The History of the Necktie

The History of the Necktie

Introduction

The necktie has been a large part of Father’s Day with millions of dads receiving one in June of every year.  But where did the necktie originate and why is it so popular among men?

The necktie has been a staple in menswear for hundreds of years.  Made of every type of material imaginable, the necktie has taken on many different names over the years and has been associated with identity, occupation, status, and even military affiliation.  It has also been used as utility attire to cover shirt buttons and to protect the neck in certain circumstances.

The necktie is also a fashion accessory which has stood the test of time by surviving through several hundred years of social transformation.  It has been popular since ancient times right up to the current day with modern styles that date back to King Louis XIV of France.

Where did the Necktie Originate?

It is believed that the earliest necktie was initially worn by the first emperor of China, Shih Huan Ti who died in 210 B.C.  The accessory was found in his mausoleum in the capital city of Xian, along with multiple replicas of soldiers.  Each soldier was created as the result of Shih Huan Ti’s fear of death.  Instead of killing an entire army in an effort to allow his soldiers to follow him to the next world, Huan Ti was encouraged by his advisers to create replicas, each of which was wearing a neck cloth.

Today, Shih Huan Ti’s mausoleum is considered one of the largest wonders of the ancient world.  The tomb contains more than 7000 replicas of soldiers which are life size and made of terracotta.  The soldiers are carved with meticulous detail, including facial expressions along with a neck cloth as part of their attire.

terricota army

Neckties have existed since ancient times and served a variety of different purposes including keeping the neck warm, soaking up sweat, signification of wealth or status, and more.  Although the modern necktie has an origin related to France, it is not actually an invention of the French.  It was during the 30 Year War when it was worn by Croatian soldiers and Croatian Vallerists as a decorative cloth around the neck.  The accessory made identification of soldiers easier with silk cravats reserved only for higher ranked officers.  Most of the necktie designs as we know them in the modern day date back to King Louis IV who started a trend of the bow-tie type accessory called the cravat after seeing Croatian soldiers of the 17th century wearing the creation.

The trend of wearing the cravat eventually spread to the rest of Europe where it was worn by wealthy citizens and nobles.  Additionally, during the French baroque period, the cravat became a notable accessory when worn as an equestrian scarf made of fine linen.  The scarf was tied around the neck in intricate designs and often adorned with lace accents.  It was worn only by the very wealthy and cost the equivalent of a ten year salary for this time period.

Timeline of the Necktie

113 A.D.

In 113 A.D., Trajan, emperor of Rome, created a marble monument with more than two thousand life-sized statues wearing three different types of neckties.  The monument was created to symbolise the victory over the Dacians.  The Dacians resided in what is now known as Romania.

The neckties adorning the statues included different types of materials worn around the neck and shorter styles resembling the modern necktie.  Additionally, there were materials wrapped around the neck and then tucked into the soldier’s armor, as well as scarf like accessories which resembled bandannas later worn by cowboys.  The neck embellishments were often worn for neck warmth and to symbolise honour.  These reasons were similar to the terracotta army of Shih Huang Ti we discussed earlier.

1600s

When Croatian soldiers appeared before King Louis IV of France, they were wearing colourful silk neckties which were admired by the King.  The soldiers appeared before the King to enable him to honour them for the victory over the Hapsburg Empire.

The term “cravat” refers to “Croat” and eventually became a staple in elite regiments.  The regiments were organised by the King and named the Cravat Royale prior to the 1700s.  Other sources challenge this term and instead, suggest it refers to a rabat which means “hanging collar” in French.

Cravat

1700s

During the very late 1600s to 1700s, the steinkirk rose in popularity.  It was a necktie adorned in lace at the ends and randomly tied around the neck to create a dishevelled look.  The tie got its name from the battle of Steinkirk.  During this battle, the French soldiers were surprised by the enemy which left them little time to dress properly.  As a result, they quickly tucked their steinkirk into the button holes on their shirt so as not to look unkempt.

It was also during the 1700s that Beau Brummel, a prominent person in men’s fashion, first introduced the necktie as an accessory for self-expression and individuality.  Brummel was from the working class and wore a coloured bandanna.  Before long, the trend spread to the English working class with many sporting colourful bandannas.

The bandanna, originally known as the bandhana or bandha was imported from India during the 1700s.  The bandanna was originally made of silk and was designed in a broad range of colours.  The accessory was printed by hand or fashioned in a variety of patterns.

Eventually, cowboys adopted the bandanna during the 1700s to protect their face from dust.  The bandannas were typically either blue or red and today are considered part of western attire.

silk bandana

1800s

Beginning in the 1800s, blue and white uniforms accessorised with a blue cotton scarf were worn by British sailors.  As yachting grew in popularity during the 1800s, the sailor suit also became popular as well.  The suit was originally worn by men until it was introduced for boys and eventually, as a dress for girls.

It was also during the 1800s that the term “tie” was first used in place of the word “cravat.”  The word “tie” originated from the publication, Neckclothitania, which illustrated and described fourteen different ways to tie a cravat.  Not long after, the cravat was replaced with the word “tie” across the globe.

necklothitania

By the mid-1800s, the tie first went into mass production which increased its popularity throughout the United States and Germany.  Oxford University followed the trend by creating the very first Club Tie which sported a woven emblem symbolising an organisation, club, or educational institution.  The Club Tie was inspired by the Oxford University rowing team which removed the striped ribbons from their rowing attire and tied them around their necks.

By the late 1800s, the black bow tie came into vogue.  The style was initiated by Pierre Lorillard V when he invented the tuxedo.  The tuxedo was worn with a black bow tie as opposed to a white bow tie typically worn with tailcoats.  The tuxedo was first worn in New York at Tuxedo Park, hence the name “tuxedo” for the new style of tie and dinner jacket.

bow tie

1900s

patterned tieThe early 1900s marked the beginning of the patterned tie first introduced in Macclesfield, England.  The tie was made popular by Prince Edward who eventually entered the fashion industry as a model.  With a preference for relaxed attire, the patterned tie was casually tied and worn with a softer shirt collar.  As the popularity increased, the tie was worn as a status symbol and as a sign of success.

French fashion designers embraced the trend of the patterned tie by producing variations made of material derived from women’s clothing.  The patterns were Art Deco inspired and targeted toward the female client.  This marked the point where women’s neckties began to come into vogue.

Several years later during the mid-1920s, Jesse Langsdorf, an American designer introduced a new type of tie production.  His creations were made of materials which improved elasticity, allowing the fabric to easily return to its original state.

1930s

By the 1930s, neckties took on a bolder appearance with new Art Deco designs and a wider presence.  The neckties were shorter than the previous Art Deco embellishments and were tied in a Windsor knot first introduced by the Duke of Windsor.

tie art deco

1940s

In the early 1940s, the necktie did not change much in terms of new fashions and trends.  This marked the beginning of World War II and a period of time when people had more important things on their mind than the latest fashions.

The end of World War II inspired an attitude of liberation which was reflected in fashion design.  The necktie was no exception with patterns intended to stand out and bold colours which symbolised a new era.  Additionally, designers occasionally took their creations a little too far such as the Grover Chain Shirt Shop which produced ties with scantily clad women.

1950s

As the 1950s was ushered in, the skinny necktie came into vogue.  As more tailored and form fitting clothes rose in popularity, the skinny tie was designed to complement this type of style.  It was also at this point in time, fashion designers began to experiment with new fabrics and materials when designing neckties.

skinny tie

1960s

By the time the 1960s arrived, the wide tie replaced the skinny tie as the new fashion trend.  A necktie in excess of six inches wide was not uncommon and complete with bold patterns and colours.  This tie was officially named the Kipper Tie made famous by Elvis Presley when he first started wearing it in the United States after abandoning his skinny black tie look.

Kipper Tie

In London, designer ties exploded with popularity when Carnaby Street designers produced wide ties with bold colours in a variety of garish patterns.  This was done in an effort to develop what was known as the Peacock Look preceding the hippie era which abandoned neckties altogether in favour of metallic jewellery or neck scarves.

1970s

The 1970s introduced the ultra-wide Kipper Tie which was popular with the disco movement and the inception of the discotheques.  The Kipper Tie was frequently worn with large collared shirts with wide cuffs at the sleeves and bell bottom pants.

The 1970s also marked the introduction of the Bolo Tie which was made of braided leather or other type of cord with metal tips.  The tie became popular in the west and was the official necktie for the state of Arizona beginning in the early 1970s to the 1980s.

bolo tie

1980s

The necktie made a big return to the fashion world during the early 1980s.  Neckties were a popular accessory worn by celebrities, pop stars, and young people working in the financial industry.  A variety of necktie fashions returned including the skinny tie and ties crafted from leather.  Additionally, the ultra-wide ties from the 1970s were still in fashion during a decade not known for terrific fashions.

1990s

skinny tieThe wide variety of necktie styles from the 1980s dissipated in the early 1990s when neckties were designed at a uniform width of about three to four inches wide.  Neckties were considered a workplace requirement and the most popular designs were paisley and fashion forward floral patterns similar to today’s designs.

