100 Defining Moments in Fashion
Here is the series I wrote for Styloot about the 100 Defining Moments in Fashion collected all in one post.
1. Christian Dior and The New Look
World War II cast a shadow over the fashion world. Rations kept materials scarce and clothing was made from austere fabrics. The style was somber and heavily influenced by a militaristic look. Once the war was over, women yearned for luxury again, and Christian Dior was glad to give it to them. His 1947 collection featured a lavish use of material and celebrated femininity. The silhouette featured a full bust, tiny waist, and voluminous skirt. This “New Look” was well-received and dictated the lady-like style of the fifties.
2. Paul Poiret Frees Women From the Corset
Paul Poiret established his house in 1903 and immediately began to make waves in the turn-of-the-century fashion world. In a dramatic departure from the focus on tailoring of the past, Poiret’s designs centered on draping. His classic pieces, including the kimono coat, harem pants, and hobble skirts were much looser in fit than the constricting styles of the 1800s, and essentially freed women from their binding corsets. This change formed the source of modern fashion as we know it.
3. Mary Quant and the Mini Skirt
Mary Quant was an English designer at the center of the Swinging Sixties. She is credited with the popularity of the mini skirt, a scandalous reactionary trend to the conservative styles of the fifties. In a continuation of the development of teenage culture in the fifties, young people now had major influence on the trends. Fashion was more accessible as they gained independence, and they began to dictate what was in style. Mary Quant’s influence also focused the fashion spotlight on London as a trend-setting culture for the first time.
4. Marc Jacobs’ Grunge Collection for Perry Ellis
As the creative director for Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs sent a ground-breaking collection down the runway in 1992. Influenced by his love of rock music, Jacobs looked to the streets and created a collection that was a high-fashion interpretation of grunge. It featured flannel shirts, thermals, Doc Martens, layers, and crocheted skullcaps. The clothes caused a stir in the fashion world, and resulted in Jacobs being fired from Perry Ellis. It was one of the first big examples of a trickle-up fashion world, where designers created looks based on what they saw on the streets, rather than the other way around.
5. The Flappers
By the 1920s, women had more freedom than they ever had before. They could vote, and many of them were working and supporting themselves independently. They were driving, treating sex and relationships more casually, and were more involved in sports. The scene was exciting with movies, jazz, and fun new dances, and they wanted to be a part of it. Soon, their style began to reflect their new break from restricting traditions. Hemlines rose and waistlines dropped. Silhouettes became boyish and straight, ignoring body-consciousness whatsoever. The elaborately beaded dresses allowed them to move freely and flattered the dance styles perfectly. This new look and lifestyle became known as the flapper.
6. Yves St. Laurent and Le Smoking
In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent debuted his alternative to the Little Black Dress. It was a slim, feminine version of the male tuxedo, and he called it “Le Smoking.” It pioneered a minimalist, androgynous aesthetic that would be turned to again and again through the power suit and trouser suits of the future. It was a way to liberate women, and reflected their emerging power by co-opting classic masculine fashions.
7. The Punk Scene
The classic punk aesthetic can be attributed to the Sex Pistols, who were dressed by their manager, Malcolm McLaren, whose wife, Vivienne Westwood, owned an alternative clothing store in London. As the punk movement gained momentum, its followers turned to the band for inspiration. There was a DIY, makeshift quality to the look that often included signs of its followers’ poverty. Everyday items for adapted for aesthetic effect like safety pins and duct tape, while ordinary clothing was customized with markers and paint. The movement’s in-your-face agenda manifested in ripped clothing, leather jackets, hardware, fetishistic elements and materials like rubber and PVC, harshly dyed spiky hair, and beat-up shoes. Eventually, these anti-fashion statements became as much a part of the fashion world as the clothing they were trying to reject.
8. Jeans in the Fifties
Jeans had been manufactured in the United States since the late 1800s thanks to Levi Straus, but they were solely the uniforms of laborers and the working class. When teenagers started wearing them in the fifties, it was a statement of rebellion and independence. Instead of turning to the glamorous world of the movies and high society, teens began to take their cues from the lower classes. James Dean and Marlon Brando perfected the look with their leather jackets, tee shirts, and blue jeans. This also solidified the growing influence of youth culture. It was a shocking trend, and jeans were even banned from some schools.
9. Lacoste and American Sportswear
Rene Lacoste was a famous tennis player in France in the 1920s. He was the top player in the world, winning seven grand-slam singles titles. His nickname was Le Crocodile, and in 1927 he started having comfortable shirts made for his matches with a tiny crocodile embroidered on each one. In 1933, he partnered with Andre Gillier and created La Societe Chemise Lacoste, which manufactured white tennis shirts with the logo on them. They became hugely popular. In the fifties, they started making them in different colors and decided to launch in the American market. Americans loved the shirts, ushering in an age of designer sportswear. Lacoste quickly became known as the brand of choice for athletes. That little crocodile also launched a trend in the fashion world where designers put their logos on the outside of their garments and accessories, which exploded in the eighties and nineties and still continues on today.
10. Chanel and the Tweed Suit
Coco Chanel has many great contributions to the fashion world, including the classic tweed suit. At a time when the fashion world was dominated by constricting corsets, Chanel introduced comfortable clothing that allowed freedom of movement and practicality for the ever-more sporty woman. Tweed was cheap, but she made it luxurious by lining it with fabric or silk. The suit became a status symbol for a new generation, with its slim skirt and collarless jacket trimmed in braid, gold buttons, patch pockets, and a gold chain sewn into the hem. The famous contrasting-trim look emerged in 1955, and continued through the sixties as the de rigeur uniform for ladies who lunched.
11. Marlene Dietrich Wears Trousers in Morocco
A small group of women had been wearing trousers as a political statement for decades before the 1930 premier of the film Morocco, but it was nowhere near an accepted practice. When Marlene Dietrich serenaded a booing audience in the opening scene wearing a top hat and a tuxedo, audiences were shocked. But, in a few years, the movie would be recognized as the starting point for women wearing pants becoming commonplace. Dietrich regularly wore pants both on and off screen, and her bravado continued with Katherine Hepburn wearing trousers in her films. In 1939, Vogue began to feature women wearing pants on their pages, and a new step towards gender equality was born. Dietrich was quoted as saying “I am sincere in my preference for my men’s clothes. I do not wear them to be sensational. I think I am much more alluring in these clothes.”
12. Halston and Minimalism
Halston was America’s first designer superstar. He was as well known for his appearances at Studio 54 and celebrity hob-knobbing as he was for his clothes. He burst onto the scene when Jackie O famously wore his pillbox hat, and when he began designing women’s wear in the early seventies, Newsweek dubbed him “the premier fashion designer of all America.” He set out to cleanse the fashion world of the frivolity of designers before him, and his sleek aesthetic became the defining style of the era. His looks focused on luxurious materials, minimal treatment, simple glamour and elegance, and impeccable tailoring. Most of his clothes were presented in neutrals, but he also experimented with accents of bright colors. This point of view was the birth of minimalism, and ultimately became the essence of American style. Among his more well-known contributions were the Ultrasuede shirtdress, and the popularization of the use of cashmere and halter dresses.
13. The First GO International Collection
In 2006, Target launched its premier GO International Collection with British designer, Luella Bartley. Their initiative was to produce a low-budget collaborative line with high-end fashion designers, and the Luella Bartley collection delivered with the most expensive piece being a suede jacket for $150. The idea was incredibly well-received, and they continued to put out a few collections per year in the same vein with such well-known designers as Zac Posen, Rodarte, Anna Sui, Proenza Schoulder, and Thakoon. The GO International Collections continue to make fashion more accessible to the masses, and create household names out of designers that have tended to only be known within the fashion community.
14. Hippie Fashion Becomes Mainstream
In the sixties, a countercultural movement began gaining momentum along the coasts of the United States. The hippies rejected consumerism and embraced getting back to the Earth, communal living, and acceptance of all sexes and races. Their philosophy was mirrored in their clothing choices, celebrating a diverse and working class lifestyle. Both men and women grew their hair long and wore bell-bottom jeans, tie-dye, vests, and leather sandals. Women went braless and wore little to no makeup. They favored peasant blouses and long, full skirts. Their textiles were brightly colored and often featured ethnic patterns, particularly those inspired by Native American and Far Eastern cultures. By 1968, hippie fashion had become mainstream and represented the style of an era of upheaval and revolution.
15. Fashion Week Moves to Bryant Park
Fashion shows have been around since the early 1900s, when the department store Ehrich Brothers created spectacles to attract lower-middle-class women into their stores. By 1910, many department stores were following suit, and their seasonal fashion shows became immensely popular. (Police even had to be called in to control the crowds.) The tradition was threatened during World War Two when German occupation of France put a chokehold on the fashion industry. The world was skeptical that the United States would be able to continue on as a force in the industry without being able to copycat their Parisian counterparts. But, one person had faith. A well-respected fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert, created an event called Press Week in 1943, where she invited a number of designers to show their collections all in one place. It was a huge success, and continued to be held biannually well into the fifties. This catapulted American designers into the spotlight on their own terms, and high-end publications began to feature them by name in their pages. In the seventies and eighties, designers wanted to take the shows back into their own hands and Press Week was officially dissolved. In the early nineties, head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Fern Mallis, was tired of the chaotic atmosphere of the scattered shows and wanted to bring it back to one, centralized location. For the Spring 1994 shows, Fashion Week as we know it was born in Bryant Park. A hugely celebrated event, Fashion Week put the fashion industry in the eyes of the public and launched it into becoming the cultural touchstone it is today.
