

  • 1400-1409
    • Womenswear
      • Large, draped garments known as chemise became popular
      • Houppelandes, outerwear with high necklines and long sleeves
      • Roll of fabric known as a bourrelet worn between two cones of hair directly on top of the head. These cones are also known as “a pair of temples”
    • Menswear
      • Fitted clothes
      • Strong use of color and ornamentation
    • Class status revealed through the type of fabrics used
  • 1410-1419
    • Not much changed from the previous decade, but it all got a bit more extravagant 
  • 1420-1429
    • Wool became popular
    • Traditional robes seen among men
  • Chaperon
    • Wrapped headdress with long tails draped over the shoulders
  • Stomacher
    • Triangle-shaped panel meant to fill the opening on the front of gowns and bodices
    • Stiff and highly decorated
  • Spanish Farthingale
    • Hooped skirt worn under many layers of clothing 
    • Gave women a triangular silhouette
    • Could be made of wood, rope, or whale bone

16th Century

  • 1510 
    • Cloaks became common
    • Slashing technique used to expose the fabric underneath cloaks
    • Low, square necklines
    • Puff sleeves that became fitted from the elbow to the wrist
  • 1570-1579
    • Extravagance is back
    • Womenswear
      • Chemises and embroidery
      • All about having a wide silhouette
      • Doublet-style bodices
    • Menswear
      • Heavy padding known as a peascod was worn at the waist to create a wider shape
      • Doublets paired with stockings
  • 1580s
    • Black became a popular dye among the elite
    • Standing collars were back in fashion
  • 1590-1599
    • Womenswear
      • Bodices made to flatten the chest and recede the waist
      • Hanging sleeves with huge skirts
      • Ruffs, removable pleated collars, were paired with jewelry 
      • White became popular as a sign of purity
      • Nature-themed embroidery
    • Menswear
      • Jerkins, jackets worn over the doublet, were paired with doublets, tights, cloaks, and boots
      • A loose and slightly distressed aesthetic became popular
      • Meant to make men look more melancholic
    • Bombast/Bombasted
      • Padding used to structure clothing to create a specific silhouette
      • Usually made of wool or horsehair
      • Helped people achieve the wide looks in the stomach, shoulders, and thighs that they were going for

17th Century

  • All-black outfits with white accents in the collars and cuffs became common among Europeans
  • Wampum
    • Shell beads used in headbands and belts to create images and patterns
    • Popular among Indigenous Americans, wampum is Algonquian for “small shell beads”
    • Often white or purple, given as gifts and in ceremonies before colonizers appeared
  • Quillwork
    • Also popular among Indigenous Americans
    • Used to add ornamentation to textiles
    • Porcupine quills are plucked, washed, dyed, dried, and softened
    • Used on ceremonial wear
  • Chantilly Lace
    • A specific style of black lace used to create four-point or six-point stars
  • Rebato
    • Large, standing lace collar supported with a wire
    • Worn by both men and women
  • Falling Band
    • Also known as falling collars
    • Flat, white, layered collars with lace edges worn by men
    • Rested on the shoulders, like little capes

18th Century

  • All about opulence
  • 1700-1709
    • Womenswear
      • Mantua: Jacket-like bodice with a pulled back overskirt; think Cinderella’s stepsisters
  • Fontange: linen cap with layers of lace and ribbon, loose curls left in the front to offset the bonnet
  • Lots of lace and basic pieces
  • Heels with pointed toes were on the rise
  • Menswear
    • Super colonial, think Founding Fathers-chic
    • Long coats over basic pieces
    • Open sleeves with tight fits
    • Wigs worn with three-cornered black hats
  • 1778
    • Strong emphasis on the figure, aka tight clothes
    • Pointed-toe heels with embellished sides, known as Louis heels, became popular
  • 1783
    • Chemise dresses put a new spin on the original chemise, also known as a “robe en chemise”
    • Added a waistline, puffed sleeves, low neckline, and full skirts to the simple design
    • Usually made of muslin
  • 1787-1789
    • Less flamboyance in menswear
    • No silk and ornamented outfits
    • No wigs, moved to wide-awake hats

19th Century

  • Akwete
    • Decorative cloth full of weaved colorful geometric patterns
    • Popular among Igbo women in Nigeria and can still be seen in clothes today
  • Moccasins
    • Soft animal skin
    • Have been around longer than the 19th century, but this is when they were first taken note of
    • Could include feathers, leaves, or beaded flowers
    • Imported silk added as time went on
  • Bark Cloth
    • Fabric made from tree bark, usually ficus
    • Found in East and Central Africa
    • Technique used before weaving was popularized
    • Have a symbolic meaning and commonly used at healing ceremonies
  • Back Apron (Negbe)
    • Oval-shaped decorative pad that covered a woman’s backside
    • Seen amongst Mangbetu women in Africa
    • Could by dyed with plant fibers
  • Boubou
    • African robe, popular in Senegal 
    • One large rectangle of fabric draped down the shoulders to billow out across the body
    • Often stiffly starched and indigo blue
    • Meant to give the illusion of height
  • Muslin
    • Cotton, wool, or silk plain-weave textile
    • Durable and used in many outfits as it could be dyed or left undyed

20th Century

  • Post WWII brought about a surge of whimsical and fairytale-like fashion
  • Flowy skirts and playful patterns
  • Rise in Black fashion designers
    • Ann Lowe, 1960s
      • Most known for designing Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress
      • Emulated the romantic vibes seen immediately after the war
      • Used narrow silhouettes with empire waists and low-scoop or square necklines
    • Patrick Kelly, 1980s
      • Lots of color, typical ’80s vibes 
      • Form-fitting dresses
      • Broke the mold of the alluring runway supermodel
  • 1981
  • Princess Diana’s wedding dress
    • The dress to end all dresses
    • Ivory, silk taffeta with lace, sequins, and pearls
    • Full skirt, puff sleeves, boned bodice, and 25-foot train
    • Still inspiring wedding dress designs to this day
  • 1994
  • Princess Diana’s “Revenge Dress”
    • A form-fitting off the shoulder chiffon black cocktail dress
    • Designed by Christina Stambolian
    • Worn to a dinner the night her husband, Prince Charles, announced his infidelity on television
  • 1990-1999
    • Super casual grunge vibes, want to look disheveled
    • Minimalism and oversized for the win
    • Biker shorts, Keds, slip dresses, and cargo pants
    • School style: blazers, khakis, oxfords, and pleated skirts

21st Century

  • Kicked off the millennium with a mix of different fashion choices
  • Low-rise, wide-leg jeans with crop tops, now known as the big pants, tiny shirt look
  • Scene and emo fashion influences can still be seen today
  • Grunge made a reappearance 
  • Now we’re back to Y2K
Posted in BACK OF THE CLOSET

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *