Change in Women’s Measurements

Women’s fashion is the center of the clothing world. However, the evolution of women’s fashion and the cuts of clothing marketed to women are tightly bound to their social standing in society. The degree of freedom, equality, and openness has a near direct correlation on women’s fashion. Charting the course of that evolution is an interesting exercise at charting the course of sexual equality and the advancement of women’s rights.

For most of history, women have largely been subordinate to men in a vast majority of cultures around the globe. Women were regarded as caretakers, cooks, and housekeepers. The sexuality and sensuality of women was also subdued, partly from a desire of jealous husbands to exercise further control over their wives and also out of fear from an independent female sexuality that could threaten male power. Hence women’s fashion tended to suggest modesty and restraint.

This can be seen reaching a height of excess during the 19th century, especially in Victorian England. Women’s clothing was constricting and binding, showing essentially nothing aside from the face of the woman.

Yet, this trend changed over time. Developments in economic conditions and educational standards led to the incremental advancement of women’s rights. Moving into the 20th century, women’s fashion became less restrictive, first with bloomers, allowing women a greater sense of mobility than cumbersome layers of underwear and garters, and then with shorter dresses, such as the image for the iconic flapper of the 1920s.

Women’s fashion has constantly evolved over time, approaching its modern incarnation. Yet, it continues to wrestle with society’s preoccupation with sexual inequality. Female fashion may be more open, expressive, and sexually charged today compared to a century ago, but there is that continuous tension between what women chose to wear and what their parents, husbands, and authority figures tell them to wear.

Memorable hairstyles in Movies

There is always that one aspect a person thinks of first when talking about a movie. Sometimes it’s a particular character. Or maybe it’s a specific line or even an outfit. But in this case, there are just some movies where the most memorable attribute you take with you by the time the credits role is a character’s hairstyle. A little weird but it tends to be more common than you might think.

Emmet Brown from the Back to the Future Trilogy: The fact that Christopher Lloyd played this role is more than enough to have anyone remembering in years to come. His portrayal of the character has everyone quoting his character. But whenever someone wants to dress up as Doc Brown, the most important item needed is that wild wig of white hair with the receding hairline. It just wouldn’t be Doc Brown without that hair!

Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element: There is no possible way for anyone to forget this can-shaped, bleach blond pompadour hair that Chris Tucker had to wear after seeing this movie. It is just there for all to see and never to forget. It’s as if someone decided to attempt to make a lawn sculpture on this man’s hair. Or better yet, it looks like someone let Edward Scissorhands style it.

Princess Leia from Star Wars: Quite possibly the most memorable hair style in the science fiction movie genre, this style of twin buns on either side of her head is recognized by fans and non-fans alike. While there is also Padme’s bizarre fan hair style from The Phantom Menace it just doesn’t have the same amount of recognition in pop culture and movie history as Leia’s braided buns does.

Danny Zuko from Grease: Another pompadour look that was less fanatical and yet certainly more memorable. Danny Zuko was that guy everyone knew, the cool guy who always had to look as cool as he thought himself to be. And the most important aspect of his appearance was his fair. Sure there was the Thunderbird leather jacket, but really now, we all know it was the hair. Why else would he have that comb with him at all times?

Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany: This was a classier, more sophisticated look when compared to the other styles mentioned above this. It was a smaller beehive look that was popular at the time that was completed with the diamond hair tiara that. While it isn’t a style seen very often nowadays, it’s definitely one that will have movie fans recognizing.

80’s and 90’s Fashion

Oh, how the trends of decades past come back to haunt us. Have you ever taken a photo album out to show friends, only to be completely flabbergasted by your fashion choices in the pictures? Ever look back, shake your head in disbelief and say to yourself, “What was I thinking?” If you were up with the times during the 80’s and 90’s, then you probably have.

The 1980’s were a time when fashion was heavily influenced by pop music and the arrival of MTV. Androgyny and gender-bending was also a popular trend in the 80’s. Men began to experiment with long hair and makeup, and women tried out shorter styles with layered, less form-fitting clothing.

Hair was a big deal in the 80’s, and I mean a big deal. Teased, sprayed, and cajoled into impossible styles that feathered out and away from the head – ‘big hair’ was in for both men and women. Ladies also favored a sideways ponytail, which is a look that will definitely date your photo to this decade. Another trend we owe to the awesome 80’s is the mullet, which featured shorter hair near the face and long locks in the back of the head. And with a catch phrase like “business up front, party in the back,” who wouldn’t love this style?