16. Diane Von Furstenberg’s Wrap Dress
Diane Von Furstenberg introduced the wrap dress in 1972. It was easy to wear, flattering on a number of different body types, and a cinch to transition from day to night. It was a perfect fit for professional women who desired more stylish options for their work wear. By 1976, DVF had sold more than 5 million wrap dresses. The style faded into the background, as trends tend to do, but by 1997, DVF began to notice that women were starting to wear wrap dresses again on the streets. She reintroduced the design in her next collection, and continues to modernize it with each show.
17. Alexander McQueen Brings Theatricality to Fashion
The fashion world suffered a great loss when Alexander McQueen committed suicide in February 2010. He brought fashion to a new height with his innovative designs and jaw-dropping theatrics on the runway. Many of his clothes were art for art’s sake, but he also had a surprising wearability to his designs that edgy fashionistas flocked to. His showmanship led to some of the most memorable moments in Fashion Week history. The audience broke out in applause when, for his Spring ’99 collection, he sent supermodel Shalom Harlow out onto a revolving platform wearing a white dress where, as she spun, robotic arms painted the dress with black and yellow spray paint. In Spring ’04, his models danced on a wooden stage, recreating a scene from They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? for the showing of his collection inspired by Depression-era dance marathons. His Spring ’05 collection was shown as an elaborate chess game where each model represented a game piece, and his Fall ’06 show concluded with a writhing, floating hologram of Kate Moss. In reaction to the economic downturn, models stomped through torn and discarded remnants of his previous collections for the Fall ’09 show. His creativity is greatly missed by the fashion community.
18. Hip-Hop Influences Fashion
In the eighties, rap and hip-hop took hold of the music industry, and it wasn’t long before it began influencing the fashion world. Its stars showed their black nationalism through Kangol hats, blousy pants, kufis, Kente cloth hats, chains, and clothing in red, black, and green. They wore their hair in afros, Jheri curls, and dreadlocks. Sportswear was also popular with many rappers wearing tracksuits, baggy jeans, and sneakers. Their fans quickly followed suit, and for the first time athletic brands like Adidas became status symbols. In the nineties, gangster rappers and pop rappers expanded the look with baseball caps, neon-colored clothing, oversized pants, fur-trimmed leather bomber jackets, and big flannel shirts. The style swept across urban centers and soon expanded beyond the black community. High-end designers even took note, and for a brief moment hip-hop influence reached the runways. In the late eighties, Isaac Mizrahi created a hip-hop inspired collection with black catsuits, gold chains, nameplate belts, and bomber jackets. A few years later, Chanel shockingly showed a few collections where the hip-hop style mostly manifested in leather jackets and piles of chains.
19. The Eighties Power Suit
In 1975, John Molloy published a book called Women Dress for Success, and corporate America was eager to take it to heart. Women were making waves in the workplace and were striving for ways to be taken more seriously in the office and considered as equals to their male counterparts. Molloy assured them that they would gain respect if they adopted a somber style of dressing instead of wearing more fashion-oriented clothes that highlighted their sexual appeal. The concept of “power dressing” was born. In the eighties, women borrowed from the men in their clothing choices in order to attempt to get their power in the workplace. They abandoned their sweater-sets and skirts for a full-jacketed suit. To further emphasize a manlier appearance, they distorted their silhouettes with shoulder pads to create a masculine, broad-shouldered presence. The gender-bending style was a huge political statement in the feminist movement.
20. Sex and the City
The show that prompted women everywhere to declare whether they were a Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, or Charlotte, also brought a veritable fashion show into the homes of thousands of viewers each week. The ladies’ individual styles became the sixth character of the show (right after New York City), and got everyone talking about fashion and personal style. When the movies came out years after the show’s finale, people were asking “What will they be wearing?” as often as they were asking “What will happen next?”The show’s costume designer, Patricia Field, encouraged a generation to experiment with their look and get carried away by the fantasy of fashion. The idea of mixing high and low end fashion and juxtaposing contrasting styles and reference points became the ideal way to dress. The popularity of the show also brought designer names into the everyday lexicon, most notably Manolo Blahnik, who became synonymous with the glamorous NYC lifestyle the girls of Sex and the City represented
The disco scene of the seventies influenced the fashion of the era heavily. People wanted clothes that were easy to dance in and eye-catching in the clubs. Coming on the tail-end of the sexual revolution, women also wanted their clothes to be overtly sexy. Lightweight materials, like rayon, became popular, as did fabrics with high-shine, like lamé, for catching the lights on the dance-floor. Options for evening ranged from halter-top maxi dresses to micro-mini skirts to catsuits. Having fun with your clothes was one of the primary characteristics of the style.
22. Heroin Chic
In the mid-nineties, a controversial new look swept the fashion world. Heroin chic was ushered in with a 1993 Calvin Klein ad starring Kate Moss. It glamorized a waifish, androgynous look and models were encouraged to appear somber and, some would say, sickly and drug-addled in photographs. It was a stark contrast to the supermodel-era of the eighties which celebrated a healthy, happy look. Heroin chic was criticized by everyone from concerned parents to President Clinton, yet the aesthetic continues to permeate the fashion industry today.
23. The Birkin Bag
Hermes was already known for making the It Bag when its sac à dépêches rocketed to fame and was renamed the Kelly Bag after Princess Grace Kelly was photographed using her bag to hide her pregnancy from the paparazzi in 1956. Then, in 1981, the chief executive Jean-Louise Dumas was seated next to the singer Jane Birkin on a flight. She went to stow her straw bag in the overhead carrier and all of her contents fell out. As she was scooping up her things, she complained to Dumas about not being able to find a decent weekend bag. Three years later, he rethought an 1892 design and created the Birkin Bag for her. It immediately became a sensation, and fashionistas clamored to get one of the elusive, and very expensive, bags. The Birkin, ranging in different sizes and materials, averaged $7,000 and, at one point, broke a world record with its six-year waiting list. Thanks to the price tag and exclusivity, it became a symbol for the woman who has “made it.” Along with becoming an iconic accessory, the Birkin cemented the ties between the fashion world and celebrities, opening the doors for countless collaborations and designer-muse relationships.
24. The Rise of Ecofashion
In the second half of the ‘aughts, environmentalism became cool again. It had celebrity supporters, an Oscar-winning movie, and a lot of media attention. Of course, the fashion world quickly began to follow suit. Designers who focused on eco-friendly principles in their clothes, like Edun and Bodkin, gained fame and respect, and department stores (even as big as Walmart) began to offer organic clothing. High-end designers also started to incorporate more green practices into their lines. Stella McCartney was one of the biggest names known for eco-friendly fashion. In order to be considered green, designers needed to repurpose or recycle materials, use materials with an environmentally-safe origin, utilize safe dyes and means of production, avoid animal products, and use fair labor practices. While it may have appeared to be simply jumping on a trend at first, being committed to eco-friendly fashion is still a huge force in the industry.
25. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Not only did the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s resonate with the sixties’ audience that witnessed it in the theaters, it continues to be an inspiration to fashionistas today. An effortlessly elegant Holly Golightly walks along Fifth Avenue, coffee in hand, possibly still up from the night before. She’s wearing a Givenchy shift dress, a pile of pearls, a tiara, and oversized sunglasses. The outfit bridged Old Hollywood Glamour and the modernism that was blossoming as the movie premiered. It showed women how to update an old classic, the little black dress, and give it a modern spin with accessories.
26. The Burberry Trench Coat
This high-fashion staple made its debut in the heart of war. The trench coat was originally designed to be worn by soldiers in World War One, who needed protection from the elements on the battlefield. It was the official raincoat for the British Army Services, and by World War Two it outfitted the soldiers of the United Kingdom and United States. Following the war, it became a popular look for civilians as well. It was featured in a number of hit movies, including Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and quickly spread to the streets. Burberry remained as the pinnacle of the trench coat, and its famous tartan pattern elevated the look to a chic fashion statement.
27. Clara Bow: The First It Girl
The media-frenzy surrounding the silent film star, Clara Bow, set the template for all of the It Girls to follow in her wake. The term “It girl” was even coined to describe her by the English novelist, Elinor Glyn in Cosmopolitan magazine. Describing her appeal in the 1927 movie, It, she says “It is that quality possessed by some which draws all others with is magnetic force. With ‘It” you win all men if you are a woman, and all women if you are a man. It can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction. Self-confidence and indifference whether you are pleasing or not – and something in you that gives the impression that you are not at all cold. That’s “It.” After the film, Bow became a superstar. Audiences viewed her as the embodiment of the era with her voracious appetite for life and fun-loving nature. She wasn’t just a celebrity, but a persona that all girls wanted to emulate. Most importantly through our lens, she was the star everyone wanted to look like. Many credit her as the model for which flapper style was fashioned after.
