The Early Days of Fashion

Fashion is an umbrella term for a wide variety of opinions, methods, modes, styles, and trends that affect an individual’s dressing. It refers to the creative application of ideas to create a particular look. Fashion has been defined by Merriam Webster as “the art of wearing clothes, both for beauty and for practical purpose.” Fashionable objects include jewelry, clothes, shoes, lingerie, work-wear, cosmetics, furniture, tools, dishes, and others.


“Fashion” is a broad term that can apply to any number of things. In the late eighteen hundreds the term was used to describe popular styles of dress developed by fashionable men and women of the day. The rise of mass marketing and advertising in the late nineteenth century changed the definition of “fashion,” and it became a blanket word for anything fashionable. Popular fashions of the day included dresses designed for the fashionable crowd, long gowns, short dresses, and jewelry. In the late twentieth century high fashion clothing was created for wealthy and fashionable people who desired to display their wealth. In modern times “high fashion” has become a generic term for any highly decorated clothing.

“Fashionable clothes, especially those worn for informal occasions, are usually characterized by cut, size, shape, color, texture, and fabric. The exact designs and styles of clothing may vary greatly depending on the culture and the time period for which they were designed.” By examining various examples of fashion, we can begin to learn what makes a piece of clothing fashionable. Clothing fashions tend to change constantly with the seasons and changes in social mores but certain basic elements of fashions never change.

Many fashions change slowly from season to season. New fashions enter the fashion industry in department stores and department store catalogs; clothes are often displayed in this manner until they sell well enough to be shipped to department stores or to be sold at street fairs. Once these clothing items sell well, they move on to other outlets and go on sale again.

Clothing designers take this further by releasing their lines of clothes into the fashion world. During this time frame, dressmakers began to work as teams, often working together on new clothes that would meet the desires of the customers. As fashions changed, so did the styles of men’s clothing and women’s clothing. This practice of collaborating developed into the tailors’ union, which gave rise to the Saturday Tailor in the late nineteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, tailor-made clothes became the order of the day.

Retail stores also play a large role in the fast fashion industry. They introduce new fashions into the market, often using celebrity glamour models to promote the pieces in their stores. These models are a great way for retail stores to make a name for themselves in the fashion world and create a loyal customer base. Retail stores benefit by offering fashion at affordable prices while still making a profit; they are able to pass on the savings to customers, allowing the fashion industry to thrive.