Monday, December 22, 2008


If you’re like me and consider Fashion History not only the evolution of style and modern fashion but also a chronicle of human endeavour and creativity, then this article might interest you. Here are some of our favourite wardrobe items, when they were created, who made them famous and how to rock them:

Stilettos: Designer Roger Vivier is credited with creating the first Stiletto in 1958 (making 2008 the 50 year anniversary of the formidable Stiletto). Silver screen sirens like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield popularised the shoe and by the 1990’s, the Stiletto was one of the most popular shoes in the world. What makes the Stiletto so great is its versatility: pair with jeans, trousers, skirts and dresses and you’re good to go.

Ballet Flats: Another shoe that has stood the test of time is the Ballet Flat - popularised by Audrey Hepburn in her earlier movies. In 1944 the first Ballet Pump was made using a minimal amount of material, which made it an affordable way to look stylish during the 2nd World War when many designers were under severe financial restrictions. Like Stilettos, Ballet Flats are incredibly versatile and can be worn with skirts, dresses or trousers.

Trench Coats: The first Trench Coat was worn by soldiers in the 2nd World War: Thomas Burberry designed the first Trench during the war for Soldiers to wear during battle in the trenches. It was double-breasted thus helping to keep the rain off of their boots. It was also characterised by a large belt and epaulettes that was used to hold various items like grenades, cigarettes, guns and hats. Jane Fonda made the Trench a wardrobe staple when she wore it in her movie Klute in 1971. Wear over a dress or trousers for a stylish way to stave off the cold. Lightweight versions are also great for spring or cooler summer evenings.

Wrap Dress: Designer Diane Von Furstenburg launched her fashion empire off of her innovative wrap dress design. She even created a marketing slogan for it: “Feel like a Woman, Wear a dress”. Working girls of the 70’s wore their wrap dresses with Stilettos, which spawned a legion of followers for this funky trend. In 1997, Diane relaunched her wrap dress, which created a whole new buzz in Hollywood. Wear this dress on its own or over trousers to create a stylish look.

LBD: Possibly the most recognizable 3-letter acronym in the fashion world – the Little Black Dress has been a wardrobe staple since the early 1920’s. Coco Chanel coined the phrase in 1926 when she debuted her Little Black Dress – a long-sleeved, knee-length number with a high neckline. At that time, the colour of the dress caused an uproar as black was reserved for the mourning, but its versatility warmed women to it. It provided a stylish solution for most events in a woman’s calendar and could be taken from work to evening drinks without having to stop off at home to change. Betty Boop was the earliest adopter of the LBD, but the most popular dress was worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Every woman should have a couple versions of the LBD in their wardrobe – it is the most stylish and effortlessly cool item to own.

Most items in our wardrobe found their origins in times of immense struggle and strife: world wars and female oppression to name but a few. Movies at the time and other popular entertainment media were cleverly used to market these new items into mainstream fashion. Learning the history of these popular garments helps us to understand how these pieces might evolve in the future: in many cases, designers are taking these garments right back to their roots.