28. The Babydoll Dress
The babydoll is mostly known as a nightgown that can easily be stylized into lingerie, but it has also had a few moments in the spotlight as a style of dress. Its youthfulness and hypersexuality perfectly complimented the swinging sixties. Their skirts were full and flared into tent shapes, and were made of transparent tulles, lace, or chiffons over matching lining. They made a brief comeback in the early nineties as part of a more feminine take on the grunge scene, most notably popularized by Courtney Love. The style can still influence cocktail dresses, but modern versions tend to have a more body-conscious cut.
29. Utilitarian Style During World War Two
The rationings of World War Two reached far beyond the kitchen. Fashion for women had to be as conservative as possible so that extra material could be used for the war effort. Dresses were made without cuffs, collars, buttons, or any other embellishments. Jackets could not exceed 25 inches in length, trousers could not be longer than 45 inches, and day dresses had a maximum length of 45 inches. Due to the near-disappearance of nylon from stores, women faked their stockings by drawing a line up their legs with eyeliner where the seams would have been. Clothing took on a militaristic appearance, clearly influenced by the uniforms of the boys at war. The silhouette emphasized broad shoulders and narrow hips, similar to that of a soldier’s. The materials women were left with, the restrictions of their clothing, and the sudden need for practicality due to joining the workforce created an overall utilitarian style for the era.
30. The Gibson Girl
The illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson, noticed that there was a new woman gaining prominence in Western culture at the turn of the century. His drawings to capture this woman became highly popular and created the image of The Gibson Girl in the public-eye. While women still had many decades to go before they could claim any sort of equality, feminism was starting to grow roots and women were beginning to step up in the world. They were working outside of the home and seeking the right to vote. The Gibson Girl encapsulated this social change. She was independent, athletic, and confident, yet still pretty and classically feminine. The Gibson Girl image both depicted women as they were, and began to influence fashion. An S-shaped silhouette became the ideal, where the bust and hips were large, but the waist was tiny and corseted (albeit by a new “health corset” that was slightly less-restrictive than its predecessors). Styles became simpler and more practical due to women’s more active lifestyle. Skirts were long and flared, and dresses had high necks and close-fitting sleeves.
31. Kate Moss
Kate Moss was discovered at the age of 14 in 1988 and rocketed to stardom as she ushered in the heroin chic look in a Calvin Klein campaign in 1993. She became as popular for her look on the pages of magazines as she did for her personal style on the streets. Not only was she a style icon, but she was (and continues to be) a muse to photographers and designers. Her seemingly effortless ability to put together inspiring looks turned attention towards what other models were wearing on their days off. By the late nineties, whatever she wore landed in high street stores a few weeks later. She is credited as being responsible for dozens of trends, including denim cutoff shorts, Uggs, ballet flats, the Balenciaga handbag craze, and boho chic. In 2005, she was given the Award of Fashion Influence at the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
32. Madonna’s Cone Bra
In 1990, Madonna embarked on her Blonde Ambition Tour. Ever seeking new ways to shock, she took to the stage in a cone bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. As one of the major style icons of the era, the look began a long reign of trends celebrating underwear as outerwear. Bustier tops, camisoles, slip skirts, and dresses inspired by lingerie became de rigeur. The style is hardly seen as risqué today.
33. Jackie O
From the moment Jackie O stepped into the public eye at her husband’s inauguration, she became a beloved style icon. For many Americans, she represented the epitome of good taste, class, and elegance. Her chic, minimalist style bridged the divide between the old and the new. It had a timelessness to it, yet at the same time managed to embody modernist sensibilities without going too over the top. Her clean suits with a skirt down to the knee, three-quarter sleeves on notch-collar jackets, and her sleeveless A-line dresses with above-the-elbow gloves, low-heel pumps, and pillbox hats quickly became known as “the Jackie look.”
34. Elsa Schiaperelli
Many of Elsa Schiaperelli’s contemporaries, such as Chanel, have become iconic designers, yet while Schiaperelli’s contributions made equal (if not more) impact on the fashion world her name is largely unknown today. She started making clothes in Paris in the thirties, and first made it big with a line of knitwear that featured sweaters with trompe l’oeil images. She went on to design some of the most recognizable fashions today including the wrap dress, pairing an evening gown with a jacket, and the visible zipper. She loved infusing her designs with a sense of playfulness, like fastening a blouse with silk-covered carrots and cauliflowers, or creating a gown with a lobster print. Her most iconic pieces were those that resulted from her collaborations with surrealist artists, most notably with Salvador Dali. Together, they created the shoe hat and the skeleton dress. Schiaperelli also redefined what it meant to make a career out of fashion design. She was the first designer to open a prêt-a-porter boutique, create a press release, and dress movie stars.
35. The Bikini
While two-pieces were worn by the daring and pin-ups of the early forties, it wasn’t until 1947 that the navel-baring bikini appeared. It was designed by a French engineer, Louis Reard, who named it after Bikini Island where nuclear bombs were being tested, believing that the excitement his suit would cause would be as explosive. Since he couldn’t convince any model to be the first to promote the bikini, he turned to an exotic daner, Micheline Bernardini, to model it. Images of the shocking swimwear spread across the globe. Men, of course, loved it, but it would be years before it would catch on as well with women. In a 1957 issue of Modern Girl, an editor wrote “It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini, since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing.” Yet, by 1960, Neiman Marcus buyers classified it as “a big thing,” coinciding with the release of the song “Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Soon, the bikini became ubiquitous. In 1965, a woman told Time Magazine that it was “almost square” to not wear a bikini, and by 1967 a poll claimed that 65% of young women owned one. The popularity of the bikini perfectly mirrored the rise of the sexual revolution, and represented the freedom for women to flaunt their sexuality.
36. Synthetic Fabrics
The popularity and invention of synthetic fabrics revolutionized fashion in the fifties and sixties. Nylon, polyester, and acrylic were all created during this time. These new fabrics were easy to care for and wash, could be tailored easily, and soon became very affordable. Not only did this allow for fashion to be more accessible by being less expensive and more easily mass-produced, but it helped ease the burden of housewives who had been stuck laundering, dry-cleaning, and ironing.
37. Salvatore Ferragamo
Salvatore Ferragamo first became known as the shoemaker to the stars when he worked in Hollywood, fixing shoes both on and off the set in the 1920s. Soon afterwards, he moved to Italy and started his own shop selling his own designs to the most stylish women of the world. He went on to popularize or invent some of the biggest shoe trends of the century. His famous candy-colored platform brought the platform shoe back into the mainstream. Similarly, his cork wedge was an invention that combined height and comfort to the shoe market. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he also helped invent the metal structure that would become the stiletto. He also invented the cage heel, which would evolve into the strappy sandal and Gladiators of today.
38. The End of the Corset
During World War One, the United States War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for the war effort. This created a spare 28,000 tons of metal, or enough to build two battleships. Corset-wearing had been declining in popularity anyway, thanks to Paul Poiret’s more forgiving designs and the women’s movement. They were also far overshadowed by the much more comfortable design of the brassiere, which had been invented in 1913 by a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob. She had just purchased a sheer evening gown and wanted to create an alternative so that the whaleback bones of her corset wouldn’t be visible under the fabric. She whipped something up with two silk handkerchiefs and some ribbon, and ended up created the basis for the modern bra. She earned the patent for it, and then later sold it to Maidenform a few years later, finding that she didn’t have a mind for business. While shaping garments like girdles still remained essential to women for decades, the bra freed them from the painful restrictions of the corset.
39. The Sartorialist and the Age of Street Style
Bill Cunningham had been shooting his On the Street column for the New York Times for decades by the time Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist, started his blog in 2005. Cunningham deserves the title as the father of street style photography, but it was The Sartorialist that brought it into the modern age and began the boom of fashionistas being born on the streets. Hundreds of blogs followed suit, clamoring to find inspiration in style on the sidewalks, to see how everyday people were creating a daily fashion show. Girls began documenting their outfits on personal blogs and sites like Lookbook, making the fashion world seem far more accessible. It was no longer just the celebrities and socialites who could make fashion their own, but now the average girl was being celebrated for her style.
40. Club Kids
Club culture began in the seventies, but it became a whole new animal in the eighties, particularly with the look of the movement. The only rule was that there were no rules in how to dress, but it was definitely looked down upon to be plain. The theatricality of club fashion skyrocketed. Drag was prevalent, as was dyed hair, dramatic makeup, wigs, glitter, and rainbow-colored clothing. Everything was up for grabs, from things pulled out of the garbage to designer clothing found in a vintage store to see-through vinyl. The more outrageous and unique, the better.
