The influence of English dress on America, the growth of the industry, and the impact fashion had on English and American cultures is documented throughout the century through various literary means.
Fashion in Literature 19th-century transatlantic literature reflected the importance and progression of fashion British author Charles Dickens references the importance of the female seamstress and her role in English society, as well as ideas surrounding femininity in his novel Little Dorrit. Dickens' American Notes continues to illustrate a preoccupation with the fashion of both American and English with his opinion regarding the dress of American women.The American magazine, Godey's Lady's Book, edited by Sarah Josepha Hale connects 19th century fashion as a reflection of moral values of the time. Her praise of Queen Victoria's style of dress in 1868 revealed her understanding of women's dress reflecting the morality of English speaking people.
Aesthetic Fashion As the century progressed, the importance of dressing correctly and dressing in aesthetically pleasing forms were also documented by 19th century authors. By the end of the 1870s, fashion in both American and English societies saw a shift from corsets, padding, and petticoats to fabrics that revealed the shape of the female body, a trend noted by English novelist Wilke Collins (With Grace 22). The aesthetic importance of 19th century transatlantic fashion appears in other various literary works. Several essays jebi seby Oscar Wilde, as well as Mary Hawei's Art of Decoration (1881) and Art of Dress (1878) encouraged women to dress in a more aesthetically pleasing manner inspired by nature (With Grace 22). In 1880, the importance of Aestheticism further inspired authors and performers in the arts field, ultimately leading to the increased recognition of aesthetic styles of fashion in the Western world. In addition to aestheticism, several reform movements, such as the American movement started by the National Dress Reform Association in 1856 sought to make women's clothing safer and more practical.
Technology and Fashion As the century proceeded, the continued advancements of communication and technology allowed for an increase in production of textiles, particularly in America. American shoppers known as shopping agents traveled to Paris and were able return to America with clothing that would otherwise be unattainable for American women to own (With Grace 2). The increasing ability for transatlantic traveling in the 19th century allowed for the fashion trends of England and France to be seen in America. As the American economy grew with the expansion of markets like the cotton and fur industries, much attention fell upon transatlantic consumers.
The first fashion designer to become truly famous was Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895). Before the former draper set up his mision couture fashion house in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous people, and high fashion descended from style ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.
Early twentieth century
Throughout the early 20th century, practically all high fashion originated in Paris, and to a lesser extent London. Fashion magazines from other countries sent editors to the Paris fashion shows. Department stores sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy (and openly stole the style lines and trim details of others). Both made-to-measure salons and ready-to-wear departments featured the latest Paris trends, adapted to the stores' assumptions about the lifestyles and pocket books of their targeted customers.
Around the start of the 20th century fashion style magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential than in the past. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste. Talented illustrators - among them Paul Iribe, Georges Lepape, Erté, and George Barbier - drew exquisite fashion plates for these publications, which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette dew bon ton which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925.
The outfits worn by the fashionable women of the 'Belle Époque' (as this era was called by the French) were strikingly similar to those worn in the heyday of the fashion pioneer Charles Worth. By the end of the 19th century, the horizons of the fashion industry had generally broadened, partly due to the more mobile and independent lifestyle many well-off women were beginning to adopt and the practical clothes they demanded. However, the fashions of the Belly Époque still retained the elaborate, upholstered, hourglass-shaped style of the 19th century. As of yet, no fashionable lady would (or could) dress or undress herself without the assistance of a third party. The constant need for radical change, which is now essential for the survival of fashion within the present system, was still literally unthinkable.
The Maison Redfern was the first fashion house to offer women a tailored suit based directly on its male counterpart and the extremely practical and soberly elegant garment soon became an indispensable part of the wardrobe of any well-dressed woman. Another indispensable part of the outfit of the well-dressed woman was the designer hat. Fashionable hats at the time were either tiny little confections that perched on top of the head, or large and wide brimmed, trimmed with ribbons, flowers, and even feathers. Parasols were still used as decorative accessories and in the summer they dripped with lace and added to the overall elaborate prettiness.
