An Up and Down Tale - History of Ladies fashion.
An Up and Down Tale Up until the first World War, hemlines were uniformly long -- generally brushing the floor. This meant that garments took a lot of care, particularly the hems, which dragged through whatever came their way. Prior to the war, hemlines rose to a more practical ankle length -- but with the advent of war they continued their ascent to mid-calf. They've stayed there or higher ever since. But what does the length of a hem say about our culture? Read on and find out! Relaxing the Rules -- the 1920sThe first World War had a profound impact on the attitudes of people. They questioned the old patterns of living and values that had brought them into such a horrendous war and rejected much of what had gone before. That included clothing rules, which were unchanged since Victorian days. Suddenly, not only were women showing ankles and even calves, they were wearing high heels and revealing stockings. Corsets were out, and brassieres were in, mostly because the culture focused on youth -- and bras could flatten a chest and make a woman appear slimmer and younger. With moving pictures, Hollywood stars were all the rage -- as was makeup, and the new "permanent wave". In fact, this is when beauty parlors were born, where women could gather and chat while
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having their hair done (something previously done at home, or not at all.) Women even began using nail polish. Shocking!Judgement Days -- the 1930sAfter the excesses of the 1920s, the stock market crash and Depression came as a slap in the face to our culture. Many felt it was a judgement against them for their lax behavior, and clothing turned to more conservative styles along with the attitudes of its wearers. Styles became more feminine, too. Women were allowed to be women, in short. Ruffles reappeared, gowns cut on the bias with dramatic lines were introduced. Hats became more feminine than the clingy "cloche" cap, which had been adopted when less hair meant no place for a hat pin.War on Fashion -- the 1940sJust a generation after the War to End All Wars, an even greater conflict engulfed the world. This war, however, would change the world forever in profound ways. Fashion was part of what changed, as shortages caused people to be increasingly creative.Gone were bias-cut gowns that required a great deal of material. Women bought patterns that were meant to be used to remake a man's suit into one for a woman, cutting the skirt from trouser legs, and rebuilding the jacket. Shoulder pads and tailored looks quickly became the new fashion statement.The popular "little black dress" was invented in the 1940s, as a way to stretch a wardrobe by using accessories to vary the knee-length simple dress. Women also began wearing slacks for the first time, both for war work and in general activities.The Glory Days -- the 1950sJust as after the first World War, the decade after W.W. II brought a feeling of well-being and joy. Women wanted to be treated as women again, not as war workers -- but they also didn't want to lose the independence they'd gained in the war years. Cinched-in waists and full shoulders made for hour-glass figures that caught many an eye. Hemlines hovered near the knee, and high heels were a must, whether worn with swishing full skirts or pencil straight ones.Of course, there were also the Bobby-soxers we all like to dress up as for parties, with their poodle skirts, Peter Pan collar blouses, saddle shoes and ponytails. And don't forget the cat-eye glasses! But the overall image is one of women breaking out of their old roles and testing their wings.A Groovy Time -- the 1960sWith the 60s came color, motion, sound, freedom. Some may argue there was too much freedom, but the smell of it was everywhere. Once again, the culture worshipped youth -- the babydoll look was in with empire-waist dresses that de-emphasized a woman's curves and made her more youthful looking. It was a time to think like, behave like and enjoy being a child again.It was also a time of experimentation in every aspect of society -- and hemlines were no exeption. Suddenly, the knee was not only showing, it was nowhere near the hemline! The mini came in, and the go-go boot was not far behind. The style said, "I'm a woman, and I'm confident about it -- no matter what you think." Tights were also a must, particularly with the mini and the micro -- or a woman could find herself practically nude.Space was also a consuming passion for the country, and of course fashion couldn't wait to go along for the ride. Pierre Cardin created the lovely outfit in the center of our illustration, complete with cut-away helmet so the wearer would be ready for a spacewalk at a moment's notice. It looks ridiculous now, but everyone thought we'd be living on Mars by 2001 anyway.There was even a flirtation with paper clothes... but we'll tackle that topic another time. Just leave your matches home.Grannies, Polyester, Power Dressing -- the 1970s, '80s and BeyondAfter the breezy minis of the 1960s, women were entitled to go the other way and love their granny dresses for a short time. Ah, the relief of being able to pick up something one dropped! The '70s also brought us polyester -- something we'd all rather forget.The decade was one of transition as women tried to find their place in society and make their statement in how they presented themselves. Fashions were long and short, pants and dresses, and everything in between.When the dust settled, women took their place in the House. And the Senate. And the Board room. The 1980s will forever be known as the greedy decade. People were hungry for more -- more money, more power, more success. Women put on their power suits with huge shoulder pads, pushed up sleeves and tailored skirts, and moved out. They softened the power suit look with feminine blouses and scarves, and colored hose with matching shoes were a necessity. Despite the adherence to designer fashions in the 80s, a breath of democracy was in the wind. When designers tried to drop shoulder pads, women rebelled. Clothes began to come with removable shoulder pads, so the wearer -- not the designer -- decided what looked best on her. Clothing designed for real life became part of every wardrobe -- exercise clothing.The 1990s were an extension of the 80s in the sense that clothing became something driven not by designer collections and decisions, but by what the public would put up with. It was a decade when, for the first time, people began dressing as they liked to dress, not just how they were supposed to dress. There is no "look" that can be attributed to our "in" society members anymore. Everyone wears whatever he or she finds comfortable, functional and proper. We've come a long way from 1900 -- thank goodness!