41. Iris Apfel: The Geriatric Starlet
The title “style icon” tends to be reserved for women who epitomize the fashion of a period in time, but every now and then it’s given to those who break the mold. Iris Apfel has become synonymous with eccentric fashion as the “oldest living teenager” who isn’t afraid to think outside of the box. The 89 year old woman got her start in the fashion biz as a copywritet at WWD, but left shortly after being hired to make a name for herself in the interior design world. Apfel and her husband became the names in the textile business for their work in fabric restoration and replication. Although they retired in 1992, Apfel’s personal style cemented her as a hero in the fashion community, and she continued to consult and lecture on her own, even earning an exhibition dedicated to her style at the Costume Institute at the Met. Her over-the-top look is marked by mixing high-end and low-end and an unexpected juxtaposition of materials, colors, and references. She serves as a role-model to many fashion darlings who dare to be different.
42. Removable Collars and the Working Class
Irked by the burden of continually washing her husband’s work shirts when only the collars were dirtied by rings of sweat, Hannah Montague decided to start snipping off the collar to be washed, later sewing it back on. Word spread to nearby Troy, NY and Rev. Ebenezer Brown took it upon himself to set up a shop selling separate collars that were stiff from starch and had the ability to be clipped onto less-expensive shirts. The demand for the detachable collars exploded, and Brown soon moved to New York City in 1834. The invention saved housewives from an unnecessary chore and allowed men to follow the emerging trends of working in an urban environment. Wearing a detachable collar gave rise to the new working class, or the “white collar” worker who differentiated themselves from those who didn’t have the need for them, or the “blue collar” factory workers.
43. Hollywood as a Trendsetter
In the 1930s and 40s, the average women didn’t have much access to the trends. Magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar were considered more as trade publications, and weren’t widely circulated to those outside of the industry and the very wealthy. Instead, they turned to the widely popular movies. Along with reflecting reality in its costumes, Hollywood also emerged as the trendsetter for what the everyday audience would run out and try to emulate. Costume designers focused on their own version of classicism, and were far more concerned with how clothing would translate on screen. They used materials that appeared to be highly luxurious, like sequins, ciffon, and fur. Their costumes were simply cut and tended to have one stand-out detail, like a low back or dramatic sleeve. Just a few of the trends that movies launched were the broad-shouldered look inspired by the leg-o-mutton sleeves Irene Dunne wore in 1931’s Cimarron, the particular tip of the hat Greta Garbo sported in Romance, and the return of the full skirt over crinoline after Scarlett O’Hara’s wedding dress in Gone With the Wind.
44. Madame Gres: The Forgotten Couturier
Despite having clothed some of the best-dressed women of her day like the Duchess of Windsor and Jacqueline Kennedy, and being heralded for her work by fashion’s biggest taste-makers, Madame Gres is often overlooked in the history of fashion. She worked in complete solitude, was the last of the great couturiers to make a ready-to-wear line (likening it to prostitution), and never courted publicity. She had to shut down her business six months after it opened because of the German occupation of France, but continued to create clothing defiantly purchasing fabric on the black market and designing her collection around France’s red, white, and blue. Her designs, cut on the bias and focusing on neoclassical draping, were well-loved by high society. Her signature cut-outs on her gowns gave them an edge, especially in the contrast with her highly sophisticated silhouettes. Yet, thanks to her poor business decisions, she died penniless and forgotten, news of her death not even being wide-spread until a year afterwards.
45. Space-Age Fashion
In 1961, the first American went into space. In 1963, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon. Fascination with space was at an all-time high and its influence reached to all facets of American culture. Fashion, of course, was not excluded. A number of designers were inspired by the materials, shapes, colors, and concepts of space travel and translated it to their clothing. Courreges launched the trend with his Space Age collection in 1964 with his highly geometric clothing and stylized outfits that included boots, goggles, helmets and mini-skirts. The use of metallics originated during this time, as did catsuits, body-stockings and chain mail. He introduced new materials to fashion, like PVC clothing, vinyl, and Lucite accessories. Often, the designs of the Space Age ignored practicality and comfort in favor of conceptualized ideas.
Up until the sixties, the hat had the most important role in indicating social distinctions among men. Originally designed to be worn by women (the hat got its name from its debut in a play called Princess Fedora), the fedora became a staple for men at the turn of the century. Its popularity originated in its practicality since its brim protected the wearer from the elements and its soft felt’s crushability didn’t require a lot of care. Its statement became defined thanks to the movies. Gangsters favored the hat, and it soon became synonymous with both the sleek bad guys and the heroes who hunted them. With the rise of film noir, it became of symbol of style, mystery, and alluring darkness. In the fifties, it was a crucial part of the businessman’s uniform and helped play a part in the uniformity of the era. When hats fell by the wayside in the sixties, so did the fedora, but it is one of the most welcomed style in the hat revival of today.
47. The Afro and the Civil Rights Movement
As African-Americans started to gain equality, they made efforts to feel more connected to their roots through the fashion choices. After decades of attempting to assimilate with the white culture by straightening or braiding their hair, they wanted to celebrate their natural texture and the afro was born. Along with being a fashion statement, the afro became a powerful political symbol. It reflected black pride and the notion of “black is beautiful,” and rejected the need to integrate into the culture that oppressed them.
Steampunk emerged in the early nineties as a movement nostalgic for a world where steam power is still widely used and embraces elements of that Victorian society, usually through anachronistic technology. It’s primarily a theme for literature taking on a science fiction bent but, as with all movements, it has a fashion subculture as well. The look could include gowns, corsets, petticoats, bustles, and military-inspired garments, accented by period accessories like parasols, top hats, or goggles. Neo-Victorian details like rows of buttons or the use of velvet are common. Think the characters of A Clockwork Orange meets Harajuku Lolitas.
49. Body Modifications Become Mainstream
The practice of piercing and tattooing has been part of human history practically since its beginning, in nearly every culture around the world. Yet, in Western cultures, body modification was typically reserved for the outcasts and lower denizens of society, most notably sailors, soldiers and criminals. Piercing became accepted by the mainstream a bit before tattoos did. Ear piercing became common for women (and gay men) after World War Two, and the punk movement of the seventies took it to the extreme with eyebrow, lip, and nose piercings common among its followers. Gauntlet Enterprises, the first professional body piercing studio, opened in 1978 and by the nineties it was increasingly common to have at least one piercing. Tattoos, meanwhile, had an established culture in the U.S ever since 1846 when the first shop opened in New York. Its Golden Age was considered during World War Two and it had a wide following of “low society” members. It was generally looked down upon, but as the cultural revolution bloomed and rock stars started to sport tattoos, American youth caught on and started following suit. By the late eighties, tattooing was also decidedly mainstream.
50. East Meets West with Kenzo
One of the characteristics of seventies fashion was the fascination with other cultures, most notably with African and Eastern societies. African prints dominated textile production, and the fashion world began to turn towards Eastern designers. Kenzo was one of the first Japanese designers heralded by the fashion community, giving way to Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo. Launched in 1970 by Kenzo Takada, Kenzo took natural Japanese influences, like floral prints and silk, and merged them with Parisian style, epitomizing the movement of East Meets West.
51. Twiggy as the Face of the Sixties
The sixties, as can be seen throughout this list, was a cauldron of defining moments in fashion, and the face of this revolution was Twiggy. Born Lesley Hornby, she became a supermodel at sixteen, dubbed Twiggy thanks to her boyish, adolescent figure. Her androgynous look, large eyes, long eyelashes and short hair were the template for the beauty ideal of the decade. She landed the cover of fashion magazines all around the world, and girls everywhere followed in her footsteps with what fashions she flocked to.
52. The Little Black Dress
This ubiquitous wardrobe stable made its debut in 1926 with Chanel’s sleeveless sheath cut just above the knee. Making black an everyday color was groundbreaking, seeing as how for at least a century before Chanel’s design black was solely seen as a color for clergy and widows. The little black dress was heralded by Vogue as “Chanel’s Ford,” or the Model T of dresses. It was simple, sexy, and accessible for women of all social classes. The classic appeal of the dress transcended flash-in-the-pan trends throughout the decades. It continued to be popular through the Great Depression, thanks to its economy and elegance, and it suited World War Two’s rations and the desire for a working woman’s uniform in the forties. It was perfect for the sixties and seventies’ sex appeal, and the power suiting of the eighties. Easily customized, accessorized, and stylized, the little black dress continues to be a must-have for women today.
53. The Hermès Scarf
Like Hermè’s Birkin and Kelly bags, their silk scarves are another iconic status symbol. These hand printed, hand stitched scarves premiered in 1937, a radical departure for the house that had made its name in leather goods. Since then, they have released two collections per year, usually bearing symbols of prestige like coats of arms, equestrian motifs, and military insignia.