By the late 1990s, there was a surge in the IT industry and the concept of wearing a necktie somewhat faded into the background.  However, in recent years, it has made a return and is now worn at both formal and casual events and mixed with a variety of styles.  Ties also gradually became thinner at under four inches with European fashion designers reinventing the skinny tie.

Currently, the necktie is produced in a wide variety of different materials, cuts, and widths.  Overall, there are uniform widths of 3.5 inches and under.  Skinny ties as well as narrow ties which range from 1.5 inches to three inches in width are also the norm.  Today’s neckties are also designed with new patterns, fabrics, knits, and weaves, in addition to being offered in a variety of cuts and widths.

floral print ties

Conclusion

With the introduction of the Internet and mass media, many celebrities, athletes, and artists have influenced necktie trends.  Notable people such as Humphrey Bogart made the bowtie an upward trend in men’s fashion while Elvis Presley made the wide tie and neck scarf popular.

In Europe, well known business professionals have continued to make the ascot or cravat a popular trend when dressing for business and special occasions.  The Duke of Windsor was also known for having a massive collection of neckties.

As we venture farther into the 21st century, it will be interesting to see what people influence necktie fashion, as well as the types of designs created by notable people in the fashion industry’s future.

About the Author

Micar is a London-based software development company that is known for developing the UKs original ERP solution for the Apparel, clothing, textile and footwear industries.  Visit the About Us page to find out more about our history and the products pages for more information about our tailor-made software solutions.

We hope that you enjoyed this article. All images used on this blog are property of their respective owners. We would take our own images, but we wouldn’t do a very good job! 

The history of the necktie

The Origins of the Hipster

The Origins of the hipster.fw

Introduction

What do you think of when you hear the word hipster? Beards, mismatched vintage clothes and anything not ordinary? A hipster might say that definitions are too mainstream and they can’t be defined because they don’t fit into a category – but I will give it a go!

Typically hipsters are the intelligent creative type; men and women in their 20s or 30s that value independent thinking and have an appreciation of art and alternative music. You will usually find them living in urban areas, shopping in thrift stores and looking in a mirror perfecting their moustache (well, the male hipsters at least). There are a lot of different elements that have come together to create the modern hipster. A collision of multicultural influences, indie music, progressive politics and art. It may surprise you that hipsters first appeared decades ago, and the culture has developed over time, redefining the word into the hipster we know today. Let’s start with a history lesson and take a look into how this subculture developed.

Where Did the Term Hipster Come From?

The word hipster was first used back in the 1940s. It was used to describe a particular subculture that had evolved in America during which and directly linked to the popularity of Jazz music during the 1940s. There are different opinions on how the word actually came about, but the most common one is that the word hipster came from the word “hip” meaning “in the know” and was commonly used as an adjective to describe enthusiasts of the jazz music scene. The English suffix “ster” was added and the term “hipster” was born, being defined as “characters who like hot jazz”.

The 1940’s Hipster

Hipser Jazz ClubInitially hipsters were middle class white American youths. During a time of war, resistance and racial segregation groups of middle class white youths rejected the social norms of the time and the extravagant lifestyles of the higher classes seeking a more carefree and spontaneous lifestyle. They embraced jazz music and the culture that came with it. Jazz musicians were predominantly African American and these middle class white youths, looked to imitate the lifestyle of the musicians they looked up to along with young urban blacks. Jazz clubs were where these hipster groups went to socialise leading to a fusion of races in hipster culture.

These young people were focused on enjoying life, music and differentiating themselves from the upper classes and their orderly way of life. Adopting opposite views on life from what was expected – they used cannabis and other drugs, embracing a relaxed attitude to life, sarcastic humour and self-inflicted poverty.

In their philosophy people that were hipsters were ‘hip’ and anyone who wasn’t hip, was ‘square’. Squares sought security, comfort, valued possessions and status and accepted the ruling of the government without protest. Everything that hipsters rallied against. Being hip meant that you sought a deeper takeaway from life, valuing the artistic and obscure rather than normalcy and what was embraced by the general public.

Norman Mailer described the American hipster of the 1940s very eloquently as someone who would not be strangled by social conformity and instead would “divorce from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self”.

The Modern Hipster

Over the years the word hipster has adopted a completely different meaning. The hipster of the 1940s sought out people similar to themselves, growing friendships and developing bonds based on their mutual interest in jazz music and like views on societal issues. They gladly associated themselves with the subculture. A new generation of urban living young people have unwillingly adopted the subculture’s name and today’s hipster culture is less about the community building and more focused on their individual image. Similarly to earlier hipsters, modern day hipsters are not necessarily from lower classes but choose to look like they do, keeping an earthy, grungy image. They embrace anything obscure and appreciate any kind of alternative culture, be it film, music, or art.

A Stereotypical Hipster

A stereotypical hipster are the 20 somethings, living in Hackney that buy second hand clothes signalling their rejection of consumerism. They don’t do their weekly food shopping in Tesco, instead they buy their groceries directly from the producers at farmers markets. You know those retro bicycles with the oversized basket you are seeing regularly? That probably belongs to a hipster as cycling instead of driving or using public transport is a much greener option.

Negative Image

Somewhere along the line the word hipster obtained a negative connotation. “Hipster bashing” has become a thing and it’s largely to do with the image the media portrays these alternative individuals as. The consensus is that hipsters are pretentious and judgemental to the rest of society. Their fashion sense is construed to look like they don’t care about their image, when that’s all they are about.

I feel hipsters are hard done by. In my opinion, there are two types of hipster.

Type 1: The real ones, which have values and beliefs that lead them to live more sustainable lives. The real hipster buys second hand clothes for economic reasons. They source their food more carefully because they care about fair trade. Their interest in alternative culture means that they listen to less well known bands or artists. Their creativity shows in their fashion sense and in the way they bring old fashion practices into the modern day. These people are not trying to be cool, they just are.

Type 2: The deliberate hipster. These are the people that see people living alternative lifestyles and want to emulate them. They try too hard and this is where the negative image of pretentious know-it-alls comes from. They listen to bands that no one else has heard of and scoff at anyone that says that Rihanna is their favourite artist. They own iPhones while bashing large corporations. They scorn other subcultures for being unoriginal and following trends – oh the irony! What drives them is image and not sustainability and creativity and these people have turned the hipster movement into a trend.

All in all, I have nothing against either type of hipster. People can express themselves however they want and wear whatever they feel comfortable in. These are just the two stereotypical ends of the hipster spectrum.

Hipster Style 101

Whatever your opinion of the hipster culture, I think we can all agree that their style has massively influenced what we see in high-street stores. Love it or hate it, it’s everywhere.

As hipsters are not slaves to fashion or trends (cough, cough) not all dress the same but there are certainly some common identifiable articles of hipster clothing. The hipster wardrobe begins with think rimmed glasses. Usually people wear glasses to see properly but if you have 20/20 vision, don’t worry you can just get non-prescription think framed glasses, and fit right in! Just like this guy…

hipster male glasses

Female hipsters take on a slightly androgynous look by pairing any kind of black boots (the thicker/higher platform the better), with jeans and a loose fitting slogan t-shirt that belonged to their Dad in the 80s, while having perfectly applied makeup and hair long wavy hair that definitely took more time than they would care to admit.

hipster girl

Probably the most obvious sign of a male hipster/hipster wannabe is their facial hair situation. Everyone has noticed the influx of beards in recent times. Yes, hipster style is to thank for making it acceptable for young men to grow, or at least try to grow, full beards, which would have typically been associated with older men. These beards come in different lengths and styles but all are well maintained to deceptively achieve that rough appearance. Some hardcore hipsters even incorporate the “handlebar” moustache which requires extra styling and maintenance. After paying a lot of attention to their facial hair you could forgive hipster guys for being lazy with the hair on their head – but lazy they are not. Short around the sides with the top slicked back ever so carefully. Regular trips to the barber are required to keep you looking in peak hipster condition.

Anything vintage or with tartan print and will go down well with the hipster community.

Hipster style.fw

Conclusion

An umbrella term used to describe a subculture of young, urban living creative personalities. The common theme between the 1940’s hipster and the modern hipster and many other subcultures throughout the eras, is that although their image may have become fashionable, their rejection of mainstream values of their time is where their image stemmed from. The 1940’s hipster rejected the prim and proper lifestyles of the upper classes and instead adopting a more open-minded way of life.  Whereas the modern hipster is rejecting the contemporary culture of consumerism and constant obsolescence, opting for a more eco-friendly, less wasteful lifestyle. Their style wasn’t meant to become a trend, but who can blame the rest of us mainstream folk to want to look edgy!

 About the Author

Micar computer systems is a London-based software company that develops the UK’s original ERP solution for the Apparel, clothing, textile and footwear industries.  Visit the About Us page to find out more about our history and the products pages for more information about our tailor-made software solutions.

The History of Coco Chanel.

