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CLOTHING. Clothing and fashion underwent several transformations in the early modern world, reflecting the changing social, political, religious, and economic forces of which they were a part and an expression. Though major shifts in patterns of production and consumption and the emergence of more varied fabrics and textiles had already taken place in the late Middle Ages, the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries represented a culmination of these trends as well as a distinct and dynamic period in which clothing became an innovative and rapidly changing style form in its own right. Reflecting a heightened clothes-consciousness, men and women constructed their identity by wearing garments that reshaped their bodies and created around them a fluid circulation of meanings. In this sense, clothing, as one writer put it, constituted a "worn world: a world of social relations put upon the wearer's body." At the same time, just as clothing served as a form of personal (if heavily restricted) self-inscription, larger historical developments of the timechanging warfare, the Protestant Reformation, even the emergence of national identityinfluenced the choice of a slashed sleeve or a ballooning doublet.


Though textile centers had existed throughout Europe since the Middle Ages, the birth of the fashion industry originated in the city-states of Italy, where international trade, commercial innovation, and economic growth had coalesced since the twelfth century. The Crusades had opened the way for contact with Asia and, with it, the importation of more varied and luxurious fabrics. In northern Italian states such as Venice and Florence, import-export businesses coexisted with centers of fabric production that created huge fortunes and an accompanying consumer class eager for personal, status-enhancing display. Beginning in the fifteenth century especially, the hedonistic desire to spend on the part of those with more disposable wealth combined with a business strategy of "planned obsolescence" to produce clothes of a distinct cut, piecing, and fit that could be adopted and discarded as "fashion" by wealthy elites who suddenly did not wish to be seen in garments that could be considered out-of-date and behind the style curve of their rivals.

Constraints were placed on the circulation of clothing, however. Though they extended back to the Bible, early modern sumptuary laws had been formulated in the late Middle Ages to regulate consumption of luxury items and to reinforce existing social, economic, and occupational divisions by narrowly delineating items such as clothing or jewelry that an individual could wear. Intended to counter extravagancewhich could be loosely defined, though silk, velvet, and brocades were strictly offlimits to the lower classeslaws also served the purpose of encouraging domestic production and protecting the manufacturing sector of a given country while upholding self-proclaimed standards of morality and decency. As a method of social control, sumptuary legislation also upheld hierarchies in a world where class distinctions, at least at the higher levels, could become blurred at times. Wealthy mercantilists, for example, gained economic strength during the early modern period, and proceeded to express themselves in the outer trappings of wealth. The result was a kind of egalitarianism of extravagance, as expressed by the wife of Phillipe Le Bel, who is said to have exclaimed, "I thought I was the Queen, but I see there are hundreds." In Tudor England, on the other hand, finer social distinctions were reinforced by injunctions, for example, that "None shall wear cloth of gold or silver, or silk of purpose color except Earls, all above that rank, and Knights of the King (and then only in their mantles)." Those on the marginsespecially those on the marginswere also targeted for sartorial restriction: thus were Jews compelled to don either a star-shaped yellow badge or a yellow hat known as a bareta, while in Venice common prostitutes were required to proclaim their station through patches as well as bells, hats, or striped hoods. Sumptuary laws could be subverted or evaded, however, among those of the lower orders. To bypass the law that limited commoners to one color, some individuals as well as noblemen began to slash their garmentsdoublets, sleeves, hoseto expose the contrasting colors of the interior linings. Courtesans also could sometimes overcome such restrictions and, in fact, mimic the altogether more cloistered noblewomen with their own lavish stylings, down to the extreme shoes known as chopines, whose platforms could extend the length of three feet, elevating the woman to towering proportions and requiring her to support her stride with two sturdy male handlers.


Sumptuary laws ensured that clothes reflected the age's social stratifications, with more variation occurring in the top ranks of society. Men as well as women were especially aware of the manipulative potentialities in dress and public image, and adorned themselves accordingly, but few did so with such notoriety and effect as Elizabeth I of England. Her astonishing wardrobe was a political expression in its own right, and a useful expedient: because much of her power came from projectionwhich was especially necessary when she witnessed no small number of threats to her throne, as well as limited funds in her treasuryher gowns were designed to impress with jewels and luxurious fabric, and could even be adapted to international fashion styles, depending on whose courtthe French, an Italian city-stateshe considered diplomatically useful at any one time. Elizabeth's dress in turn trickled down, at least to ladies of the more elevated class, with its status-enhancing ruffles, complicated bell-shaped sleeves, daunting underpinnings, heavily embroidered gowns, V-shaped waistlines, cinched, tight-fitting bodices, and choices of colors that ranged, in contemporary language, from Bristol Red to Puke and Popinjay Green. Men were equally influenced by Elizabeth's sartorial statements, adopting more elaborate embroidery motifs (including the Tudor rose) as well as rich fabrics and, of course, the ruff, which could extend to a foot outward. But male ornamentationfanciful boots, rich materials, plentiful decorationhad preceded Elizabeth and been expressed most fully with her father, Henry VIII, whose own puffed styles borrowed from the Continent, most notably from the courts of Burgundy and France.

Among elites, shifts in styles occurred frequently over the course of the sixteenth century, moving from the relatively soft linearity of late Gothic and early Italian Renaissance clothing, when dress tended toward greater simplicity and consisted of a relatively restrained albeit beautifully tailored gown topped by huge sleeves, trailing skirts, and a square or rounded neckline. Headdresses completed the picture, and consisted of a sort of net or caul that seems to have contained the hair. Later on, the farthingale, a bell-shaped hoop skirt, dominated women's fashion, contributing to an increasingly stiff female posture. As Aphra Behn wrote in The Lady's Looking Glass, "I have seen a Woman . . . [who] has screw'd her Body in so fine a Form, that she dares no more stir a Hand, lift up an Arm, or turn her Head aside, than if, for the Sin of such a Disorder, she were to be turn'd into a Pillar of Salt; the less stiff and fix'd Statue of the two." With the introduction in the century of the aforementioned ruff, which enshrouded the neck in starch and lace, the effect was to render women as well as men all the more remote and unapproachable in appearance.

From the mid-sixteenth century on, such aesthetic cues were increasingly appropriated from Spain, where clothes forsook the body's natural contours and instead subjected it to even more geometric silhouettes. Dark silks and velvets were especially valued among those who preferred the classical baroque style, for it allowed them to showcase more effectively the precious stones and jewelry with which they adorned themselves, and which were frequently sewn into the fabric itself. The Spanish style was especially evident among men, who could, nevertheless, vary their adornment in the quest to project masculinity, wealth, status, and sexual allure. The shirt undergarment worn by an early modern man tended to be fitted closer to the body than that worn by a peasant, in order to accommodate the nearly always white linen doublet; nether hose, or pants, were a significant shift from the more gowned medieval world, with men opting for knee-length Venetian breeches or what were known as slops, or paned breeches, which puffed at the thigh and were sometimes adorned with a codpiece. Doublets were jacketlike ensembles that were fastened down the front, tended to come with a high neckline, and were topped by a straight-collared, richly ornamented cloak, almost always worn by noblemen. Despite the encroachments of new fabrics, cuts, and silhouettes for the male body, however, gowns were not entirely obsolete, especially in the early period of the age, when they continued to distinguish their wearers as clergy, scholars, or old and respected gentlemen.

Among the lower orders, the standard apparel for women began with a linen undergarment known as a chemise, or shift, a rectangular smock with long sleeves, a low square neck, and a hem that extended to the calf. Over this women wore one or two linen or wool skirtscotton would not be mass-produced Europe until the eighteenth centuryand supported the body and the garment with a snugly fitting (but not oppressively tight) vestlike bodice. Variations existed: for the Flemish market woman, for example, a linen undergarment was overlaid with a sleeveless kirtlean open-fronted gown laced in the frontand a partlet, an item of clothing worn over the upper torso.

Surprisingly, more affordable dyestuffs ensured that colors could vary among the lower classes, ranging from pink, fawn, russet, peach, blue, green, and occasionally even bright red, though the latter was frequently associated solely with the upper classes. For a peasant man, on the other hand, the undergarment comprised a linen shirt similarly rectangular in cutto prevent the linen from unravelingwith long cuffed sleeves and an optional collar. These were usually matched by knee-length breeches often finished with a loose, unstructured, and hip-length vest known as a jerkin, covered in the winter by a wool or linen cloak.


Fashion among the elite tended to be international in scope, to the point where Thomas Dekker compared the "English-mans suit" to a traitor's body: "the collar of his doublet and the belly in France; the wing and narrow sleeue in Italy; the shorte waist hangs over a Dutch botchers stall in Utrich; his huge sloppes speakes Spanish; Polonia [Poland] gives him his bootes; the blocke for his head alters faster than the feltmaker can fit him." The emergence of firmer national boundaries and identities in the early modern period, however, also reflected itself in clothing and in shifting cultural centers, from the Italian city-states to Spain and on to France. During the reign of Louis XIV, and especially from 1660 on, France played an increasingly important role in setting fashion, with gaudiness prevailing in men's dress and exemplified by tiny, open doublets and extremely baggy, knee-length trousers known as rhinegraves. Eventually rhinegraves fell out of fashion, though clothing continued to be decorated with such flourishes as ribbon bows.

Female fashion under Louis XIV was perhaps even more in flux, especially from the 1630s through the 1660s, evolving from high-waisted to long-waisted gowns, low, wide, and horizontal or oval-shaped necklines trimmed in lace, and sleeves set low on the shoulder, opening into a full ruff that ended below the elbow. For all its flourishes, however, women's dress in Louis's France tended to be more subdued and elegant than that of the beribboned male, accentuating in its silhouette the beauty of the female form.

