The Evolution of American Women's Fashion

Topics: 2nd millennium, 18th century, 19th century Pages: 14 (5309 words) Published: March 5, 2008
The Evolution of American Women's Fashion

Throughout the centuries fashion has changed in almost everything except its name. What started off as a special preserve of the privileged few has become an area in which all people can enjoy no matter what their status is. The old time consuming traditions of hand craftsmanship, which used to put most people out of reach of fashion, has over the years gone through gradual change. But what has been responsible for this progressive change in American women's fashion over time? What influences have helped shape the way American women's fashion has panned out over the centuries? Most historians in this area agree that the change and progression in women's fashion can be credited to outside forces such as the present political conditions or beliefs among the societies in which these women take part in. Rose Kerr, a historian specializing in pop culture and women's fashion and author of "Historic Costume", states in the introduction to her book that "costume has always been influenced by contemporary conditions-social, religious, and political." New York is the world's largest city of fashion in the present day, but this relationship is only one that has been established in the last century or so. Paris was the centre of fashion since fashion's beginning, but throughout fashion's history, America has come out as the present leader in fashion. Fashion has evolved into something that is no longer dictated by high society, but accessible by all people. Many things have influenced the way American women's fashion has panned out over the centuries, whether it is belief systems of the time, or major events in history. It is a process that can be followed and observed giving answers to why and how fashion has evolved over time. Today, America and its women have helped fashion develop into a force in which anonymous everyday citizens decide what is popular and fashionable. Fashion has become more than just a means of protection against the elements; it is a way of expression and communication. By studying fashion, one can learn many things about the people and societies in which they are a part. For example when one sees a picture of a women decorated with feathers, beads, and cloth made from animal hides, they recognize that women as being part of an Indian society. Clothing can give us information and tell stories about the people who wore or wear them. Looking back it is hard for a person to believe that the earliest settlers of the New World, so occupied with making a new home for themselves, were concerned at all with dress and the demands of fashion. However, one will discover that fashion and dress have always played a major role among American societies, even the earliest of these. With the new wave of peoples coming to make a better life for themselves, also came a wave of different traditions and customs. As Katherine Lester and Rose Kerr would sum up, "the various women belonging to the individual groups of settlers in the New World brought with them certain habits of dress and ideas concerning dress which were particularly characteristics of the group itself." Colonial Dress

Many of the first women settlers of the New World are known as Pilgrims and with them they brought various customs from England including their fashion trends. The Pilgrim women were very efficient when it came to the simplicity of life. Many Pilgrims were poor, and because of this the women were very hard working performing many painstaking time consuming task. For the lifestyle in which they lived, these women needed a simple form of dress. Their garments generally followed the lines and fashions of the English. The clothing was plain and durable, and like the famous portraits we have seen, the colors consisted mostly of black and white. Other colors such a brown would be used, but black and white were the easiest colors to come by.

Puritan women were another group amongst the first settlers...
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