Clothes in the most ‘radical’ decade were quite a departure from earlier styles. Popular ensembles for women included mini-skirts paired with leg warmers and sweatshirts or puffy jackets. Stretch stirrup pants with long shirts and leggings accompanied by scrunched socks and athletic shoes were also quite the rage.

Men’s fashions also took a nod from pop culture, with musicians on MTV popularizing the parachute pant, which was skin tight at the top and baggy at the bottom. Other looks that dudes of the era thought to be cool were a blazer with the sleeves rolled up and a skinny necktie, acid washed jeans, and zippers that led to nothing, a-la-Michael Jackson’s Thriller look. For both sexes, Members Only jackets were a must have item.

The phenomenon of “power dressing” also took place during the 80’s. More women were in the workplace, and in order to show they were of equal value to their male counterparts in the office, they took to wearing suits, often with shoulder pads. The purpose of these was to make the wearer look more powerful, and many jackets came with Velcro in the shoulder so that different sizes could be sported.

While the 80’s fashion carried into the next decade somewhat, the 1990’s had their own distinct style to be sure. Influenced by music, but also quite heavily by TV and movies, the 90’s embraced the ‘grunge’ look with a passion. The grunge music scene was exploding during the 90’s, with bands like Nirvana reaching the height of their popularity.

The grunge look was particularly popular in men’s fashion, and flannel shirt sales took off. A loose fitting flannel shirt over a white tee and very baggy jeans were common throughout the decade. To the dismay of grumpy old men everywhere, another trend popular with the boys during this period is the practice of ‘sagging,’ where pants are worn low well past the hips, often with boxer shorts or underwear visible. The ultra-baggy jeans craze hit its stride during these years.

Music wasn’t the only inspiration for the era’s fashion conscious youth. The movie “Clueless” was a big hit with girls across the globe, and many emulated their on screen idols by copying their clothing. Babydoll dresses, which were short A-line dresses often with empire waists, were extremely popular. Usually these were worn with opaque leggings and sometimes slouched socks and Keds-style tennis shoes.
Both decades made unique fashion statements, and their mark stays with us today. Some trends that originated during those times remain popular, and some (I’m looking at you, Mullet) really should stick to the pages of our photo albums. No matter how you feel about it, the fashions are instantly recognizable; and whether you beam with nostalgia or cringe at the memory, they were awesome threads back then.

Women Dress in the 60s & 70s

Few fashion eras are as iconic and endearing as the 1960s. Coming about during a time of great social change and unrest, the fashion of the 1960s mirrored these changing attitudes with a style greatly set apart from previous eras of fashion. There was a great degree of diversity in the dress style of fashion icons during this period, ranging from the immaculate Jacqueline Kennedy to the more hodgepodge style of hippies and Mods.

There is such a range of styles that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly the most iconic image of fashion in the 60s. Perhaps the greatest common denominator existing between these groups is that fashion became focused on the emerging youth culture, one of the greatest trends of the 60s. Fashion was previously aimed for adult consumption.

With the surge in births after World War Two and the resulting tidal wave of teenagers and young people coming into their own during the 60s, fashion designers sought to capture this emerging market by designing styles that young people would embrace. What resulted was a surge in clothing styles that targeted different social groups, allowing for greater diversity in the clothing as professional and popular fashions molded the popular consciousness.

As the 60s gave way to the 70s, fashion trends followed the course of catering to the large body of young people that were beginning to emerge as adults. However, the ethos of the culture of liberation in the 60s endured and resulted in the 70s scandalous fashions.

Miniskirts were all the rage for young women with tight trousers or denim jeans leaving little to the imagination for most young men. Clothing that was suited for dancing or showing skin was in vogue, such as the development of the tube top for women and tight t-shirts for men.

Echoes of the 70s are present more so in todays fashion with its throwback prints and vintage looking shirts and jeans. Although some of the excesses of the 70s, such as bellbottom jeans and polyester leisure suits, have thankfully been phased out, the 70s were a last gasp at popular conventions influencing the fashion industry rather than fashion forward designers guiding the course of people’s clothing decisions.

Fashion of the 40’s and 50’s

For lovers of vintage fashion, the decades of the 1940’s and 50’s are rich with inspiration. Rarely in fashion history have we seen such a wide range of styles, from austerity to excess. From 40’s motto of “Make Do and Mend,” men’s and women’s clothing traipsed boldly into the realm of rockabilly, the beginnings of teen fashion, and the return to indulgence exemplified by Christian Dior’s “New Look.”