With the emergence of more permanent armies among states, standardized military uniforms began to resurface for the first time since the Roman era. Whereas previously soldiers had either served different armies or were expected to provide their own fighting gear, uniforms now were fashioned to adorn the fighter in times of peace as well as war. Large textile factories in France became increasingly capable of churning out mass quantities of uniformly colored fabric that was cut and decorated by buttons, braiding, and cords in an unvarying manner. Military uniforms also influenced male civilian dress, making the coat or jacket more tight-fitting, with tailored contours, and taming the sleeves into the tubular and simple proportions known today. The soldier's broad-brimmed hat, or tricorn, became fashionable after the Thirty Years' War ended in 1648, as did rows of buttons and broad collars. Because men after the 1650s began to wear their hair much longer, large lace collars were made smaller and then replaced by strips of fabric that were transformed into knotted cravats or silk ribbon bows in the 1670s and 1680s. Jackets were then finished off with a waistcoat called la veste, as well as a knee-length suit jacket called a justaucorps and breeches less voluminous than had existed before. Despite the substitution of uniformed infantry fighting for armored cavalry attacks, metal sheathings continued to flourish at court, taking on more elaborate engravings. During the mid-sixteenth century especially, armor design was increasingly based on the forms and ornament found in classical art. This renaissance of pseudo-antique armor is most invariably associated with the celebrated name of Filippo Negroli, who was to become the most innovative and celebrated of the renowned armorers of Milan. Though Leonardo da Vinci had earlier sketched his fantastic armor and Verrocchio represented armor in sculpture, Negroli and his Milanese family produced unsurpassed embossed and damascened parade armors that entered into the collections (or perhaps even sheathed the bodies) of the dukes of Urbino as well as the Medici, who proclaimed a Negroli helmet "the greatest marvel."

The Protestant Reformation also played an enormous role in shifting fashion, and while it was not uniquely Protestant to condemn the excesses of dresssumptuary laws were reinforced earlier on the grounds of moralitygroups such as Calvinists or Puritans were especially vehement on the subject. According to James Durham, "men's minds are often infected with lascivious thoughts, and lustful inclinations, even by the use and sight of gaudy clothing; and light, loose, conceited minds discover themselves in nothing sooner than in their apparel, and fashions, and conceitedness in them." Because God "commendeth modesty," sobriety must prevail over clothes that "emasculateth or unmanneth" men and the "dressing of hair, powderings, washings, rings [and] jewels reproved in the daughters of Zion."

The "hethen garments, & Romish rags" of Catholic clergy were also viewed as betraying the preceptsif not the fashion senseof Jesus and the early apostles. Renaissance popes and cardinals such as Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga (14441483) had in fact been profligate, if not unsavory, in their spending habits and choice of dress, with their green or crimson damask gowns and silk slippers earning the ire of Girolamo Savonarola's outraged sensibilities. In comparison to the popes, reformers such as Martin Luther or Thomas Cranmer appeared almost homely in their dark cassocks and simple girdles, while Calvinists or English Puritans took the "plain style" to its extremes, adopting a basic and austere black more appropriate to their religion. The issue of a priest's vestments had in fact been a pressing question in the sixteenth-century clothing controversy in England, when clergy opposed wearing the cap and gown in daily life and the surplice in church; the issue was not a shallow one, as garments were thought to both influence identity and to even align the outer self with one's inner faith.

Theatrical productions, albeit in more altered forms, continued to be accepted (and created) by Protestants, though the more radical among them could inveigh against frivolous masques and entertainments. Clothing certainly contributed to the shaping of theater, and particularly English theater, which spent the greatest amount of its budget on costume. Sumptuous display ensured good box office; at the same time, the presence and circulation of clothes played a central role not only as dramatic devices within plays such as Thomas Middleton's Your Five Gallants, but also situated the identity of central and supportive characters alike. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, with its sartorial transformations of Viola into Cesario, is perhaps the best-known example that utilizes the gender- and identity-shaping potentialities of clothing. Shakespeare, however, was borrowing from a rich theatrical tradition of transvestism, in which the so-called "woman beneath" or "man beneath" (or "boy beneath") was hidden by the cover of clothes, voice, and gesture. Masques were also forums for such transgressions, and in the sequins and gilded costumes and elaborately patterned and stitched velvet masks, participants found a liberating refuge of subversion, akin to the costumed inversions that existed among the lower orders at Carnival time.

Contemporary clothing practices, of course, mutually influenced early modern attitudes toward the body, including idealssometimes blurred idealsof beauty, ugliness, femininity, and masculinity. Emphasis on women's full figures had prevailed in the earlier era, though the introduction of increasingly restrictive and breast-compressing whalebone bodices reflected or inspired a slimmer ideal, at least in the waist. Men were equally constrained by their own fashions, including the legemphasizing hose, the form-fitting doublet, or even the frequently exaggerated codpiece. In another sense, clothing also served the early modern religious consciousness as a reminder, in Martin Luther's phrase, of the "wretched Fall"; though the nakedness of Adam and Eve was replaced by fig clothing and God-provided animal skinsthe "robe[s] of righteousness," according to John Miltonclothes nevertheless served for theologians as a constant evocation, a memory, of one's sin, shame, and death.

See also Bible: Interpretation ; Calvinism ; Class, Status, and Order ; Elizabeth I (England) ; Gender ; Louis XIV (France) ; Puritanism ; Sexuality and Sexual Behavior ; Sumptuary Laws ; Textile Industry ; Women .


Arnold, Janet. Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd. Leeds, U.K., 1988.

Ashelford, Jane. A Visual History of Costume: The Sixteenth Century. London and New York, 1983.

Jones, Ann Rosalind, and Peter Stallybrass. Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2000.

Weiditz, Christoph. Authentic Everyday Dress of the Renaissance. New York, 1994.

Sarah Covington

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overview of traditional and modern clothes in the middle east.

Most contemporary Muslim societies reflect both old and the new realities. Resurgence of religion and nationalist attitudes of the postcolonial (twentieth-century) era are reflected in the modes of clothing. The traditional modes remain strongly defended and sometimes enforced by the governments of some Islamic nations. The great shift in political, social, and religious participation of women in many Muslim nations has affected clothing styles as well. In the twentieth century, there were two opposing models for Muslim women: the Westernized

lifestyle prominent among minor upperclass and elites, and the more restrictive, traditional "Islamic" way of life for the majority of women. A third, alternative lifestyle that has attracted a large number of Muslim women is both Islamic and modern, the result of more education and an understanding of the difference between the patriarchal interpretation of Islam and the text of the Qurʾan by the religious ulama.

Historical Background

Very little has been written regarding the dress of Arabs in classical historical literature. In terms of the Near Eastern people, more visual evidence survived

in forms of stone carvings. The earliest evidence of Arab clothing from the first and second millennia b.c.e. shows that scant clothing was worn with a variety of headdresses. Men and women wore almost identical clothing in the early Islamic era of the seventh century and the time of jahiliyya (pre-Islamic era), as is still the case today among non-urban inhabitants of the Middle Eastern regions.

Arab material culture was influenced by contact with other great empires. Arab Muslim rulers influenced the clothing styles of the countries they ruled, while the fashion styles of the countries ruled influenced the rulers. Many customs regarding clothes have roots in ancient Near Eastern (Iranian plateau, Iraq) superstition found also in the Talmud, and still are practiced as they were during the jahiliyya. From the time of the Prophet (seventh century forward), early Islamic clothes fashions were an extension of the preceding period, with some modifications for new Islamic moral codes after the prophet Muhammad. The clothes of the villagers and bedouins of the Middle East are simpler, more functional, and more suitable to the climate and geography of the regions than those of urban dwellers, who are far more conscious of conservative modes of behavior.

In the urban Middle Eastern regions, Western styles of dress for the most part have replaced traditional clothing. Westernization of the Middle Eastern clothes styles is in itself unique and innovative at times and, importantly, accepted by the indigenous population. Traditional items of clothing mix with Western styles. For example, it is common to see Arab men of the Gulf region wearing the traditional long, ankle-length jillaba, or dishdasha, kaffiya, and agal along with a Western-style man's suit jacket and dress shoes.


Among the most important items of clothing for men is the headgear, and the most common form of head dress for men is the imama, or turban. Historically, turbans were used for purposes other than merely covering the headfor example, for hiding objects, tying down a person, or using as a prayer rug. Turbans were wrapped in a variety of styles, as well. It was customary to leave a corner of the imama free to serve as a veil to protect the wearer against heat, dust, and the evil eye, and to conceal the wearer's identity. The locus of a man's honor and reputation was his head; therefore, to cover the head was proper and dignified and to leave it uncovered was considered shameful. In the book Palestinian Costumes Shelagh Weir notes: "Men swore oaths on their turbans, and the removal of a man's turban in anger was a slur and provocation and could necessitate material compensation."

The turban has long been worn by both Muslims and non-Muslims. The English word turban derives from the Persian dulband via the Turkish turban or tulbent. In Persian, the most common word for turban is amama, from the Arabic form of the word imama. Other less commonly known Persian terms for imama are mandil and dastar-e-sar.

The imama is usually wrapped around a small cap, which is placed at the crown of the head. This small cap is called aragh chin (Persian sweat collector), tubior araqiyya in Arabic. The early turban did not have the symbolic significance that it gained later, when it became associated with Islam and came to be referred to as "the badge of Islam" (sima al-Islam), "divider between unbelievers and believers" (hadiza bayn al-kufr wa al-iman), and "crowns of the Arabs" (tidjan al-arab).

According to an old Arab tradition, removal of a man's imama signified losing his manhood and abandoning his morals. Exceptions to this rule included removing the turban for prayer, to show before God, and for punishment, to show the public that the punished man is not respected. There are contradictory hadiths (Islamic traditions) regarding wearing or not wearing imama. In early Islamic times, the turban was forbidden to a person in a state of ihram (during the Hajj rituals).Turbans had to be removed before entering Mecca as a sign of humility and respect before God. The prophet Muhammad's turban was named al-sihab, "the cloud," and the prophet Muhammad was known as sahib al-imama, meaning "Master of the state turban," which is significant in terms of religious and community leadership. Numerous terms found in Arabic literature refer to different manners of wearing the turban: al-saʿb, al-masaba, al-mikbar, al-mashwad, and al-khamar.

