The History of Fashion


The fashion industry encompasses the design, manufacture, distribution, and retailing of clothing (men’s, women’s and children’s). Depending on how narrowly the term is applied, it may also include shoes, jewelry, hats, and accessories. It is a massive global business, employing millions of people around the world. It is not a homogeneous industry, however; different regions and cultures have their own distinctive styles, often influenced by historical events, local customs, or the desire to imitate celebrities.

The beginning of continual and accelerating change in garment styles can be fairly reliably dated to late medieval Europe. At the time, it was common for men to wear long robes that reached down to their feet, while women wore dresses or skirts. These garments were trimmed with fur, embroidery, and other decorations. In the seventeenth century, the style changed dramatically with the introduction of silk, cotton, and linen fabrics. The new materials allowed for a great variety of cuts, patterns, and colors.

As a result of the increased availability of various fabrics, fashions began to reflect regional culture and customs. New styles could be created by combining elements from different regions, as was the case when embroidered fabrics from Turkey and China were combined to produce new clothes. Fashions were also influenced by the discovery of exotic, lesser-known areas. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, saw a preference for things Turkish at one point, Chinese at another, and Japanese at still other times.

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