In the early and mid-1940’s, the fashion world had to contend with the constraints of rationing and the general public’s limited purchasing power. Men’s military uniforms were made without any necessary embellishments, because more fabric meant greater expense. A man in the 40’s looked sharp in a tailored suit and stylish hat. Vests disappeared. Men’s suits transitioned from elaborate double-breasted jackets to single-breasted suits with tailored, pleated trousers.

Women followed the trend toward minimalism and austerity, to the extent of getting married in white or ivory-colored suits that today would be considered basic office attire. Plain, solid colors dominated the fashion landscape. Natural fibers such as wool and silk were in short supply, as these products, along with nylon and leather were used in the manufacture of uniforms, shoelaces, parachutes and other wartime necessities. As a result, designers got creative with the use of man-made fabrics. Overall, less fabric was used in the creation of clothing, so hemlines crept upward, the tailored look came into vogue, and clean lines with a feminine fit were the order of the day for fashionable 1940’s women. Women who had to forego silk stockings, made do by shaving their legs, applying leg makeup, and even drawing “seams” down the backs of their legs with eyeliner pencil! The rationing of leather also led to the rise of shoes made from such materials as canvas and cork.

Interestingly, at the same time, a subversive subculture sprang up with the adoption of “zoot suits”. Originally popularized by African Americans and Mexican Americans and worn in nightclubs, zoot suits were long coats with wide lapels and broad shoulders. They were accompanied by wide-legged and high-waisted trousers with low crotches. In an era of fabric rationing and governmental constraints, zoot suits were a rebellion.

By the late 1940’s and the end of World War II, women’s hemlines descended, the Esquire jacket came into vogue, and wider skirts and shoulders characterized the shift toward more extravagant, indulgent clothing. Waistlines were neatly tucked in and emphasized by belts and fuller skirts. For the first time in mainstream fashion history, two divergent silhouettes existed side by side: The narrow pencil skirt on the one hand, and the wide and swirly skirt that we typically associate with the 1950’s on the other.

Once the war ended, a new consumer-driven society took hold in the early 1950’s . Feminine and romantic styles dominated, and the sirens of the silver screen exuded elegance. Clothing designs took on what is commonly referred to as “The New Look,” popularized by Christian Dior in the form of a tight-fitting pencil skirt and a fitted suit jacket. Although much of the world was still living in poverty, American mainstream consumers were eager to move forward from the austere parameters of 40’s fashion, and they embraced clothing that utilized more yards of fabric and more embellishments. Poodle skirts and “sloppy-Joe” sweaters became the rage at that time, particularly with young women. Petticoats made a comeback, and lacy patterns with full skirts and frills abounded. Teenagers became an emerging market, and designers increasingly sought to incorporate styles that appealed to them. Jeans, boots, and a leather jacket were the typical teen ensemble for the cool boys. Girls wore cardigans with skirts and beaded necklaces, pinafore dresses, or tight pants with ballet shoes. Sophistication and indulgence were back with a vengeance, and American consumers everywhere embraced the trend towards frivolity, fabric and fun.

Fashion in the 20s & 30s

Each decades brings with it a new fashion sense that is both influenced by what has come before and is consciously aware of its current surroundings. This is especially true for men and women’s fashion in the 1920s. Coming into a climate of drastic economic growth and the diminishing memory of the First World War, fashion in the 1920s emphasized breaking away from tradition and embracing personal liberty and expression.
The Roaring Twenties certainly earned their name due to a fondness for scandalous fashions and raucous behavior. Men abandoned many of the stuffy traditional fashion of years past. This meant high collars and military style coats and tails were out and relaxed three piece suits were in. Sportswear came into fashion during this time for men and bright colors and whites became vogue.

However, the true advances in fashion were heralded by women who threw off the conservative styles of past decades, abandoning the corset and ankle length dresses weighed down by pounds of undergarments. Short, knee length skirts and trousers became fashionable and embodied in the iconic Flapper, a symbol of liberated women in the 1920s. At the forefront of this change was the legendary Coco Chanel, who helped push women to embrace this forwarding thinking fashion sense.

As the boom of the 20s waned into the bust of the 30s, fashion irrevocably changed course to keep up with these economic changes. As stated before, all periods of fashion can be viewed as a reaction to what came before and this is clearly apparent with 1930s fashion. A return to more conservative dress began as hard economic times made the upbeat and optimistic air of the 20s appear superfluous. Women’s fashion experienced the greatest degree of change, with skirt hems dropping lower, sweaters and bolero jackets acting as cover-ups and an emphasis on large padded shoulders.

Men’s wear in the 30s remained similar despite the introduction of a range of synthetic fibers, such as rayon, which allowed for cheaper clothing prices. Cruise wear and vacation clothing began to develop, resulting in Panama hats, beach pajamas and white dinner jackets, which were in vogue at tropical vacation destinations in the Caribbean.