Introduction

“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”. Her own words sum up the brand that has become one of the most popular in the world. With the idea that women’s fashion should be comfortable Chanel transformed the fashion industry and revolutionised women’s clothing. The designer behind the brand associated with upscale fashion, the little black dress and the iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume came from humble beginnings.

Early life.

Young Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel in her early professional life. Image source: Wikipedia.

Born August 19th 1883, in Saumur France, she was given the name Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel at birth. Chanel often claimed that she was born in 1893 to appear younger, and stating that she was actually born in Auvergne in an effort to make her upbringing appear more glamorous.

The truth is that her childhood was an underprivileged one. Born to an unwed mother, Eugénie Jeanne Devolle, who worked as a laundrywomen in a workhouse and a father that worked as a peddler, life wasn’t easy for the family. Two parents and five children were living in cramped, run down lodgings. Illness was prevalent and when Chanel was only 12 her mother passed away from bronchitis, leaving her father, Albert Chanel with five young children. Following this misfortune Albert quickly farmed out the children and Chanel and her sister were sent to live at the convent of Aubazine.

The cruel twist of fate that bound Chanel to spend the rest of her teenage years in a convent was to shape the rest of her life and success. It was in the convent that the nuns taught Chanel how to sew.

School holidays were spent with relatives in the provincial capital of Moulins. Here Chanel was able to sew with more flourish as she wasn’t under the strict rule of the convent.

At the age of 18, Chanel’s time at the convent ended. She left and worked two jobs, one as a seamstress and the other as a singer at a cabaret bar that was frequented by cavalry officers. Her youth, good looks and charm made quite an impression on the clientele, and it was here that she met Etienne Balsan, a wealthy French military officer – first in a string of high profile affairs. During her brief few years as a singer, 1905-1908, she was given the nickname “Coco” an abbreviation of the word cocotte, a French word meaning kept women. During this time Chanel did try to pursue signing professionally but soon realised that a stage career was not for her as her success in local cabernets was attributed to reasons other than her singing voice. Her voice failed to impress when she auditioned in prominent theatres, cafes and concert halls and so she decided to discontinue her efforts.

Relationships – Balsan and Capel.

At the age of 23 Chanel became Balsan’s mistress. She moved into his chateau near Compiègne, a very beautiful and desirable area, where she lived for the next three years living a life of luxury. He spoiled her with gifts of expensive dresses and jewellery while they socialised with other wealthy like-minded people. During this time she mixed in influential social circles and built connections that would lead to important opportunities later on. Also it was in Balsan’s chateau that she started to design hats. It was just for enjoyment at the time but would later turn into a business venture.

In 1908, never short of male admirers, Chanel began an affair with one of Balsan’s friends, Captain Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel, a wealthy English Industrialist. Chanel moved out of Balsan’s residence and Capel set her up in an apartment in Paris.

Like Balsan, Capel treated her to the finest things in life. It is said that Chanel had hoped to settle down with this man but he was never faithful to her. In 1918 Capel married an English aristocrat, Lady Diana Wyndham. This was very hard for Chanel to deal with but the two didn’t stop seeing each other and continued the affair even after Capel’s wedding.

The beginning of an Empire.

coco chanel first hat design

Coco Chanel’s very first hat design from 1913. Image source: Wikipedia.

In 1910, recognising Chanel’s creative talent Capel financed her first shop. At 21 rue Cambon in Paris, Chanel designed, created and sold hats in her shop named “Chanel Modes”. Her designs were noticed and became popular with French actresses of the time. Growing her recognition and building a reputation for classic design, Chanel’s millinery business boomed.

Success didn’t stop there. In 1913, again with financing from Capel she opened her first boutique in a prime location in the centre of Deauville. Her clothes were a shift from the physically restrictive fashion of the era, which usually involved corsets and full length skirts, which are impractical for most activities. Her vision for fashion was one of comfort, practicality and simplicity. She had the opinion that designers had forgotten that women are inside the dresses they create, and thought that fashion should have a more natural shape. Her designs were menswear inspired, suitable for leisure and sport, introducing trousers and suits for women. Coco Chanel used jersey cloth because of its physical properties – it was comfortable and draped well over the body. These jersey garments proved to be revolutionary, changing the relationship between woman and their bodies. It is said that Capel’s sartorial style is what inspired many of Chanel’s fashion concepts.

Like her millinery business, her clothes swiftly got recognition. It seemed to come easy for Chanel, her confidence and bold attitude coupled with talent and her aptitude for design lead to her business to thrive.

Expansion.

With determination to grow her success even further, Chanel opened a second boutique in 1915 in Biarritz, a location chosen probably because of its close proximity to wealthy Spanish population. A wise choice of location as within one year of business, Chanel was able to reimburse Capel for his original investment.

It wasn’t all work in Biarritz, as it was here she came across an expatriate aristocrat, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia. The two began a romantic relationship that continued on for a number of years.

House of Chanel

The house of Chanel. Located at 31 rue, Cambon, Paris. Image source: Google.co.uk

Couture.

As a result of the phenomenal success she found with her clothes, in 1918 Chanel, as a registered couturiere, established her couture house at 31 rue Cambon, one of the most fashionable districts of Paris.  Here she sold day-wear creations, simply designed dress-and-coat outfits and elegant black evening dresses, hats, accessories and later expanding to jewellery and fragrance.

Chanel suffered a huge blow in 1919 when Arthur Capel was killed in a car accident. Losing someone she had been with for nearly ten years as well as the person that financed and supported her first business venture a defining moment in Chanel’s life, herself stating that “His death was a terrible blow to me. In losing Capel, I lost everything. What followed was not a life of happiness I have to say”.

chanel no 5 perfume

Chanel No. 5. Image source: Google.com

Chanel No. 5.

Chanel’s signature perfume, Chanel No. 5 proved just as successful as her clothes and was noticed by some very wealthy business owners. In 1924 Chanel made an agreement with two brothers, Pierre and Paul Wertheimer, who were the directors of perfume and cosmetic house Bourgeois. A separate corporate entity was created, and the Wertheimers agreed to provide full financing for production, marketing and distribution of the perfume. In this agreement Chanel received 10% of the profits and had no further involvement with the business, an agreement that Chanel greatly regretted and fought a losing battle for 20 years over it.

World War Two.

At the start of World War Two Chanel closed her shops giving the reason that war was not a time for fashion leaving only jewellery and perfume for sale. 3,000 workers were devastated to have lost their jobs.

During the German occupation of Paris, Chanel was linked romantically with a German officer named Hans Gunther von Dincklage, which damaged her reputation in her home country. She lived with him in a luxury apartment in the Ritz Hotel Paris for the duration of the war.

Post World War Two.

At the end of WWII, with a 15 year absence, Chanel thought it was the right time to renter the fashion industry and in 1954 her grand couture house was re-established. The end of the war Europe saw a prominence of male designers, including Christian Dior. Chanel was not a fan of their designs and was convinced that women would rebel against the “illogical” design that their collections encompassed with cinched in waists, a padded bust, heavy skirts and stiffened jackets.

Despite this opinion being the reason that Chanel’s designs were so popular prior to the war, Parisians did not receive her new collection well. However across the waters in Britain and America, her return to fashion was welcomed and she enjoyed success with these markets for the rest of her days.

The death of Coco Chanel.

Chanel although tired and ailing didn’t stop working. She was busy preparing the spring catalogue for the year of 1971 when she began to feel ill. She went to bed early and on Sunday morning, January 10th Chanel passed away in her home in the Ritz, where she had remained for over 30 years. Her funeral was held at the Église de la Madeleine. Her funeral was as style focused as she was as the front row of seats at the ceremony was occupied by her fashion models and her coffin was decorated with a selection of white flowers with a few red roses.

Conclusion

Chanel, being one of the most recognisable names in fashion still to this day, redefined the fashionable woman of her time. Revolting against the overly feminine, uncomfortable designs that women had lived in for so long, she introduced simplicity and coupled style with casual wear. She prided herself on her creativity and her awareness of what women wanted.

About the author.

Micar computer systems is a London-based software development company that is known for developing the UKs original ERP solution for the Apparel, clothing, textile and footwear industries.  Visit the About Us page to find out more about our history and the products pages for more information about our tailor-made software solutions.

We hope that you enjoyed this article. All images used on this blog are property of their respective owners and are used as reference, not for profit. We would take our own images, but we wouldn’t do a very good job! 

Image credits.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

https://images.google.com/

coco chanel history

The History of Perfumes and Fragrance

The history of perfumes and fragrance

Introduction

Perfumes and fragrances have played an important role throughout world history. Although the modern fashionista applies perfume to feel attractive, the history of perfume indicates the original purpose was not the same.

Perfumes and Fragrance in Ancient Times

The history of perfume and fragrance dates back thousands of years to ancient times and the Egyptians.  In Egypt, fragrances were primarily used for religious ceremonies which is where the term perfume originated.  The Egyptians would use fragrance as an incense which elevated scented smoke into the air as a means for communicating with the gods.