54. Claire McCardell Defines American Fashion
For decades, the French dominated the fashion scene as arbiters of the trends. It wasn’t until World War Two, when American designers had the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the face of France’s occupation, that the United States was viewed on equal footing. However, one designer crept into the spotlight in the thirties, creating what would become known as “the American look.” Claire McCardell designed for the everyday American woman, so her designs lent themselves easily to affordable mass produced clothing. Her Monastic dress made her a household name in 1938. It was a dress that had no front, back, or waistline, and tied to suit the wearer. It was the prototype for signature touches that she would become most known for. She popularized a number of “McCardellisms” like bias cutting, metal hook fasteners, dolman sleeves, wrap tie fasteners and asymmetrical closings. She forbade her models to wear the de rigeur constrictive undergarments, and created clothing that could be adjusted to any shape with drawstring necklines, sashes, or belts. It was also thanks to her that ballet slippers became everyday wear, when she sent them down the runway in the forties as an innovation to work around the leather shortages for the war. Her aesthetic was the beginning of American sportswear as we know it today.
55. Harajuku Fashion
It isn’t until relatively recently that Japan began to be viewed as a fashion capital, largely due to the eccentric street style known as Harajuku fashion. The streets of this city are a daily fashion show as its young people show off their theatrical, bold fashion choices. There are a few subcultures to Harajuku fashion, but the most popular and copied around the world is Lolita style. Based on Victorian clothing and Rococo costumes, the Lolita look is focused on modesty and presenting yourself as cute or elegant, rather than overtly sexy. Reacting to the growing exposure of the body, young women adopted a silhouette of a knee-length “cupcake” shaped skirt with high-collared blouses, and knee-socks. Another Harajuku style is Visual Kei, a punk movement that grew out of the eighties metal era. Harajuku residents are also a fan of bringing “cosplay” to the streets where they wear costumes dressing up like their favorite characters from movies, video games, anime, and manga. The movement as a whole strictly separate the youth-oriented modern culture from the conservative traditional culture of old-world Japan.
56. BIBA and the Modern Shopping Experience
BIBA was the go-to place to shop in the sixties, often defining the aesthetic of the era, but it also changed the way consumers expected to shop in general for the future. It created an experience, rather than an errand. The store was the brainchild of Barbara Hulanicki and her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon, who made a name for themselves with a mail-order business they ran out of their apartment in London. When the demand extended beyond their means, they opened the first of a series of BIBA shops in a nearly dilapidated pharmacy in Kensington. Shoppers swarmed the small space, and the next few subsequent shops the couple opened to try and accommodate their fans. But lines were forming down the street before the store even opened each day, and soon they bought a seven-story department store building. What followed was a grand array of opportunities under one roof, all embellished with an Art Deco flare. Not only was their brand evolving from solely womens’ wear to cosmetics, shoes, household products, menswear and children’s clothing, but so was their idea of what BIBA could offer. There was a rooftop garden complete with penguins and pink flamingos, an entire floor dedicated to a Moroccan themed lounge named the Casbah, a concert hall, a food hall, and a glamorous restaurant named the Rainbow room. The extravagant reincarnation of the store lasted only two years and shuttered in 1975, but the name lived on in infamy for representing the carefree and hedonistic feel of the era.
57. Fast Fashion
Now more than ever, “fast fashion” is dominating the industry. Stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara bring the trends from the runway to the streets faster than ever before. Garments are produced in greater numbers, often sacrificing quality for quantity. While this trend has made fashion even more accessible to the masses, many criticize it for promoting conformity and abusing intellectual rights to the designs these stores take inspiration from or rip off (depending on who you ask).
58. Stilettos Bring Sexy Back
High-heeled shoes have been around since the Greeks and their nose-bleed inducing chopines, but it wasn’t until the technology was invented to embed a supporting metal shaft into the heel in the early 1900s that allowed for the signature slim silhouette of the stiletto to emerge on the scene. Andre Perugia is often credited as the first documented designer of the stiletto, but the shoe really surged in popularity during the revival in the fifties, led by Dior’s shoe designer, Roger Vivierand. Their sexy, feminine style was loved by the lady-like and sensual fashion during the next few decades. They faded into the subcultures in the seventies, but once Manolo Blahnik got his hands on the stiletto, they rocketed back into fame and don’t seem to be going anywhere.
59. Madeleine Vionnet and the Cross Cut Bias Method
Inspired by the early modern dances of Isadora Duncan, Madeleine Vionnet created a stir in the fashion world in the twenties by introducing the bias cut. By cutting cloth diagonal to the grain of the fabric, it enabled it to cling to the body and move with the wearer fluidly. Doing away with anything that distorted the body, Vionnet’s designs embraced and celebrated the natural female form. Her clothing focused greatly on draping, and were heavily influenced by classic Greek garments. The aesthetic promoted romanticism, expression and movement that mirrored the emerging independence of women.
The Beat generation emphasized intellect, so their style was simple, understated, and free of decoration. They favored wearing all black, and women often wore dark eye makeup to complete the look. Berets were a must-have, as were flats. Women wore chunky oversized sweaters with cowl collars, slim-fitting pencil skirts, or tight slacks. As with many counterculture trends, the style spread to the mainstream and continues to be favored among intellectuals today. Even Dior, the king of lady-like fashion, took notice and designed a collection of “beatwear” that included tight black pants and fitted leather jackets.
61. Balenciaga Brings Spanish Design to the Forefront
In the late fifties, Cristobal Balenciaga emerged onto the scene with a new silhouette to counteract Dior’s New Look. He used linear and sleek patterns that went against the popular hourglass silhouette. His tunic dress, sack dress, and balloon skirt would provide a template for popular fashions of the sixties. That, however, was not the only way he was ahead of his time. Like the trends of the upcoming decades, Balenciaga took his inspiration from the lower classes rather than the typical trickle-down strategy the fashion industry was known for. The culture of Spain and its people, particularly the peasant class, were the foundation for his designs, and brought a rich ethnic flair to his look. For the first time, the industry turned to Spain as a part of the fashion world. The colors, textures, and construction of his garments could be traced back to flamenco gowns or matador boleros. His fisherman blouse, introduced in 1953 was another direct homage to Spain.
62. Military Style Infiltrates the Streets
Soldiers’ uniforms often influence high fashion during times of war, as can be seen from the militaristic rigidity of women’s clothes in the forties, but military-inspired fashions didn’t become a part of the counterculture street style until the sixties. Adopting the military look of olive jackets and camouflage became an increasingly common uniform for anti-war protesters, which quickly spread throughout the hippie movement. Camouflage in particular became a widespread mainstay of street style in the late eighties and early nineties, when even high fashion labels were incorporating it into their designs. A more prim approach to the military look started appearing in the early 00’s with admiral jackets, epaulets, cadet caps, gold buttons, and even tassels.
63. The United Colors of Benneton and the Fashion Marketing Campaign
Traditionally, fashion marketing was very straight-forward. The product was featured front-and-center, without much fanfare or story behind it. Then, in the late eighties, Benneton gave photographer Oliviero Toscani carte blanche for their new United Colors campaign, publicizing their brightly colored knit staples. Toscani proceeded to produce a series of shocking images unrelated to any of Benneton’s actual products, including the deathbed of a man dying from AIDS, an unwashed newborn baby, or a cemetery of cross tombstones. This controversial approach to fashion marketing drew a ton of public attention to Benneton and, without ever even showing a photo of one of their sweaters, launched them into becoming a popular competitor. Eventually, the United Colors campaign evolved into something a bit more direct and upbeat, yet still riddled with provocative tones and story-rich images, like using models from around the world still sporting emblems of their culture yet all wearing Benneton clothing. This type of advertising ushered in a new era of fashion marketing where a designer’s campaign needed to be creative, thought-provoking, and elaborate in order to stand out and make money.
64. Fashion’s Enfant Terrible: Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier’s notoriety in the fashion world nearly eclipses his reputation as a highly skilled couturier. Gaultier was one of the original designers to court controversy, particularly in his runway shows. He commonly creates collections with themes of fetishism (like the design he is most widely known for – Madonna’s cone bra) and gender-bending. He shocked audiences by using unconventional models, like older men, plus-sized women, or heavily tattooed punks. In 1985, he introduced his first attempt at man-skirts, which would continue to pop up in his shows throughout the years. One of his most memorable and risqué showings was in 1993, a collected called Hasidim, which showed models with coats and hairstyles styled after the traditional attire of the ultra-Orthodox Jews.
65. Leather Jackets Cross Over to the Right Side of the Tracks
Like many staples of the bad boy look, the leather jacket began with a utilitarian purpose. Meant to be worn as a protective outer layer, Irving Schott designed the first fashionable leather jacket in 1928, naming it after his favorite cigar, The Perfecto. In the coming decades, the leather jacket bounced from one rebellious subculture to another, starting with the greasers in the fifties thanks to its portrayal in the movies on stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean. They surged in popularity again with the punk movement of the seventies after the Ramones’ first album cover showed them all wearing one. It continued to be associated with the rough crowds, like the Hell’s Angels and the harder looks of the eighties, until it finally became mainstream in the nineties.
