Everyone, at some point in time, has felt the need to be clothed. Some do fashionable and trendy, others do practical & still, others opt for extremely comfortable but one thing remains common: we all want to be dressed in apparel, regardless of the reigning mood.
Fashion, since the beginning of time inherent, when human beings developed the idea of style influenced by common logic & the conditions of their time, has steadily evolved over the years. Contrary to popular opinion, fashion is not an erratic fad based on the capricious whims or creative tendencies of designers & stylists. Fashion is deeply entrenched in the fears, hopes, and dreams of humanity.
Social, economic, and political conditions affect men and women both mentally and emotionally. As a response, the people interact with these surrounding constraints to generate the fashion brought about by the collective thought and emotions associated with a period. Thus, the spirit of the age – Zeitgeist (pronounced tsit ‘gist) in German – is in evolution. Clothes become a mirror image of this spirit. Behind all clothing inventions & trending costume, stands the spirit of the age.
Any new fashion to be accepted must be in agreement with the current ideas & beliefs at that time. As the views of the public vary in art, economics, politics, religion, science, and even social etiquette, so does the hair length, the dress fit, the suit style, the shoe trends. Looking back historically, one could sense the spirit of the time as reflected in the costumes of those times.
The clothing worn by Europeans during the 1600s was influenced by fast-moving fashion trends—style changes prompted by trendsetters—as never before. During the century, clothing went from restricting to comfortable and back to restricting again, and excessive jewelry was stripped away but both male and female garments became more embellished. While the rich and famous continued to determine the most prominent styles, political preferences and the rise of the middle classes also began to have a significant influence on fashion.
Fashion in 18th-century England was of huge importance; new consumer culture was emerging and upper-class society took extra care in dressing to impress. The fashion spread far and wide, aided by advancements in transportation, but the rural inhabitants were often left behind as they waited for the styles to reach them. This resulted in the city dwellers snubbing their country counterparts when they met at balls.
Costume during the nineteenth century changed dramatically. This was caused by shifts in taste, and more significantly by the introduction of machines to the clothing and textile industry. Sewing machines, weaving machines and looms powered by steam & electricity, new dye formulas, and others made clothes production easier and faster. These inventions were used to add embellishments and trimmings in bulk to the large ball gowns worn by women in the 1850s.
By the end of the century, the introduction of suits for men increased the interest of the male gender in ready-to-wear fashions.
Each decade in the 20th century symbolized rebirth in fashion and memories in history. People and styles within every decade were idolized; they created pop culture icons on and off the runway. The fashion of the times was adopted by different people in different ways: some in self-expression, others as a form of rebellion. The 1900s was packed full with decades of personal and cultural identity and expression. Men’s fashion also changed throughout the century, but not nearly as much as women’s fashion.
Presently, in the 21st century, the millennial fashion statement reveals a pretty surprising cultural statement — maybe even a rebellion. Fashion in the 21st century can come off as a grab-bag of 20th-century classics. Every decade leaves its mark on the fashion past and the first decade of this century has been a mainly feminine one, with curve-hugging jeans, minis, and the likes.
This decade’s greatest fashion statement is in direct opposition to its technological one. Fashion, in this decade, is looking backward for inspiration, more than any decade before. While not all fashion trends in history were stylish, they are all nostalgic time capsules today that many of us look back on with fond memories or look into the future with new resolutions.
Perhaps, the most fitting illustration of the Zeitgeist idea is that of the color wheel. The color wheel, as defined by Wikipedia, is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle, which shows the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. The color wheel has a variety of colors: some alike, others contrasting but when spun, there is a probability of color repetition. Such is the philosophy of Zeitgeist: fashions come & go, but there are similar trends over the years and even trends that make an entire comeback.
In conclusion, fashion has always been a sweet, spellbinding & ever twisting tale based on clothing, the reflection of the common spirit of the times & people in those times and that, perhaps, might be the highest paradox of all time: constant change.