As a result of Egyptian religious ceremonies, the word perfume originated from two Latin words.  The words are per and fumus meaning through and smoke which described the elevation of scented smoke during a religious ceremony.  The fragrance was achieved via the burning of woods and resins.

Additionally, perfume was developed by the Egyptians with the very first cosmetics.  However, the purpose of the cosmetics were to draw the kindness of the gods, instead of being used to garner the attention of the opposite sex.  The Egyptians believed the gods would smile on them if they surrounded themselves with a pleasant aroma.

For this reason, many different perfumes are buried in Egyptian tombs as they believed the more perfume they wore, the better the chances they would spend eternity in heaven.  Additionally, perfumes and oils were often used in the embalming process as well. The perfumes were made of rose petals, peppermint, frankincense, and myrrh.  The concept of surrounding yourself in fragrance led to soaking fragrant resins and woods in oil and water and then spreading the scent all over your body.

ancient egyptian perfume bottleThe Egyptians were also the first to create perfume bottles in which to store the perfume. The bottles were commonly made of glass which was invented by the Egyptians.  Other bottles were crafted of native stones, porcelain, gold, and other natural materials as the Egyptians believed only the finest bottles should be made to hold perfumes with the greatest respect. This led to the addition of perfumes in a bath.

During ancient times, the Greeks and Romans created luxurious bathhouses as the result of Egyptian practices. Additionally, the Greeks kept records of their perfume mixtures and categorised them according to the plant of origin.  Greek perfume also came from other sources such as events following the invasion of Egypt by Alexander the Great and adoption of Greek perfume by the Romans following their invasion of Greece. Meanwhile, other cultures such as those in India and China were using perfumes as part of their religious ceremonies as well.

Perfume and Fragrance during the Middle Ages

The use of perfume faded out during the early part of the Middle Ages mainly because of the expansion of Christianity. As international trade increased, so did the use of perfume thanks to the availability of new spices and scents beginning early in the 12th century.  It was at this point that people began to create their own scents at home by combining oils, herbs, spices, and flowers as part of the routine cleansing and grooming process.

By the 18th century, Jean-Marie Farina of Italian descent born in 1865 and settling in Cologne Germany in 1709, developed Eau de Cologne.  The term Eau de Cologne means water from Cologne and quickly became popular across the globe and in the royal courts.  The original Eau de Cologne was used both as a fragrance and for internal use as a medicinal application.  Eau de Cologne is still produced today by the eighth generation of the Farina family.

Perfume and Fragrance in the 19th Century and Later

By the early 19th century personal hygiene took centre stage and was perceived as purification of the soul.  Additionally, new technology contributed to making perfume more widely available to the wealthy, as well as those who previously could not afford it.

The technology allowed for the discovery of new techniques for extracting fragrances. Additionally, advancements in chemistry led to the discovery of synthetic substitutes for costly fragrance ingredients.  This made perfume more widely available and reduced the price, making it accessible to more people.  Only a few brand names were known to exist during this time, until the beginning of the 20th century when new technology made it possible to mass produce perfumes and fragrances.

Different Types of Fragrance

Fragrances are made in a variety of different forms with an endless array of names.  But when it comes down to it, there are actually five main categories of fragrance.

Perfume

blending-perfumesPerfume is the most potent and expensive type of fragrance and has been made of plant and animal extracts for thousands of years. The variety of plant sources is quite extensive and is categorised as different types of barks, fruits, flowers, leaves, woods, and seeds.  Other categories can include different types of spices, grasses, gums, balsams, and resins.

Barks such as pine, cinnamon and other types are used, as well as flowers such as roses, gardenia, jasmine, and more.  Many types of perfumes are also created using fruit extracts such as citrus, berries, and apples, in addition to a variety of seeds such as nutmeg and cocoa.  Some of the commonly used woods include rosewood, pine, and sandalwood.

The use of animal sources to create perfume is not as prevalent in the current day as it once was some time ago.  This is because of the growing concern over animal treatment, as well as a myriad of ethical and legal issues similar to the cosmetic industry. Instead, synthetic fragrances have replaced animal sources in the creation of fragrances.

Perfume is the most expensive type of fragrance and typical contains 21 percent or more of essential oils. Some of the higher end perfumes such as Chanel No. 5 can have a concentration level as high as 40 percent along with other top of the line fragrances.

Eau de Parfum

The second highest level of fragrance is Eau de Parfum which is the preferred fragrance by most upper class and wealthy consumers.  The concentration level for Eau de Parfum is typically anywhere from ten to twenty percent with most fragrances at this level created with 15 percent concentration.  Most of the well-known brands you typically see at fragrance counters are made with this level of concentration.

In terms of layers of notes, Eau de Parfum is created with a focus on the middle notes which are the core of the fragrance.  The middle notes become prominent after the top notes weaken and are designed to last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending upon the scent.

Eau de Parfum costs more than Eau de cologne and Eau de Toilette which we will discuss in a minute. For this reason, it is not as popular as the fragrances in the lower end categories. Eau de Parfum is designed to last longer which makes it cost effective since it can be applied in small amounts

Eau de Toilette

Eau de Toilette is in the third category of the five main types of fragrances. The concentration level for this fragrance is anywhere from five to ten percent.  Eau de Toilette is the fragrance level you will find in most mall department stores that have mainly middle class clientele.

Eau de Toilette typically costs less than perfume and Eau de Parfum.  Since it is a lower level of concentration, this allows you to apply it more often and more generously without the fragrance being to over the top.

Eau de Cologne

Eau de Cologne has one of the lowest concentration levels of essential oils.  Eau de Cologne has a concentration level of approximate three to eight percent with most fragrances containing about five percent.

Typically, this type of fragrance is made of citrus since it works the best with fragrances that have low concentration levels. In addition to a low concentration of essential oils, Eau de Cologne has a base of mostly water and alcohol.  The cost is one of the lowest in the categories we have discussed and the top notes are the scent that is predominant immediately following application.

Because of the low concentration, the fragrance tends to fade quickly before the other notes slowly diminish.  This means you could have the same fragrance at two different concentration levels and the Eau de Cologne will smell different.

Eau Fraiche

Eau Fraiche is the very lightest concentration of fragrance and is very diluted when compared to the other fragrance categories we discussed.   Eau Fraiche has a concentration level of just one to three percent which makes it low cost as well.

The French term Eau Fraiche means “fresh water” and contains a very low level of essential oils.  The lower the level of essential oils, the cheaper the fragrance is which works well for people who may not be able to afford the upper end fragrances.  It also works well for people who desire extreme subtlety in a fragrance.

Top Selling Perfumes in History

The perfume industry has grown significantly within the last hundred years.  During this time there are a few brands of fragrance that have revolutionised the industry.

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5 was first introduced in 1921 by Coco Chanel and has remained an iconic scent for many women.  Chanel No. 5 is a top of the line fragrance that was the first perfume to be made with synthetic aldehyde.  The synthetics helped to exaggerate fragrance notes while adding complexity to the scent.  Currently, one bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold every minute across the world.

chanelno5

Miss Dior

Miss Dior is another top of the line fragrance developed in 1947 by Christian Dior and named for his sister Catherine whom he shared a close relationship with. When the perfume was commissioned, Christian Dior instructed Paul Vacher and Jean Charles to create a fragrance that describes love.  The fragrance is made of jasmine, gardenia, bergamot, iris, rose, narcissus and lily of the valley which is a tribute to a flower garden in Granville that has special memories for the siblings. Today, the perfume is the scent of haute couture and is sprinkled daily on the residence on Avenue Montaigne.

Miss Dior

Opium

Opium is a fragrance of fruit and spices first introduced in the latter part of the 1970s by Yve Saint Laurent.  At the time of its release, the fragrance stirred much controversy due its name and the packaging which was done in an oriental design.  The connotations resulted in protests by the Chinese Americans who demanded the fragrance be redesigned and the name changed.  Because of all the attention garnered by the controversy, Opium has been one of the top selling fragrances since the 20th century.

opium perfume bottle

Joy

Joy is a fragrance created during the Depression era in 1929 by Jean Patou, a French fashion designer.  At the time of its introduction it was marketed as the most expensive perfume in the world.  This is because the composition consists of a unique combination of rare flowers.  There are more than 10,000 flowers of jasmine and more than 27 dozens of roses included in the perfume. The excessive number of natural extracts and oils are what make Joy a highly treasured scent.

Where Fragrance Stands Today

The fragrance industry has come a long way since many thousands of years ago.  So what is ahead for the future of the industry?  Fragrance designers have mentioned to expect fragrances that are more complex with a high concentration of florals as in the new DKNY fragrance.  Additionally, fragrances will contain ingredients that enhance the skin and keep it well hydrated.

Modern fragrances are also being designed to improve your well-being with scents that provide a fragrance and body treatment in one.  Other scents are being designed to provide a calming effect while providing a top end fragrance that helps you to feel your best.

As for many decades to come, perhaps fragrances will be designed to last the entire day or renew themselves and last much longer than that. Maybe aromatherapy will return to ancient times and fragrances will provide comfort and healing properties.

