Fashion is an important aesthetic term in a certain culture and time, particularly in footwear, clothing, hair, accessories, makeup, hairstyling, and body figures, and in particular in clothes. Fashion is not the same as the design of products or work-manship, though there are elements of both that can be considered as fashion. Just as clothes and architecture evolve over time to influence people’s visual perception of space and time, so too do fashion and technology influence our visual perceptions of fashion. The impact of fashion changes significantly with the passage of time.
The ancient Egyptians fashioned elegant mummies and high-ranking priests’ attires from elaborate garments, such as linen pants with embroidery, expensive silks, and gold jewelry. These clothes were reserved for the royalty, but ordinary people wore similar clothing to make a fashion statement. As linen became more expensive, more people were able to afford it, along with other costly articles of clothing, such as shoes and pottery. As this trend continued, eventually only the wealthy could afford high-class fashion; by the thirteenth century, only the middle class had access to items of clothing considered socially acceptable.
High fashion began to influence everyday attire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when European and Asian designers began experimenting with textiles, velvet, and gossamer fabric. Soon thereafter, European and Asian textile manufacturers began using a variety of newly available fabrics, including wool, silk, cotton, jute, and hemp, in high fashion fashions, such as dresses, suits, gowns, and coats. English tailors developed the four-in-hand method, which made the four components of a garment fit together like a puzzle, in order to make them easier to wear, and also made the fabric heavier and warmer. This style became highly fashionable in the late seventeenth and early eighteen hundreds, when the first mass production of dress garments began.
The Industrial Revolution, which occurred in the late nineteenth century, also transformed clothing design, with designers focused more on profit than fashion. This trend, paired with emerging industrialization, led to mass production and a decline in local manufacturing. Clothing was often manufactured in factories located in urban areas and shipped across country. Disadvantaged rural workers, who had little means to create new fashions in their communities, turned to lower class alternatives. These people, called tailors, created clothing that was cheaper, much like lower class fashions were, but was produced in large quantities.
As the twentieth century wore on, higher fashion design began to include complex elements of dressmaking technique. Color, for example, was introduced into clothing designs as a way to add visual interest and unique styles to clothing items. During the 1930s, the fashion designer Ralph Lauren popularized the use of bold, bright colors, such as orange, red, yellow, and blue. His clothing was often sported by celebrities, who wore them to “keep up with the Joneses,” according to the New York Times. The New York Fashion Museum currently houses over one thousand of Ralph Lauren’s designs.
Today, fashion continues to change with changing times. A variety of social and cultural factors impact fashion design. The haute couture movement, although short lived, has impacted modern fashion in many ways. The nineteenth century marked the birth of formal dress, which continues to influence modern fashion.