During the early years of the 1910s the fashionable silhouette became much more lithe, fluid and soft than in the 20th century. When the Ballets Russes performed Scheherazade in Paris in 1910, a craze for Orientalism ensued. The couturier Paul Poiret was one of the first designers to translate this vogue into the fashion world. Poiret's clients were at once transformed into harem girls in flowing pantaloons, turbans, and vivid colors and geishas in exotic kimono. Paul Poiret also devised the first outfit which women could put on without the help of a maid. The Art Deco movement began to emerge at this time and its influence was evident in the designs of many couturiers of the time. Simple felt hats, turbans, and clouds of tulle replaced the styles of headgear popular in the 20th century. It is also notable that the first real fashion shows were organized during this period in time, by the first female couturier,Jeanne Paquin, who was also the first Parisian couturier to open foreign branches in London, Buenos Aires, and Madrid.
Two of the most influential fashions reflected light. His distinguished customers never lost a taste for his fluid lines and flimsy, diaphanous materials. While obeying imperatives that left little to the imagination of the couturier, Doucet was nonetheless a designer of immense taste and discrimination, a role many have tried since, but rarely with Doucet's level of success.
The period between the two World Wars, often considered to be the Golden Age of French fashion, was one of great change and reformation. Carriages were replaced by cars, princes and princesses lost their crowns, and haute couture found new clients in the ranks of film actresses, American heiresses, and the wives and daughters of wealthy industrialists.
Soon after the First World War, a radical change came about in fashion. Bouffant coiffures gave way to short bobs, dresses with long trains gave way to above-the-knee pinafores. Corsets were abandoned and women borrowed their clothes from the male wardrobe and chose to dress like boys. Although, at first, many couturiers were reluctant to adopt the newandrogynous style, they embraced them wholeheartedly from around 1925. A bustless, waistless silhouette emerged and aggressive dressing-down was mitigated by feather boas, embroidery, and showy accessories. The flapper style (known to the French as the 'garçonne' look) became very popular among young women. The cloche hat was widely-worn and sportswear became popular with both men and women during the decade, with designers like Jean Patou and Coco Chanel popularizing the sporty and athletic look.
The great couturière [Coco Chanel] was a major figure in fashion at the time, as much for her magnetic personality as for her chic and progressive designs. Chanel helped popularize the bob hairstyle, the little black dress, and the use of jersey knit for women's clothing and also elevated the status of both costume jewelry and knitwear.
Two other prominent French designers of the 1920s were Jeanne Lanvin and Jean Patou. Jeanne Lanvin, who began her career in fashion as a milliner, made such beautiful outfits for her young daughter Marguerite that people started to ask for copies, and Lanvin was soon making dresses for their mothers. Lanvin's name appears in the fashion yearbook from about 1901 onward. However, it was in the 1920s that she reached the peak of her popularity and success. The Lanvin style embraced the look of the time, with its skillful use of complex trimmings, dazzling embroideries, and beaded decorations in light, clear, floral colors that eventually became a Lanvin trademark. By 1925 Lanvin produced many different products, including sportswear, furs, lingerie, men's fashion, and interior designs. Her global approach to fashion foreshadowed the schemes that all the large contemporary fashion houses would later adopt in their efforts to diversify.
The style of Jean Patou was never mainstream, but full of originality and characterized by a studied simplicity which was to win him fame, particularly in the American markets. Many of his garments, with their clean lines, geometric and Cubist motifs, and mixture of luxury and practicality, were designed to satisfy the new vogue for the outdoor life, and bore a remarkable similarity to modern sportswear. The most famous advocate of his style was Suzanne Lenglen, the legendary tennis champion.
In the 1930s, as the public began to feel the effects of the Great Depression, many designers found that crises are not the time for experimentation. Fashion became more compromising, aspiring to preserve feminism's victories while rediscovering a subtle and reassuring elegance and sophistication. Women's fashions moved away from the brash, daring style of the Twenties towards a more romantic, feminine silhouette. The waist was restored to its proper position, hemlines dropped, there was renewed appreciation of the bust, and backless evening gowns and soft, slim-fitting day dresses became popular. The female body was remodeled to a more neon-classical shape and slim, toned, and athletic bodies came into vogue. The fashion for outdoor activities stimulated couturiers to manufacture what would nowadays be called sportswear. The term 'ready-to-wear' was not yet widely used, but the boutiques already described such clothes as being 'for sport'.