Although the fragrance industry is clearly revolutionising scents, the spectacular fragrances of the past still remain attractive.  Chances are the classics that have survived decades will bring something new to the table for the generations to come as well.

About the Author

Micar is a London-based supplier of the original bespoke ERP software solution for the clothing, footwear and textile industries. If you have any questions about implementing an ERP solution, do not hesitate to contact us. Call us on 020 8531 7444, or visit our website to find out more about our products.

All images used are property of their respective owners. I would take my own, but they wouldn’t look this good! 

The History of Christian Dior

christian-dior

Introduction

Luxury, haute couture and elegance are what comes to mind when someone mentions the name Dior. Synonymous with high fashion, most people don’t know the rich and sometimes sad history behind the brand. The man behind the name was one of the most popular couturiers of the 20th century as his talent re-introduced femininity into the fashion scene of post WWII France and dictated style around Europe and even further.

Early life – 1905 – 1931

Christian Dior, founder of the multi-million dollar fashion label, was born on January 21, 1905. Granville, a town by the sea in the north of France is where he called home until his family moved to Paris when he was five years old. He was the son of Louis Maurice Dior, owner of a very successful business manufacturing fertilizer.

Dior’s passion for creativity led his ambition to become an architect. His father had other ideas however, and in 1925 Dior enrolled at the Ecole des Sciences Politiques to study political science in order to become a diplomat as his parents hoped.

Despite this, in 1928 after he graduated, he followed his heart and Dior opened an art gallery with money that was given to him by his father, under the condition that he did not use the family name above the gallery door. Like his father, Dior clearly had a flair for business, the gallery was a great success having names such as Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso grace its walls.

Unfortunately this is where Dior’s luck took a turn for the worse. Following the death of both his brother and mother and a financial blow that forced his father’s company out of business, Dior was forced to close the gallery just a few years after its opening.

1935 – An introduction into fashion

christian_dior sketchingThe early 1930’s is when Dior got his first taste of the fashion industry. He used his artistic flair to make a living and began selling fashion sketches. Little did he know that this was the beginning of an empire all owing to his aptitude for designing women’s clothes.

People began to notice his talent and Dior moved on to better things. He was hired to work as a design assistant with a fashion designer named Robert Piguet. Dior was forced to leave Piguet in 1940 when he was enlisted in the army where he served as an officer.

When military service ended in 1942, Dior was able to return to the creative life he loved in Paris where he moved on to even bigger and better things. He was hired by the designer Lucien Lelong to be one of the primary designers. Working with Lelong he spent the remaining years of World War II dressing the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators.

The war took its toll on the country, yet when it was over there were many opportunities for businesses to thrive. One such opportunity came when Dior met with Marcel Boussac or the “King of Cotton” as he was known. Boussac wanted to invite Dior to become the artistic director and revive his struggling fashion house, Philippe et Gaston. However, Dior had his own vision.

1946 – The House of Dior is founded

Dior met with Boussac and shared his vision with him. He believed that women were looking for something new and inspiring in fashion now that the war is over. The wartime style of sharp-shouldered suits needed to be replaced with luxurious garments with a cinched in waist and billowing skirts. Dior believed in himself and was able to convince Boussac of the same. So, instead of hiring him to work in his existing fashion house, Boussac agreed to finance Dior’s new project.

Christian believed that a fresh start was needed for his vision to work – this required new premises, new employees, and a new mentality. With all of this, the House of Dior was founded on December 1946 at 30 avenue Montaigne.

30_montaigne

1947 – New Look

On February 12th 1947, Dior’s debut collection was launched, consisting of 90 different looks. His designs took the French capital by storm and injected the fashion industry with inspiration and excitement, returning Paris to its former reputation as the fashion capital. Designed to enhance the curvaceous figure of a woman, the garments of the collection incorporated corsets to minimise the waist, hips were padded and bosom accentuated.

New look coat

new_look_white coat

The collection was christened by the press as simply the “New Look” and caught the attention of some of the biggest stars at the time such as, Rita Hayworth and Margot Fonteyn. Even the British royal family invited Dior to stage a private presentation of his collection for them.   

New Look fashion show

1947 – Expansion

With the phenomenal success that Dior was having, it only made sense to expand. He opened a luxury ready-to-wear fashion house in New York in November 1947, the first of its kind in the luxury fashion industry.

Broadening his empire into a new market, in the same year, he launched Dior Parfum. The first fragrance was named Miss Dior after his sister Catherine, who had survived being held in a concentration camp.

Dior soon licenced his name to a range of luxury accessories, beginning with ties then moving onto furs, hosiery and handbags. This move was criticised and thought to cheapen haute couture however, due to this venture, Dior’s name quickly made its way around the world. In fact it was such a profitable move for the brand that it wasn’t long before all of the fashion houses followed suit.

The death of Christian Dior

In the year 1957, the same year as he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, Dior met an untimely death. He was holidaying in Italy when, on October 23rd at the age of 52 he suffered a heart attack and died. The admiration and respect that the people of France, had for Dior became clear when 2,500 people attended his funeral.

christian_dior

Needless to say, after the unexpected death of the founder, the House of Dior was in chaos. Before his passing, Dior had already decided who he wanted to replace him as artistic director. So in an attempt to stabilise the business, the 21 year old Yves Saint-Laurent was given the title. Although he was such a young age Saint-Laurent had been working with Dior as a design assistant and is said to have reminded Dior a lot of himself.

The brand today is just as high class and desirable as it was back in 1947, with its designs being worn by the most affluent in society and its runway shows influencing the rest of the fashion world.

Dior catwalk show

Conclusion

The timing of Dior’s Fashion House had no doubt a lot to do with his success. Post war Europe was craving to be revived and Dior did just that by becoming one of, if not the biggest, post-war couturiers. His unique vision for fashion got him world recognition and his business acumen allowed him to prosper immensely. He designed in his own fashion house for only ten years but his influence still is and will be around for many more.

About the author

Micar is a leading London based supplier of the original bespoke ERP software solution for the apparel industry. Click here to find out more about our products and services.

Useful references.

http://www.biography.com/people/christian-dior-9275315

http://www.fashionintime.org/history-of-dior/

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dior/hd_dior.htm

http://www.stylesequel.com/designers/christian-dior/biography

http://www.dior.com/couture/en_gb/the-house-of-dior/the-story-of-dior/believing-in-his-destiny

http://www.vogue.co.uk/person/christian-dior

 

 

The History of fashion. Part 4 – High Heels.

High Heels History

Introduction.

The history of high heels dates back many centuries. The first stiletto heels are dated as early as 1000 BC. There are many interesting facts on the high heeled shoe and its origin.

Although many people never give it a second thought, high heels, which are now an essential part of fashion, originate back many centuries. As the shoe progressed through the centuries, it took on various purposes other than high fashion as we know it today.

High heels are defined as a shoe that has a heel positioned higher than the toe box. Throughout history, high heels have been a symbol that differentiates between social classes and the sexes.  In the past, they have also served as a symbol of sexuality and class as they made women’s movements appear more elegant since their feet were already in a standing position.  The early high heels had a functional value in addition to being an indication of social status.

So, where did high heels originate and how did they change throughout history?

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the first pair of stiletto heels are believed to have been worn by Tebas when they were found in the tomb of Tebas which dates back to 1000 BC. However, murals from ancient Egypt have displayed drawings of shoes that were similar to high heels and worn by aristocrats. These murals date back to 3500 BC.

It is believed that high heels were worn by both sexes and they were typically used for ceremonial purposes.  Additionally, high heels were often worn by Ancient Egyptians whose work involved butchering animals. The heels were used as a tool for keeping the butcher’s feet out of the blood during slaughter.

In ancient Egypt, shoes were often used to distinguish nobility from the lower class, since the lower class typically went barefoot.

Ancient Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece, high heels were used in Greek theatrical productions around 200 AD. The first theatrical author known as Esquilo, dressed his actors in high heels that were varied in height.  Each shoe height represented the social status of the actor’s character.  The shoes were commonly known as the Kothorni and consisted of high cork or wooden heels.

In ancient Rome, high heels became a well-known symbol in the sex trade and were associated with prostitution.  At the time, prostitution was legal and women would wear high heels to communicate their profession to prospective clients.

pink_chopine early 17th centruy

15th Century

During the 15th century, the first platform shoe known as the Chopine was invented in Turkey and remained popular across Europe for the next two hundred years.  The heel was often up to 30 inches high and required the support of a cane in order to walk in them.  The Chopine was typically worn by women and had very little functional use. Instead, they were considered to be a fashion statement that represented a turning point in fashion for women.

In Europe during the 15th century, the Chopine was a social status indicator for women of class and were often designed with embroidery, gold laces, and intricate leather designs. Women that wore the Chopine could customize the look by telling the shoemaker exactly how high the heel should be andthe type of materials that should be used during construction.  This was considered to provide women with a sense of individualism and intrinsic fashion.

