The location and most importantly social class. Fashion

 

The evolution of
fashion and style: expressing women’s liberation:

 

My paper describes how the evolution of fashion
and style expressed women’s

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liberation.
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” –Rachel Zoe. Fashion
is the most popular system of expression; it describes the changing of style
throughout cultures and time. It becomes a trend when others copy and imitate the
particular clothing style.  We usually refer
to fashion when talking about clothes, footwear, bags, accessories and makeup. Fashions
vary widely over time within a society but are also affected by sexual
orientation, age, occupation, location and most importantly social class. Fashion
trends may begin in five different ways: runway shows, street style, celebrities,
fashion bloggers and fashion capitals such as New York City, Paris, Milan,
London…

Fashion
is nothing new, it has been present for a very long time and will evolve
through time in order to discover new ideas. It plays a very important role in
the audience’s lives in several domains such as political, economic, cultural
and social. The discipline of fashion helped certify the independence of women
and I will show that through three examples. First of all, I will talk about
the emergence of the corset in the 16th century and how they
eliminated that concept little by little. Second of all I will talk about the “new
look” Christian Dior introduced after the war and the emergence of men’s
clothing for women. Third of all, I will move on to the “Sexy suit” for women. Finally,
I am going to talk about the mini skirt that Marie Quant invented in order for
people to dress to please themselves and play with fashion.

The word “corset” is derived from the French
word “corps” meaning “body” in English. For that, the corset is a garment
created in the beginning of the 16th century worn by men and women made
for shaping the figure. It holds the torso tightly into any shape desired and
is traditionally worn to exaggerate the hips and buttocks and accentuate the shapeliness
of the human body. Corsets are constructed from a strong yet flexible fabric that
is reinforced with steel boning to give it strength. In the 16th
century, the ideal silhouette was the hourglass shape that is specified by wide
hips, a wide bust and a narrow waist. The corset was originally created in Italy,
introduced in France by Catherine De Medici and was embraced by the women in
the court that is why the undergarment was sometimes referred to as “French Bodies”.
As Valerie Steele states in her book “The Corset: A Cultural History” (2001), “The
corset is probably the most controversial garment in the entire history of
fashion” (p.1). In fact, she starts her book that way, it is a very important
and powerful statement because I believe that the corset is a great example regarding
the fact that women used to be in some sort labeled and all needed to wear a
corset in order to be elegant or presentable. Women used to wear it to
completely change the shape of their body which is a very bad thing to do because
every woman should love the way she looks without having to change their
shapes. Also, according to Valerie Steele (2001), the corset is an “instrument
of torture” (p.1) that caused many health problems and deaths. Because of the
tightness of this undergarment, women used to get hurt and sometimes even die. She
also says that even though women were freed from the Victorian corset, in today’s
society fashion trends impose on them new forms for their body that we call the
croquis (the unrealistic figure of the woman’s body: very skinny and tall that many
fashion designers design upon today) which means that plastic surgery and diet
are the corset of our days. On the other hand, in her book she mentions that
the corset has gone from “a symbol of female oppression” (p.166) to “a symbol
of women empowerment” (p.166) by being present in luxurious couture brands clothing
in a different manner than the old days and of course in a safer way. Despite
this, the new fashion trends demands remain very harmful for women and can be
referred to as “the 21st century corset”.

Women empowerment was also expressed in
the end of the 1940’s, after WWII and its utilitarian and formal attires. Women
played very important roles during the war, at home and in work. They not only
suffered from being separated with the men in their lives, but also gave so
much effort and time to work and be able to make a living for them and their
families. In other words, women in some sort used to do what only men used to
do before the war which is working and they were defeminized. Women could not
work with any clothes, that’s why they used to wear utility dresses. They
transformed men’s clothes to women’s clothes and had no time to care about anything
other than efficiency and outfits that are good for work.

 After the war, the famous and luxurious designer
Christian Dior introduced a “New Look” according to Harper’s Bazaar Carmel Snow
in order to bring back the femininity of all the women that lost it during the war
period. For that he created a revolutionary look that consisted of a dress with
wide shoulders, a small nipped-in waist and a wide and full skirt that arrives mid-calf
made with very luxurious fabrics. According to Richard Sorger and Jenny Udale (2006)
this new look was a “response to the stringent use of fabrics during the war
years and a conscious feminization of the female form”. This dress is very controversial,
in fact, during war, women used to wear utility
outfits and had to be very independent so on one hand, this new look seemed to
be a very fresh idea for some women and gave them a very nostalgic feeling of
the war. And on the other hand, feminists were against that because they
believed that after being able to work and gain their independence, they crated
again a dress with some sort of corset and and wide skirt. Some women wanted to
look feminine after the war and others wanted to be treated as equally as men
and have the same rights.

            After
Dior’s revolutionary dress, it was inappropriate for women to wear pants. In
fact, suits were present since the beginning of the 20th century.
Coco Chanel was the first to design a suit; a furred trim jacket with a matching
skirt that reaches the ankles. Suits with pants did not exist until the 1930’s
when designer Marcel Rochas created the first pantsuit because a larger number
of women entered the workforce.  In 1966,
Yves-Saint Laurent introduced the “Le
smoking” which is a tuxedo made for women. This look is surely a very well feminized
version of the men’s look. The tuxedo quickly became the personification of the
“sex appeal” because it was consisted of a blazer and tight tuxedo pants which
used to show the features of a woman’s body. “Le smoking” is a very revolutionary look that stood with feminism
because it is a break through from the past and it was a very shocking outfit
at the time. It was a way of empowering women by giving them the chance to
dress like the men who were considered to be influential and powerful. The tuxedo
was and remains very stylish and will never go out of style. Yves Saint-Laurent
said “For a woman, le smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds
herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion.
Fashions come and go, but style is forever.”

            While “le smoking” was introduced,
another clothing apparel was also introduced and that is Marie Quant’s
miniskirt.