In some Middle Eastern cultures, turbans were associated with sexual and social maturity. For example, in Palestinian culture, different types of headgear marked stages of maturity, and usually young boys were not allowed to wear a turban. The turban remained important even after the death of its wearer, and a traditional Muslim stone grave may have a mark with a turban. Non-Muslims who were ruled by Muslim Arab rulers were required to follow certain sumptuary laws regarding their garments. Among such obligations were the caliphs' orders to wear "the interchange," which referred to headgear, outerwear, shoes, and belts that would differentiate believers from nonbelievers in public. Non-Muslims were required to use special marks on their turbans to segregate them visually from Muslims.

In addition to marked turbans, the size and color of the turban was a badge of identification for certain classes and ages of people. The color associations have changed over time and place with various Muslim Arab rulers. For example, black turbans were associated with officials during the Abbasid period (ca. 750950), and red was a sign of high rank. The Safavid court of Iran during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries adopted a particular form of turban that contained a tall, red stick at its center. This red stick became a religious and political divider between the official Shiʿite court of

Iran and its rival, the Ottoman Turks. Safavid soldiers wearing red-stick turbans were known as qizel baş ("red heads"), by the Turks. Religious and learned scholars wore smoothly wrapped flat, white turbans. Yellow was reserved for Jews, blue for Christians. Apparently, at various times the colors red and purple were also reserved mostly for Jews and Christians.

Men in the prime of life wore turbans in bright, warm colors; men of fifty exchanged their colored turbans for plain white ones. Until the early part of the twentieth century green turbans were worn by hajjis (men who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca) and by sada (men who claim descent from the house of the prophet Muhammad) to indicate a religious status with high social value. The extensive use of green turbans by illegitimate users led to the replacement

of the green turban with the black turban, to distinguish the legitimate sada. In Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1978, where separation of mosque and state is nonexistent, identification as a cleric denotes access to power, so it is significant that white turbans are associated with theologians and scholars, and black turbans indicate an association of the wearer to the house of the prophet Muhammad. There is no way to guarantee the legitimacy of the turban color vis à vis its intended meaning by its wearer. In general, the public trusts the wearer on this issue.

Because the turban originally was considered a part of a man's attire, traditionally, Arab men objected to women wearing this symbol of manhood. However, some literary references indicate that women at times in various parts of the Arab world wore turbans for certain occasions, perhaps in the privacy of the home. Young women sometimes wore turbans to appear more attractive, and when a woman gave birth to her first baby, she wore a turban comprised of six yards of material. After the second baby, she wore a turban with six additional yards. Northern Iraqi women wore turbans made of printed material and decorated with Ottoman Turkish gold coins. The practice of women wearing turbans is not unusual. and it is present even in the modern history of fashion, where there is an affinity for "exotic" headgear.

Another popular form of Arab headgear is the agal, which is a ringed cord or rope that goes over the headscarf worn by men in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. The head rope was originally a camel hobble (the word agal means "to hobble") that was carried on the head when not in use. Later, this rope came to distinguish the bedouins of north and central Arabia (and the ruling families descended from them) from other bedouins. The earliest reliable report on the agal dates back to the early eighteenth century, from a picture depicting the imam Abdullah Ibn Saʿud wearing an elaborate and highly decorative type of agal that is sometimes called mugassab.

Along with the agal, men wear the Arabic kaffiya (or pocu, pronounced poshu in Turkish and the dialect of the Turkish Kurds). The kaffiya (also sham-agh or hatta ) is a head cloth folded diagonally and secured on the head by the agal. Men from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine wear the kaffiya. It comes in a variety of designs and colors that denote tribal affiliation. In modern history it has acquired another layer of meaning as a symbol of solidarity among Palestinians and their supporters in their quest for political and geographical autonomy. It is sometimes worn in defiance, as if a substitute for the long outlawed Palestinian flag. Like the black-and-white kaffiya of Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is worn by both Palestinian men and women as a sign of unity, the pocu has the same symbolic meaning for independence of the Kurds under the autonomy of the Turkish government. The pocu is also black and white, which are the colors associated with urban Kurdish intellectual men and women. It signifies political leftism, cultural freedom, and rights to an independent state. Both the pocu and kaffiya are draped over the shoulders by men and women, worn like a scarf on the head by women, or worn in the traditional manner with the agal by men only.

Another popular headdress for men is the fez, a word derived from Fez, a city in Morocco where it traditionally is manufactured. It is a brimless, cone-shaped, flat-crowned hat that usually has a tassel made of silk. The fez is made of red felt and is worn in Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Palestine. Another name for the fez is tarbush or tarboosh. It was banned during the Tanzimat period in Turkey (beginning in 1839), when dress regulation took place. However, the tarbush also played a significant political role after the Young Turk Revolution of July 1908.

Also common among men in the Middle East region is the sidara, an Iraqi cap commonly made of black velvet, black lamb's wool, or black felt. The sidara is brimless, has a crown at the center, and folds like a pocket around the crown of the cap. It resembles the hat worn by the cadets in the U.S. military. This cap at one time was very popular with middle-class, upper-middle-class, and elite members of Iraqi society. The sidara lost its popularity after the 1958 deposition of the last king and the establishment of the Republic of Iraq. Muslim men of the subcontinent of India wear a similar hat in black as a sign of Muslim identity.

The kippah, commonly worn by Jewish men in the Middle East, is a skullcap that is also known in Yiddish as the yarmulke. Ashkenazic Jews wear the yarmulke at all times, and Sephardic Jewish men generally do not. In Israel, wearing a yarmulke also has social significance: Not wearing a yarmulke is like stating, "I'm not religious." The style of yarmulke in Israel can also indicate political and religious affiliation.

The most common headdress for Muslim women is some form of a veil. The generic term for veil, known by Muslims regardless of their cultural and linguistic heritage, is hijab. The hijab refers to a physical veil, a tangible item covering the hair and face of a woman. The word is of Arabic origin, from the verb hajaba, "to hide from the view, to conceal." Hijab also refers to the Muslim woman's dress code in accordance with interpretation of Islamic law. Muslim women around the world wear various forms of veils, each community according to its own cultural and religious interpretations, so there is no universal form of veiling among Muslim women. Other common interchangeable words for veil are yashmek, purda, chador, paranja, burqa, bushia, niqab, pece (pronounced peeche in Turkish), and khimar. Each represents some specific form of head or face veil commonly used by Muslims of various nationalities. The chador, which in Persian literally means "tent," is a form of hijab (head veil), consisting of a full-length semicircular piece of material. It is placed on top of the head and covers the entire body. It is held in place with one hand at all times. Sometimes a corner of it is pulled over the face to cover part of the mouth.

Other Clothing

Other important clothing for men and women are forms of long dress, wrap, outerwear gown, or caftan. The most common outerwear garment is the aba or abaʿa, also known as rida, which is an ankle-length loose mantle or coat worn by Arab men over the shoulders. The aba opens at the front with no fastening device and has two openings for the arms to be pulled through. Piping sewn on the aba goes around the entire edge of the garment and around the sleeves. Customarily the aba is draped over the shoulders rather than worn as a coat. The fabric used for making the aba or rida identifies its region of origin, and a clear distinction is not made between fabric and garment. Traditional wraps or mantles are worn in most traditional Islamic societies, yet there is a considerable variety of draping styles from one region to another. Wearing an aba has religious associations in some regions of the Islamic world such as Iran or Egypt. In Iran, a man wearing an aba and turban is identified as a non-secular person associated with the mosque and theological schools.

Another form of wrap or cloak is the burnoose, which is a large, one-piece, hooded cloak worn by men throughout the Maghrib (Northern Africa). The burnoose is also used in religious ceremony as the chasuble of the Coptic priests in Egypt. Yet another common form of cloak or wrap is the haik, which is a large, voluminous outer wrap, usually white, worn by both sexes throughout the Maghrib. The dishdasha is a long, A-line, ankle-length, long-sleeved, light-colored shirt worn by Arab men in the Gulf region. A similar style of man's garment commonly worn by men in Egypt is the jillaba.


Esposito, John L., ed. The Oxford History of Islam. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press. 1999.

Lindisfarne-Tapper, Nancy, and Ingham, Bruce, ed. Languages of Dress in the Middle East. Surrey, U.K.: Curzon Press, 1997.

Shirazi, Faegheh. The Veil Unveiled: Hijab in Modern Culture. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Shirazi-Mahajan, Faegheh. "The Semiotics of the Turban: The Safavid era in Iran." Journal of the International Association of Costume 9 (1992): 6787.

Weir, Shelagh. Palestinian Costumes. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1989.

Faegheh Shirazi

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clothes Every human society completes the individual body with a form of dress, which may include painting, tattooing, permanent ornaments, and scarification along with the draping, wrapping, and tailoring of fabric into garments. Humans have always believed that the bare adult body is intolerably unfinished; it needs visible modification for acceptance into human society, and thus for self-acceptance. When normal modification consists of clothes that are habitually put on and taken off, absolute nakedness must remain a regular transient state, a nice or dread reminder of bare facts. Clothes themselves may then at times seem to absorb all human wickedness and to be themselves bad, by contrast with the notional purity of the raw organism. On the other hand, clothes may stand for all human effort to transcend brute nature and thus seem inherently good, by contrast with the notional beastliness of the raw organism.

But the true conceptual unity of the body-plus-dress combination is apparent in art that represents human beings, where the dressed form is usually shown as natural and the naked form as a special case, a dressed body with the clothes absent. Artists tend to fashion a nude costume for the naked body, to offer a comforting normative version (complete with orderly variations) of fearfully multiform naked humanity. They will give this nude image the shape and proportions required of normally-clothed bodies, which dress has rendered intelligible.