In later years, the Chopine was often encouraged by spouses because they were difficult to walk in.  This meant that the shoe would impede the woman from wandering out to engage in liaisons with other males.

Chopine - 15th Century shoe

16th Century

During the 16th century in France, high heels were worn by both sexes of the upper class.  The concept of wearing high heels was initiated by Catherine de Medici when she wed the Duke of Orleans who was to be the future King.  Catherine de Medici eventually was Queen of France and wore high heels at her wedding to impress the French Court.  She was only 14 years old and not more than five feet tall so she had the high heels designed to make her appear taller than she actually was.

Following Catherine de Medici’s wedding, high heels took off in the fashion world in Paris, France and became very popular in the French Court.  They were worn by the wealthiest men and women which eventually spread the fashion to other members of the nobility. High heels became the symbol of the rich and powerful and were used to distinguish the upper from the lower class.

In 1553, Queen Mary I of England wore high heels on a routine basis.  This initiated the popularity of high heels among both sexes in England.  It was also during this time that the popularity of high heels spread to Italy and Spain where both sexes would wear high heels that were as much as 23 inches tall and were made of wood or cork.

It was during the 16th century that the style of high heels came closer to the high heels we are familiar with in the current day.  It is believed the design of high heels transpired purely by accident, and as the result of repair work on heels that would gradually be built up into high heels.

Additionally, high heels began to carry over into riding boots as the popularity of high heels grew.  High heels on riding boots helped to prevent slippage when using stirrups. Eventually the style of the heel changed to a lighter and thinner design to represent the upper class.

17th Century

During the 17th century, the English Parliament looked down upon high heels if they were worn by women to entice men into marriage.  The English Parliament would often punish women that wore high heels for this purpose and would sometimes try them in court as witches.

The high heel fashion slowed during the 17th century when the colonists in the new world arrived in Massachusetts.  At this time, the Massachusetts Colony banned high heels by passing a law that prohibited women from wearing them.

It was also during the 17th century that Nicholas Lestage was appointed shoemaker for Louis XIV. He designed shoes for Louis XIV that were up to five inches in height and were decorated with intricate patterns of battle scenes.  Louis XIV also declared that red high heels could only be worn by nobility and that no one could wear high heels that were higher than his.

Additionally, the 17th century brought a new style of high heel that became more decorative and ornamental.  The heels were also designed to be higher and slimmer which symbolized high feminine court style.  As a result, many women reduced the size of their feet by taping them to make the heels appear to be more sculpted to the body.

18th Century high heels

18th Century

During the 18th century, high heels and the style of Louis XIV disappeared with the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon. But not before Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XIV, made high heels that were slender and narrow a popular fashion. These were known as Pompadour Heels.

Napoleon prohibited high heel fashion by enforcing the Napoleonic Code in an effort to demonstrate equality among all people. Since they were typically associated with the rich and powerful, people no longer desired to wear them.

Shortly after Napoleon banned high heels, Marie Antoinette wore them to the gallows at the time of her execution.  The heels were a mere two inches high.

In the late 18th century, the height of heels were reduced to a very low size and a maximum of two inches. The heels with a thinner profile were replaced by a spring heel or slight wedged heel. The new ruling class viewed the heels as a sign of wealth and status.

After the Massachusetts Colony banned high heels, the 18th century saw high heels as becoming a topic of controversy in America. High heels would not become popular again until the early 19th century.

19th Century

In the 19th century, high heels came back into vogue with a wide variety of designs as a result of the invention of the sewing machine.  The high instep returned as Victorians viewed this has being symbolic of a woman’s curves. It was also considered to be very European and aristocratic while the shoes of African Americans had almost no instep at all.

Additionally, feet were often depicted as small in Victorian literature and art so women would go to great lengths to make their feet appear tiny. The higher heels also helped with creating an illusion of smaller feet. Large feet were symbolic of the elderly or a spinster and were considered to be unattractive. It was also at this time when Queen Victoria of England first donned her first pair of boots for women which sparked the popularity of the style across Europe.

By the middle of the 19th century, high heels became more and more popular and more widespread. The first high heel factory opened in America while many European countries still emulated the shoe fashions in France. This marked the beginning of a change in attitude toward high heels in America since they were previously banned by the Massachusetts Colony.  It would not be until later in the century that high heel fashions in America would catch up with European fashions.

By the end of the 19th century high heels were often as high as six inches and were promoted as being healthy and comfortable for walking.  They were also considered to be a viable cure for backaches.  However, the sexual innuendos posed by high heels was still prominent in European countries and were banned by many religious communities and organizations.

marilyn monroe 20th century shoes

20th Century

Although high heel fashions were revived in the late 19th century, the early 20th century brought a demand for more comfortable shoes.  Shoes with flat soles became more popular until the 1920s and the flapper era when higher hemlines began to be paired with ornate and slender high heels.

The Great Depression of the 1930s temporarily phased out high heels in exchange for a lower heel that also was wider in width.  The 1940s and the Golden Age of Hollywood brought back high heels for at least the celebrities and the rich and famous.  The elegant heels worn by Ginger Rogers greatly influenced high heel fashions in France and parts of Europe. Because of World War II, high heels were just moderately high and wide in width due to short supplies.

By the 1950s, French designer Christian Dior in collaboration with Roger Vivier unveiled a new style of high heel shoe that included a low cut vamp with a stiletto heel.  This followed the inception of stilettos in Italy, a term which meant a slender blade that was tapered.  The exaggerated thin heel and narrowing of the toe became the new high heel worn by many women.

The 1960s brought with it the mini skirt style which was accessorized with high boots that were designed with stiletto heels. When the feminist movement kicked in, high heels were traded for low heeled shoes that were often designed with a wide heel and square toe. This gave way to the hippie movement and the inception of the platform shoe.

The platform shoe continued to remain popular into the early 1970s. And because the 1970s represented a period of fashion experimentation, sex, and drugs, both sexes would often dress outlandishly and accessorize with platform shoes that were reminiscent of the Chopine we discussed earlier in this article. Only this time the shoe was decorated in psychedelic colors.

As the rejection of fashion by feminists waned, high heels returned in the 1980s. But this time, women wore high heels for their own pleasure since they gave them a sense of height, authority, and power.  This trend continued into the 1990s with more sophisticated high heels becoming the focal point as the result of television shows that depicted power, wealth, and excess.

Jimmy-Choo-21st century high heels

21st Century

As designs such as those by Jimmy Choo ushered in the 21st century with very tall high heels, the 21st century has proved to have more choices of high heel fashions than ever before. This enables fashion icons to sport eye popping designs and standout fashions.  With wide variety of high heels and stiletto fashions available, many women have reverted back a few centuries to undergo surgery to ensure a better shoe fit.  This is a sign that high heels as a trend has lasted well into the 21st century with new designs being unveiled on the catwalk every year.

About the author.

Micar Computers created the original ERP solution for the UK Apparel Industry. For over 25 years, Micar has provided retail, production and distribution with a comprehensive range of software solutions to manage finance, inventory and point of sale, working closely with Apparel, textile and footwear industries. Click here to find out more about our products and services.

The history of fashion. Part 3 – The Wedding Dress

Introduction.

A wedding is a very special occasion where the wedding dress is the focal point of the entire event. But where did this tradition begin? Did you ever wonder where the concept of the wedding dress originates?

When people think a wedding, the first thing that comes to mind is the white wedding dress. However, when you delve into the background of the wedding dress you will find that history paints a much different picture.  Although white seems to be the most symbolic color and dates back to the Victorian era, the truth is that the wedding dress was worn in an endless array of colors that date back to ancient times and are still in vogue today.

The Intriguing Background of a Wedding Dress.

Going back to Ancient times, the brides wore wedding dresses in an array of bright colors as vivid designs symbolised happiness. Moving on to the medieval era, bridal dresses were designed to be conservative since the bride was the symbol of an entire community.  This is because the union of marriage was more than just between two people, it was also a celebration of the union of two families.

If each family was involved in business located in two different countries, the bride was the symbol of the union of two businesses and two countries. For this reason, medieval brides dressed conservatively since they were the center of the union and looked upon as an emblem of unity.

During medieval times, if the bride was from an upper class family, the wedding attire was comprised of lavish materials such as silks, beads, velvets, and other upper end fabrics. At the same token, if you were from middle class upbringing, the wedding dress would imitate the style of the upper class but was designed with less expensive material.

This type of separatism marked the beginning of the wedding dress as a symbol of social status. The more well-to-do the family was, the more fabric was used to design the wedding dress, including elaborate sleeves, a long train, intricate designs on the bodice, and handmade lace. Medieval brides that were from poor families would wear their best Sunday dress they would wear to church as their wedding dress.

White wedding dressThe arrival of the white wedding gown.

By the early to mid-1800s, the style and color of the wedding dress began to change with 1840 marking the official year for the white wedding gown.  This was the year that Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert of Saxe and wore an extravagant white wedding gown.  At the time, this raised a lot of eyebrows but soon after, it started the white wedding gown trend and brides throughout Europe and in the United States started to choose the color white for their special day as well.

