Understanding The History Of Fashion Made Me Love My Clothes More

Team MissMalini , 13 Jul 2020
Woman Reading Fashion Magazine On A Tablet by Kaspars Grinvalds
Woman Reading Fashion Magazine On A Tablet by Kaspars Grinvalds

I remember taking part in a debate in the 10th grade because I was quite passionate about the topic—the importance of history in life. It wasn’t too hard to think of compelling arguments because, according to me, history is the foundation of our present and hence, very crucial. I often revisit that debate in my memory and lately have been doing it a lot more, especially since I’m studying fashion. Studying fashion has been a fun, refreshing and mind you, challenging experience. Initially, like many, it was the glamorous facade of the industry that drew me to it. However, digging deeper and understanding the foundation on which this industry stands, has only made the learning more interesting. 

So, I took personal responsibility to teach myself the history and social context of our clothes. I do this by studying the history of at least one piece of clothing every week. And since we live in a social media world, I share my learning online, too. So far, I have covered the bandana, the iconic Little Black Dress, denim jeans and the good ol’ flannel. 

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WHAT AM I WEARING? : KNOW YOUR FASHION HISTORY. . . . I’ve been meaning to start something that combines my love for fashion, trends, history and culture. So here’s a new series, that unearths a little of the historical, social and cultural aspects of the trends we love and enjoy so much! It’s amazing to see how much we have to learn about the things we use everyday. It also deepens our understanding of fashion as just “clothes”, something that I’ve heard one too many times. I remember participating in a debate on the importance of studying history. Now more than ever, I know it is important. It is paying homage to the people who came before us, who made it easier for us to thrive. In a fashion context, a lot is pushed under the rug. Cultural appropriation is a hot topic and always will be until we truly learn to respect and appreciate the cultures we borrow from. I want to do my bit by educating myself and take you on the journey too! . . The first topic is the Bandana trend taking over the net. Ofc it started on TikTok, that’s where all the fun happens anyway. Also, the bandana/scarf I’m wearing isn’t representative of the original bandana and is only for visual purposes! I don’t have the original one, sadly. . . Hope you enjoy this series! Posting a new trend/fashion item every Thursday! 🦋 . . . . . #fashionhistory #fashionculture #bandanastyle #bandanatrend #whatamiwearing #historical #cultural #social #learningfashion #context #culturalappreciation #whatamiwearing #knowyourfashionhistory

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WHAT AM I WEARING? : KNOW YOUR FASHION HISTORY . . This week, we explore a staple in every closet-the flannel. It’s come a long way and stays a classic. From its masculine associations to more gender neutral and unisex associations, it’s an iconic piece of clothing. Let me know what you think of this? . . Also I would almost always get confused between flannel and plaid, since they are used interchangeably and work so well together. But to clear that up for you, flannel is a FABRIC. And plaid is simply a pattern. Plaid pattern can be done on a flannel fabric! Ah the more you know! 👩🏽‍💻 . . . . . . Posting a new trend/fashion item every Thursday! 🦋 . . . . #fashionhistory #fashionculture #flannel #fabric #flannelhistory #flannels #whatamiwearing #historical #cultural #social #learningfashion #context #culturalappreciation #whatamiwearing #knowyourfashionhistory

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The importance of knowing the history of fashion with LBD as an example:

I’ll pick the Little Black Dress (LBD) to explain why learning the backstory has made me love fashion a lot more. Often, the LBD has been attributed to Coco Chanel and her iconic sketch that featured in Vogue magazine in 1926. And although she did popularise it, the LBD goes way back to the Victorian Era. The black dress had always been a uniform for the working woman. I was unpleasantly surprised to know, it was used as a subtle class divider between the house-help and mistress of the house. In fact, it was used as a uniform not only in households but in telephone companies and shops, as well. The ‘shop girls’ had to wear simple black dresses to ensure their clients were the only ones who could dress in luxury.

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“I own too much black” said no one ever.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This week we are highlighting the classic "LBD" – Little Black Dress. Make sure to read the latest article on the digital magazine at The Grace in Paris website. (Link in bio)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This iconic look is perfect for any occasion. We love this photo of the queen of the LBD, Audrey Hepburn, in the Jardins des Tulleries. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And to help you visualize your perfect LBD, we’ve put together some inspiration of famous women in black through history for inspiration in the article mentioned above. Allons-y! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #graceinparis #hiddengemswithgrace #hiddengemsinparis #fashioncapital #fashioncapitaloftheworld #parisstreetstyle #parisfashion #parisianfashion #parisianstyle #frenchstyle #parisfashionhouse #parisfashionweek #fashioninparis #frenchdesigner #frenchdesigners #lbd #littleblackdress #audreyhepburn #audreyhepburnparis #audreyhepburnlbd #stapleitem #fashionstaple

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Of course, over time the associations have withered away, a huge thanks to Coco Chanel for that, no doubt. Then came Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy’s iconic black dress for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We also saw the power of the LBD when Princess Diana donned it after her divorce with Prince Charles. And the countless other instances when the LBD has proven to be a timeless, powerful classic. 

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Hell hath the fury of a woman scorned! Today marks the 26th anniversary of the ultimate modern example of revenge dressing. On the 29th of June 1994, Prince Charles confessed on camera to having an affair with Camillia Parker Bowels. Meanwhile, Diana made a last minute decision to attend an art gallery fund raiser. Wearing the now iconic and timeless Revenge Dress. "They stopped the car about 100 meters away. And she strolled straight towards the cameras looking like a million dollars. And you knew the next day the story was going to be about Charles and the adultery. But the picture on page 1 was Diana. -Arthur Edwards Royal Photographer 📸🖕💋

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But it would be incorrect, almost disrespectful to not acknowledge the original associations of the LBD and the people who wore it before us. Or rather, were forced to wear it before us. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because in this learning I have found out that fashion goes beyond just labels and clothes. Fashion has always been an indicator of the times we live in. It holds social and even political associations to it. For example, the term ‘redneck’, which is often used as an insult was associated with the red bandanas worn by the miners during the West Virginia Coal Miners March in 1921. The march fought for better working conditions and the formation of unions. 

It is important to understand the present and work towards a better future. But it would be almost impossible to do it without the knowledge of the past. I think this also teaches us to appreciate clothing that goes deeper than its face value of just being a garment. 

Cultural appropriation is a hot word in the fashion industry and rightly so. But with the right intention and good understanding of the history of a garment, we can easily sail into cultural appreciation. It isn’t easy and I won’t deny, it does require a little more effort on our part as consumers. But like I said earlier, knowing the history of a piece of clothing adds much more value to it. 

In conclusion:

That’s the beauty of learning the social, cultural and historical context of fashion. And that’s why I love fashion more than its perceived glamour. From bras to boots, all of it tells us a story of where we came from, where we are and how much we still have to learn! 

For more fashion-related articles and news, follow @missmalinifashion  on Instagram.

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