66. Teddy Boys Make Fashion Fun in England
England was a notoriously grim place during the war and shortly afterwards, so when teddy boys came onto the scene in the fifties they were the first burst of energy in the fashion scene that would later bloom into the swinging sixties. The teenagers of that generation were young and rich, and they wanted to spend their money, so they started a trend of asking Savile row tailors to re-introduce styles from the Edwardian period into their modern clothing. This dandy style was the first way the youth group in England differentiated themselves, helping to create the new youth market. Their style evolved to be drape jackets with velvet trim and pocket flaps, high-waist drainpipe trousers, Oxfords or suede Crepe-soled shoes, with a narrow tie and brocade waistcoat.
67. Op Art Textiles Reign
The monochromatic geometric prints of the Op Art trend of the sixties perfectly complemented the bold shapes of the mod silhouette. The way the print seemed to breathe or move because of the effects it had on the eye fit in with the psychedelic vibe of the more vibrant clothing of the era. Along with straight patterns, trompe l’oiel themes also became popular, like this famous dress with the silhouette of a woman worked into it.
68. Anna Wintour Changes the Face of Vogue
Before Anna Wintour was named editor-in-chief of Vogue, the magazine was losing strength and credibility in the market. They were worried about their new competitor, Elle, and how to fit in with the changing vibe of the industry. When Wintour took the position in 1988, she breathed new life into the publication by returning it to its original point of focus, high fashion, and it quickly regained its prominence. One of her more controversial decisions at the time was to start putting celebrities on the cover instead of only models. Within a few years she had phased out models almost entirely (they have maybe one cover per year now), and focus solely on getting big-name celebrities. It was a purely economic decision that angered the industry, but it worked. Newsstand purchases greatly increased, and their competitors quickly followed suit. Mid-way through the decade, celebrities on the cover of fashion magazines became de rigeur. Fashion and celebrities continue to be inextricably linked today.
69. Cowboy Boots Aren’t Just For Cowboys
Around 1870, as Americans were pressing Westward, a cowboy took his boots to a shoemaker and asked for a pointed toe to fit his foot into the stirrup more easily, a taller shaft to protect his legs, and a bigger heel so his foot would stay put while riding. And so, the cowboy boot was born. Over the years, their designs became more elaborate and, in some cases, practically works of art. Their beauty caught on even with people who didn’t spend their lives riding horses, and the style spread around the country. Beloved not only for its looks, comfort, and practicality, the cowboy boot represents to many the American ideals of adventure, exploration, and hard work.
70. Glam Rock’s Theatricality
The glam rock trend is as equally remembered to its contributions to fashion as it was to music. The bands’ looks were a blend of various visual styles, including 1930s Hollywood glamour, pre-war Cabaret, science fiction, and the occult. This wide range of inspirations manifested in outrageous clothing, makeup and hairstyles, most noted for its sexual and gender ambiguity, promoting a sense of androgyny as well as an extensive use of theatrics. High shine, sequins, metallics, tight-fitting leather or satin pants, and, of course, platform boots were all staples of the glam rock wardrobe.
71. Zoot Suits and Racial Tension
The exaggerated dimensions of zoot suits often demote them to a silly fad of the past, but they actually are an interesting symbol of the racial tensions on the West coast during World War Two. Zoot suits, with their high-waisted, wide-legged pegged trousers and long coats with wide lapels and padded shoulders, were a favored style with Mexican, Italian, and African American men in the late thirties and forties. They continued to wear them despite the 1942 War Production Board’s first rationing act that prohibited excessive fabrics used for clothing. Zoot suits continued to be made and bought on the black market, and the continuing demand for them was seen by many as an in-your-face statement of anti-patriotism. In 1943, a series of riots erupted in Los Angeles between the white sailors and marines stationed there and the Latinos who they believed to be Anti-American and avoiding army service. These Zoot Suit Riots were the breaking point of a growing polarization between the races of the city.
72. Vivienne Westwood Goes From Street Style to Haute Couture
Vivienne Westwood was an integral figure in dressing the punk movement with her husband at her London shops, Let it Rock and Sex, in the seventies. As the movement died out, her penchant for bondage gear and distressed garments evolved into high-fashion garments. She showed her first collection in 1981. It was called Pirate, and it put her on the map for her unusual designs. Remnants of her punk beginnings pervaded her collections for decades to come with subversive elements and tough details, but she soon adopted traditional elements of Scottish design, like the use of tartan fabric, and historical references from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Westwood veered away from the common silhouette of “power dressing” with old-fashioned body shaping through corsets, crinoline, bustles, and platform shoes. This “mini crini” look was a sharp contrast that made way for more romantic movements in the nineties.
73. Paper Clothing at the Edge of Sixties Design
What many consider to be the epitome of sixties’ fashion kookiness started out as a marketing gimmick. In 1966, Scott Paper Company put out an ad in Seventeen Magazine for women to buy a paper dress for a dollar and get coupons for their products. The shapeless garment was not meant to be taken seriously, but they filled half a million orders in under a year. Other companies jumped on the bandwagon, including Mars which expanded the range of the paper dress from an A-line shift to an evening dress to even a wedding gown. Paper slippers, paper bell bottoms, paper bikinis and more quickly followed suit. Even presidential candidates George Romney, Robert Kennedy, and Richard Nixon got in on the trend by handing out promotional paper campaign dresses in 1968. Different prints made the dresses a bit more fashionable, and additional treatments allowed the wearer to use them for up to ten times. People responded to the idea’s inventiveness and the speed and constant change of the trend perfectly fit the pace of the era.
74. Nehru Jackets and the Globalization of Fashion
A Nehru jacket is a hip-length coat with a mandarin collar, and was first worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964. It crossed over to the West in the mid-sixties, marketed to the growing awareness and appreciation of foreign cultures, especially of the far East. Its popularity soared when the style was picked up by the Beatles and the Monkees and became one of the favored pieces of the Mods.
75. The Deconstructionists: Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons
The rise of Japanese designers on the Paris runways of the eighties brought deconstructionism to high fashion. Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, of Comme des Garcons, were at the forefront with their black and gray garments, distressed and worn textiles, and enveloping oversized silhouettes. The elements of the early deconstructionists like putting seams and zippers on the outside of the garment rather than hiding it, or making an undesirable part of the dress a desirable feature, were the foundations of some of the most common trends of today like ripped denim, exposed zippers, harem pants, or laddered stockings.
76. Richard Avedon’s New Approach to Fashion Photography
Richard Avedon was working as an advertising photographer for a department store when he was discovered by the art director for Harper’s Bazaar in 1944. By 1946, not only was he chief photographer for Harper’s, but he also had his own studio and was providing images for high-end publications like Vogue and Life. He continued on to be the lead photographer for Vogue, and shot most of the covers from 1973 until 1988, when Anna Wintour became editor. Before Avedon, fashion photographs were fairly uniform, with a model standing emotionless and indifferent to the camera. He began to show models with a range of emotion, and even in action. Photographs with a narrative are Avedon’s biggest legacy, as is the use of photo manipulation to create more saturated colors.
77. Sophia Delauney and the Law of Simultaneous Colors
Sophia Delauney and her husband, Robert Delauney, were the creators of a new type of modern art called Orphism that focused on bright colors and abstract representations of emotion. During World War One, however, Sophia Delauney turned away from her painting and put the techniques behind Orphism to more marketable endeavors like textile design. The largest influence Orphism had on her work was the law of simultaneous colors, which used contrasting shades next to each other to evoke emotional reactions or optical illusions, like movement. The garments she designed from these textiles were striking and bold, with vivid colors and playful prints. Her dresses, scarves, hats, and coats were loved by the social elite, and she even was commissioned to design costumes for Diaghilev. Her geometric patterns of the twenties mostly focused on diagonal lines, diamond patterns, and zig-zags, while her work in the thirties and beyond was more about organic prints, like floral and leaf designs. They were a splash of color and playfulness in an otherwise monochromatic era.
78. Pinups Bring a New Female Sexuality
A woman’s sexuality and fashion have been inextricably linked since clothing first appeared, but the arrival of the pinups of the forties forever ended the coy approach to sexuality in fashion and the Victorian attitude towards a woman’s body. The cheesecake photographs and illustrations popular with the soldiers of World War Two embodied a new type of sexiness, one that was happy, cheeky, and focused on legs and breasts. Even though it was meant to be for entertainment’s sake (and to boost the soldiers’ “morale), pinups ended up influencing the look of women back home, especially through Hollywood celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. Bullet bras, sweater sets, and shorts became the popular style for young women hoping to catch themselves a soldier of their own.
79. Yves St. Laurent’s Mondrian Dress Secures the Link Between Art and Fashion
Fashion has often turned to art for inspiration, but YSL’s Mondrian dress in 1965 is the most iconic example of the link between the two that soared in the sixties through pop art fashion. The dress was inspired – or, some say straight up copied – from the paintings of Piet Mondrian, who created an art movement in 1917 that consisted of straight lines, blocks, and checkerboards constructed with primary colors. YSL’s homage was an attempt to make high art like this more accessible to the masses and instill the idea that fashion is wearable art instead of something frivolous.