As the color white increased in popularity, the color was not considered a symbol of purity.  Instead, blue was the symbol of purity since it was symbolic of the Virgin Mary. However, the color white symbolised wealth and social status which made white the new trend for brides.  Since clothing was often washed using a washboard, white was a difficult color to keep clean and therefore was only worn once.  Only the rich could afford to purchase a dress that would only be worn once.

By the end of the century, the color white became the expected wedding dress color with various style trends applied according to what was in vogue. For a temporary period of time, the white wedding gown was replaced with the best Sunday church dress during the Great Depression. Most people felt that during this period, wearing an elaborate white wedding dress was inappropriate when there was much hardship.

At the end of the war, the white wedding gown once again became the most popular color.  Only this time it came back in a variety of different shades including off white, ivory cream, and other shades of white.

History of the White Wedding Dress.

Much to the surprise of many, the white wedding dress has never been the symbol of purity and virginity as many have assumed.  Instead, as a result of Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, the white wedding gown is actually the symbol of wealth and flamboyance.  Since Queen Victoria’s wedding, any bride that could afford a white wedding dress would be married in this color.

If you ever want to explore how wedding dress fashions have changed, a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is well worth the trip.  This exhibit shows how white wedding dresses have changed with fashion trends from the year 1775 to the present day.  A trip to this museum will also abolish some of the long held assumptions you may have had regarding wedding attire.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was actually designed in an ivory color which has been carried over into the present day.  Many brides view the color ivory as nostalgic and romantic, in addition to being the symbol of wealth and status.

As the white wedding dress became the expected color the bride wears for her wedding, wearing another color at one time was thought to be daring and nonconformist. Except in countries like China where vibrant red is a very common color for a wedding dress.

However, recently when Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta unveiled their wedding dress designs in an array of different colors, this was considered to be an extreme transition in the world of fashion. Many of the celebrities followed the trend such as singer Gwen Stefani who wore an extravagant wedding dress designed by John Galliano in fuchsia dip dyed colors.  Other celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Biel walked down the aisle in a feminine pink colored wedding dress.

The fifties.

The traditional white wedding dress waned during the Great Depression when most women wore their best dress to take their vows and wartime brides said their nuptials in their uniforms. Then the popularity of the white wedding dress returned after the war in 1956 with the marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainer of Monaco.

This wedding was known as the “Wedding of the Century” with Grace Kelly wearing an extravagant fairytale gown design by MGM.  The wedding dress was made of ivory peau de soie and was designed with sleeves embroidered in Brussels lace and a fitted bodice.

The ivory wedding gown worn by Grace Kelly was also designed with a full skirt.  This brought back the nostalgic and romantic look of the Victorian era while upholding white as the traditional color for a wedding dress.  Many brides imitated the look and chose this as the preferred design for their special day in the prosperous era of the post war.

The sixties and seventies.

The 1960s and 1970s counter culture brought with it a new trend for wedding dress fashion.  Although white still remained the predominant color, many of the wedding dresses were designed as a mini dress such as the dress that was worn by Mia Farrow when she wed Frank Sinatra in 1966.  When Bianca Jagger married Mick Jagger in the early 1970s, she wore a white pantsuit and a large brimmed hat with not much else underneath the suit.  At the wedding of Priscilla and Elvis Presley, Priscilla wore a short wedding dress in baby-doll style with a large bouffant-style veil.

The 1960s brought even more outlandish bridal fashion trends when singer Lulu got married in a white maxi coat trimmed with fur and adorned with a white hood.  The maxi coat was worn over top of a mini dress and accessorised with high go-go boots.  This was a symbol that the white wedding dress continued to survive since it could be continually reinvented.

The eighties.

In 1982, the wedding of Diana Spencer to Prince Charles started a new trend that lasted for the remainder of the decade.  Diana wore a spectacular and extravagant dress styled from the Victorian era with a long train.  The dress was made of ivory taffeta and brought back Victorian styles with puffed sleeves, full skirt, and fitted bodice that every bride of the 1980s dreamed of wearing on her wedding day.

The nineties.

During the 1990s, simple styles that were slim and classy were in vogue with the trend set forth by Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.  At her wedding to JFK Jr. in 1996, Carolyn wore a Narciso Rodriguez white silk sheath designed in a sleek shimmery fabric void of any embellishments such as beads or lace.  Simple was in and many brides of the 1990s followed this fashion trend.

Wedding Dress Fashions in Different Cultures.

Japanese wedding dressAlthough the white wedding dress still reigns as the color of choice and the symbol of social status, getting married in other colors is commonplace for other cultures. In Western cultures, brides that take an interest in fashion trends have been getting married in different colored dresses for centuries. A colored wedding dress also allowed them to redesign the dress multiple times to keep in step with changing fashion trends and wear it long after they said their vows.  This was often the norm in place of buying a new dress for every new occasion that happened to come up.

In other cultures, the white wedding dress does not take center stage as much as it does in Europe and America.  In African culture, the bride wears a wedding dress made of a woven cloth.  The weave is representative of her native land and her family roots.  For example, a typical wedding dress may consist of the colors red, gold, and green woven together in a fabric.

The red color symbolises those who have given their lives in war times to protect others.  The gold is symbolic of peace and prosperity and the color green symbolises natural plant life in Africa.  If the pattern is designed in a zigzag pattern, this pattern is symbolic of the ability to overcome obstacles during the course of African life.

In Ireland, a wedding dress is commonly referred to as a Celtic wedding gown. Up until 1500, the color blue was frequently worn by Irish brides along with a blue veil adorned with a blue flowered headpiece.  Blue was the symbol of fidelity and purity and although the popularity of the white wedding dress has permeated fashion trends in Ireland, Irish brides still wear something blue.

The Celtic wedding dress is made of white deerskin and silk with white linen undergarments.  The sleeves are bell shaped with the bodice covered by a white deerskin vest that ties in the front.  The bride does not wear a veil and the wedding dress is often designed in an ivory or light yellow color.

In the Mexican culture, the bride’s wedding dress is designed and made by her family members while the groom’s family pays the expenses for the dress.  Many of the wedding dresses are designed in Flamenco style with a series of ruffles adorning the skirt.  Additionally, the bride wears a blue petticoat under the dress.  If the wedding is taking place in a church, the bride may add a bolero jacket to the dress to show respect for the dress code of the church and a mantilla veil over her head.

Brides that are of Native American culture typically wear a red wedding dress that is usually passed down through generations.  The style of the dress will vary according to tribe.  For example, if the bride is affiliated with the Cherokee tribe the wedding dress is white and worn with white moccasins.  The dress is made of material that other women in the tribe tear into rectangles or squares.

Indian wedding dressIn Eastern cultures such as China and India, the bride wears a red wedding dress or a dress designed in a combination of red and white colors.  The color red is a symbol of good luck and promise.  In Japan, the bride will often where a wedding dress in multiple colors and then change her dress to other colors multiple times throughout the festivities.

Overall, the wedding dress must stand out as a unique style of clothing.  Many fashion designers have stated that there is a distinct difference between the aisle and the red carpet and neither one should look like the other. The wedding dress should strike a balance between being traditional and timeless while defying fashion trends, according to notable fashion designers.

A wedding dress and a dress for the stage both have specific roles they must fulfill.  However, the approach and the design process are different, according to Gareth Pugh who has designed creations for Kylie Minogue and Lada Gaga.  Additionally, stage clothing must be comfortable to allow for movement during performance.  But when it comes to the wedding dress, the bride is not as concerned about comfort as she is with style and fashion.

The idea of dressing up in an extravagant dress for your wedding will always appeal to most and there will always be a market for the traditional white wedding dress.  However, more brides are personalising their styles as wedding designs continue to evolve.

Cross cultural and gay marriages are both examples of influence on the evolution of wedding attire. Plus, many brides are abandoning the white wedding dress in favor of color which is no longer considered to be taboo.  When it comes to modern fashions in wedding attire, the brides of today are fortunate to have a diverse choice of fashions, all of which are perfectly acceptable in the modern age.

10 interesting facts about wedding dresses.

There is a host of fun and interesting facts on wedding attire so, we will wrap up the article with a few intriguing tidbits.

  1. The veil worn by the bride originally represented her purity and virginity. However, in early times, the veil hid the bride from the Evil Eye and jealous spirits and was worn in a variety of different colors.
  2. In ancient times, each wedding guest would tear off a piece of the bride’s wedding dress as a symbol of good luck.
  3. White wedding dresses are uncommon in some Eastern cultures since it is the color of mourning.
  4. The phrase, Tying the Knot, originates from an ancient custom in Babylonia where threads from both the bride and groom’s wedding attire were tied in a knot to symbolise their union.
  5. Herbs were the precursor to the modern bridal bouquet when Roman brides carried herbs under their veils to ward off evil and symbolise fidelity and fertility.
  6. Wedding dresses of the orient are often embroidered with cranes to symbolise lifelong fidelity.
  7. Grace Kelly’s wedding dress was adorned with lace more than one hundred years old.
  8. Brides and grooms that marry in Denmark often cross dress to confuse evil spirits.
  9. More than 56 percent of brides use Pinterest to find a wedding dress design.
  10. The longest wedding dress train in the world is 1.85 miles.