Two of the most prominent and influential fashion designers of the 1930s were Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet. Elsa Schiaparelli showed her first collection in 1929 and was immediately hailed by the press as 'one of the rare innovators' of the day. With her exciting and inventive designs, Schiaparelli did not so much revolutionize fashion as shatter its foundations. The first pullover she displayed in her windows created a sensation: it was knitted in black with a tromped-l'oeil white bow. She consistently turned out breathtaking collections thereafter. Schiaparelli was a close friend of Christian Berard, Jean Cocteau, and Salvador Dalí, who designed embroidery motifs for her and supplied inspiration for models like the desk suit with drawers for pockets, the shoe-shaped hat, and the silk dress painted with flies and the one bearing a picture of a large lobster. All of Paris thronged to her salon at 21Place Vendôme as collection succeeded collection.
The Second World War created many radical changes in the fashion industry. After the War, Paris's reputation as the global center of fashion began to crumble and off-the-peg and mass-manufactured fashions became increasingly popular. A new youth style emerged in the Fifties, changing the focus of fashion forever. As the installation of central heating became more widespread the age of minimum-care garments began and lighter textiles and, eventually, synthetics, were introduced.
In the West, the traditional divide that had always existed between high society and workers came to be considered simply unjustifiable. In particular, a new young generation wanted to reap the benefits of a booming consumer society. Privilege became less blatantly advertised than in the past and differences were more glossed over. As the ancient European hierarchies were overturned, the external marks of distinction faded with them. By the time the first rockets were launched into space, Europe was more than ready to adopt a quality ready-to-wear garment on American lines, something to occupy the middle ground between off-the-peg and couture. The need was all the more pressing because increases in overheads and raw material costs were beginning to relegate handmade fashion to the sidelines. Meanwhile, rapidly developing new technologies made it easier and easier to manufacture an ever-improving high-quality product.
Faced with the threat of a factory-made fashion-based product, Parisian haute couture mounted its defenses, but to little effect. It could not stop fashion leaking out onto the streets. In these years when the old world was taking its final bow, the changes in fashion were one of the most visible manifestations of the general shake-up in society. Before long, whole categories of women hitherto restricted to inferior substitutes to haute couture would enjoy a greatly enlarged freedom of choice. Dealing in far larger quantities, production cycles were longer than those of couture workshops, which meant that stylists planning their lines for the twice-yearly collections had to try to guess more than a year in advance what their customers would want. A new power was afoot, that of the street, constituting a further threat to the dictatorship of the masters of couture.Faced with the threat of a factory-made fashion-based product, Parisian haute couture mounted its defenses, but to little effect. It could not stop fashion leaking out onto the streets. In these years when the old world was taking its final bow, the changes in fashion were one of the most visible manifestations of the general shake-up in society. Before long, whole categories of women hitherto restricted to inferior substitutes to haute couture would enjoy a greatly enlarged freedom of choice. Dealing in far larger quantities, production cycles were longer than those of couture workshops, which meant that stylists planning their lines for the twice-yearly collections had to try to guess more than a year in advance what their customers would want. A new power was afoot, that of the street, constituting a further threat to the dictatorship of the masters of couture.
Flying in the face of continuity, logic, and erudite sociological predictions, fashion in the 1950s, far from being revolutionary and progressive, bore strong nostalgic echoes of the past. A whole society which, in the 1920s and '30s, had greatly believed in progress, was now much more circumspect. Despite the fact that women had the right to vote, to work, and to drive their own cars, they chose to wear dresses made of opulent materials, with corseted waists and swirling skirts to mid-calf. As fashion looked to the past, haute couture experienced something of a revival and spawned a myriad of star designers who profited hugely from the rapid growth of the media.
