The period 1800-1837
is really part of the Georgian era. George III was insane after 1811, but alive
until 1820. His already Regent serving son Prince of Wales, George reigned
1820-1830, and George's brother after him as William IV. After his death Queen
Victoria acceded the throne in 1837. See Regency
Between 1804 and 1807 it still had classical lines, but with geometric Etruscan and more exotic Egyptian
and oriental ornament. This era was inspired by items brought from the east by
Napoleon's expeditions. See Regency Fashion.
The Gothic influence
remained during the Romantic Era between 1820 and 1837. This era has a chocolate
box image about it, as military male dress can look very romantic next to female
dress. The romantic spirit in clothes lingered on until 1850 running parallel to the
early Victorian Era.
Victoria was crowned in 1837 the Romantic Era drew to a close. Dress styles between
1837 and 1856 are known as Early Victorian. Sometimes it is also called the
Crinoline Era which came about at the time when Charles Worth was making a name
for himself as the first modern Couturier.
The last decades of
the 19th century from 1870 to 1914 the French called Fin de
culminated in Art Nouveau linear curves in dress, decorative arts and design. It
should not be taken literally as the end of the century. It heralded the mood of
change from an old world to a modern era. Art Nouveau embraced new ideas in changing
technology, cultural, social and political changes, urbanization and a lingering
nostalgia for the old and valued.
Metaphysical thought implies that the last 25
years of a century heralds a new energy. See The
Aesthetics and Jewellery.
This period from the mid 1890s to
1914 was the era the French called La Belle Époque
and J. B. Priestley called the 'Lost Golden Age'. Although mainly covering the
Edwardian Era it puts La Belle Époque into a time capsule. La Belle Époque captures
the mood in
that indefinable time of beautiful dress and luxury living for the few in the
two decades immediately before the outbreak and devastation created by World War
rarely had the name of the monarch or the name of a royal house lent to any era. There was an attempt in 1953 at the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II and later in
1977 after 25 years reign to use the term New Elizabethans. Also the global
nature of communication means that eras are more likely to be named after a war
or technological era than a British queen or king as happened when Britain ruled
So in the 20th Century we heard the
terms space age, antibiotic age, technological society, computer age, age of Aquarius,
new age and the communications era.
We began the year 2000 by calling the new era the millennium
era, but since the the repercussions of Sept 11th 2001 have caused
waves across the world various phrases have been applied such as the freedom
age, carpe diem age, or simply after nine eleven. Now we are more happily
referring to it as the double meaning term the noughties.
Art Nouveau was a
decorative art form which followed on from the Arts and Crafts Movement. It
spread throughout Europe and was a dominant art form in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition. It primarily covered interiors, architecture,
furniture design. But its importance filtered through into fashion and fabrics.
The long stylised
flowers and flowing embroidered borders with trails of organic forms of Art
Nouveau are all reflected in the clothes of theEdwardian Hostess. Their skirts
belled out and flowed like blossoming opening floral forms. The embellishment
captured the graceful Art Nouveau forms. These fashions in textiles were revived
in the 1960s by the House of Liberty.
appeared in and out of fashion history several times, but it is particularly associated
with the movement in dress inspired by artist Léon Bakst the costumer and set
designer of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes in 1909.
The dress designers Paul
Poiret and Paquin were very influenced by the ballet and separately created
garments with oriental influences. Poiret's designs of 1910-1911 were thought
This is the era
between 1914 and 1918. It is a period of great change internationally in Europe
in particular. It is a time of female emancipation when skirts first shortened
to show calves and more practical clothing emerged as women did war work.
A flapper was
initially a derogatory term, but soon was used to describe any young woman of
the mid 1920s who wore cloche hats, bobbed her hair and favoured shorter skirts
whilst she shimmied the night away dancing the Charleston. The same mixed
partying set was
sometimes called Bright Young Things.
Art Deco originated in
Europe and became known after the correct name of the 1925 Paris Exhibition. The
exhibition was called The Great
Exposition Des Arts Modernes Decoratifs Et Industriels. The style was most
popular in the Stylish Thirties as well as between 1920 and 1940 by which time it had refined itself.
artist Erté was a master of Art Deco. The sets and costumes for stage and film
that he designed influenced other fashion designers between 1915 and 1936.
This period covers
rationed clothes under the Civilian Clothing
Utility Scheme particularly in Great Britain during the 1939-1945 World War.
The period extends beyond the war's end and it is only in the 1950s that austere
garments were replaced en masse by more lavish use of fabrics and full skirted dresses.
Basically this can be seen as a modern use of the old idea of sumptuary laws.