Hollywood films also provided a huge source of inspiration for men and women’s fashion. Designers and the film industry worked hand in hand advancing people’s fashion sense during a period of economic uncertainty.

Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label

Anyone who’s seen a starlet on the silver screen of 1930’s cinema is doubtless familiar with the glamorous designs of Gilbert Adrian. A leading fashion and costume designer from the 20’s through the 50’s, Adrian’s creativity influenced the entire fashion world, all the way from Parisian couture designs to the day-to-day fashions worn by American women of the era.

The 2008 book by Christian Esquevin, Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label provides a year-by-year summary of the ten years of designing couture and ready-to-wear fashions for his private clothing label, as well as detailing his Hollywood costume designs.

Born in 1903, Gilbert Adrian attended the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts and also studied fashion design in Paris. He designed the costumes for several productions, both in the US and in France, before being hired by MGM studios as a costume designer.

In designing costumes for more than 200 films, Adrian was instrumental in making Hollywood into the new epicenter of glamour on the global scene. He had the good fortune to dress such silver screen luminaries as Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Lana Turner and many others. Adrian even designed the costumes for The Wizard of Oz – right down to Dorothy’s ruby slippers. His designs went on to become the signature look of several trend-setting Hollywood starlets, such as Jean Harlow’s bias-cut silk dresses and Joan Crawford’s strongly-tailored, broad-shouldered suits. Unfortunately for Adrian and his fans, the first Academy Award for Costume Design was not awarded until 1948, after Adrian had retired from designing costumes for film. “When the glamour ends for Garbo, it also ends for me” said Adrian, when asked his reason for retiring from the world of cinema fashion.

After working in Hollywood, Adrian truly struck out on his own, refusing to collaborate with or hire any other designers for his private-label couture designs. He also only permitted his ready-to-wear designs to be sold in one store in each city, to promote their exclusivity. Despite this, his groundbreaking designs were widely copied in the marketplace and even termed “the Adrian silhouette.” At the high point of his success, Adrian had salons in New York City and Beverly Hills. His private label enjoyed a decade of success between 1942 and 1952. He retired to Brazil with his wife Janet Gaynor and lived there until his death in 1959. These days his name is not as widely known as other famous fashion designers, but his influence is unquestionable, as the man who was responsible for bringing golden-age cinema glamour to American women everywhere.

In this book, Christian Esquevin captures the essence of Adrian’s stylistic prowess in beautiful descriptions and photos of his classic designs. Covering the 1920’s through the 1950’s, we see the glamour and elegance of his influential creations on-screen and off. From the show-girl costumes to his private label creations, all are beautifully rendered and worthy of the great designer’s impeccable style.

The History of Hats

Dorothy Parker once quipped, “It’s a small apartment, I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.” Trends often change, but home is where the hat is. Ever fashionable, hats and their wearers have evolved over time. From frivolous to dignified, fanciful to practical, hats are an indispensable element of any wardrobe. Here are a few of history’s more popular hats:

Top Hats
Ever classy, the tall and flat top hat is a distinguished hat that lends a formal air to anyone who wears it. The top hat gained popularity in the early to mid-1800’s among businessmen and working-class men alike. Nowadays top hats are usually worn only on very formal occasions, or by fringe fashionistas – male and female alike – such as those who embrace the “Steampunk” aesthetic.

Fedora
The fedora eclipsed the top hat in popularity from the mid-1850s onward, due to its easy wearability and debonair lines. What was at first a women’s fashion was quickly embraced by city-dwelling men everywhere, and the fedora was hugely popular up until the 1960s. There has been a surge in the number of young urbanites sporting fedoras in recent years. The sky’s the limit as to what you can add to this fanciful hat, and it’s fun to embellish your own fedora with feathers, buttons, bits of lace and miscellaneous bling.

Bowler Hat
The Bowler Hat is also known as the Derby Hat, or the Coke Hat after the man who first commissioned it in 1849, Edward Coke. A hard, round hat made of stiff felt, the Bowler was one of the most popular hats in the Old West. It’s still the hat of choice for equestrian sports.

Cowboy Hat
The cowboy hat used to simply be the perfect no-nonsense hat for the outdoorsman, such as the rodeo rider or rancher, who wanted to “git ‘er done.” The first Stetson cowboy hat was manufactured in 1865, and it’s been popular ever since. With a high crown and often a breathable woven straw exterior, the cowboy hat is a roomy, breezy and comfortable option that frames the face and provides lots of shade at the same time. These days even young “disco cowboys” and “disco cowgirls” can be found sporting cowboy hats at hot nightclubs around the country, usually coupled with some kind of reflective sunglasses and tight, tight pants.