80. Azzedine Alaia, the King of Cling
No one embodied the body-consciousness of the eighties like Azzedine Alaia. With the fitness craze of the decade, women wanted to flaunt their strength (or coke-induced thinness) with tight clothing and Alaia stepped up to the plate with his “second skin” clothing. His stretch minis, Lycra cycling shorts, and body suits were favorites for the nightlife of the era.
81. Erté and Art Deco
Known as the Father of Art Deco, Erté (whose name is a pun of the initials of his name, Romain de Tirtoff) was a Russian-born artist and designer based in France. In 1915, he began work with Harper’s Bazaar, and for the next two decades drew over 200 covers for the magazine. Meanwhile, he was also busy at work creating his own original designs, mostly for costumes for the stage. His elegant clothing dressed performers in the ballet, the Ziegfeld Follies, the movies, and on Broadway. The costumes were luxurious, often dripping with jewels, an epitomized the incorporation of the Art Deco movement into the fashion trends of his time. His artistic work, particularly for magazines, is also seen as the birth of the modern fashion illustration, where plans for a design are viewed as a work of art themselves. Erté is perhaps most famous for his image, “Symphony in Black,” which depicts a woman in a slinky black gown, holding a dog on a leash.
82. The Bloomer Suit
Bloomers, a pair of women’s pants typically worn under a skirt, were popularized by Amelia Bloomer in the 1850s. The long baggy pants narrowed to a cuff at the ankles, and were designed to be less of a hindrance for women as they were becoming more physically active while maintaining the Victorian concept of decency. While bloomers were only worn by a marginal population of political women, they were an important step in the liberation of women’s dress. The trend faded relatively quickly, however, because the stigma attached to wearing bloomers was too great. However, their effect was seen in the decrees of The Rational Dress Society of 1881, who stated that women shouldn’t have to wear more than seven pounds of underwear, which halved what was worn by most women in 1850.
83. The Heyday of Millinery
Hats have adorned our heads ever since clothing has been around, whether for the sake of protection or status symbol. But the height of hats as a fashion statement reigned in the twenties and thirties. The focus was on glamour, elegance, and – most importantly – uniqueness. The hat became part of the outfit, rather than just out of respect for social graces. Milliners became as respected as coutouriers, and the finest department stores around the world all had their own millinery workrooms to fill orders for their elite patrons. When younger women started to abandon the hat as part of their everyday uniform in the fifties, it was a scandal. When the hat all but disappeared in the sixties and seventies among the youth culture, it was noted as one more symbol of rebellion against previous social standards.
84. The Rise and Fall of Wearing Fur
Before the turn of the century, wearing fur was considered a necessity for warmth and protection during the colder months. But, thanks to the new technological advances, fur soon became less about survival and more of a luxury item and status symbol. Only the wealthy could afford the exotic furs that were now more of a rarity. Fur coats and stoles were the mark of the elite, and were viewed as the height of elegance. Then, the animal rights movement came with the sixties, and wearing fur was accompanied for the first time by controversy. Soon considered anachronistic, its allure faded for the following decades until it became revived – largely in thanks to faux fur and Anna Wintour’s approval – in the nineties.
85. The Costume Institute
The Museum of Costume Art was an effort to catalogue the trends of fashion in recent history founded by Aline Bernstein and Irene Lewisohn. In 1937, The Metropolitan Museum of Art merged with the small museum, and its Costume Institute was born. The mere presence of something in a museum greatly raises its cultural significance, so the acceptance of fashion as not only being worthy for an exhibit, but to be officially considered an artform was a great step for the emerging couturiers who were interested in far more than merely clothing women. Now, the Costume Institute has thousands of specimens of clothing and accessories from at least the past hundred years, and the twice-yearly exhibits are widely renowned. The annual Benefit Gala, co-chaired by Anna Wintour, has grown to become one of the most popular and exclusive events of the year in the fashion world.
86. Jeanne Paquin: The First Lady of Fashion
After working as a seamstress for years, Jeanne Paquin open her own fashion house in 1891, becoming the first woman to ever do so. The Maison Paquin quickly earned a place in the hearts of the elite and soon became a trendsetter in its own right. The house became known for its pastel evening dresses and tailored day dresses, largely inspired by Eighteenth century design. Paquin was also skilled in marketing, and was ahead of her time with the publicity stunts she pulled off, including organizing fashion parades and sending models to operas and races in her designs in order to promote her collections. As the years passed, she churned out hit after hit, including dresses inspired by the tango, gold and silver gowns, and blue twill suits. As her popularity spread, she became the first fashion house to have foreign branches in London, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and New York. Her career essentially set the business model for how fashion houses continue to operate today.
87. The House of Worth
Battling for the title of “The First Couturier” was Charles Frederick Worth, a designer who dominated the Parisian fashion scene of the latter half of the nineteenth century. His career was launched by none other than Napoleon III, who initiated the modernization that revitalized the French economy and made Paris the cultural epicenter of Europe. The demand for luxury goods rose, and Napoleon’s wife, Emepress Eugénie, became the lead taste-maker. She chose Charles Worth as her dressmaker, and naturally his popularity soared among the rich. His designs were, of course, extremely luxurious, using lavish fabrics and trimmings. Along with creating one-of-a-king pieces, he became known for showing the foundation of his new designs on live models in his showroom so that clients could choose their favorites and have them tailor-made to suit their bodies, tastes, and lifestyles perfectly. He was the first to use branded labels, to catalogue his collection, and to show his work on live models. The House of Worth eventually closed for business in 1956, but just last year in 2010, the name was taken over by fashion entrepreneurs and businessmen Martin McCarthy and Dilesh Mehta, who hired Giobanni Bedin to relaunch the label. The House was welcomed back with open arms in their first show for Spring 2011, and quickly racked up a roster of A-list fans, including Scarlett Johansson and Charlize Theron.
88. Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden Create the Beauty Industry
Up until the early 1900s, cosmetics were reserved for performers and prostitutes. While women (and sometimes men) occasionally work makeup for outings in the 1800s, it was necessary to do it discreetly. The standards changed tremendously, however, when rivals Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden came on the scene. Rubenstein opened her salon in 1915, and through her publicity savvy, changed the stigma attached to cosmetics. She created an illusion of science and health with luxurious packaging, beauticians decked out in neat uniforms and lab coats, and celebrity endorsements. She introduced the idea of “problem skin types” and, through fear-mongering, encouraged women to seek help with her face creams and hide their blemishes with her makeup. She also understood the upper class’ status anxiety, so she created a value where they may not have been any by hiking the prices, particularly when a product was faltering. Arden opened her salon right at the same time, and right in the same neighborhood, creating a nail-biting sense of competition that pushed the boundaries of the industry further and faster than ever expected. After a trip through France, she returned to the States with a recipe for rouge and powders, essentially introducing modern eye makeup to North America. She was also the first to come up with the concept of a makeover, which she heavily promoted in her salons, and the idea of the “Total Look” which involved coordinating the colors of one’s lip, cheek, and fingernail colors. The two women revolutionized the beauty industry and made it commonplace for women of all classes and lifestyles to incorporate makeup into their everyday lives.
89. The Fontana Sisters Bring Italian Fashion to the Forefront
In the beginning of the high fashion industry, Paris was commonly accepted as the center of its world. One of today’s front-runners in the business, Milan, wasn’t holding its own until Fontana Sisters went into business in the fifties. Their glamorous designs, based on Dior’s New Look, were favored by the Italian aristocracy, but they were determined to make their mark on a grander scale. They believed that the Italians’ more informal and sexier way of dressing would be especially appealing to Americans. A group of designers, including Sorelle Fontana, invited eight buyers and the leading fashion journalists from the States to a showing of their current collections. It was a huge success, and the designers received large orders from the American stores. The Fontana sisters continued to rise through the ranks, and felt confident now to develop their own style free from external influences. Their clothing particularly caught the eyes of Hollywood, and some of its most famous stars favored their designs on and off screen. Some of their most famous movie moments are the cassock dress, based on robes worn by Roman Catholic priests, worn by Ava Gardner, and the dress Anita Ekberg wore in La Dolce Vita in the fountain. Their designs epitomized the modern “jet set” who led a decadent lifestyle.
90. The Ballet Russes
The Ballet Russes was a cultural force to be reckoned with for the first few decades of the twentieth century. On stage, their performances were a laboratory for cultural experiments in an exciting clash between Russia’s classicism and the avant-garde in Paris. Their costume designer under Diaghilev, Leon Bakst, became widely regarded for his intriguing exotic designs that often sampled bullet points of far-East design, including bold color, embroidery, and heavy appliqué. But where the costuming for the Ballet truly shined was their collaborations with highly acclaimed designers and the leaders of the modern art movement alike. Among the many guest costume or set designers were Chanel, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, and Dali. Their work was often provocative, surreal, and thought-provoking, and pushed the boundaries of what was considered fashion and good taste. In turn, their performances attracted the most modern and fashionable audiences, who played a key role themselves in defining Parisian style and what would proceed to echo around the world.