Throughout the 1950s, although it would be for the last time, women around the world continued to submit to the trends of Parisian haute couture. Three of the most prominent of the Parisian couturiers of the time were Cristobal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy, and Pierre Balmain. The frugal prince of luxury, Cristobal Balenciaga Esagri made his fashion debut in the late Thirties. However, it was not until the post-war years that the full scale of the inventiveness of this highly original designer became evident. In 1951, he totally transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955, he designed the tunic dress, which later developed into the chemise dress of 1957. And eventually, in 1959, his work culminated in the Empire line, with high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimonos. His mastery of fabric design and creation defied belief. Balenciaga is also notable as one of the few couturiers in fashion history who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models which symbolized the height of his artistry.
Hubert de Givenchy opened his first couture house in 1952 and created a sensation with his separates, which could be mixed and matched at will. Most renowned was his Bettina blouse made from shirting, which was named after his top model. Soon, boutiques were opened in Rome, Zürich, and Buenos Aires. A man of immense taste and discrimination, he was, perhaps more than any other designer of the period, an integral part of the world whose understated elegance he helped to define.
Pierre Balmain opened his own salon in 1945. It was in a series of collections named 'Jolie Madame' that he experienced his greatest success, from 1952 onwards. Balmain's vision of the elegantly-dressed woman was particularly Parisian and was typified by the tailored glamour of the "New Look", with its ample bust, narrow waist, and full skirts, by mastery of cut and imaginative assemblies of fabrics in subtle color combinations. His sophisticated clientèle was equally at home with luxurious elegance, simple tailoring, and a more natural look. Along with his haute couture work, the talented businessman pioneered a ready-to-wear range called Florilege and also launched a number of highly successful perfumes.
Also notable is the return of Coco Chanel (who detested the "New Look") to the fashion world. Following the closure of her salons in the war years, in 1954, aged over seventy, she staged a comeback and on February 5 she presented a collection which contained a whole range of ideas that would be adopted and copied by women all over the world: her famous little braided suit with gold chains, shiny costume jewelry, silk blouses in colors that matched the suit linings, sleek tweeds, monogrammed buttons, flat black silk bows, boaters, quilted bags on chains, and evening dresses and furs that were marvels of simplicity.
Despite being a high fashion designer, American born Mainbocher also designed military and civilian service uniforms. In 1952, he redesigned the Women Marines service uniform combining femininity with functionality. Previous redesigns include uniforms for the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1942, and uniform designs for the Girl Scouts of America and the American Red Cross in 1948.
Dior's "New Look" (that premiered in 1947) revived the popularity of girdles and the all-in-one corselettes. In the early 1950s, many couture houses used the interest in "foundationwear" to launch their own lines, soon after many lingerie manufacturers began to build their own brands. In 1957, Jane Russell wore the "Cantilever" bra that was scientifically designed by Howard Hughes to maximize a voluptuous look. The invention of Lycra (originally called "Fibre K") in 1959 revolutionized the underwear industry and was quickly incorporated into every aspect of lingerie.
Until the 1960s, Paris was considered to be the center of fashion throughout the world. However, between 1960 and 1969 a radical shake-up occurred in the fundamental structure of fashion. From the 1960s onward, there would never be just one single, prevailing trend or fashion but a great plethora of possibilities, indivisibly linked to all the various influences in other areas of people's lives. Young people, with a power and culture that were all their own, now at an age to speak out, were a force to be reckoned with and had a powerful impact on the fashion industry. For perhaps the first time in history, there was an independent youth fashion that was not based on the conventions of an older age group. In the 1960s fashion became just as much a statement of personal freedom.
In stark contrast to their mature, ultra-feminine mothers, the women of the 1960s adopted a girlish, childlike style, with short skirts and straightened curves, reminiscent of the look of the 1920s. At the start of the decade skirts were knee-length, but steadily became shorter and shorter until the mini-skirt emerged in 1965. By the end of the decade they had shot well above the stocking top, making the transition to tights inevitable.
