Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fashion Tidbits - What Inspired Women's Fashions


 

If you read historical novels, you’ve probably noticed how women’s clothing evolved through the ages. Fashion swung back and forth, usually emphasizing one part of the female anatomy or the other. How did women’s fashions evolve? Not for comfort certainly, not even for modesty.

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The world of fashion breathed a sigh of relief after the freedom driven American and French Revolutions. Gone were the elaborate skirts and panniers of the 1700s. The sensible empire gowns of the Regency period gave women some relief. However, even then, the décolleté of the evening gowns plunged, and some daring ladies dampened their skirts for much the same reason people with loose morals have wet t-shirt contests today.


Wikimedia Commons
There was a flaw with the empire style. It didn’t show the woman’s hour-glass figure to advantage, so waists got smaller, skirts got bigger with hoops, so they’d stand out even more. Remember Scarlett’s seventeen inch waist? Glad I didn’t live back then. No matter how tight I laced my corset, I wouldn’t have managed that.

 
Wikimedia Commons

By the 1870s fashion designers had had enough of the hourglass and decided to emphasize another part of the body, the posterior, and the bustle came on the scene. At first it looked good but, as with most fashion, when anything becomes popular, it becomes exaggerated. Before the bustle was done, one could set a tea service on it, and it wouldn’t topple.


After the bustle, women became liberated when the flapper era entered, and women could finally show their legs.
 
Vanity has driven women’s fashion through the ages.
 
Today’s woman dresses for comfort—for the most part. What do you think?

19 comments:

  1. Elaine, I love this post, it's so interesting. Thank you for sharing!!

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Michele. Please come again.

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  2. Great post, Elaine. I love seeing all the pictures. My favorite era to write about is the 1870's, although I'm not sure I'd like to have to wear their restrictive clothing. But then, I don't wear high heels like you pictured either. :)

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    1. You know most of the common people in historical times didn't wear restrictive clothing either. Ladies might have worn corsets, but not so tight. As today, it was the slaves to fashion who went to the extremes.

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  3. I agree we dress a lot for comfort these days . . . but I can NOT wear heels like you showed. My daughters want to wear those crazy heels and they always end up taking them off anyway. Sigh. There will always be something. :-) Great post!

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    1. Hi Jennifer

      Those crazy heels was the only example I could think of today that some girls and women torture themselves wearing to be fashionable.

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  4. Great post! The styles will be ever changing. Some will go with the flow, some will rebel. I am a dress for comfort kind of woman and absolutely no heels for me! My back and feet appreciate that a great deal!!!

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    1. Hi Melanie

      When I was watching Downton Abby, it surprised me that one season they were wearing dresses down to the floor and the next season, skirts were a few inches above the ankle. But styles can change that fast.

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  5. Hey cp.

    I think changing fashion does have to do with a "loosening" of morals, but it may also have to do with economics. For instance, the change when women came away from those big huge hoopskirted dresses--I guess it seemed to hit them all at once how much fabric they were using up! A great column!

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    1. Hi Piper

      I knew your Bledsoe stories covered big changes in fashion. Maybe women of that day realized they could get three dresses out of the same amount of fabric.

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  6. I know women used up to 10-14 yrds of clothing to make ONE dress back in the day. I have a hard time buying that much at one time to make curtains for a window - can't imagine making ONE item of clothing for it.
    My grandmother was a VERY restrictive dresser and she DID wear a corset. She insisted my mom sit so straight that her back was NOT allowed to touch the back of ANY seat in the house. When we were growing up, my mom rebelled (finally) and worse much looser clothing. Of course she no longer had the 18" waist she had before marriage (no joke) she gave birth to eight children and kept most of the weight she gained with each one to my grandmother's chagrin!
    Those heels would be a deal breaker for me - I used to wear 3 - 31/2 inch heels when I was a little skinny miss - NEVER AGAIN - probably on both counts.

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    1. Hi Joy

      Interesting points. Mothers were stricter in years past, not always a good thing. As to those stiletto heels, I can't imagine walking around on my tip-toes all day, but when I first went to work, all the women in the office wore them. I never followed fashion.

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  7. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like living back in the 1870's or earlier, but can't imagine wearing 25 to 50 pounds of clothes. And crushing my waist into a corset. But now those shoes... well, I can wear them all day long. NOT. Can we say klutz?

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    1. Hi Tina

      I admit I used to wear a girdle, when I didn't even need one. Now that I could use one, I don't. People are funny.

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  8. Haha, great post. I love historical clothing. Isn't it funny the different things they came up with? But it isn't so different now. Someday we'll look back on the fashions of today and think "What were they (we) thinking?".
    The only way to avoid this is to keep our fashions in line with the Word of God.

    Thanks for the post!

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    1. That's a good point, Amber. We live in a world of extremes today. Some women in the Middle East go around with every square inch covered, while some Western women's dresses cover no more than 1940s bathing suits. I think each one of us knows modesty when we see it, regardless of the age or the culture.

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  9. Very interesting post, Elaine!! I did an essay on women's evolving fashion in high school. What interested me most is how wars have changed our country's sense of style. The Civil War led to smaller hoops, some doing without hoops completely. Wars changed the lengths of skirts, too, for practicality's sake. Especially WWI & II. The tidbit I most enjoyed learning was the fact women painted stripes up the back of their calves during WWII to create the illusion of seamed silk stockings when real ones became scarce and expensive because of wartime hardship. Loved reading this post! Thanks, Elaine!

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  10. Wow, Natalie, I've learned something new. Imagine women painting stripes on their legs to give the illusion of stockings. Yes, war changes things in ways we don't realize. Thanks for this tidbit.

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  11. Oh very interesting... Love the heels, mind-blowing colors. So gorgeous to see it all. See thishttp://www.luluhypermarket.com/GoodLife/a-treat-for-your-feet-zzfrd66.html

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