Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Beginning of Fashion

Many cultures through history have followed fashion. Styles of clothing have changed as a result of contact with other societies and competition for status within a society. Yet not until the 14th and 15th centuries, during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, did styles begin to follow a regular pattern of change in Europe. The beginning of fashion dates to that time.

The beginning of fashion is associated with this growth of trade and business and the rise of the economic system known as capitalism.

Fashionable items of clothing came from all parts of Europe, and fashionable dress was fairly standard throughout western Europe. By the 16th century a fashionable man's attire consisted of a white linen shirt and a doublet (fitted jacket), and over it a looser jacket or short cape, which a man might hang from one shoulder. Hose (thick tights) attached to the doublet and covered the legs. Hose might fit snugly or be loose around the hips and stuffed with padding. Short padded breeches were known as trunk hose and took several shapes, depending on the padding used. Women’s dresses had tight bodices with a stiff panel, called a stomacher, that extended over the chest and abdomen. Sleeves and skirts were full—made with ample fabric so they puffed out). Both men and women wore white ruffs, which were stiff, pleated collars.

Fashion tends to follow power. During most of the 15th century, Venice and other Italian city-states held economic power in Europe, but the center of power shifted to Spain after navigator Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas for Spain in 1492. During the 16th century the Spanish style increasingly dominated European fashion. Men at the Spanish royal court favored black clothing, with a large white ruff at the throat. The fashionable silhouette for both men and women became bulky and stiff. Men’s short breeches and doublets were padded. Skirts became wider and were supported by a farthingale (hooped petticoat), also known as a wheel or drum, which grew wider toward the bottom. Upper-class women adopted a boned corset, which flattened and narrowed the upper body.

Fashion also helped create an impressive royal image. Queen Elizabeth I of England, for example, used fashion to make a statement of political authority, to assert her power and legitimacy. Ornate garments encrusted with jewels, gold, and other decoration asserted her power and her right to rule, even though she was a woman.

Next will be: the fashion of 17 th century...

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