Animal skins were doubtless the first human clothes in the Northern hemisphere, worn just as they came off the beast, or variously joined together. The skins of trees, in the form of a flexible cloth made by treating strips of the inner bark, were among the earliest sources for human clothes in tropical countries. The earliest woven stuffs were made for use or ornament, before refinements in spinning and weaving permitted textiles malleable enough to clothe the body. Since then, in much of the world, clothing has taken the form of one or more garments made of fabrics that are woven, knitted, or felted in a range of spun fibres (both natural and synthetic), or of treated leather, metal, or synthetic materials. Such garments fall roughly into two categories; cut-and-sewn, or wrapped-and-draped. Schemes of clothing combine these two or use only one of them, employing different methods of stabilizing garments around the body according to whether they are meant to fit closely, to fit more loosely, or to hang free.

Tailored garments made into close-fitting, three-dimensional forms, such as the Renaissance doublet or the modern suit-coat and trousers, must be fitted onto the body with applied attachments such as lacings, hooks or buttons with holes or loops, two-part clasps, or zippers and velcro. Untailored, loose garments sewn into flat forms out of rectilinear pieces, such as the Japanese kimono and the earliest forms of sleeved tunic and trouser, can be held around the trunk and limbs with attached ties or with separate wrapped sashes and belts, or they can hang open and float like the North African djellabah. They, too, may have buttons, hooks or clasps at neck, shoulders or wrists. Untailored garments may also be controlled by drawstrings threaded through flat channels sewn into the cloth, which can gather them close and secure them to the body at wrist or ankle, neck or waist, elbow or knee. Ancient knit garments fitted fairly close without tailoring but usually had fastenings. Synthetic elastic fibres and modern machine knitting have latterly permitted stretchable skin-tight garments that mould to the body without tailoring, fastening, or belting.

Garments made of single woven-to-size and uncut rectangles of cloth were the first fabric clothes, and are still in use. They may be wrapped tightly, and tucked in or tied together around the chest, waist, or hips (e.g. the Tahitian pareo or Javanese sarong); loosely draped around the whole body but anchored with a hidden waistband (e.g. the Hindu sari); or pinned on the shoulders and visibly belted (e.g. the classical Greek peplos). Rectangular, single-piece outer garments may hang down front and back straight from the shoulders, with the arms free and the head through a slit (e.g. the South American poncho); stoles and shawls may be wrapped around the shoulders and held on by the arms. A veil, scarf, or kerchief may be suspended from the head and attached there with a headband or hairpins, or it may variably wrap the head, neck, and shoulders.

Casually fixed on at each wearing, such single-piece garments dress the body in mobile cloth without defining it, so that the body's action creates random play in the cloth, which underscores the body's moving shape and produces the individual aesthetic vitality of the clothes. Taken off, the garment becomes a flat object of which the colour, the woven pattern, and the applied ornament can have separate interest. In wear, if the draped garment randomly exposes the body, as in classical Greece, the acceptable nude costume dresses the unclad and partially clad person, as Greek art amply demonstrates, so that clothes and body remain in aesthetic balance and not opposed.

Ancient Egyptians used modes of regular pleating to control a rectangular garment's behaviour on the body, instead of permitting the random drapery and slippage created by motion. Such pleats, made in stiffly starched white linen that bent and swept around the body, or lay close to it, proposed an aesthetic value for wrapped garments only while they were formally dressing the figure and giving it the required static and abstract look. An idealized nakedness was again necessary to complete the desired effect, as expounded in Egyptian art, since much of the body was deliberately exposed, some of it through transparent fabric. A very different effect was created in China and Japan, with large, untailored silk garments that were so stiffly woven, lined, interlined and disposed around the body as to hide and replace it completely. In such a scheme neither the distinctive shapes nor the articulated movements of the body had any visual authority in the desired clad results, again as expounded in art. Human nakedness was given no added nobility, but unworn noble garments did command separate admiration.

Cutting cloth on a curve was discovered to permit high, round armhole seams and high crotch seams, and to allow for close-fitting, round necklines and for the curved hems that make hanging garments fall evenly around the body with no dropping corners. It was sparingly used to begin with, since precious woven stuff is wasted by this technique, and curved cut edges demand added binding or facing to stop the raw thread-ends from fraying. Leather, on the other hand, has always lent itself well to tailoring — as for shoes, for example — being non-woven and irregularly shaped in its natural state. Garments of felt may also be edged on a curve without hemming, as for hats and capes.

Modernity, getting under way in late medieval Europe, saw the development of fully-tailored garments that closely covered and modified the body's articulated shape with articulated shapes of their own. These were modelled with subtly curved cutting and seaming helped by stiffening, padding, constriction, and extensions for the clothes of both sexes, including hats, hoods, and shoes. Randomly draped, regularly pleated, or wrapped fabric became only partial elements in the aesthetic scheme for Western clothes, not its main character. European clothes became three-dimensional forms that seemed to compete with the body they covered, even while creating its ideal look; off the body, the three-dimensional garment would look like a ghost inseparable from an individual human soul. Nudity became part of the scheme, too, in despite of climate, with selective exposure requiring the selective idealization of bodily parts such as the female bosom and the male leg. European nude art shows the amount of variation in the common vision of ideal nakedness that was created by the way clothes shaped the body.

With the complex clothes of the late Middle Ages in Europe came the rise of fashion. Sophisticated form in dress required a constant shifting of its visual emphasis and stylistic flavour, including erotic, societal, and self-referential flavours. The two sexes were conventionally distinguished by dividing male legs with some form of hose and breeches, and veiling women's legs in flowing or stiff ground-length or shoe-length skirts. Variation was more flexible for the upper body, however, including suggestive similarities as well as vivid differences between the male and female effects that were modish at different periods. For example, fashion might flatten women's breasts and widen men's hips at one time, or enlarge both women's breasts and men's shoulders at another time. Shifts in fashion were first led by powerful and leisured groups at courts and in towns, and realized by their tailors, but fashionable change was eventually promoted among middle and lower class people and their tailors by the increasing dispersal of imagery made possible by the printing-press. Fashion in Western dress more and more became an imaginative sexual, social, and political medium, with the steady help of other media.

Visual art has always been the agent of elegance in dress. For millennia before fashion, sculptors and painters offered stylized versions of clothed persons to public view, so that people could admire, imitate, and feel rightly portrayed by superior visions of accepted clothed appearance. The reproducible graphic arts, however, later helped to hasten the adoption of changes in fashions by emphasizing their immediate extremes and priming the public eye for alternatives. By the late eighteenth century, reproduced pictures were affecting general and personal taste through popular journals and magazines, some devoted entirely to fashion in dress. Photojournalism, movies, and television continue to offer stylizations of clothed bodies that guide taste and propel its fluctuations, often in the form of promotion for things other than clothes. Exposure of the body's surface has lately increased among fashions for both sexes, creating a revived need for the stylization of body parts to go with changing modes in semi-nude costume.

Until the nineteenth century, for all classes of society, clothes were made either at home or by artisans who constructed hand-made garments to individual order. For a very long time, fine spinning and weaving, complex dyeing, and embroidery were the finest arts of clothing, and construction was simple where it existed. This situation still obtains in Japan with respect to the traditional feminine kimono, even though Western clothing has been otherwise universally adopted there. In Europe, during the Renaissance and thereafter, fashionable dress gradually came to demand a similar degree of skill from urban and court tailors and from artisans specializing in headgear, footwear, and gloves, or in lace, braid, and buttons as well as embroidery. Regional clothes were made by local artisans or at home — though not without constant fashionable influence on regional traditions. The very poor in towns and cities could buy second-hand clothes and alter them. Crude work clothes were hand-produced in bulk for labourers, common sailors, slaves, and convicts.

Early in the nineteenth century, the English invention of the tape measure and a new understanding of men's average bodily proportions made it possible for American merchant-tailors to produce many well-tailored coats and trousers at one time, in a range of sizes guaranteed to fit a large number of men. With the development of the sewing machine and later the cutting machine, the ready-to-wear men's clothing enterprise in America expanded to furnish not only the military, but also rural workers, miners, and railroad men with well-made fitted garments — the blue jeans, workshirts and overalls that are still being made and worn. In the twentieth century, although traditional made-to-measure tailoring persisted everywhere at higher social levels, the ready-made suit became the standard public costume of the modern ordinary man. His body was generalized by the suit's smooth, flexible envelope into a useful image of modern male equality. Women's visual equality, among each other and with men, came somewhat later.

Dressmaking had become a women's craft separate from men's tailoring late in the seventeenth century, and thereafter women's clothes more and more outdid men's in visual complexity. Stay-making also became a separate craft, and separate corsets became a common part of female fashion, variably modelling the torso under the clothing. At the very end of the nineteenth century, however, fashion began to reduce the expressive shapes and surface embellishments of women's clothes, and they gradually came to match men's in the clarity of line and easy style of bodily fit that had become common for male dress during the previous century. After 1900, everyday skirts were increasingly shortened to allow the shape and action of women's legs to form part of their complete clothed image. By the second decade of the twentieth century, as fashion continued to simplify women's modes of dress, the rules of proportionate sizing could be applied to them as well. A large ready-to-wear industry for ordinary women's fashionable garments became possible, spurred by the new needs of working women, whose fashions eventually came to include trousers as well as skirts. Factory-made clothes for both sexes became the staple of mainstream fashion in the industrialized world, and for ordinary clothes everywhere as local artisanal traditions declined.

Just after the middle of the nineteenth century, however, offsetting this incipient trend, the Haute Couture came into existence for women's fashion. This French enterprise specialized in the superior artisanal creation of fashionable feminine clothing, conceived by artist-like designers whose high prices flaunted their distance from both home sewing and mass production, and whose personal fame came to increase the worldwide prestige of their works. Ordinary dressmakers in Europe and America, and eventually clothing factories, therefore copied and modified Haute Couture designs for the general female public.

In the last third of the twentieth century, original creative designers were engaged directly by both the male and female fashionable clothing industries, while the Haute Couture, later including Italian, English, and American designers, came to have a more limited influence on ordinary female dress. The multiple-production aesthetics of industrial design, however, came generally to affect all fashion design for both sexes, as well as for children. With the global clothing markets of the late twentieth century, a certain neutralization has thus occurred in the contemporary look of the clothed human body, which in a great part of the world is commonly clad in the shirts, sweaters, pants, and jackets originally designed as Western masculine gear for work and sport.