After Dior launched
his new fashion designs in 1947 Life magazine dubbed it 'The New
dated from the 1940s, it is quite a separate look from the austere military influenced garments of wartime. The New
Look remained fashionable for about 10 years well into the late 1950s.
Christian Dior would have been 100 in 2005.
Glamour is a style associated with about 30 years of film from the early
1930s to the late 1950s when the great female stars and studio starlets set the
trend in hair, make up and clothes in the thirties and 1940s. In the 1950s colour films helped fuel the
fascination for filmgoers. The stars lived and breathed glamour on and off
set. After World War II , Hollywood glamour helped define the groomed consistently
look of the 1950s. It is a look that few film stars still manage to pull off continuously. The
best survivor of the starlet era for glamour in the 21st century is the actress
For the first time
ever during the 1950s, fashion was specifically designed for young women and men. It was the first
time the word teenager was coined. The clothing separates that were popular were inspired
by American university campus fashions young people wore when jiving and rock and
roll dancing. Elvis Presley and James Dean typified the angry young man in the
teen uniform of jeans.
In 1966 Britain earned
the label 'Swinging London' from Time magazine. Mary Quant exported her
youthful short mini dresses to America. In London strings of individual
retail outlets followed her, producing clothes for the new teenage mass
The mini era of the 1960s was born and taken up by the generation of
baby boomers. Because British pop music, in particular that of the Beatles was
also so fashionable worldwide, Britain was seen as having its finger on the pulse
and the new mini fashion was all part of that.
Op Art was a term
coined in 1964. Bridget Riley popularised this with optically distorted geometric patterns in black and white
produced a whole range of movements on a surface. When applied to fabric it
created a new bold look in fashion and accessories. Many garments were
split into sections with colour contrasts after the paintings of Mondrian and this was an important fashion look
in the 1960s.
In the USA, by the mid 1960s flowers, clothing, music and freedom protests established an era. Garments from far
flung parts of the middle and far east became the adopted uniform of a
generation. From Afghan coats, Romanian and Indian peasant
embroidery, cheesecloth, safari and Nehru jackets to Art Nouveau, flower power took hold of
hippies or flower children. Watered down versions were adapted by Yves St. Laurent
and reached the mass market, but they never had the authenticity of the looks
individuals produced by fashioning their own ideas. Elements of the ethnic
look are also
know as the 'Hippy Era'.
Disco clothes were
never for work, but for a weekend of fun, posing and dancing. Trousers that
flared, figure hugging shaped sharply cut jackets in pastel colours that
glowed in the disco light were elevated to new heights by platform shoes. Silver
and shimmering Lycra, sequin boob tubes and stretch catsuits sum up an era that
was set alight by the film 'Saturday Night Fever' and the Bee Gees singers.
The New Romantics
chose themes from Hollywood, fiction or history and then adapted it to make a
personal look. The look was dramatic, flamboyant, colourful and very dressed up
with great attention paid to detail. The
wearers appeared to have made an effort to look sartorially interesting using
frills and fabrics associated with historical periods. A watered down pretty pretty
New Romantic look, was
worn by Diana the Princess of Wales in her early years and she became a fashion leader. The feminine look
soon moved into mainstream fashion.
In the late 1970s,
fashion designers showed garments with oversized shoulders and oversized clothes
on slender women. John Molloy's 'Dress For Success' book advised women to dress for success by
wearing suits. He advised women to at all costs abandon cardigans which he
maintained was a secretarial look. The recently updated book is now a huge
The then UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher seen on TV news daily,
echoed these power dressing ideas in her structured
suits, even taking it into wearing structured brocade evening suits rather than
flimsy chiffon dresses. Whilst women don't wear power shoulders as such
today many do adopt the formality of the suit for business power dressing.
The wedding dress of Diana Princess of Wales in 1981
huge puffed beret sleeves last seen in the 19th century. The television series
'Dynasty' also emphasised the shoulder, simply because the star Linda Evans had
naturally wide shoulders. To make her shoulders appear normal every other actor had their
garments shoulder padded and designed to appear wider. The very influential 'Dynasty'
was watched primarily for its fashions by a global audience of over 250 million viewers.
In the 1980s the
combination of all these factors led to women wearing clothes with ever widening
shoulders, dressing in the way a man had in order to ascend the corporate
promotion ladder. Wide easy fit shoulder padded clothes were seen for over ten
years and graced everything from the suit to the T-shirt to knitwear.
Grunge was based on
fashion started by a youth cult in the Pacific North West region of America in
the early 1990s. The
key to the look was that nothing matched, nothing was coordinated and an item was
preferable if old and worn. The point was to look tousled, uncombed and unkempt,
as if not too much effort had been made. Many consumers thought it pointless.
