The Evolution of American Women's Fashion
Motto: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” (Coco Chanel)
Fashion has always been a reflection of the collective consciousness and unconsciousness of society. Indeed, until recent centuries, it was the concern of the aristocracy; the clothing of ordinary people changed far less radically. However, the old time consuming traditions of hand craftsmanship, 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? It was commonly agreed that this particular evolution can be credited to outside forces such as the present political conditions or beliefs among the societies in which these women take part in. The very first contact with the European fashion culture was represented by the hundreds of costumes ordered by the Massachusetts Bay Colony for the Native American colonists. The clothing order included 300 suits, 400 shirts, and 400 pairs of shoes. Of the suits, 200 are made from doublet (a close-fitting men's jacket) and hose (close-fitting breeches or leggings that reach up to the hips and fasten to a doublet), made up of leather, lined with oiled skin leather, and fastened with hooks and eyes. The rest of the suits were made of Hampshire kerseys, in which the doublets were lined with linen and the hose with skins. Moreover, Reverend Francis Higginson of Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, advised newcomers to America to pack carefully, "For when you are once parted with England you shall meete [sic] neither markets nor fayres [sic] to buy what you want." Women’s fashion in America is notable, in the 18th century, especially due to the enormous influence of Josephine Bonaparte, whose High-waisted dresses in the "Empire style" become vogue in the United States. They remained in style throughout the nineteenth century. Throughout the 1790s, women relay cutting and styling information for clothing through fashion plates, miniature garments made for dressmaker's dolls, descriptive letters, and copies of other items of clothing. From now on, a series of revolutionary fashion events are also associated with the emancipation of women. Representative for this period is Amelia Bloomer, an American reformer and publisher, who campaigned against sexual discrimination and advocating temperance and women's suffrage. Famous for her stand in favour of dress reform, she appeared at her lectures during the early 1850s wearing full trousers, gathered at the ankle, under a short skirt. These garments, although first worn by Elizabeth Smith Miller, were later called bloomers. They are ankle-length trousers—the large Turkish style or straight-legged "pantaloons"—worn with a midcalf-length dress. Few women actually adopt the costume, but it generates a disproportionate amount of public outrage and ridicule. In the mid-1850s, the fashion industry devises the cage crinoline or hoop skirt as a more lightweight alternative to the heavy layers of petticoats that women have been wearing in order to achieve the stylish bell-shaped-skirt. Cage crinoline employs a retractable metal frame that women can wear beneath their skirts, and its added mobility enables its widespread use by a larger cross-section of women, including those who labor in agriculture and factories. The successful revolt by women against social and political restrictions was accompanied by the disappearance of the corset and the physical restrictions it inevitably caused. Prominent Boston dressmaker Olivia Flynt patents and advertises a corsetless breast supporter in 1876, designed particularly for ladies with large busts. Flynt claims that her innovation enables beauty of form to be preserved without...
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