Fashion and mode
Fashion and mode have always attracted the attention of people, not only because of the beauty that they provide, but also because of the symbols contained in the clothes designed. Even the ancient man who used to paint his face to frighten his enemies in a way involved in fashion. Hence, fashion has been known to the primitive man, although in ways that differ from the ways we know it today. This paper discusses the origin of fashion, its meanings and its development in history to the present day.
Basically, there are two reasons for wearing clothes. The first reason is to hide the body and genitals from other people’s eyes, mainly in the name of modesty. The second reason is to protect the body from the climate, especially heat and cold (Payne 1). However, the fashion itself is different from just putting on clothes. It is something that has to do with the mentality of people, the way they think and behave, and the roles they play.
Many think that fashion is something new that was encouraged by the TV and the media. It is true that the TV and media encouraged fashion, but as a matter of fact, fashion goes back to ancient history where people used to dress and wear things for certain reasons. For example, the kings of Egypt used to wear the tails of lions in order to show their courage and bravery. Similarly, hunters in many civilizations used to put on the horns, skins and hoofs of the animals they hunted in order to show that they had the qualities of these animals (Payne 3).
The basic needs of hiding and protecting the body, in addition to the religious superstitions of hunters were major issues for many years. However, in our world today, fashion is far more complicated, especially that it is more related to our psychology and sociology. For example, one sociological theory states that in many societies, the wife’s clothing is the showcase through which the husband shows off in front of others, especially that garments reflect beauty and wealth (Payne 3).
Choosing our clothes is more complicated today than ever, especially that we are influenced with many factors such as our roles in society and the influence that we intend to have on people by wearing our garments. People today choose and wear clothes carefully to create and strengthen the image they wish to present to the public, a function known as “role-playing” (Payne 5).
Thus, the needs of people to enhance their role-playing helps create new fashions. Nevertheless, in many times, fashion starts from new ideas, especially when people are looking for change. Every fashion has a life cycle that is made up of six stages. In the first stage, an idea is made or formed. In the second stage, this idea is tailored into a tangible garment. In the third step, the tailored material is presented to the fashion press and social leaders. If accepted, the fashion goes into the fourth stage where it is received by the social leaders and surrounded with publicity. Once the fashion becomes famous, it goes into the phase of general acceptance, as it is followed by the general public, and finally, it starts to decline and eventually disappear (Chambers 163).
Most fashions today are mainly women’s fashion. Women’s fashion only started about three hundred years ago by the French who developed it into an art of its own. The French still hold the leading role in women’s fashions all over the world. In a way, the term fashion stands for women’s clothes due to the enormous volume of women’s fashions that are released every year all over the world (Chambers 162). This change was created and enhanced by a number of fashion makers. Yet, the most important change in fashion took place was brought about by Gabrielle Chanel who adapted sportswear to daily life (Wilson 40). This created a revolution in the world of fashion, giving way to the creation of all kinds of fashion, instead of the traditional fashions for morning and evening visits. This was also accompanied by an important change in life styles all over the world in the 1920s. Labor hours were limited to forty every week, giving people the opportunity to seek leisure and recreation. This created new needs for fashion, especially sportswear as people started to swim, ski, skate, fish, shoot and involve in many other activities (Chambers 160). Such changes also brought with them new concepts in fashion. People no longer dressed to hide their bodies only. In fact, fashionable dresses aimed at attracting the eyes to the same sexual parts of the bodies which they intended to hide in the first place (Wilson 21).
Changes in the fashion
Changes in the fashion can be divided into two major periods, the nineteenth century and the twentieth century. The nineteenth century witnessed a large number of changes in concepts and ideas in fashion. The period between 1800 and 1820 was known as the Classical period in which dresses imitated Greek statuary, showing the shape of the body by using flimsy materials (Cunnington 25). During the Romantic period (1820s – 1830s), dresses became wider, both in the upper and lower parts, especially that gayness and beauty were the major themes of designers (Cunnington 32). The golden period for designers was perhaps in the Extravagant Period (1850s – 1860s) when the amount and costs used for each costume became enormous. Skirts were designed to be the widest ever (Cunnington 47). By the end of the nineteenth century, fashion and economic needs showed harmony as women began to seek practical clothes, which gave this period (1890s-1900) its name, the Practical Period. This period witnessed a struggle between physical freedom and fashionable femininity. The idea was to make women look tall and healthy, and yet, to retain a 19-inch waist (Cunnington 67).
Until the end of the nineteenth century, fashion was restricted to the rich, especially that it was very costly. As a matter of fact, the poor were only able to wear garments years after their fashion had died away. This situation continued through the twentieth century until World War II (Wilson 20). The real reason that made fashion become accessible to the poor was the industrial period which allowed for mass production for the majority. Nevertheless, fashion still remains restricted to the rich in many ways. For example, the clothes designed for the rich are of better quality since they are made of better and more expensive material (Wilson 12).
In conclusion, fashion is more than just designing beautiful garments for people to wear. It is also more than a way in which we cover our bodies or expose them beautifully. It is also related to our personal beliefs and sociological needs, especially that fashion helps us belong to other people, or simply, to make ourselves different from them. No matter how we look at fashion, perhaps we all agree that it has survived for hundreds of years, and its greatness today is mainly due to the major changes it went through in the past two centuries.
Chambers, Bernice. Color And Design. New York: Prentice-
Hall, Inc., 1951.
Cunnington, Phillis. Costumes of the Nineteenth Century.
Boston: Plays Inc., 1970.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. New York: Harper &
Row, Publishers, 1965.
Wilson, Elizabeth. Adorned in Dreams. Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1985.
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