Many of the radical changes in fashion developed in the streets of London, with such gifted designers as Mary Quant (known for launching the mini skirt) and Barbara Hulanicki (the founder of the legendary boutique Biba). Paris also had its share of new and revolutionary designers, including Pierre Cardin (known for his visionary and skillfully-cut designs), André Courrèges (known for his futuristic outfits and for launching the mini skirt along with Mary Quant), Yves Saint Laurent (known for his revolutionary yet elegant fashions), and Emanuel Ungaro (known for his imaginative use of color and bold baroque contrasts). In the United States, Rudi Gernreich (known for his avant-garde and futuristic designs) and James Galanos(known for his luxurious read-to-wear) were also reaching a young audience. The main outlets for these new young fashion designers were small boutiques, selling outfits that were not exactly 'one-offs', but were made in small quantities in a limited range of sizes and colors. However, not all designers took well to the new style and mood. In 1965, Coco Chanel mounted a rearguard action against the exposure of the knee and Balenciaga resolutely continued to produce feminine and conservative designs.
The principal change in menswear in the '60s was in the weight of the fabric used. The choice of materials and the method of manufacture produced a suit that, because it was lighter in weight, had a totally different look, with a line that was closer to the natural shape of the body, causing men to look at their figures more critically. The spread of jeans served to accelerate a radical change in the male wardrobe. Young men grew their hair down to their collars and added a touch of color, and even floral motifs, to their shirts. The polo neck never succeeded in replacing the tie, but the adoption of the workman's jacket in rough corduroy, and especially the Mao jacket proved to be more than simply a political statement. A few futuristic rumblings were set off by Pierre Cardin and Andre Courrèges, but the three-piece suit still survived intact.
In the early 1960s there were influential 'partnerships' of celebrities and high-fashion designers, most famously Audrey Hepburn with Givenchy, and Jackie Kennedy with Oleg Cassini. Also, many models had a very profound effect on fashion, most notably Twiggy, Veruschka, Jean Shrimpton, as well as Andy Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick. Early in the decade, culottes were in style and the bikini finally came into fashion in 1963. The hippie and psychedelic movements late in the decade also had a strong influence on clothing styles, includingbell-bottom jeans (designed by the English tailor Tommy Nutter, from his Savoy store), tie-dye and batik fabrics, as well as paisley prints.
Nicknamed the 'me' decade; 'please yourself' was the catchphrase of the 1970s. Some saw it as the end of good taste, while many perceived it as the beginning of individuality. The decade began with a continuation of the hippie look of the late 1960s, with afghans, Indian scarves, and flower-print tunics. Jeans remained frayed, tie dye was still popular, and the fashion for unisex mushroomed. An immense movement claiming civil rights for blacks combined with the influence of soul music from the USA created a nostalgia for Africa and African culture. A radical chic emerged, influenced by the likes of James Brown, Diana Ross, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers, in everything from afro hairstyles to platform soles. During the Seventies brands greatly increased their share of the international market. Hems began dropping in 1974 to below the knee, until finally reaching the lower mid calf in 1977 and shoulderlines were dropped.
Because of punk, London retained a considerable degree of influence over fashion, most significantly in the boutiques of the King's Road, whereVivienne Westwood's boutique, SEX, which opened in 1971, blew with the prevailing wind. This temple of British iconoclasm centered on fetishistic accessories and ranges of clothing in which black rubber and steel studs were the external signs of an underlying sadism. Postmodernist and iconoclastic in essence the punk movement was a direct reaction to the economic situation during the economic depression of the period, the vehicle for a hatred that was more visceral than political. Punk had at its heart a manifesto of creation through disorder. With their ripped T-shirts, Red Indianhairstyles, Doc Martens, bondage trousers, and chains, the punks exported an overall feeling of disgust around the globe.
Another popular British style the was the resolutely unmodern, feminine, countrified style of clothing popularized by Laura Ashley, which consisted of long flounced skirts and high-necked blouses in traditional floral prints, worn with crocheted shawls. Laura Ashley started out running a small business in Wales in the mid-1960s and the company continued to expand until the accidental death of its owner in 1985. Laura Ashley was not the only designer to look nostalgically to the past. Fashions based on the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s were popular throughout much of the decade, with Hollywood films like The Godfather and The Great Gatsby, and numerous exhibitions on costume history at the Metropolitan Museum of Artin New York increasing their popularity. In Japan, the boutiques of Tokyo's fashionable Harajuku district sold many reworked versions of traditional British and American looks.