Ordinary work and leisure clothes for men, women, and children now look very much alike, and the more traditional fashionable dress that sharply distinguishes sex, age, and social stratum is thought to be special costume for public life, office work, or festal moments. In undeveloped countries, pre-modern woven rectangular shapes still persist, often in combination with tailored factory-made garments; at the same time versions of simple, ancient gear are steadily recurring in tailored, mass-produced Western fashion. It is worth noting that the world's clothing, despite some irreversible changes, has somewhat come full circle, as if returning to the days of wrapped and draped rectangles or T-shaped tunics for every human body.

Anne Hollander

See also fashion.

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Clothing, 1980–2003

Clothing, 19802003

The years between 1980 and 2003 present all the complexities of modern costume. These decades saw a rise and fall in the status of high-profile clothing designers and their extravagant clothes; the sudden popularity of certain clothing items, often associated with youth-driven music trends; the impact of new technologies; the influence of celebrities on fashion; all set against a general trend to favor comfortable, casual clothes. These trends were a continuation of the trends that had characterized the second half of the twentieth century. But what made the period from the 1980s onward different was the speed with which styles changed and the amount of money directed toward clothing.

Working days, glamorous nights

After the 1970s, a decade in which the world of high fashion had fallen into disarray and people picked and chose amongst several acceptable styles, designer fashions came roaring back in the 1980s. High-profile European designers like Giorgio Armani (c. 1934), Christian Lacroix (1951), Karl Lagerfeld (1938), Jean-Paul Gaultier (1952), Azzedine Alaïa (c. 1940), and others introduced daring, expensive lines of clothes to the praise of the fashion press. Wealthy people across Europe and in the United States flocked to Paris fashion shows and New York boutiques to purchase expensive originals, and lower-level designers and mass-market retail stores modeled their clothing lines on the more conservative efforts of the top names. This was the traditional way that fashions had been set, with designers leading the way in the creation of clothing styles.

New fashion designers were able to be bought, promoted, recreated because of one thing: money. During the early and mid-1980s business exploded in the West and in the increasingly westernized Japan. Stock market traders, corporate executives, and even second-tier executives grew extremely wealthy in a climate where success in business was celebrated as the ultimate mark of achievement. These new cultural celebrities used clothes as one of the ways to demonstrate their wealth and power. American president Ronald Reagan (1911) and his wife, Nancy (1923), wore designer suits and gowns, and corporate leaders proudly extolled the merits of their favorite designers. For men the "power suit," a tailored suit, preferably by Giorgio Armani, was the symbol of success. Women dressed for power by day, with designer suits and business dresses, and for glamour by night, with extravagant gowns in the richest fabrics. These wealthy people were held up as cultural models and their clothing styles imitated on popular television shows like Dynasty (198189) and Dallas (197891). The choices of the rich and their favored designers thus had a great impact on clothing.

The fashion boom of the 1980s was more international than ever before. Though Paris, New York, and London remained the true centers of world fashion, designers from Italy, especially the city of Milan, and from Japan also exerted a real influence on fashion. The Italians became associated with rich fabrics and classic cuts, while the Japanese are credited with boosting the popularity of the color black.

Not everyone could afford the clothing made by the big name European or Japanese designers, but in the 1980s there were real alternatives for those who still wanted to follow fashions. Top designers, such as Calvin Klein (1942) and Ralph Lauren (1939), offered high-end custom clothes, but they also offered a ready-to-wear line that had the high status of a designer name but at a more reasonable price. Many designers built international design empires, selling their brand-name clothes, perfumes, and accessories throughout the world.

Sex sells

One of the most important trends of the 1980s and 1990s was the emergence of open sexuality as an important element in clothing design. A variety of causes lead to the growing openness with which sexuality was displayed in this period. Perhaps the most important was the ongoing fitness boom that encouraged people of all ages, but especially young people, to pay a great deal of attention to getting their bodies in good shape. People wanted to show off their newly sculpted bodies and there were a variety of clothing options for those who wanted to flaunt it. Calvin Klein celebrated the human form with his underwear designs, which were made famous with an advertising campaign centered on towering billboards on the side of skyscrapers in New York City. Spandex, a high-tech, stretchy fabric, was used to create formfitting biking shorts and tights, and the Wonderbra, introduced in the mid-1990s, pushed women's breasts up and in to show off their cleavage. Designers created extremely clingy dresses, and supermodels, or high-profile models, and music celebrities such as Madonna (1958), in the 1980s, and Ricky Martin (1974), Britney Spears (1981), and Christina Aguilera (1980), in the 1990s, made a great public display of their sexuality. A youth trend in the 1990s for hip-hugging, low-riding pants and bare midriffs brought sexual display as far as the pre-teen market. By 2003 little was forbidden in the display of flesh.

The 1990s flight from fashion

The designer-worshipping fashion excesses of the 1980s crashed along with stock markets in 1987. Although designers still produced annual collections and fashion magazines highly praised them, the world retreated from its celebration of wealth and haute couture, or high fashion, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With designers out of favor, the other dominant mode of determining clothing trends reemerged. As in the 1970s people took their clothing cues from popular music, from youth subcultures, from the more successful mass-market retailers, and from their own desire for comfort and personal expression. Once again designers began to take their cue from the streets.

Young people and their music were especially influential in the early 1990s. The grunge, or alternative rock, music scene that emerged out of Seattle, Washington, created a fashion trend favoring flannel shirts and ripped jeans, and it wasn't long before designers offered their own grunge collections. Hip-hop or rap music, which had once been the music of African Americans living in the inner city, went mainstream and brought with it a craze for extremely baggy jeans.

For the great majority of people, however, choices about clothing were dictated by the wearer's desire for casual comfort and by the minor variations in styles offered by major retailers. The trend toward casual business dress began in the 1980s with casual Fridays, when business dress codes were relaxed for the day, and became widespread among workers in the booming high-tech industries of the late 1990s. At work, men could wear chinos (a type of khaki pants) and a shirt without a tie, and women could wear more casual dresses and pants. For leisure time both men and women chose cotton pants and knit shirts, tennis shoes, sweatshirts, and other athletic clothes. The most popular outer wear was made of a fuzzy, high-tech fabric called polar fleece, which came in bright colors.

People had a huge range of choices about where to buy their clothes, from designer stores and department-store boutiques such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein; to mid-range specialty retailers such as Gap and Old Navy; to mail order catalogs such as J. Crew, Lands' End, and L. L. Bean; to discount retailers like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target. These stores offered clothes of reasonable quality with trendy styling. Colors and details changed from season to season, but the basic garments remained the same.


Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade: The 1980s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Feldman, Elane. Fashions of a Decade: The 1990s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Gaines, Steven S., and Sharon Churcher. Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein. New York: Avon Books, 1995.

Gross, Michael. Genuine Authentic: The Real Life of Ralph Lauren. New York: Harper, 2003.

Lomas, Clare. The 80s and 90s: Power Dressing to Sportswear. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, 2000.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Lauren, Ralph and Klein, Calvin
Rise of the Japanese Designer
Armani Suits
Baggy Jeans
Casual Fridays
Designer Jeans
Goth Style
Polar Fleece

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Clothing, 1900–18

Clothing, 190018

The period from the turn of the twentieth century to the end of World War I (191418) was one of great transition in the world of fashion. Not only did styles for women undergo a dramatic shift in their basic silhouette, or shape, but the very system through which new styles were introduced and popularized also changed. Paris, France, was the center of the world of fashion, but more and more people got their fashion ideas from magazines and their fashionable clothes, ready-to-wear, from department stores close to home. Social changes, especially the increasing liberation of women and the coming of war, also had a dramatic impact on fashion. These and other changes made this the period in which the fashion system, or the way that new styles were created and adopted by people, truly began to resemble what we know today.

The changing fashion system

Ever since the end of the Middle Ages (c. 500c. 1500), when rich kings and queens secured power and were surrounded by wealthy nobles, European clothing traditions had been sharply split between the wealthy and the poor and middle classes. The wealthy were concerned with fashion: following the latest clothing styles, usually those set by monarchs (royals) or their families, and wearing the richest and most luxurious garments available. Everyone else simply wore costume, everyday apparel that was chosen for its durability and its utility. Over time, as incomes increased, more and more people became concerned with fashion, but true fashion, with frequent changes and expensive and luxurious fabrics, remained only for the very wealthy. In the first years of the twentieth century, however, the system began to change.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Paris was the center of the fashion world. Clothing designers from Paris introduced clothing at seasonal shows and sold clothes to the wealthiest people in Europe and the United States. Increasingly, however, these fashions began to reach more and more people. Dressmakers outside of Paris might buy an expensive gown, take it apart, and make a pattern, or design to make a dress, which they sold, allowing the dress to be reproduced. Publishers began to sell pattern books of fashionable clothes that allowed people to make the clothes at home if they were good sewers. Soon, department stores, which were becoming popular throughout the West, also began to sew and sell dresses modeled on the latest Paris fashions.


These changes were small compared to the introduction of ready-to-wear clothing. In the past all clothing had been made by hand in the home. But the introduction of the sewing machine combined with the factory system allowed for the mass production of clothing in the nineteenth century. Men's clothing was the first to be mass-produced in a variety of different sizes. This form of clothing was called ready-to-wear. By the end of the nineteenth century men could go into a store and buy ready-to-wear trousers, shirts, or jackets, but women still had to buy cloth and sew the clothes themselves. By the first years of the twentieth century, ready-to-wear clothing was available to women, too.

The first widely available ready-to-wear garment for women was the shirtwaist, a blouse that was worn with a long, flowing skirt. Designers in Paris might offer a beautiful shirtwaist, and before too long a factory in Massachusetts would be making a close copy that could be purchased at the local department store for a much lower price. Though most clothing, and certainly the more luxurious gowns of the day, was still made at home or by a skilled tailor, ready-to-wear clothing became an important industry in the 1900s and 1910s.

