Welcome to Fashion Lexicon - a fashion focused resource for those interested in the history of global fashion trends by Rachel Matthews.
A growing economy in Western Europe saw society develop a ‘middle-class’ with disposable income and aspirations.
Trade links with India and China saw an increase in the products from these regions and an influence on fashion through fabrics and accessories from those regions. The industrial revolution had led to improvements in engineering and technology enabling the beginnings of mass production, especially home wares and fashion.
Silhouette: narrow sloping shoulders, neat waist, wide bell shaped skirt covered by three tiers, supported by a crinoline.
Expansion of railway networks and improvements in printing led to faster communications and new fashion looks spreading more quickly through the distribution of newspapers and magazines. Charles Worth established himself as the first ‘fashion designer’ by presenting collections of his own ideas, rather than creating dresses according to his customers’ wishes. He turned dress-maker into fashion creator and ‘Haute Couture’ was born in Paris.
Silhouette: small bonnet worn on the back of the head, crinolines at their widest, especially at the back, not possible to wear a coat so shawls became very popular, either in lace or cashmere.
Continuing developments in engineering and technology led to the appearance of motor car. This was used as a status symbol and required a specific wardrobe. The continuing advancements in textile industry (including dying, printing and weaving) led to the popularity of colour and decoration in fashion fabrics, especially the colour purple. France led the world in promoting art and culture with Paris at the heart of cultural developments in art, opera, theatre and literature.
Silhouette: small bonnet, high frilly collar, narrow waist, big bustle at rear.
With burgeoning middle classes in society and the ability to mass produce products, department stores began to emerge during this decade. Travel for recreation became possible for the wealthy. The opening of new trade links with Japan developed a trend known as ‘Japonisme’ spreading through Western society. This trend took aspects of traditional Japanese society and appropriated them for western tastes. Its influence could be seen in fashion through fabrics, accessories and decoration. Charles Worth continued his fashion influence in Paris.
Silhouette: small bonnet worn on the back of the head, lots of added embellishments, ribbons, flounces and tassels, woven patterned fabrics, bustle at rear with fabric draped and tucked up over the bustle.
During this decade movements for equality between the sexes and women’s emancipation began. Sports and leisure activities became popular with the wealthy and the aspirational middle classes. This required less structured under garments for women (including bloomers). Worth died (1897) and left his fashion house to his sons. Other couturiers began to emerge in Paris – Doucet, Cheruit, Callot Soeurs.
Silhouette: big chignon hair, high collars, ruffles fronts, gigot sleeves, toned down and simplified bustle, heavy woven fabrics.
There was an optimistic start to 20th century (termed La Belle Époque). Art movement Art Nouveau was at its height during the first part of this decade and had a big influence on all aspects of design. Women continued to become more active, educated and take up professional roles in society. The popularity of sporting activities (golf, tennis, sea bathing) and hence sports wear continued. The first practical swimsuit for women was introduced by Australian Annette Kellerman (to much outrage). As this decade progressed women were divided into two groups – those who continued to wear corsets and those who didn’t.
Silhouette: S shaped silhouette – projecting bust, tiny waist, back projecting rear – created by long corset. Art Nouveau influence in fabric decoration, sleeve and skirt shapes like diaphanous bell shapes.
By the start of this decade ‘Orientalism’ was creeping in as an influence on design, with Paul Poiret developing this style through his innovative approach to fashion. This was a golden age for fashion illustration with fashion magazines becoming popular. Womens’ wear continued to become freer and less structured to allow for practical activities and war work. The second half of the decade was dominated by WW1 (1914–1919) during this period there was a huge shift in society; women emerged from the domestic environment and contributed to the war effort. Women began to gain civil and economic rights.
Silhouette: turban or head scarf with feathers, Orientalist inspired lampshade shape, high waisted, long tulip shape skirts, shoes became important as they were exposed at hemlines.
The post WW1 atmosphere of 1920s became known as the ‘jazz age’. This not only referred to the popularity of Jazz music, but also to the publics’ enthusiasm for speed and freedom. Young women, who were now able to earn an income and live a more independent life, embodied in the spirit of the times. ‘Flappers’ cut their hair in short bobs and wore androgynous looks to dance to the new Jazz music. Sporting activities and sportswear continued to flourish. Chanel’s relaxed casual take on fashion was a perfect wardrobe for these times. The Speedo swimwear company was established in Australia. The economies of the western world boomed until Wall Street Crash, causing a global downturn. A new art movement ‘Art Deco’ began to have stylistic influence in all creative industries including fashion. This movement established itself at Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925.
Silhouette: short, cropped hair or cloche hat, boyish torso with no defined bust or waist, three quarter length hem, stockings and t-bar shoes.
This decade began as society was living with the impact of the Great Depression. The general public used trips to the cinema and Hollywood films as a means of escapism. The silver screen provided a whole new range of influential fashion figures such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. A more feminine silhouette emerged after the boyish looks of the 1920s, with gentle curves, longer hair and longer softer hemlines. Madeline Vionnet used her skills in bias cutting fabric to create this silhouette. The Surrealist art movement made a great impact on art and culture and led to art & fashion collaborations (most importantly with Elsa Schiaparelli). In Australia R.M. Williams established his business as ‘The original bushman’s outfitters’. The decade ends with the start of WW2.
Silhouette: wavy or shingled hair, draped or sweet heart necklines, soft feminine curves, bias cut skirt shapes, longer softer hemlines.
