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Fashion Culture Essay

Fashion is a general term for a popular style or practice, especially in clothing, footwear, accessories, makeup, body piercing or furniture. “Fashion” refers to a distinctive; however, often-habitual trend in a look and dress up of a person, as well as to prevailing styles in behavior. “Fashion” usually is the newest creations made by designers and are bought by only a few number of people; however, often those “fashions” are translated into more established trends. [1] The more technical term, “costume,” has become so linked in the public eye with the term “fashion” that the more general term “costume” has in popular use mostly been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while the term “fashion” means clothing generally, and the study of it. For a broad cross-cultural look at clothing and its place in society, refer to the entries for clothing, costume, and fabrics.

A. Couture Beginnings

The first fashion designer who was not merely a dressmaker was Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895). Before the former draper set up his maison de couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from styles worn at royal courts. Worth’s success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done.

B. 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.


* The outfits worn by the fashionable women of the ‘Belle Époque’ (as this era was called by theFrench) 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 stable and independent lifestyle many well-off women were beginning to adopt and the practical clothes they demanded. However, the fashions of the La Belle Époque still retained the elaborate, upholstered, hourglass-shaped style of the 19th century. As of yet, no fashionable lady could (or would) 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 use of different trimmings were all that distinguished one season from the other.


* During the early years of the 1910s the fashionable silhouette became much more lithe, fluid and soft than in the 19th century. When the Ballets Russes performedScheherazade 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 Jeanne Paquin, one of the first female couturiers, who was also the first Parisian couturier to open foreign branches in London, Buenos Aires, and Madrid.

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