Social change and fashion

The clothing styles that dominated the first years of the twentieth century were carried over from the late nineteenth century. Long flowing dresses with highly decorated sleeves were common for women and were worn with elaborate hats. While the details of these dresses changed from season to season, the essential outline of the woman's figure, or her silhouette, remained in the S-shape that was so fashionable at the turn of the century. Rigid corsets, or stiffened undergarments, gave the woman a prominent chest, a very narrow waist, and extended buttocks, bolstered with padding. This silhouette was uncomfortable and made movement difficult.

This restrictive women's clothing was increasingly at odds with the way women viewed their lives. Across Europe and in the United States, women began to resist the confining social systems that gave men more power and kept women in the home. They began to push for more rights, such as the right to vote and the right to work outside the home. Restrictive, uncomfortable clothes were soon identified with restrictive social systems, and they too were rejected. After about 1908 women quit wearing confining corsets and impractical long gowns. They sought out garments that had a more natural shape, such as a tube-shaped dress or a simple skirt and shirtwaist combination. Clothing designers followed suit and soon began to produce a range of clothing that was more natural and comfortable.

The feeling of liberation that came to women's clothing, especially in the 1910s, came from other directions as well. The widespread popularity of motoring, or riding in automobiles, created a need for practical clothing that wouldn't get ruined by dust and wind. Also, as sports such as tennis and golf opened up to women, clothes changed to allow women to move more freely. The rising length of women's skirts was a big symbol that women's clothes were becoming more practical.

World War I

One of the biggest social factors that influenced fashion was World War I. World War I drained the resources of every country involved, including the major European powers and the United States. Fabrics and materials used for clothing were rationed, and clothing became simpler and less ornamented as a result. Perhaps the biggest impact was on women's dresses, which were made with far less material than ever before. The slim profile demanded by the war became the dominant fashion of the 1920s. The war also brought more women into the workplace than ever before, and women wore new clothing, including the once-forbidden trousers, in the workplace that they later adopted for regular use.

Men's clothing

Men's clothing in general changed much less frequently and less dramatically than women's clothing. Standard wear for men in nonmanual work was the sack suit, or three-piece suit, usually worn with a shirt with a detachable collar, while working-class men generally wore trousers and a button-down shirt. These outfits didn't change on a seasonal basis like women's, though men's suits did see a slimming in profile that came in about 1908, around the same time as changes in the women's silhouette. Men took advantage of the greater availability of ready-to-wear clothing, especially the newer, less restrictive forms of underwear that replaced the union suit, an undergarment that was shirt and drawers in one. They also enjoyed the looser, more casual clothes created for use while playing sports or motoring. While Paris was the center of women's fashion, London, England, was the center for men.

The years from 1900 to 1918 were filled with many more important influences on clothing customs, including the growing popularity of fashion magazines, the importance of advertising in shaping people's ideas about clothing, the rise in the status of the fashion designer as a trendsetter, and the influence of trends in art and dance.


Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Poiret, Paul
Driving Clothes
Hobble Skirts
Hunting Outfit
Jumper Gown
Peg-Top Clothing
Sack Suit
The Gibson Girl
Trench Coats
Underwear for Men

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Clothing, 1961–79

Clothing, 196179

In fashion, the 1960s and the 1970s were decades of repeated revolutionary change. The youth explosion and mod craze of the early 1960s were followed quickly by the hippie look of the late 1960s, the antifashion trends of the early 1970s, and the punk and disco styles of the mid- to late 1970s. By the late 1970s, people throughout the West seemed content to wear "regular" clothes once more. Taken together, these high profile fashion fads forever changed the way the fashion industry worked.

Before the 1960s high-profile designers in Paris, France, and London, England, in cooperation with celebrity fashion trendsetters, had dictated the styles that were worn by people of all ages. Under this fashion system, news about what was stylish to wear came from the top down. Designers created a line of clothing, rich people bought the originals, and clothing retailers sold copies to the common man and woman. During and after the 1960s, common people, especially young people, began to exercise far more control in determining what was in style, and designers increasingly tried to keep up with the newest trends. Under the new fashion system, new styles were invented by people in hot cultural scenes or by rock bands; followers adopted and modified the new styles; and designers then copied the new styles and marketed them to the masses through a growing assortment of retail outlets.

Rebellious young people known as mods and rockers began to invent their own clothing in trendy parts of London. Women wore very short skirts, tall, brightly colored boots, and clinging, sleeveless tunics. Young men wore suits in bright paisley patterns, boxy jackets, and high-topped, black leather boots, or they wore leather jackets and shirts made of British flags, like rock star Pete Townshend (1945) of the rock band the Who. The boldly colored new styles worn by men took a name of their own, the Peacock Revolution, and were striking because men's styles before this time were so conservative.

Vogue magazine, the world's premier source for fashion information, called this fashion upsurge "Youthquake." The fashion movement was led by young people, such as British designer Mary Quant (1934), who shares credit with French designer André Courreges (1923) for the introduction of the one garment most associated with the youth explosion: the miniskirt. Quant famously denied that she had created the miniskirt, claiming that it was the "girls in the street who did it." Her point was that the new styles were created by young people who rejected the old-fashioned system and created clothes that expressed their own values. These young people often followed the lead of rock stars like the members of the bands the Beatles, the Who, and the Rolling Stones who were notorious for rejecting existing styles and creating new ones.


The various London-based youth fashion fads dominated clothing trends through the mid-1960s, but soon a new trend took its place. Emerging first on the West Coast of the United States, the hippies were one of the most colorful and high-profile social movements of an interesting decade. Hippies rejected their parents' values about sex, work, and patriotism. They protested against the U.S. war in Vietnam (195475), switched sexual partners freely, experimented with drugs, and "dropped out" of regular society. They wanted clothes that reflected their values and adopted a huge range of diverse styles, from fringe looks that paid respect to Native Americans, to various exotic fashions borrowed from Indian, Asian, and other cultures, to hand-me-down and thrift store clothes that showed their rejection of materialism. Though hippie styles are usually associated with long hair, tie-dyed shirts, long skirts for women, jeans for men, and paisley and flowered patterns, in truth hippie styles were extremely varied.

The choices hippies made about clothing were a direct criticism of fashion, the system by which certain elite designers and trendsetters determine what everyone wears. Hippies wanted everyone to choose for themselves. Even though they tried to be antifashion, the fashion industry celebrated and borrowed from hippie clothing, making such things as the long wrap dress, the fringed shirt, blue jeans, and other items available to the masses. But in doing so the fashion industry recognized that its control was over.

Diverse styles

By the early 1970s clothing styles had gone off in so many different directions that it was difficult for anyone to say what was in fashion and what was not. Men and women had a great variety of choices in what they wore. Men could still wear the standard business suit that looked much like it had in the 1950s, but they could also enliven their business look with brightly colored shirts, very wide neckties, or bell-bottom trousers. They could reject business attire altogether, wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt or even a jogging suit. Some women still discriminated between day wear and evening wear, but most women now chose from a range of dress styles depending on their personal preferences. Skirt lengths had changed so much, from the high-on-the-thigh mini to the knee-length midi to the ankle-length maxi, that anything was now permissible. And by the 1970s pants were so common among women that they no longer attracted any comment.

One of the ways that people could stand out in such a tolerant clothing climate was to be deliberately bold or shocking. Hot pants (extremely short shorts), huge bell-bottoms, vividly colored leisure suits, polyester shirts, and tight catsuits are all examples of clothing styles that flirted with being over-the-top, but were fashionable for a time.

The two most distinct fashion fads of the 1970s grew out of very different music scenes. In the mid-1970s a subgenre of rock 'n' roll called punk rockloud, fast, and angryhelped give birth to an entire punk scene, first in London and then in other major cities in the West. Punks wore ripped clothes, wildly spiked hairstyles, and huge Doc Marten boots, among other things. A very different style emerged from the disco scene, a dance-based music and culture trend that flourished in New York City in the mid-1970s. Disco dancers wore formal-looking clothes in flamboyant cuts and colors, including leisure suits and extremely skimpy dresses.

After nearly two decades of absolute excess, clothing styles became somewhat more conservative in the late 1970s. Aided by the rise of Italian fashion designers whose clothes were elegant and restrained, people in general turned to comfortable clothes that fit the body's natural contours. The end result of these tumultuous decades, however, was that most people felt completely free to assemble their wardrobe from a variety of clothes that best expressed their personal sense of style, rather than from a limited set of clothes determined by a selective fashion industry.


Chenoune, Farid. A History of Men's Fashion. Paris, France: Flammarion, 1993.

Connikie, Yvonne. Fashions of a Decade: The 1960s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Herald, Jacqueline. Fashions of a Decade: The 1970s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Mod Styles and the London Scene
A-line Skirt
Down Vests and Jackets
Gaucho Pants
Laurent, Yves Saint
Halter Tops
Hip Huggers
Hot Pants
Jogging Suits
Leisure Suits
Kennedy, Jacqueline
Nehru Jacket
Painter's Pants
Peasant Look
Wrap Dress

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Clothing, 1946–60

Clothing, 194660

During World War II (193945) fashion had taken a backseat to the war effort, and dress designers had been severely limited in what they could make as governments placed severe restrictions on the kinds and amounts of cloth designers could use. In the fifteen years that followed the end of the war, fashions in the West went through a series of sweeping changes. Women's fashions reached levels of richness and luxury that had not been seen since the turn of the previous century. In addition, fashions across Europe and the United States highlighted women's femininity and Paris, France, reclaimed its spot as the fashion capital of the world.

In 1947 French designer Christian Dior (19051957) introduced a collection of women's clothes that shattered all the wartime rules. Called the New Look, this collection was most notable for its long, billowing skirts with many pleats. One of his dresses used fifteen yards of fabric. Many people were offended by the excess of Dior's collection. They felt his dresses were an insult to a world economy that was still deeply troubled after the war. But Dior's New Look soon became extremely popular. Wealthy women clamored to wear his dresses, and manufacturers soon copied his styles, introducing a range of clothing modeled on the New Look. For the next seven years, Dior's look, which included soft, rounded shoulders, a narrow waist, and accessories like gloves and umbrellas, was the single biggest influence on fashion.

