Since the advent of globalization, there has been an eruption of fashion trends that break the barriers of clothing design like never before. American clothing apparel and other foreign products are now able to share and adopt each other’s styles, giving them unlimited opportunities to constantly innovate in order for them to remain on the top of the business. The latest technologies also allow them to mass produce and sell their products with much ease. The developments in today’s fashion industry have allowed it to become one of the biggest economic institutions in the world.
But fashion will not have become what it is today without the influences of its past. Therefore it is only but necessary to discuss American fashion’s history and the changes it had gone through to become what it is today. American fashion first took shape during the colonial era. Although the clothes were noticeably copied from the British, this laid the foundation to what will become the distinct American style. America saw a different picture during this time. Although trade had already become an everyday activity to them, there was hardly any technology that offered them the assortment of clothes we have today.
Only natural fabrics were available for them at that time and the clothing the people used were usually sewn by the female members of the family. Wool and linen were the most common as they were readily available. Farmers obtained their wool from the sheep they own, and linen which was regularly used by the more deprived people came from a field crop called Flax plant. Although the soil in America was suitable for growing cotton crops, they were forbidden by the British government to grow them.
The British had the monopoly over the cotton industry as one of their other colonies- India was the leading producer of cotton. The importation of British cotton to America made it expensive and was only patronized mostly by the rich as they were the only ones who could really afford them. Silk which mainly came from China was a prized commodity as it was also uncommon. Wealthy men included silk as well as cotton in their attire as replacements to the regular wool and linen. On ordinary days, men typically wore coats and tight trousers while women usually wore long sleeved dresses.
It is interesting to note that the Americans during this period still did not consider undergarments as part of their wardrobe. During the late 1880’s, wave after wave of immigrants came to the United States as its booming economy presented opportunities to them. The spate of immigrants caused American fashion to evolve as their influences were no longer limited to the British fashion. The different styles from different countries were now being introduced as well. American fashion became more distinct in the 1920’s as the Americans became less conservative.
The changing views within the society also gave the women the opportunity to express themselves. They were increasingly being part of the work force, they were now allowed to vote and they were now also granted the independence to do the activities that they weren’t usually allowed to do before. To simply put it, the women in the 20’s were beginning to play more active roles in the society. Dancing was popular in the 20’s so the women wore shorter skirts for these allowed them to swing freely as they moved.
The chemise dress and the coat dress were common during this period. Women also sported short hairstyles to suit their cloches- a type of hat which became trendy among women toward the end of the 1920’s. The great depression in the late 1920s that went on until the early 30s almost brought America to its knees if it was not for their determination to become a World power once more. During this time, buying new clothes was not a priority as the majority of the people barely had enough money to get them through the days. But this did not stop American fashion from evolving.
America’s economic breakdown brought about simpler, yet creative designs which were practical and relatively cheaper to make. Gowns with bow ties on the back and fur accessories were popular among women while men wore striped suits with padding and straight pants which was considered the early design of today’s business suits. Blazers were also popular among men as they were in England. Americans returned to being conservative in the 50s as they became more and more anti-communism. The Americans wanted to instill to the rest of the world their religious, conservative side.
Girls started wearing longer skirts again while men wore jeans and denim jackets on top of plain white shirt like James Dean who happened to be a very popular actor during this time. A new fabric called nylon also found its way in the clothing industry right after World War 2. From being used in parachutes, nylon became the fabric used in women’s stockings as well as other apparels. The 60s and the 70s were very significant to the transformation of American fashion, and of course the American culture as the youth had the urge to free themselves from the current conventions of the society.
The new perspective on life brought about by the emerging hippie movement also carried with it a new sense of style. The hippies often sported American-Indian inspired outfits in earth tones. This supported their image as ‘tree-huggers and peace defenders. But other than the hippie fashion, Punk also came into play in the fashion scene. The extreme styles reflected the radical ethos of the youth. The 80’s was the period when Americans attempted to fully utilize technology and incorporate it in their everyday lives. This was the time when the people seemed so eager to turn the stuff from sci-fi movies into reality.
Synthesizers became a staple musical instrument as new wave became popular, the designs of the cars became more aerodynamic, and there were also important innovations in video technology which gave way to home movies. Spandex outfits in bright neon colors were very fashionable as their being stretchable matched the athletic lifestyles of the people, not to mention that the material also had the ‘futuristic’ look to it. Outrageous hairstyles which were ‘big’ and ‘heavy’ were also very fashionable during this period.
Although bright colors from the past decade were still tolerated, the dawn of the 90’s was greatly in contrast to the flamboyant 80s. It was the time when the youth chose a simpler lifestyle. Rubber shoes, T-shirts and jeans were regularly worn by the teenagers. Grunge, a popular musical genre during this period was a huge factor in the 90’s fashion scene. Grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam despised the loud costumes rock stars wore on stage and chose to wear simple clothes instead. Their fans followed suit and the new grunge style soon turned out to be very popular and stayed its place all through out the 90’s.
The simplistic style from the 90’s is still carried on today. And now that globalization is in full throttle, foreign styles are playing their parts in American fashion. The modern American outfit incorporate the classy designs from fashion hubs like Italy and Paris, and the simplistic style form the 90’s that is still carried on today. 2000 onwards saw a subtler approach to fashion, and at the same time offered the people a larger variety of styles to choose from. A certain style is no longer exclusive to a certain place. Trends in fashion are now shared by people all over the globe, may it be in Japan, Italy or America.
But even without the technologies we have today, even without the kind of business we have today, it is still inherent in us to share our progress to each other, may it be new devices or clothes. It has occurred since the dawn of civilization and it without a doubt will continue occurring in the present and the future. And now that we are fast becoming more and more of a global community, it is only but certain that the different concepts from every culture will influence us in the way we dress, the way we think and the way we do things.
No one is really certain of what the future of American fashion is. But it certainly promises a lot of changes. Better fabrics will continue to be developed. Someday we might not need to wash our clothes anymore as microscopic chemicals or robots sewn in our shirts will automatically remove the stains. Nanotechnology is now becoming a big part in our lives, and will most definitely be utilized in the future. And as technology furthers itself, nanotechnology will start finding its way in the clothes of the future. But as for now, we can only imagine the wonders of what the future will bring us.
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