Fashion 101: What is the Origin of Your Wardrobe Staples?

Fashion 101: What is the Origin of Your Wardrobe Staples?

Karen Alfonso
Woman Shopping (photo courtesy |
Woman Shopping (photo courtesy |

Jeans, t-shirts, and sunglasses are all an intrinsic part of your wardrobe. However, do you know how these items became staples and where they came from? I thought I would take you on a Fashion history 101, to let you know exactly that. Read on! And don’t worry, it’s not a boring history lecture. After all, fashion is fun. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Blue Jeans:

Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone loves her blue jeans

Can you imagine your life without jeans? I cannot. They play a big part in my wardrobe and I am sure you feel the same way. The word denim is derived from Serge de Nimes, a place in France where the fabric is said to have originated. In the 1800s, during the gold rush in the United States, miners were in the need of sturdy pants that could withstand the daily wear and tear. Leob Strauss, a German immigrant was looking for business opportunities to sell material for wagon covers and tents. When someone remarked that he ought to be selling trousers, Strauss decided to use that material for overalls that he soon fashioned into pants. The rest they say is history. Leob changed his name to Levi and set up the Levi Strauss Company that is known world over for its jeans. However, it was only in the 1930s, that denim became extremely popular after Cowboys donned them in the movies. Cut to the 1950s, when James Dean wore them in Rebel Without a Cause, they came to be associated with teenage angst and rebellion.

“I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes”.Yves Saint Laurent.

The T-shirt:

Ranveer Singh at Mumbai airport
Ranveer Singh loves wearing quirky, funny tees

Another wardrobe staple that I cannot imagine not having in my wardrobe. Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani said, “I’ve always thought of the t-shirt as the Alpha and Omega of the fashion alphabet.”

The origin of the t-shirt is in the undergarments worn under the uniforms of soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American war. In 1913, they became part of their outwear as veterans started wearing them. In the 1920s, the t-shirt was included in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando

The popularity of the t-shirt soared when Marlon Brando sported it in the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Trench Coat:


In 1895, Thomas Burberry was commissioned to create coats for soldiers in the United Kingdom War Office. The coat gets its name from its usage in the trenches during the war. Soon, the trench gained popularity after American actor Humphrey Bogart wore it in the movie Casablanca. The film became a hit with the masses and catapulted Bogart into a style icon. In the 1980s, an upcoming artist Prince (or whatever name he goes by now) was opening for rock legends Rolling Stones. For his performance, he wore nothing but a pair of bikini briefs and a trench coat. Concert goers were disgusted and pelted him with garbage and this incident went down as one of the biggest scandals in rock history.

Saif Ali Khan wearing Burberry
Saif Ali Khan wearing Burberry in Cocktail

Christopher Bailey, CEO and Creative Director of Burberry has given the iconic trench coat a glam makeover, sending them down the runway festooned with paillettes, studs or knotted drapes that have been lapped up by magazine editors and celebrities alike.


Kareena Kapoor Khan
Kareena Kapoor Khan wears Tom Ford Sunnies

While no one knows the exact origin of sunglasses, some dispute that it was Roman Emperor Nero who viewed gladiator battles through large emeralds while some say that Chinese magistrates covered their eyes with shades to conceal eye movement. However, the first known documented pair of sunglasses was created by Sam Foster in 1929. French designer Pierre Cardin kicked off the trend of coloured frames in the 1960s and in the 1970s, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis helped make sunnies an integral part of the celebrity look by sporting oversized shades.

Red Lipstick:

Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra swipes some red lipstick

The ancient Egyptians were the first known users of red lipstick. Cleopatra was known to crush carmine beatles and tint her lips with the deep red hue. Pots of lipstick were often buried in the tombs of the users. In the 1600s, during Queen Elizabeth I‘s reign, she brought back the lipstick. She often turned up to court having her face powdered to a chalk white look and red lips. However, this look wasn’t accepted. The British parliament issued a decree stating that any woman who wore lipstick would be tried for witchcraft! And some pastors said lipstick was the handiwork of the devil. Thus, giving red lips a bad name. It was only during the WW2, that cosmetics giant Revlon urged women to wear red lipstick. The encouraged women soldiers to get their “game faces on.”  The colour also caught the fancy of screen legends Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich who flashed their scarlet pouts on-screen.