Prior to 1850, 70% percent of all clothes were hand stitched by the people who wore them. Clothes were a commodity item, and their excellence dependent upon the skill of the person who made them.
The average housewife styled her clothes after what was acceptable for her climate, her country, and her community standing, so that everyone from the same region pretty much dressed alike. Cut off from outside influence, clothing styles could-and did-remain the same for generations. Today these distinct garbs are often known as a region's "national costume."
Because trade routes between cities usually consisted of bad roads lined with thieves, people stayed put and used what materials were available to them locally. Since everyone had access to the same goods, wealth was usually distinguished by jewelry. When kings and nobles became stronger and better able to protect their domains in the mid to late eleventh century, trade routes began to emerge and new and finer materials became available to those who could afford them. From then on, dress denoted stature and wealth-much as it does today.
The 30% of clothes that weren't made at home were stitched by designers/dressmakers, usually for wealthy patrons. By the 1500's, the busiest dressmakers had struck upon an effective, economic way of showing their wares: they would make up miniature samples of their work and put them on dolls. One half to one third the size of humans, these dolls showed every minute detail. Clients could look through the dolls and pick the styles they wanted. The clothes were then custom-made to the client's exact measurements.
The dress dolls soon found their way into other countries and became one of the most popular ways of spreading fashion. Monarchs and courtiers in particular liked receiving them as gifts, and kept their dressmakers busy copying the latest styles from abroad.
In fact, the nobility has always been conspicuous consumers of fashion. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have had more than 1,000 gowns, many of them received as gifts. Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (and a Spencer, like Diana, Princess of Wales), was such a trendsetter in 1770's London that anything she wore became an instant fashion. But it was the flamboyant Louis XIV of France, "the sun king," who began to draw attention to France and establish Paris as the epicenter of fashion in the late-17th century.
Other "Fashion Fun" Articles You Might Enjoy:
"You have helped me so much!!! My closets are beautiful because of you!"
“I wanted to thank you for your terrific newsletter. It is always so
informative and has helped me to dress better, consider purchases and refine my style. What I have
found is I am spending less money, looking better and have a smaller but more versatile
wardrobe. Thank you for all the
valuable information and extra confidence to dress with success and
©2000-2012 Top Drawer Publications, LLC
All Rights Reserved