The fashion industry throughout history has been affected by world events. These outside influences can range from war, famine, politics, music and wealth to name a few. Each decade has been affected differently by the individual event of the time, in its own way.
1850's to 1900's
In the mid to late 1800's Britain was leading the way in the second industrial revolution. The development of steam power in ships and railways was progress at fast past, ending in the internal combustion engine and electrical power, at the end of the century.
Movement from the country to towns, with 80% of the population living in towns and cities.
Influence of fashion - the production of garments had been transformed with the invention of the sewing machine. New synthetic dyes and chemicals were introduced into cloth manufacturing. Couture establishments led the way in fashion design - with the most up to date fashion only in the reach of the very rich. We also see the change at this period of ladies fashion from cage-skirted garments to a polonaise silhouette style with material bundled to the back. Many of these styles can be seen in impressionist paintings of the time.
The Umbrellas 1883 - Pierre Auguste Renoir
1900's to 1920's
A change in monarch, a change in society and outlook took place at the turn of the century. The Edwardian Era was relatively short lived; commencing in 1901 and ending in 1910 although in reality it ended at the beginning of the First World War. In London the fashion was dominated by the influence of the King and his court. Victoria shied away from the social elite but Edward positively revled in it. He was heavily influenced by the fashion and art of continental Europe.
Fashion changed in keeping with the time, this can be seen with styles of dress changing. Paul Poiret dresses were straight tube sheaths know as the Directorie.
Other influence includes Art Nouveau, which was at the height of its popularity in Europe and dominated all elements of the art world from architecture, furniture and paintings.
The Major event in this era was the 1st World War. This had a huge effect on fashion. Thousand upon thousand of young men went off to war never to return. Women started to leave domestic roles and became the workforce replacing (seen by many as) male roles. Fashion had to take a more practical approach.
Music also had an influence on fashion of the time. Ragtime, originated in America, swept through Europe and started a dance craze. The dances were full of enthusiasm and energy; dresses were fitted with side splits to allow for movement.
- The sinking of the Titanic 1912.
- First bra invented 1914 by Mary Jacobs
- Conde Nast took charge of Vogue in 1909
- Coco Chanel established fashion house in the 20's - famous for chemise set known as the 'little boy' look
The most influential fashion photographers were Edward Steichen and Baron de Meyer.
Baron de Meyer 1920
Edward Steichen 1926
The 30's were very mixed - it was the decade of the Great Depression and grumblings of war in Europe. There was a huge disparagy between the well off and poor.
The Great Depression started in America and spread to the rest of the world. Unemployment rose and demand for products declined. Governments introduced hard spending cuts that compounded the situation.
Fashion continued to develop and was influenced by the time. The increased purpose of women continued from the last decade. From this daywear was designed for the busier lifestyle. In the evening elegance was the word. Designs were more feminine, genteel, sleek and stylish. Madeleine Vionnet was the iconic name in fashion in the 30's known as the queen of the bias cutting. Her technique meant the garment's material clinged to the body.
Madeleine Vionnet 1935
- The zip had been invented in 1893 but was little used up to the 30's. Elsa Schiaparelli started to use a plastic coloured zip in her fashion clothing.
- 1936 Edward VIII abdicated over his intended marriage to Mrs Simpson
- Art Deco was the artistic movement at the height of its popularity.
With the increase of fashion houses and magazines, so the need for more photographers. The main player were: Horst P Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene, Erwin Blumenfeld, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Martin Munkacsi, John Rawlings, Norman Parkinson, Andrea Durst and Cecil Beaton.
The world came to a sudden halt with the commencement of The Second World War in 1939. All raw material and products were in short supply and rationed. Due to the rationing the fashion of the day had to be practical or what you already had in the wardrobe. Many service men and women wore their uniform, as it was most likely the best garment they owned. The slogan 'make do and mend' was promoted to make the population use all resources possible. Fashion houses came to a full stop as most of Europe was under enemy occupation. Names such as Coco Chanel worked as a nurse. Even when the war ended in 1945 rationing still existed. This gradually was reduced over the next 5 to 7 years dependent of product type.
1940' Inspired Military Fashion
1940' Inspired Military Fashion
Two new photographers of note who came to the fore at this time were Lillian Bassman and Richard Avedon both working for Harpers Bazaar.
Richard Avedon 1940
Lillian Bassman circa 1940's
The 50's were all about rebuilding. The previous decade war torn Europe was coming to terms with rebuilding relationships and the rebirth of industry. The war was still being paid for both monetaryly and mentally. Queues and rationing began to reduce and by the end of the century 'Never had It so Good' was a phrase coined by Harold Macmillan.
New synthetic fabrics that previously could only be found in the top fashion houses heavily influenced fashion in the 50’s. These fabrics were hard wearing and easier to maintain and clean.
Hollywood, TV and music started to influence the younger generation. This sub culture dominated fashion. Idols such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Hayley from music and Marlon Brando and James Dean took the youth culture by storm.
Young men fell into one of two groups. The rockers, leather jacket and denim trousers inspired from Marlon Brando's 'The Wild One' or the Teddy Boys, long knee length coloured jackets, drain pipe trousers and brothel creepers.
Young Women wore circular skirts, which had an underskirt of bouffant paper nylon. Scoop neck blouses were worn on top with the accompanying knotted scarf.