About the author.

Micar Computers is a London based software development company that specialises in providing software solutions for the Apparel, textile and footwear  industries. Visit our products page to find out more about who we are and what we do.

The History of Fashion. Part 2 – The T-Shirt, From Rags-to-Riches

Introduction

Fashion is an expression of our personality, beliefs and political agenda, so it should come as no surprise the T-shirt has a major role to play in the realm of free speech. To say wearing a T-shirt is an act of free speech may sound extreme, but when you discover what a T-shirt is, you begin to understand just how powerful they really are. This article looks at the T-shirts history, how its social-role has changed and what areas of society it has touched.

The T-Shirt’s HistoryUS Navy Uniform

The T-shirt first emerged in the late 1890s during the Spanish-American war, when the U.S navy started issuing them as thermal layers under uniforms; they provided added protection against the elements whilst away at sea. They were cheap, light and very easy to clean, which are crucial in the military. T-shirts were seen as a functional way to provide warmth, but were also smart enough for the strict military standards, and became part of the naval uniform.

T-shirts also found their way into the manual industries, to provide protection for the body during intense work.

Over time, the T-shirt would move into the general public and be seen as a fashion accessory and eventually into popular culture. This was big jump from its start as a layer of under clothing, as it would have been seen as wrong to wear a piece of private clothing visible to everyone.

Before we look at popular culture, one area we should look at is how the T-shirt reveals the wearers body profile. You might have noticed how body builders like to wear them as they complement the body’s muscle size and counters. This is a way for them to show-off their hard work and because they mainly use the T-shirt for this, it has found another niche area to thrive in.

T-shirts in Popular Culture

Film

Marlon Brando' FashionThe T-shirt made its debut in the film ‘A Street Car Named Desire, where Marlon Brando wore a white T-Shirt with denim jeans.

After this film came out in 1951, it became popular to wear what the T-shirt as a fashion statement and turn it into a style.

Grease FashionAnother film we can look at is the 1978 hit, Grease. The fashion designer for Grease mixed a white T-shirt with a black leather jacket and dark trousers. This costume has become a fashion icon in film-fashion and again the T-shirt was part of it. Like with the film above, the style was made popular by the film. If you ever want to try this style out fashion, you can get some inspiration from Pinterest.

Music

Rollin Stones T-shirtDuring the 1960s, rock and roll took hold like wildfire, and the T-shirt was used to promote a band’s image and for people to feel like they were part a club. One of the most famous designs is Rollin Stone’s, Tongue and Lips design. This was a huge success in T-shirt branding, and using fashion to advertise your product. These T-shirts are still in production, and you can find a great variation of this design at Blue Banana.

Pink Floyd's Prism T-shirtAnother successful T-shirt for music was when Pink Floyd put their own design on one. They used their famous Prism album cover as a printed advert and had a huge following and if you want to get your hands on one, you can get them through their own shop here.

Political Messages

T-shirts found their way into politics when a cause was being fought, and supporters wanted a way to express their political position. At the beginning of this article we said that T-shirts was a method of speech, and this is why. With a T-shirt, you can print whatever you wish on the front and even though not everyone will agree with you, that is what free speech is all about.

Che Guevara T-shirtPossibly one of the most famous political messages was the use of Ernest “Che” Guevara, who was a major figure during the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1959. You might not recognise the name straight away, but the picture to below should be familiar. You can also find

When looking at methods of free speech, we should compare attitudes in different countries, and one country we can look at is China. During the early 90s, there was a Chinese artists who started to make printed T-shirts with his own messages or slogans on them, and he had a huge following. This was a radical idea in China, due to their laws of censorship, but it became so popular that it swept across the major cities. The Chinese authorities did not agree with what he was doing and he was accused of causing a major political incident. They also destroyed thousands of his T-shirts in an effort to stop people wearing them. Despite this response from the government, the Chinese people continued to wear them after the ban, as a way of showing support and expressing their right of free speech.

Conclusion

We can see that the T-shirt has had a colourful history from a very regimental upbringing in the US Navy, to film, music and politics. We love to express ourselves and the T-shirt is a fantastic platform to do just that. We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and have found a new respect for what used to be a humble T.

You can find the first part of our ‘history of fashion’ series here, which looks at the fascinating history of the hat.

About the author

Micar computers is a UK based supplier of the original bespoke ERP software solution for the clothing, footwear and textile industries. Visit our profile page to find out more about who we are and what we do.

All images used on this blog are property of their respective owners. We would take our own, but they wouldn’t look this good!

Marlon Brando' Fashion

The History of Fashion. Part 1 – How the Hat Made its Mark

Introduction

Fashion has always been a form of expression, from choosing a particular style, to showing support to a political cause. In the past however, fashion had a much deeper and social meaning, which is what this article is about. This is the first entry in a series about the meaning of fashion.

In this article, we examine the social meanings of the Hat, how the meaning of the hat has changed over time and its social importance. It sounds strange to think that a hat can show people your place in society and dictate the level of respect you deserved.

How can a hat mean so much?

Victorian Britain

In the 19th century, Britannia’s empire was expanding, financial institutions were in place (Bank of England) and personal pride was at an all time high. Victorian Britain was all about showing your wealth and status, but being respectable whilst doing it, which was reflected in people’s fashion styles.

In the early 19th century, there was a very different culture in Britain from today. People were extremely proud of their status, their place in society and how they were perceived, which is why fashion was so important then. Today we use our property as a way to show our success; we make it look nice, look as big as possible and invest into them heavily. If you can think of fashion in the 19th century in the same way as our homes, then you will be able to raionalise their thinking.

Victorian Britain FashionThe picture to left is what most people of think of when it comes to Victorian fashion, a big hat, big dresses and making their presence known.

For the Victorian woman, hats were already part of their culture, but for most men it wasn’t the norm.

In the early 1800s, hats were worn by those in high positions of society, with both wealth and power, and not for the average-Joe, but this was all to change.

The culprit of this social revolution can be seen below to the right. Introducing the famous Top Hat. As we can see, the Top Hat makes a very striking and bold statement about who you are. With a loud colour, impressive profile and a sleek finish, it shouts confidence and pride, which is why the rich loved it.

The Top Hat

Top HatThe top hat was invented in 1800 by John Hetherington. It received a curious reaction at first, but this was soon replaced with pride. In Victorian Britain, pride wasn’t reserved for those of high status, it was seen as a ‘must have’ for everyone and it was echoed in what happened to this hat. Queen Victoria played a huge role in the value of personal pride in the general public, whatever their status, but the class boundaries were still firmly in place to prevent this.

In the past, only the wealthy would wear a hat and they would wear them everywhere. The arrival of the top hat, would soon remove that barrier of social status and anyone could now wear a hat, and everyone did. Hat fever swept across Victorian Britain, which must have made the wealthy feel very insecure. They could no longer show off their success through their fashion if everyone else could wear their status symbols. What is interesting though, is that every man wanted to be seen as important and he did this by wearing a large, bold hat. Although it may sound amusing today, to be respected and seen as successful in society, is still just as important today as it was then. The only thing that’s changed is the method in which we show our success.

The Bowler Hat

Bowler HatThroughout the 1800s, another hat was introduced, the Bowler hat. The Bowler was invented in 1850 for Gamekeepers to protect their heads whilst hunting, but it quickly trickled down to professional workers in the financial district and other professions. So once again, the hat was being used as a way of showing off wealth and status. Although it has as a similar profile of the top hat, it is shorter and curved on the top, maybe to be less bold and easier on the eyes.

The Bowler hat became mainstream and found it’s way in to popular culture. Either for comedic or fashion reasons but probably the most well known image for the Bowler is when it appeared on screen with Charlie Chaplin in the golden era of Hollywood. It also appeared in the popular film series, Austin Powers. But this time it was used as for humour as part of his costume.

The Hat's Journey

 

Final Thoughts

So what can we take from the colourful history of the humble hat? Well, it started out as a way for the rich and powerful to show off their wealth and status, but ironically it helped to brake the social barriers of the class system. Even with the new Bowler hat, it went from being used in high status jobs, to the glitz of Hollywood and being used for comedy. In conclusion, it seems the hat can’t take itself that seriously and likes to be a rebel. It’s designed for the powerful, but ends up in very different social strata, which makes it a powerful piece of fashion in its own right.

Useful resources

Fashion and its Social Agenda

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/F/bo3777018.html

An introduction to Victorian Britain

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/victorian_britain/

Charlie Chaplin on the Internet Movie Database

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0013959/

About the Author.

Micar computers is a UK based supplier of the original bespoke ERP software solution for the clothing, footwear and textile industries. Visit our profile page to find out more about who we are and what we do.

All images used on this blog are property of their respective owners. I would take my own, but they wouldn’t look this good!