Actresses like Julia Roberts who adopted the look were heavily criticised for
their lack of glamour. Only those under 21 could get away with this look and
Grunge died within a year, but left the fashion term. It is frequently used now to describe
unattractive fashion features or unkempt individuals.
questions the rules and breaks conventions in fashion. It includes putting seams
and zips on the outside of a garment showing the inner construction workings of tailoring
that in the past were the hidden features. It recycles old fashion and makes the
undesirable part of dress such as a laddered stocking a desirable feature.
Hussein Chalayan, Martin Margiela and Comme des Garçons are all
deconstructionists, but Zandra Rhodes first did this 25 years ago when she put
huge pinked sig zag seams on the outside of wool coats.
pared down clothes in neutral tones in clean and sculptural shapes Quality
fabrics in solid neutrals, with minimal detailing were first seen as a reaction
to the glitz and glamour of 1980's styles. It became more popular in the 1990s.
It is functional, urban subdued understated clothing which is never out of date.
Purism uses the
neutral tints and shades associated with white, grey and beige. It is an
expensive, quiet, unobtrusive uncomplicated look based on good cut. It lacks superfluous
embellishment in its pure uncluttered simplicity. It is easy to wear and never
feels out of place because it consists of simple functional items that are
reduced to the basic elements of elegantly cut modern classics. It uses
virtually no jewellery to accessorize the look.
The designers Jil Sander, Donna
Karan, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein all strive to produce modern classics
within the framework of pure functional natural simplicity.
Bo Ho Hippy emerged in the 1990s and is a pretty millennium version of the hippy look of the
1960s and 70s. Fashion Designers such as Ghost and Tom Ford have developed variations of the
look putting together dreamy velvet trimmed, beaded and embroidered items.
The early look mainly started by Ghost used lots of chiffon, bias cut cowl
dresses, soft floating fabrics often teamed with little velvet trimmed cashmere
versions used lots of braids, beads and embroidery, crunchy toning lace,
fringe, fur, patchwork and animal prints. Embroidery especially is often an embellishment
on garments from peasant style to glamorous evening dress. It is in total contrast to
the minimal style. By 2002 it was featured heavily by many other designers on
most catwalks east and west. 2005 was the summer of the
Boho gypsy tiered
peasant skirt! This fashion look was global and by autumn 2005 elements had
morphed into the Russian look modifying Boho into eclectic ethnic.
Update - On February 1st 2002 Voyage
the shopfront for Ghost went into liquidation to the tune of £3 million. At the
time fashion journalists slated the once revered company for their former
outrageous prices, arrogant attitude to customers and pompous self promotion in
glossy advertisements. Journalists declared they had never liked the items
designed by Ghost and that it never had been real couture.
Ghost as a fashion label is still designed by originator Tanya
Sarne who has a stake in the business that was sold. Now Ghost
clothes are still sold in concessions and in small boutiques where discerning
women shoppers seek clothes that transcend fashion fads. Many are looking
for something different are often pleased by the washability factor of very
special looking clothes including luxury trousers, tops and oriental inspired jackets made from
Subcultural styles first developed around the 1940's.
Subcultural styles were identified in a book called Surfers Soulies Skinheads
and Skaters - Subcultural Style From the Forties to the Nineties written by Amy
de la Haye and Cathie Dingwall, with photography by Daniel McGrath. The book was
written as a supporting document for a Victoria and Albert Museum fashion
exhibition called Streetstyle Exhibition shown in November 1994.
Subcultural streetstyles include
Afrocentric, B-Boy, Beatnik, Bhangra, Caribbean, Casuals, Cowboy, Cyberpunk, Eco,
Fetish, Funk, Gay style, Glam rock, Greasers, Grunge, Head-Bangers, Hippy,
Hipsters, Indie, Jungle, Madchester, Mod, New Age, Northern Soul, Old Skool,
Preppy, Psychedelic, Psychobilly, Punk, Ragga, Rasta, Rave, Rude Boy, Skater,
Skinhead, Soulies, Streestyle, Surfer, Techno, Teddy Boys (Teds), Travellers, Two
Tones, Workwear Rockabilly, Yardies, Young British Radicals and Zoots.
I suggest that if you have an interest in any of the
streetstyles listed above you obtain the illustrated and informative
book. There is also plenty of information on the internet about the culture
and clothing of hip hop for those interested in that area of fashion.
One interesting point is how some of the styles have been picked up by
designers, adapted and invaded the catwalks so that we now see many of these
once original and styles as high fashion innovations in mainstream clothing.
Once again another aspect of my page Laver's
Law is at work here.
If you want to know more, the book is called Surfers Soulies Skinheads and Skaters: Subcultural Style from the Forties to the Nineties
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