During the 1970s a new generation of menswear boutiques sprang up, aiming to change the decor, rituals, and customer base of a traditionally 'difficult' trade. To sell fashionable clothes to a young man at the end of the 60's was still, in many circles, tantamount to questioning his masculinity. Men's appearance changed more in the Seventies than it had done in a whole century. Many of the fashion designers who revolutionized the male look owed a lot of their innovations to Pierre Cardin: narrow shoulders, tight-fitting lines, no tie, no interfacing, zip-up boiler suits, waisted jackets or tunics, sometimes no shirt. Work clothes supplied inspiration for a less formal style, encouraging designers to look beyond the traditional suit and, for example, adopt a unisex look or investigate the massive supply of second-hand clothes. Sometimes this kind of male dressing-down, often denounced as 'hippie', gained formal recognition as a deliberate look. At certain other times, as part of a retro movement, designers introduced a revival of '30s elegance. The unearthing of old military clothing, preferably khaki and from the United States; English-style shoes; Oxford shirts; immaculate T-shirts; tweed jackets with padded shoulders; brightly-colored V-neck sweaters; cashmere-printed scarves draped around the neck all imposed a certain uniformity on the casual beatnik look of the male wardrobe at the end of the Seventies.
Also significant are the developments in Italian fashion that happened during the period. In the course of the 1970s, as a result of its ready-to-wear industry, Milan confirmed its status as second only to Paris as a center of international fashion. The 'alta moda' preferred Rome, the base of the couturiers Valentino, Capucci, and Schön. Capitalizing on the dominant trend of anti-fashion Italy offered a glamor that had nothing to do with the dictates of Parisian haute couture. While profiting from a clearly defined style, Italian fashion was luxurious and easy to wear. The two most influential Italian fashion designers of the time were probably Giorgio Armani and Nino Cerruti. Giorgio Armani produced his first collection for women in 1975. From the outset, the line was dynamic, urban, and understated, androgynous in inspiration. Armani offered a restrained style that greatly appealed to the increasing population of women who now had access to the world of work and occupied progressively more senior positions within it. This was only the beginning of a tremendous career, which came to fruition in 1981 when Emporio Armani was launched. In 1957 Nino Cerruti opened the menswear boutique Hitman in Milan. A man of taste and discernment, in 1976 he presented his first collection for women. Two years later, he launched his first perfume. In linking the career of a successful industrialist with that of a high-quality designer, Cerruti occupied a unique position in Italian ready-to-wear.
During the late 20th century, fashions began to criss-cross international boundaries with rapidity. Popular Western styles were adopted all over the world, and many designers from outside of the West had a profound impact on fashion. Synthetic materials such as Lycra, Spandex, and viscose became widely-used, and fashion, after two decades of looking to the future, once again turned to the past for inspiration.
The society of the Eighties no longer criticized itself as consumerist, but was, instead, interested in 'the spectacle'. The self-conscious image of the decade was very good for the fashion industry, which had never been quite so à la mode. Fashion shows were transfigured into media-saturated spectaculars and frequently televised, taking high priority in the social calendar. Appearance was related to performance, which was of supreme importance to a whole generation of young urban professionals, whose desire to look the part related to a craving for power. The way in which men and women associated with the latest styles was no more a matter of passive submission but one of active choice. As fashion once again looked to the past, baroque evening dress and long gowns made a reappearance.
The two French fashion designers who best defined the look of the period were Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaia. Strongly influenced by his early career in the theater, Thierry Mugler produced fashion designs that combined Hollywood retro and futurism, with rounded hips, sharply accentuated shoulders, and a slight hint of the galactic heroine. Mugler's glamorous dresses were a remarkable success, and signified the complete end of the hippy era and its unstructured silhouette. Known for his awe-inspiring combinations, Azzedine Alaia greatly influenced the silhouette of the woman of the Eighties. The master of all kinds of techniques that had previously been known only to haute couture, he experimented with many new and underused materials, such as Lycra and viscose. The finish, simplicity, and sheer sexiness of Alaia's look made women of every generation identify with his seductive style, and during the 1980s he achieved a certain glory and was held in high regard by members of his own profession.
