When we look at the history of fashion, it is dictated by social classes, morals and values of the time. I am fascinated by the forward and backwards thinking of our ancestors when it comes to what is considered fashionable, moral or a-moral.
Women's dress in history was often dictated by men. The first prominent fashion designer since Marie Antoinette's Rose Bertin, was a gentleman named Charles Worth. Granted, his gowns were spectacular and are priceless pieces of history today - but their restrictive construction was dictated by what men preferred to see on 'their women'.
This stunning Charles Worth gown weighs about 50lbs, plus corset, petticoats and all manner of undergarments.
Men wore a suit.
In the Edwardian period 1900-1919, women's bodies were still a source of 'temptation' to men. It was required that women continue to be covered from the neckline down, as much as possible. All in an effort to reduce men's unwanted stares and vitriolic comments of social class. Proper dressing was deemed of a higher social class - exposing skin in an outfit was considered a-moral and socially unacceptable, unless you worked in a brothel. And of course, women who worked in brothels were considered extremely low class and unworthy.
|Very relaxed, loose styles of the 1920s.|
The female form is all but missing.
The 1920s was the first real era where women were gaining ground. Knee length flapper style dresses, the absence of corsets and the suffragist movement began the long battle for women's equality and basic rights. Women were finally allowed to vote in 1929 - we were deemed persons under the law.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the war seemed to put fashion on the back burner. Not that the styles were not lovely, they were. But they were a little bit darker and of course, much less extravagant. No one had the desire for frivolousness, and it simply was not allowed due to the war efforts. The mood was sombre. Everyone worked hard and equally - women alongside men. It seemed there was little time for squabbling.
In the 1950s when the men came home from war, they wanted to see their women in pretty dresses and high heels. Women enjoyed this bit of feminine style too, as the war years were lean and drab with very little color. However, corsets returned dictating an unrealistic hour-glass shape and forcing bodies back into submission. It seemed women's rights were being overlooked once again.
So it was with great relief that the 1960s & 1970s came along with the women's rights movement. hippies, Twiggy, mini skirts, free love and bra burning - we were back to working hard for our rights and equalities. Not just for women, but on behalf of visible minorities as well. Dr. Martin Luther King set about the enormous task of convincing conservatives that all people are equal - regardless of race. We are still working on that today. The 1960s fashion resembled those of the 1920s - straight, boxy styles, comfort and confidence. Men were beginning to have less say in what a woman could wear - there were still rules, but they were starting to erode, and women were speaking up.
Fast forward to today. I often think we have gone to the extreme. Women perhaps have taken their fashion freedoms too literally. Instead of dressing for your body type, we seem to have embraced the idea that the smaller and tighter the dress, it must be more sexy. I refer to all the Snooki-types out there - of which I think I saw them all on my recent trip to Las Vegas. Complete with hooker shoes of course. Are we dressing for ourselves or for what we think a man wants to see? My boyfriend is constantly joking to me to wear one of these dresses. However, jokes aside, this is mainstream and what men think is attractive. Are we once again pandering to their temptations?
Consider the hajib. A woman wears it to alleviate and distract men from their temptations. Why can't the men exercise self-control? Ah...but that is a rant for another day.