91. Bluestockings: The Birth of Geek Chic
The Bluestockings Society was a women’s social movement in England in the mid-18th century, started by Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Vesey as a literary discussion group. It was a markedly rebellious decision that veered away from the traditional women’s activities of the time, which rarely focused on – and even discouraged – intellectual pursuits. The group attracted a loyal following, as well as a number of guest speakers. Even though they started as a social function, the Bluestockings spawned radical political thinkers and some of the first feminist movers and shakers. As they became more socially disruptive, the cutesy term of bluestockings went from a nickname to an insult. One legend of how the group got their name is that the women and their guests continued their evening activities in their everyday blue worsted stockings, rather than the proper formal dress of changing into black silk stockings. The term became synonymous with the “wayward” girl who favored participating in intellectual and political pastimes. It was the birth of women choosing to differentiate themselves by how they dressed in order to broadcast their self-ostracization.
92. Valentino and the Scandalous History of Red
Red is a loaded color. It represents each extreme on the spectrum, from love to rage. Unsurprisingly, then, it has had a tumultuous path throughout fashion history. Up until the 19th century, wearing red signified wealth, because the production of the dyes to create the color was incredibly expensive. Red was chosen as the color for the Catholic Church, but it was also decreed to be vulgar to wear for anyone with good taste of the 18th century. As much as it was favored by the aristocracy, it was looked down upon by the lower classes as a mark of the despised bourgeoisies. Yet, once red became more accessible during the mid-19th century, when synthetic dyes were invented, the lower classes enjoyed appropriating the long out-of-reach color and it was, once again, considered a distasteful color by high society. Now that it was ubiquitous, it lost most of its allure, and fell more or less out of fashion for the first half of the twentieth century. It wasn’t until the sixties that it came roaring back as a color suitable to make a full garment out of, thanks for the most part to Valentino, a highly celebrated young ingénue that had just come onto the scene in Rome. Many of his collections showed a number of glamorous dresses in a vibrant, pure red, later dubbed Valentino Red, and it became a highly sought after shade.
93. Spats Step Out
In the early twentieth century, spats were at the height of fashion for men. Originally used for military dress uniforms, the spat was an ankle-high piece of fabric that fit around the ankle with a loop that attached under the shoe. They protected dress shoes from damage, or created the illusion of formality by dressing up a plainer shoe. Women began to wear them too to accessorize their heels. Spats fell out of fashion after the twenties, but were picked up by outlying groups. They’re perhaps most widely associated now with the gangsters of the twenties and thirties, who were rarely seen without spats, especially in the movies. Nowadays they’re an icon for the dandy eccentric.
94. Nylon Pantyhose
As hemlines rose, stockings became a must for women’s underwear. But, silk was expensive, and the cheaper alternative, rayon, was prone to bunching, sagging, and runs. When nylon was invented in 1938, it quickly became the standard material for stockings, forever replacing silk. They covered about two-thirds of the leg, and were held up by garters and a belt. Unfortunately, just as nylons were becoming a standard part of women’s lives, it was co-opted by war efforts and all but disappeared from commercial use. Women drew seams up the back of their legs to cope and create the illusion they had come to rely on. When stockings were welcomed back after the war, innovators set to work. In 1959, Glen Raven Mills introduced the prototype of modern pantyhose. He combined panties and stockings all in one garment with the addition of an opaque nylon top, eliminating the need for multiple foundation garments. It was a huge relief for women, especially as hemlines continued to rise in the sixties.
95. Michelle Obama, Fashion Icon
As soon as Michelle Obama became a public figure, people paid attention to what she was wearing and, unlike the negativity surrounding Hilary Clinton’s conservatism and Sarah Palin’s extravagance, they actually wanted to emulate her. She swiftly became the People’s First Lady, and secured her role as a fashion icon. People responded to her youth, race, modernity, and accessibility. Instead of dressing so self-consciously “First Lady,” she represented what the average woman could be wearing by expertly mixing highs and lows. Obama’s sartorial choices became hot topics of discussion, courting both controversy (by wearing shoulder-bearing dresses and shorts, or bypassing American designers for important events) and acclaim (by favoring up-and-coming designers and taken bold fashion risks beyond the suits we had grown accustomed to over the previous presidencies). Her decisions were highly influential, creating trends and launching the careers of many designers that were previously unheard of outside of the industry, like Jason Wu, Thakoon, and Isabel Toledo. Financial analysts noticed a trend they dubbed “The Michelle Obama Effect,” where the clothes she wore during public appearances could boost the economic value of her chosen brands by up to $2.7 billion. If that wasn’t enough to scure her place in fashion history, Obama became the second first lady ever (after Clinton) to grace the cover of Vogue in March ’09.
96. Stripes: Why, Yes, They Were Controversial
Fashion history is full of examples of the mainstream appropriating trends and symbols of the degenerate subcultures, but would you ever imagine stripes to be counted among them? Yes, this seemingly innocent pattern has its share of sordid history, starting way back in the 13th century. The Carmelites, a group of Catholic monks, were causing a stir with their unusual striped habits (and, presumably, their religious beliefs), resulting in the use of stripes being banned from all clothing. It continued to be the uniform of marginalized members of society, from criminals (the stripes on their uniforms a symbol of the bars of their jails), servants, prostitutes and laborers. But, over time, the stigma of stripes went from disgust to fascination. The 19th century elite decided to make vertical stripes a marker of the rich and fashionable, and the 1858 Act of France introduced the Breton striped shirts as their uniform for the French Navy. (The stripes, apparently, helped with spotting men who had fallen overboard.) Later, in the twenties, who else but Chanel borrowed her lover’s Breton sweater, decided she’d keep it and tailored it to fit a woman’s measurements. And voila, stripes were officially chic.
97. The Acceptance of Lipstick
Cosmetics were looked down upon on respectable women throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but lipstick was considered particularly scandalous. In 1770, a law was proposed to the British parliament that a marriage should be annulled if the woman had worn cosmetics before her wedding day, and Queen Victoria made efforts to banish lipstick when she took to the throne in 1937. The controversy with lipstick, of course, had everything to do with sex. The deepened color was said to mimic arousal, and its usage became synonymous with a woman’s sexuality Thanks to its popularity with performers and prostitutes, however, the first commercial lipsticks were produced long before it became commonplace to wear makeup. It was first mass produced in 1884, by a perfume company in Paris, and began to be sold in the modern cylindrical containers in 1915. This finally evolved to the swivel-up tube we know and love today in 1923, right when lipstick was becoming highly fashionable. Photographs and the movies were mostly to credit with the acceptance of makeup, since women not only wanted to look good in the present, but preserve their beauty for generations to come. The love of lipstick thrived even during the Great Depression, where the Lipstick Index originated. Lipstick was a small purchase so, even when women couldn’t afford more overt symbols of luxury, they could treat themselves to a new color to maintain that feel of glamour and femininity. In order to buck the leftover prudence against the risqué associations with red lipstick, companies created pink lipsticks and glosses in the fifties for a less overtly sexualized look, which became a huge trend with teenagers.
98. Godey’s Lady’s Book and the Birth of Women’s Magazines
Godey’s Lady’s Book was an extremely popular publication targeted to women from 1830 to 1878. Even though it was very expensive (a year’s subscription cost $3, compared to the usual $1 or $2), women eagerly bought each new issue, looking for the poetry, service journalism, opinion pieces, and original fiction it was known for. Godey’s became the arbiter of American taste, and one of its biggest areas of influence was fashion. Each issue began with a hand-tinted fashion plate displaying the trends, along with a pattern for a modern garment that could be sewn at home. So, not only was it a tastemaker in its own time, but it is now an important source for documenting the progression of women’s dress throughout the nineteenth century.
99. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit was a novel published by Sloan Wilson in 1955 about a discontented businessman, struggling to find satisfaction in the increasingly material culture they found themselves in. The story was adopted to the screen in 1956, and both versions were hugely popular. While the gray flannel suit became the uniform for droves of men in Corporate America, the man in the gray flannel suit became a symbol for conformity in the fifties, and the underlying unhappiness with the oppressiveness of the era. Anyone who dressed outside of societal expectations was greeted with suspicion, at best. It would become a classic trope of the hidden dark side of a seemingly perfect life.
100. The Battle of Versailles
In 1973, the emerging American fashion industry declared war. Five American designers challenged five French designers to a battle on the runway to see, once and for all, who was at the forefront of the global industry. Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, and Anne Klein travelled to Paris to challenge Yves St Laurent, Dior, Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro and Pierre Cardin. The French set up with two orchestras, four conductors, and elaborate scenery. The Americans showed up with a tape recorder. But, by the end of the spectacle, it was clear who had captivated the crowd more: the Americans. The stunt officially secure the States as a serious competitor in the fashion world, but it marked another important milestone as well. It was one of the first events where African-American models were sent down high-fashion runways. There were eight models, all with the American designers, and it was their precense, along with the use of pop music, that showed the world that while Paris may always be a forerunner in couture, it was American designers that had the pulse on modern fashion.