In the 1990s it was no longer the done thing to follow fashion slavishly, a sharp contrast to the highly á la mode '70s and '80s. The phobia of being underdressed was finally completely displaced by the fear of overdressing. Fashion in the '90s united around a new standard, minimalism, and styles of stark simplicity became the vogue. Despite the best efforts of a few designers to keep the flag for pretty dresses flying, by the end of the decade the notion of ostentatious finery had virtually disappeared. As well as the styling of the product, its promotion in the media became crucial to its success and image. The financial pressures of the decade had a devastating effect on the development of new talent and lessened the autonomy enjoyed by more established designers.
Fashion at the end of the 20th century tackled themes that fashion had not previously embraced. These themes included rape, disability, religious violence, death, and body modification. There was a dramatic move away from the sexy styles aimed at the glamorous fem me fatal of the Eighties and many designers, taken with a vision of romantic poverty, adopted the style of the poverty-stricken waif, dressed in a stark, perversely sober palette, with a face devoid of make-up. Clothes by ready-to-wear retailers such as The Gap, Banana Republic, andEddie Bauer came to the forefront of fashion, managing to tap into the needs of women who simply wanted comfortable, wearable clothes. Retro clothing inspired by the 1960s and 1970s was popular for much of the 1990s.
The famous Italian fashion house, Gucci was created in 1921, by Guccio Gucci and was originally a firm that sold luxury leather goods. Under Guccio Gucci's children, by the end of the 1960s the label had expanded to include a plethora of products with a distinctly Latin glamour. However, only in the '90s, when the Gucci heirs gave up control of the company to Invest Corp., who planned to turn the business around, did it truly begin to enjoy the kind of success it enjoys in the present day. Employing an unknown designer, Tom Ford, as design director in 1994, the fashion house was endowed with a great prestige, as Ford triggered a tidal wave with his chic and shocking collections, perfumes for men and women, revamped boutiques, and advertising campaigns. In 1998 Gucci is named "European Company of the year" by European Business Press Federation.Today it is the second biggest-selling fashion brand (after LVMH) worldwide with US$7 billion worldwide of revenue in 2006 according to BusinessWeek magazine.Most importantly Gucci is the biggest-selling Italian brand in the world
In Italy, Gianni Versace, with his brilliant, sexy, and colorful designs, and Dolce & Gabbana, with their superfeminine and fantastical style, broke away from the serious and sober-minded fashions that dominated during much of the Nineties. The British designer Vivienne West wood produced many influential and popular collections in the early '90s, which included outfits inspired by 18th-century courtesans and the Marquis de Sade, with rounded hips, corsets, and platform heels. The London-based designer Rifat Ozbek was also popular, particularly in New York and Milan. His youthful style, which mixed references to India, Africa, and his native Turkey with clever takes on historical clothing, was reminiscent of hippest nightclubs and the more outrageous street fashions of the time. Rap music was a prominent influence on popular and street fashion during the early- and mid-Nineties. Followers of hip hop adopted huge baggy jeans, similar to those worn in American prisons, with big patterned shirts and heavy black shoes. The sports label Nike had great popularity and materials such as Lycra and Spandex were increasingly used for sportswear. Increasing eco-awareness and animal rights made even top couture houses such as Chanel introduce fake fur and natural fibers into their collections.
In the '00s, as the future began to seem increasingly bleak, fashion, and indeed the Arts in general, looked to the past for inspiration, arguably more so than in previous decades. Vintage clothing, especially from the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties (the eighties idea of clashing, electric colours becoming especially popular in mid-late 2007) became extremely popular and fashion designers often sought to emulate bygone styles in their collections. The early '00s saw a continuation of the minimalist look of the '90s in high fashion. Later on, designers began to adopt a more colorful, feminine, excessive, and 'anti-modern' look. Name brands became of particular importance among young people and many celebrities launched their own lines of clothing. Tighter fit clothing and longer hair became mainstream for many men and women.