Dior's New Look was part of a larger return to femininity across the Western world. The war years had forced women into unusual roles. Many worked outside the home for the first time, and the clothes they wore did not accentuate their female forms. As men returned from the war to claim jobs and start families, women also returned to more traditional roles. During the Great Depression (192941) and World War II women's magazines had emphasized career advice for women, but following the war they focused much more on beauty and fashion. Advertising increased greatly and showed women how they could use makeup, accessories, and clothing to make themselves more appealing. All of these influences helped encourage women to choose more feminine clothing.

The rise of ready-to-wear

Ever since the nineteenth century Paris had dominated the world of fashion. The best designers lived in Paris. They introduced their styles, and those styles were loved and copied around the world. But when German conquerors took control of France during World War II, the dominance of Paris was interrupted. Some French designers left their country, and designers in the United States and England looked to develop fashion houses of their own. (A fashion house is the term for a small company that designs, makes, and sells high-quality clothing and accessories. It is usually associated with a single designer.) After the war the daring designs of Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga (18951972), Hubert de Givenchy (1927), and others helped refocus attention on Paris, and Paris did remain an important center for fashion. However, the emergence in the 1950s of Italian designers such as Roberto Capucci (1930) and Simonetta Visconti, and of American designers such as Claire McCardell (19051958), seriously challenged French dominance of women's clothing design.

Another major challenge to the dominance of the Paris fashion houses was the rise of the ready-to-wear clothing industry controlled by large international corporations. Before the war if a person wanted well-made clothing they had to have it custom made by a tailor, and they paid a premium price. During the war manufacturers developed skills in making clothing, especially military uniforms, that allowed them to make quality clothing to fit different sizes of people. As a result regular people could now afford well-made, quality clothing called ready-to-wear, because it was purchased ready to wear without need for alterations from a tailor. Ready-to-wear clothing companies sent representatives to the major fashion shows, purchased top-quality clothing, and then made and marketed clothing lines based on high-fashion designs. This allowed common people to wear fashionable-looking clothes, but it certainly changed the fashion industry. The Paris fashion houses clothed the very wealthy, and the ready-to-wear industry provided inexpensive imitations for the masses. Before too long the designers figured out that there was more money to be made selling to the masses, and they began to develop ready-to-wear lines of their own. This was a major change in the fashion industry from the first half of the century, and it continues to this day.

Conformity and the youth explosion

One of the drawbacks of the rise of the ready-to-wear industry was that it allowed everybody to look the same. Major retail chains such as Sears and J.C. Penney sold clothes nationwide in the United States, and they didn't make major changes in their clothing lines from year to year. Also, the trend in the United States after the war was to fit in with the crowd and not cause a disturbance. These trends led to real conformity in the way that Americans dressed. People didn't want to stick out and look different, so they chose safe, conservative clothes. For businessmen this meant the gray flannel suit, the uniform of the white-collar, or business professional, worker. For women this meant a simple tight-waisted dirndl skirt and a sweater, or a range of mix-and-match sportswear. This mix-and-match look for mature women was known as the American Look. And for college students the favored look was called the Preppy Look.

While American adults valued conformity in their clothing styles, in the mid-1950s young people began to develop distinctive styles of their own. In France in the late 1940s young people calling themselves "Existentialists" dressed in shabby clothing to show their disdain for fashion. As their name implied, they existed just to exist, so clothes didn't matter so much. A similar group of Americans called themselves beats, or beatniks. Both groups favored jeans for men and women, leather jackets, and the color black. In England stylish youths pursued the teddy-boy look, wearing long jackets with velvet collars and other extravagant outfits. By the mid-1950s, however, youth styles had gone more mainstream. The rise of rock 'n' roll music encouraged youths around the world to rebel against their parents' values, and one of the main ways they did so was through clothes. The uniform of the rebellious rocker consisted of blue jeans, a T-shirt, a leather jacket, and black boots.

The 1940s and 1950s were a fascinating time for fashion. On the one hand there were daring innovations in style, offered by big-name designers; on the other hand many people tried to look like everyone else by buying ready-to-wear clothes from major chains. It was a time when even the rebels tried to look just like other rebels, and little girls around the world took their fashion cues from a teenage fashion doll named Barbie.


Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Blass, Bill, and Cathy Horyn. Bare Blass. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Miller, Brandon Marie. Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans Wore 16201970. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1999.

Mulvagh, Jane. Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. New York: Viking, 1988.

Rowold, Kathleen, Helen O'Hagan, and Michael Vollbracht, eds. Bill Blass: An American Designer. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Blass, Bill
American Look
Bold Look
Gray Flannel Suit
Mix-and-Match Clothing
New Look
Preppy Look
Rock 'n' Roll Style

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Clothing, 1930–45

Clothing, 193045

When it comes to fashion, the 1930s were a complex age. On the one hand fashions were deeply influenced by the economic depression that gripped the Western world throughout the 1930s; on the other hand fashions in the 1930s were very elegant, with clothing trends largely determined by the tastes of the very wealthy, especially movie stars and other celebrities. Strangely, these two influences came together to create clothing styles that were simple yet elegant. The coming of World War II in 1939 brought a completely new set of pressures to the way people dressed, with rationing, or limiting, of clothing, government dress codes, and the German occupation of Paris, France, the world's fashion capital, altering clothing styles dramatically.

Clothing and the Great Depression

The 1930s began with a dramatic shift in the overall silhouette, or shape, of clothing for both men and women. Reacting against the trends of the 1920s, both men's and women's clothing became sleeker and more streamlined. Women's hemlines extended down the leg and both men's and women's clothing accented simple, flowing lines. Leading the way in these changes were designers from Paris, France, actors and actresses from Hollywood, California, and wealthy socialites from around the world. The leading designers of the day, all based in Paris, included Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (18831971), Elsa Schiaparelli (18901973), and Madeleine Vionnet (18761975). Schiaparelli was especially famous for her adventurous experiments with new fabrics, patterns, and wild colors. Her introduction of a bold pink was so shocking that it helped coin the term "shocking pink." Hollywood stars and starlets like Gary Cooper (19011961) and Marlene Dietrich (c. 19011992) made fashion news with their bold fashion choices; Cooper became associated with the English drape suit for men and Dietrich with the pants suit for women. Finally, wealthy jet-setters turned sports clothing into daily wear, introducing such items as the knit polo shirt into common usage.

The bold experiments and new styles introduced by the wealthy were out of reach for most people, as the period of great economic turmoil known as the Great Depression (192941) put many out of work and reduced the incomes of most people. Yet several trends combined to allow common people to enjoy the new fashions despite the hard times. The newer fashions didn't use a great deal of fabric, so people could make their own clothes with less fabric and thus less cost. Especially in the United States, the ready-to-wear clothing industry had advanced in its ability to produce and sell inexpensively a wide range of sizes and styles. Clothing manufacturers copied the latest fashions coming out of Paris and produced cheap imitations. They took advantage of inexpensive fabrics like cotton and rayon, which were well-suited to the flowing lines that were so popular. Finally, most people saved money simply by making their clothes last longer. People ignored rapid shifts in fashion and wore the same dresses and suits for several years.

World War II disrupts fashion

The coming of war, first to Europe and soon to virtually the rest of the world, brought immense changes to the nature of fashion. The world of high fashion was changed most dramatically by the German invasion and occupation of Paris. Most of the great fashion houses that had determined the styles worn in the West were closed; designers fled the country and the wealthy had to look elsewhere for their clothes. Designers in other countries, especially the United States, soon filled the void. Among the many American designers who gained valuable experience and clients during the war years were Mainbocher (18911976) and Claire McCardell (19051958), who created what became known as the American Look.

The clothing worn by common people was also impacted by the war. Military demands for fabric, especially for use in uniforms, tents, and parachutes, meant that many countries used some form of rationing or limiting fabric and clothing. Clothes makers altered the styles of clothes they made in order to use less fabric: hemlines became shorter, trousers and skirts were closer fitting, and fabric-wasting flourishes such as patch pockets disappeared. The impact of fabric shortages was greatest in Great Britain, where severe limits were set on the amount of clothes or fabric that could be purchased. The government of Great Britain created a kind of national dress code called utility clothing. Overall, staying in fashion just didn't seem so important during war time and people didn't mind dressing in simpler, less unique clothes. The war did have one positive impact on fashion: Clothes makers who shifted their work to produce military uniforms became very skilled at producing huge numbers of clothes at a low price. After the war clothing prices fell and quality clothes became available to more people than ever before.

The Depression and World War II were the biggest influences on clothing in the years between 1930 and 1945, but they weren't the only influences. Jazz music, the popularity of sports and sports clothes, and trends in art and industrial design all made an impact.


Baker, Patricia. Fashions of a Decade: The 1940s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Costantino, Maria. Fashions of a Decade: The 1930s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Dorner, Jane. Fashion in the Forties and Fifties. London, England: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973.

Dorner, Jane. Fashion in the Twenties and Thirties. London, England: Ian Allan Ltd., 1973.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Mulvagh, Jane. Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. New York: Viking, 1988.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Nazi Style
Dolman Sleeves
Little Black Dress
Men's Suits
Military Uniforms and Civilian Dress
Polo Shirt
Rationing Fashion in the United States
British Utility Clothing
Swim Trunks for Men
Trousers for Women
Women's Dresses
Women's Suits
Zoot Suit

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New styles of dress evolved in the Renaissance, when men and women became acutely aware of clothing fashion. Throughout Europe, the cut, color, and material of clothes became important indicators of status, profession, and wealth. The clothing industry flourished, including a busy international trade in textiles and the creation of weaving and clothmaking workshops. New technologies allowed manufacturers to weave and dye clothing in larger quantities and at a faster pace. A general improvement in economic conditions allowed members of the middle class more disposable income to spend on clothing and ornaments. The changing style of clothing proved troublesome to the authorities, however, and new sumptuary laws limited the display of certain fabrics and colors, in order to more clearly differentiate the classes and keep society orderly.