This decade began amidst WW2 (1939-1945). Women contribute to the war effort, driving ambulances, working in munitions factories or on the land. Living with a shortage of most things, rationing led to a new creative spirit in ‘making do or mending’ and with this the ‘Utility Look’ developed in clothing and product design. In occupied Paris, many Haute Couture houses closed due to shortage of both materials and customers. As the US was removed from the war for sometime and relatively unaffected, it began to develop its own designers and with it a more laid back feel to fashion. At the end of WW2 there was of course a general mood of optimism with the public looking to the future with anything modern being welcomed. Dior launched his ‘New Look’ in Paris in 1947. It attracted much attention (some delight some derision).
Silhouette: small novelty hats, smart tailored suits or jackets with square shoulders, nipped in waist, shorter (on or just below the knee), straighter skirts.
Post WW2 era generated an optimistic outlook and an improvement in world economy. The House of Dior flourished and helped to re-establish Paris as the centre of Haute Couture, by presenting dramatically different silhouettes every season. This decade saw the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, the emergence of the ‘teenager’ and the popularity of TV. These things provided retailers with a whole new range of selling opportunities, with teenagers looking for new products that took influence from American culture. Science and space were a big influence in western culture as these subjects reflected the public interests in the future, rather than looking back to WW2 and the first half of 20th century.
Silhouette: ‘New Look’ – wide brimmed hats, sloping shoulders, narrow waist, wide skirts to mid calf, stiletto heels, gloves. Teenagers – sweaters or blouses with neck scarf, full circle skirts or Capri pants.
‘Youthquake’ came to define the changes in society during this decade. Consumer power was in the hands of younger generation for the first time. This generation wanted a lifestyle that reflected new optimistic vision of the world, shown in fashion, music and furniture. Pop Art influenced design, using advertising as inspiration. Space travel captured public’s imagination and fashions by a group of French fashion designers - Courreges / Rabanne / Cardin reflected this. Music and fashion continued the relationship that started in the 1950s; early 60s music was tight and mod, later on music became psychedelic, both reflected in the style of dress. London was the focus for culture with its own group of young ‘swinging’ designers – Mary Quant / Ossie Clark. Prue Acton became the first Australian designer to show in New York in 1967.
Silhouette: Early1960s – short bobbed hair, childlike dress shapes or mini skirts, neat collar-less jackets, pantyhose and knee length boots. Late 1960s – long unkempt hair, layered look, fringing over colourful tiered dresses and maxi skirts.
The decade started with colourful glamorous fashion linked with the music of the disco scene. New York was the centre of art and culture now, with Halston being the designer of the moment. Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee set up pioneering Australian fashion label Flamingo Park. Punk exploded onto the music scene (1976) in reaction to colourful easy disco scene. Punk was more than just a style of music and fashion. It was a DIY underground street scene rebelling against the establishment and the social inequality of the time, creating its own way of dress, soundtrack and graphics that attempted to reflect the political viewpoint. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren stage managed the sound and look of Punk.
Silhouette: Early 1970s – big hair or a bubble perm, floaty layers of chiffon on dresses, flared jumpsuits with sequined bomber jackets. Late 1970s – punk extreme spiked hair or shaved head, leather jacket, black bin liner dress held together with safety pins, bondage trousers with bum flap and Dr Martin’s boots.
‘Conspicuous consumption’ and lifestyle status symbols of cars and designer labels were a way of showing off wealth – logos were on everything. These attitudes led to the Power Suit, broad shoulders and a short skirt. Working out (to look super-human) was part of the status driven lifestyle. Australian surf wear became a rowing international industry. The ‘Drizabone’ oil skin designed by Australian outfitters RM Williams was adopted as a fashion garment in London, Paris and New York. An antidote to ‘Power Dressing’ came in the form of a group of Japanese designers who showed in Paris (Yamamoto / Kawakubo / Miyake). Their approach was to mix western traditional ways of making with Japanese aesthetic. As decade progressed political correctness and social awareness in society crept into music and fashion.
Silhouette: Early 1980s – broad shouldered, double breasted tailored jackets and dresses, short hem lines, worn with lycra body suits. Late 1980s – over sized, cropped t-shirts in fluro colours with slogans, pegged top jeans and high-top sneakers
A less materialistic way of life emerged during this decade. ‘Understated luxury’ was fashions’ response to this. Fashion houses re-invented themselves (Gucci, Louis Vuitton). Post-modernism and deconstruction were buzz words in the design world. This decade began a shift towards individualism, no one look was ‘fashionable’, with people choosing to select from a range of sources – old and new, budget and exclusive. In 1995 Sydney fashion week started showcasing a new wave of Australian designers (Collette Dinigan, Akira Isogawa). Music continued to influence fashion through Grunge. A group of designers descended on Paris, from Belgium - Antwerp 6. A flurry of British designers were appointed to head up Paris fashion houses – Galliano, Stella McCartney, McQueen
Silhouette: Early 1990s – ‘smart-casual’, feminine silhouette, bias cut slip dresses, simple cashmere coats and cardigans, kitten heels. Late 1990s – more casual, eclectic mix of garments and silhouettes, over-sized jackets or sweaters, layered over boot-cut trousers or vintage skirts.
At the start of the new century the western economies were booming with cheap credit and disposable income fuelling consumer spending. Fashion designers and global brands cashed in on the trend for ‘IT’ handbags, designer sunglasses and perfumes as status symbols. Fast unrestricted technology and global communications led to globalised fast fashion – copies of catwalk looks arriving on every high street or available on-line in days of being launched. Fashion looks were influenced by celebrities and style of dress was ‘mix and match’– pairing designer labels with vintage finds and high street bargains. By 2008, boom time was over, leading to western economies going into recession and a global down turn. 2010 Alexander McQueen committed suicide, shocking the fashion world.
Silhouette: Early 00s – Juicy Couture velour track suits or designer label jeans, with vintage finds and designer accessories. Late 00s - extreme shoulders, straight silhouette with skinny jeans or leggings, outrageous shoes with killer heels.