- Television was in 1 in 8 houses and started to become a major media influence
- At the end of the decade the Beehive hairstyle was the must have style for ladies.
- Marks & Spencer’s became the most popular chain store with its ready to wear range
- Coco Chanel re-opened her fashion house in 1954
Whilst Richard Avedon and William Klein were the two major standout figures of the fashion world in the 50's, two new photographers that made a name for themselves were Jeanloup Sief and Helmut Newton. Jeanloup Sief brought cinematic elegance along with that French flair to his images. Helmut Newton by contrast challenged fashion photography with his highly sexual images.
Helumt Newton 1952
Jeanloup Sief 1959
The swinging sixties as it was know continued the cultural freedom started in the 50's. Along with this new found freedom so the fashion styles of the 60's continued. It wasn't until 1966 when Mary Quant designed the Mini Skirt, which took Britain by storm. Music, film and television also influence youth culture. 60's had an explosion of new music acts, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix to name a few. Most houses in Britain had a TV. Influential films of the 60's included Easy Rider, The Graduate and Psycho. A new sub culture emerged in the mid 60's - The Hippie.
Politically the 60's were an uneasy time. The West and East continued the Cold War with tensions growing in 1961 with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also the number of troops in Vietnam tripled at the start of the decade.
- First Man to walk on the moon
- England beat Germany to win the football cup
- Audio Cassette invented in 1962
Like popular culture photography had the freedom to experiment. With so many sub cultures developing fashion photography captured all these elements - from street photography thought to outrageous productions.
A new breed of photographer dubbed the Black Trinity took the fashion world by storm. Bailey, Duffy and Donovan had a more realist way of shooting and helped capture the mood of the time and promote the ‘Swinging London’ scene. They became celebrities in their own right.
Brian Duffy 1961
David Bailey 1964
David Bailey 1964
The fragmentation of different sub cultures continued into the 70s'. Disco took off and had a major impact on fashion. Platform shoes, bell-bottom trousers and tank tops for both sexes where the must have items of the day. Every male wanted a white suite after John Travolta appeared in the 1977 movie 'Saturday Night Fever'. The mid 70's saw a new anti establishment sub cult appear. Based in London it was a rejection of anything pretty - Punk was born. The main influence were the Sex Pistols, brainchild of Malcolm McLaren and the new fashion designer Vivian Westwood. Punk Fashion was influenced by the cash strapped youth. Charity shop clothing was ripped and re-fashioned worn with torn jeans and Doc Martin boots. Both girls and boys adopted the spiky Mohawk hair cut, colouring the central column in bright colours. Body piecing around the nose and mouth was far removed from the normal ear lobe placement.
Another sub culture was Glam Rock closely linked to Disco. T Rex, The Sweet and David Bowie were the leading bands of this scene. Outfits, hairstyle and make-up were all over the top.
High inflation had a major impact on the cost of living. This led to the 3-day week, power cuts and strikes. By the end of the decade Britain saw the first women Prime Minster - Margaret Thatcher.
- Although colour TV commenced in the 60's it wasn't until the 70's that it could be found in the home in vast numbers.
- The gadgets of the day were digital watches and pocket calculators seen as status symbols.
- Decimalisation was introduced into Britain.
Two photographers who came to prominence for their different but unique style in the 70's were Deborah Turbeville and Sarah Moon. Both photographers used colour in such a way to create dream like scenes.
The 80's were a boom time under Thatcher's Britain. Youth culture was overshadowed by the new breed of young upwardly mobile profession person (Yuppies). With this new found wealth came power dressing. Ladies wore tailored suits with the infamous wide shoulder pads. TV programmes such as Dallas and Dynasty showed the way forward for the power hungry corporate worker.
Music was not going to be out shone - punk had had its day and nights clubs started to be the main influence on fashion and music. New Romantics came out of the London night club scene. The fashion couldn't be more different to the punk of the 70's. It was all about being outrageous and flamboyant. Men started to ware make-up as a fashion accessory. Bands that had a direct influence on fashion were Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Duran Duran.
- Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana
- Falklands War 1982
- Channel 4 goes live in 1982
- Famine in Ethiopia brought music together with Band Aid and Live Aid.
Photographers of note in the 80's were Steven Meisel and Mario Testino. Both in there own way embraced the style of the decade.
Steven Meisel 1980's Mario Testino
Technology was order of the day in the 90's. The World Wide Web became available to the general public. In 1991 there were 3 million computers connected to the Internet. By 1998 there were 130 million. With the increased media outlets fashion didn't follow any real distinctive trends as seen in previous decades. Popular clothing was based around jeans and casual tops.
Youth culture was influenced by a new sound coming out of Seattle in America, Grunge. Although starting in the 80's it hit mainstream in the early 90's. Bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam were a throw back to punk mixed with heavy metal. Fashion was also a mixture of punk and heavy metal in combination with outdoor wear - it's cold in Seattle. A reaction to Grunge came in the shape of Britpop. As grunge was a throw back to decades past – punk, so was Britpop, gaining inspiration from music of the 60's. This also influenced fashion. Brands such as Ben Sherman and Lambretta revived overnight. Bands that came to the fore were Oasis from Manchester and Blur from London. The other music influences on fashion was a continuation from the 80's - Hip Hop.
- 24 hour shopping and Sunday Trading introduced.
- Sony launches the Playstation in 1994