Clothing and luxury industries thrived in Italy, where Florence and Lucca became prosperous silk-weaving centers that imported their raw material through the port of Venice. The Lucchese clothing industries also imported eastern fashion with their raw silk, adopting patterns and motifs of Chinese and Mongol clothing. Florence was known for its floral patterns. Italian damask, velvet, lace, satin, and taffeta were sold throughout the continent, and for those who could afford it, these luxury materials replaced heavy wool and simple linens as clothing material. The war in northern Italy, in which French and German armies played an important role, also served to spread Italian fashion and material to northern Europe.

Throughout Europe, taste in clothing ran to heavy fabrics, elaborate drapery, close-fitting garments that emphasized the shape of the body, and head coverings. The fanciest clothes were lined with fur, ermine, or mink, and decorated with silver buttons, jewelry, fine lace, and gold thread. Men wore elaborate costumes that represented their authority and masculinity. The long robes and surcoats (overcoats) of the medieval era went out of style and was replaced by the doublet that was fitted and belted at the waist, and which accentuated the shoulders. Lower legs were covered with hose. The ruff was a lace ornament worn around the neck; the codpiece drew attention to the genitals. Men commonly wore swords at their side or carried small pistols or daggers for self-defense.

Women's fashions changed even more drastically than that of men. Hemlines dropped to the ground, and the full figure was magnified by several layers of clothing. Accessories grew in importance; women wore a variety of adornments, jewelry, and headgear. Men and women sported earrings, gloves, and rings. Women wore veils and wigs, which also became more popular for men at the close of the Renaissance.

Northern Europeans had a taste for padded sleeves and doublets, which made the figure more plump and rounded, which was the ideal of Renaissance beauty. German clothing was known for its puffs at the shoulders and knees, feathered hats, and slashing: two layers of cloth were placed one over the other, with the outer layer slashed to reveal the contrasting colors and material of the inner one. According to one tradition, the victory of the Swiss over the armies of Charles the Bold in 1476 brought about the rage for slashed clothing. The Swiss soldiers had taken clothing from the defeated on the battlefield, slashing the garments with their swords in order to improve the fit. For many, slashing was a way to defy sumptuary laws decreeing that commoners should wear clothing of only one color.

For artisans and the lower classes, clothing was simpler, and more utilitarian. Men wore linen breeches and woolen jackets; women wore skirts that reached to the ground and bodices overlaid with cloaks in cold or rainy weather. There were no ornaments and most clothing was black, gray, or brown in color.

Toward the end of the Renaissance Spanish clothing fashion took hold throughout Europe. Dark colors and especially black were favored, and the cut of clothes grew more straight and linear (the modern suit jacket evolved from late Renaissance clothing in the Spanish style). Women's upper bodies became more tightly constricted, while the Spanish also gave the world the farthingale, a hoopskirt that completely concealed the shape of the legs. The farthingale was combined with puffy sleeves and lace ruffs that completely covered the neck, giving women the appearance of a richly clothed fortress.

In England, tight sleeves and narrow bodices were fashionable. In the late sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I became the leading fashion arbiter among the English. The queen was ever conscious of the effect of appearance and ornament on those she dealt with, and set the standard of English Renaissance costume for women, with simple bodices, narrow waists, full-length skirts, and elaborate lace embroidery.

The Protestant movement greatly simplified the color and cut of clothing as well, and in some regions banished color altogether in favor of simple, unornamented black or white. To modestly cover the hair, women wore a variety of headdresses that harkened back to medieval times, including the bonnet and the wimple.

In southern Europe and Italy, the classes remained more sharply differentiated by their dress. At the height of fashion were the nobility, who held luxurious clothing as one of the bastions and symbols of superiority over the lower classes. But matching the nobility, especially in the city of Venice, were the courtesans whose business it was to cater to wealthy aristocrats and powerful men. Courtesans set the fashion tone with lavish gowns, elaborate headgear, glittering jewelry, alluring makeup, and high-heeled shoesmaking them indistinguishable from the women of the nobility. Eventually the Venetian authorities took action and prohibited courtesans from wearing precious gems, gold, silver, silk, or necklaces and rings of any kind.

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Clothing, 1919–29

Clothing, 191929

As the Western world celebrated the end of World War I (191418) clothing styles changed to reflect the enthusiasm of the time. The most striking differences came in the silhouettes, or shapes, of men's and women's outfits. In general, women's clothes went from flaring skirts to a tubular line, featuring flat chests and low waists, and men's clothes became much fuller, even baggy.

The changes in women's clothes came from new attitudes about life and work. During this decade women won the right to vote and many earned their own money. Women needed stylish clothes that they could wear to work or out during the day. For everyday wear women wore a tailored suit. For more festive occasions women wore clothes that were more comfortable and luxurious than before the war. The tight corsets that squeezed women into unnatural shapes were replaced with loose-fitting outfits and, eventually, by figure skimming gowns with revealing necklines and open backs.

With the end of rationing, or the sparing use of materials, clothes became elaborate. The most expensive were made of satin, silk, and brocade, a fabric with raised designs and adorned with ruffles, fringe, gathers, bows, jewels, and even fur. Women added fringed or transparent shawls to these outfits for even more decoration. Inspiration for women's clothing came from designers' ideas about the future. Designers created clothes that were very different from older styles. The most drastic change was the knee-length hemline. For the first time, women showed their legs in public, swinging them wildly to the new exuberant dances like the Charleston. Clothes also reflected the new art styles of the period. Bold geometric patterns and new designs were beaded, embroidered, and even painted on garments. The Orient and other cultures also inspired clothing styles, as seen with pajamas, the kimono sleeves of some dresses, and the turbans, or headwraps, complementing some outfits. The trendsetters for women were mostly fashion designers centered in Paris, France, including Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (18831971), Madeline Vionnet (c. 1876c. 1973), Paul Poiret (18791944), and Jean Patou (18801936). Although only the wealthiest women could wear original designer fashions, middle-class women could buy copies of French designs in retail stores, and other women could buy patterns and yards of fabric to make their own.

For men, the decade offered similar style changes. Clothing became much looser. Men continued to wear the sack suit that became the most common style at the turn of the century, but the lines of the suit became more smooth, with wider trousers belted high on the waist and broad-shouldered jackets. The widest men's pants were called Oxford Bags. The shirts men wore with their suits had attached collars by mid-decade and came in white and pastel shades of blue, tan, and yellow. Men's ties were no longer plain; they now featured stripes, polka dots, and plaids. Men no longer had to wear heavy fabrics in the heat of the summer. Gabardines (a twill fabric), flannels, and tweeds were replaced with light seersucker, a striped, lightly puckered linen or cotton. Seersucker was sewn into sack suits or made into a suit with a belted jacket to wear in hot weather. Men's fashions followed such trendsetters as Edward VIII (18941972), the Prince of Wales; pilot Charles Lindbergh (19021974); tennis players Jean René Lacoste (19041996) and Bill Tilden (18931953); swimmer Johnny Weissmuller (19041984); college football star Red Grange (19031991); movie star Rudolph Valentino (18951926); and countless college students on campuses throughout the United States and Europe.

In addition to the changes in the styles of everyday and formal wear, new styles emerged. Sportswear for men and women provided outfits for tennis, golf, swimming, boating, and other sports. Sports became so popular that styles for watching sports also became fashionable. Heavy raccoon coats were seen in the stands at college football games; derby hats topped men's heads at horse races and around town; and spectator shoes, a style of multicolored shoe, adorned the feet of people watching sporting events. The navy blue blazer also became associated with yachting clubs, among other things.


Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Blum, Stella. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties. New York: Dover Publications, 1981.

Fass, Paula S. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Influence of Youth on Fashion
Formal Gowns
Navy Blue Blazer
Oxford Bags
Plus Fours
Raccoon Coat
Spectator Sports Style
Lindbergh, Charles
Tailored Suit for Women

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86. Clothing

cerement, cerements
the cloth or clothing in which the dead are wrapped for burial or other form of funeral.
the art and practice of dressmaking and designing. couturier, couturière , n.
falalery, fallalery
showy articles of clothing; finery. fallal , n.
clothes or garments, considered collectively.
finery or showy adornment, as in clothing.
clothing, especially for professional, ceremonial, or other special purposes.
the art and trade of designing and making womens hats. milliner , n.
1. clothes, collectively.
2. a particular outfit of clothes.

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clothes / klō([voicedth])z/ • pl. n. 1. items worn to cover the body: he stripped off his clothes baby clothes [as adj.] a clothes shop. 2. bedclothes.

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cloth·ing / ˈklō[voicedth]ing/ • n. clothes collectively: an item of clothing| [as adj.] the clothing trade.

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"clothing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"clothing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 17, 2017).

"clothing." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from



clothes, suits, etc., collectively, 1275.

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"Clothing." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Clothing." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. . (December 17, 2017).

"Clothing." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


clothing: see costume.

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"clothing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"clothing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 17, 2017).

"clothing." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


clothes •clothes

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"clothes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"clothes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 17, 2017).

"clothes." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from


clothing •pennyfarthing • plaything •silversmithing • anything •everything • northing • nothing •something • rebirthing • farthing •scathing • sheathing •tithing, writhing •southing • clothing • underclothing •Worthing • carving • woodcarving •delving •craving, engraving, paving, raving, saving, shaving •self-deceiving, unbelieving, weaving •living, misgiving, thanksgiving, unforgiving •skydiving • piledriving • coving •approving, reproving, unmoving •unloving •Irving, serving, unswerving •time-serving • lapwing • waxwing •batwing • redwing • lacewing •beeswing • forewing • downswing •outswing • viewing • upswing •underwing • phrasing • stargazing •trailblazing • hellraising • unpleasing •rising, surprising •self-aggrandizing • uncompromising •unpatronizing • uprising •enterprising • appetizing •Dowsing, housing •unimposing •amusing, confusing, musing

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"clothing." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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"clothing." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from