Beret
The beret used to be the purview of continental Europeans, particularly the French and the Northern Spanish, but nowadays it’s a truly international fashion. You can even see reggae-lovers and Rastafarians sporting red, yellow, black and green crocheted berets atop their natty dreadlocks.

Pillbox Hat
Jackie Kennedy popularized this modern classic in the 1960s. With its clean lines that attest to its origins as a military hat, the pillbox – with or without a dainty veil – is the hat of choice for sophisticated women everywhere.

Novelty
Not just for Halloween anymore, Novelty Hats hats abound year-round. Every type of hat has been exaggerated, striped, colored, feathered, spotted, made glow-in-the-dark and more. The most popular novelty hats include oversize sombreros, 5-gallon cowboy hats, and shiny or glittered top hats. Novelty hats are the perfect accessory to top off a party outfit. And no matter
which hat you choose, don’t forget the sage advice of Frank Sinatra: “Cock your hat. Angles are attitudes.”

Dandy Culture

Dandies are all about standing out and doing it themselves. It’s fitting really as dandies came about in late 18th and early 19th century England. These gentlemen were often wealthy individuals who had worked their way up the social food chain but were stopped by the invisible glass ceiling of the aristocracy. Dandies weren’t taken seriously because they were upstarts, rank amateurs and newbies at the game of conspicuous spending.

As a reaction, since they couldn’t buy their way into respectability they put on the trappings of the respectable. This meant refined manners, extravagant outfits and the constant pursuit of personal pleasure in order to mimic, sometimes even poke fun of, the mindset and attitudes of the upper class.

What made dandies? Being fashion forward helps. Indeed, appearance is everything to the quintessential dandy. Charles Baudelaire, a contemporary of dandies when they were at their height in the mid 19th century, makes the extravagant claim that being a dandy constituted elevating your physical appearance and surroundings to the most refined as a form of religion.

While that may be a bit extreme, the sentiment is certainly accurate. Dandies dressed immaculately as a way to impress and earn respect that they otherwise were denied by their social better. Even today, calling someone a dandy still conjures up images of someone who is too fancy for their own good.

Speaking of today’s dandies, whatever happened to these well tailored gentlemen of the 19th century? For the most part, the dandies sense of style and dress ebbed as monetary wealth grew and grew in importance. Showing off with such displays fell out of fashion. Conspicuous consumption gravitated away from waistcoats and trousers and turned to yachts, mansions and automobiles.

The sense of style dandies brought to the table, however, emerges once in awhile as flamboyant dressers occasionally nab the headlines through an outrageous garment. It is easy to see many of the counterculture groups hailing from Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Mods, as having a very dandified aesthetic. While out of fashion, the term dandy is very much alive today.

50 Dresses that Changed the World

While I am certainly no fashion expert, I do have a cursory understanding of fashion to understand that there are some dress styles that undoubtedly revolutionized how women dressed, be it the 1947 Christian Dior “New Look”, the miniskirt, Jackie-O’s sense of style or Chanel’s forward thinking business attire. However, I never imagined that this diversity ranged across fifty different styles of dress.

Sadly, I feel one of this book’s first flaws is its misleading title. A large number of the featured styles seem to exist in a world entirely of their own. A few of the entries I seriously doubt are known to anyone outside of the immensely tight inner fashion circle. Perhaps relabeling this book as the “fashion world” rather than just the world in general would be more hopeful to readers beyond fashion students.

While the book is well constructed and embossed with crisp, sharp photographs, much of the accompanying text appears to be an afterthought. Some entries provide interesting context for why certain styles altered the way women dressed but very few do this in detail. Far too much telling, rather than showing, is done in this book.

It is true that this coffee table book is more geared towards casual readers who want to see the pretty pictures, it is a bit insulting to see typos and editorial errors abound alongside last minute or inconsequential text. More substance would make this book more of an enjoyable, or at least informative, read.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before, this book is far more interested at examining the effects of certain fashions on the world of designers rather than customers. I feel the book works best as a form of escapism, mental role playing or princess fantasy, rather than an engaging and educational text. If so, it succeeds wonderfully. Still, there are missed opportunities here to allow the reader to connect the clothing of everyday to the clothing on the runway. There is already a vast chasm existing between these two worlds and this tome does little to help bridge that disconnect.

Fifty Dresses That Changed the World
by London’s Design Museum