Exploration One: Victorian Dress


The Victorians had very particular ideals about gender and sexuality. It was both a very conservative, and a very bohemian renaissance in society. Queen Victoria I was the face of women fashion during this time. Victoria’s legacy, and the times sexist Because of this all of a sudden socially and fashionably, everyone sunk back into a modest reserved pattern. There was a rule for everything about being a woman.


‘The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled by sexual feelings of any kind’: from William Acton’s medical text, The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs.

The artistic and creative industry was booming across Europe and the Americas. Philosophers, writers and poets, great minds flourished. Romanticism was a feeling, a phenomenon which blasted the world. It took place during a renaissance, in which the world was changing at such a phenomenal rate, romanticism was a reaction.


Along with this came the stuffy, prude side to the Victorian age. There was a huge gap between the classes, and while there were some people who’m had a huge amount of money, there was mass poverty. Because of this, the amount of suffering that happened during this era was immense. Women were very much repressed and it was about this time

The era of Victorian clothing, started in the 1850s, and carried on until 1901. It was a dramatic change from the neoclassical era, because there was so much thought put into the clothing that women would wear within a certain set of strict guidelines.


A woman had to wear a certain arm length, which matched her skirts, and those from high stations were expected to change their gowns at least three to four times a day (not including accessories).

At about the age of ten, the girls begin to wear corsets, and bind their waists in to the point that it distorts the natural shape of their body, and pulls their waist far in. They would wear hooped skirts, and many layers of petticoats. The more petticoats you could afford, the more in ‘style’ you could be perceived. During this time it became very popular for women to wear militarized jackets. Black was a great favorite of Victorian times, as after Queen Victorias husband died, much of the western world went into morning... Although when the victorians were colorful, they had wonderful taste and range in tone.



Exploration One: Regency and Neoclassical Clothing


After the decline of the French aristocracy
, the entire fashion scene went through a dramatic change. Nobody wanted to be associated with the fashions which France had become so famous for, and the people turned towards the smaller, and more elegant side of textiles. Because of this fashion renaissance, it gave way to self expression, and personal preference, rather then clothing just being a means to exhibit social rank.

Example of a high class woman, notice her popular up do, as well as her high quality embroidered shawl.

Style turned from the overly ornamented meringues of the Rococo period, to the draping Grecian influenced beauties with high waisted dresses of the elegant Neoclassical era. The skirts which once weighed as much as a small child, thinned down into a simple loose silhouette. The fabrics which once were embellished with gold and silver trim, and embroidery changed to simple natural toned cottons, and muslin dresses. During the Napoleonic wars the Indian fabric which was so popular for this style of dress was banned in France. Of course, this rule was manipulated by ordering the textiles from the Spanish Netherlands- and they still traded with India.

In the evening the chemise dress would at least cover the shoulders, and the fabric would be of a much higher quality. During the day the sleeves would be a little longer on the arms. The neckline slopes down displaying an elegant amount of cleavage. The back of the dress would be where it would tie, and would accentuate the nape of the neck, effectively making it a sex symbol during the time. The waist would be tied with a ribbon, lace or fur trim, and would be used as a simple accessory.

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Trade with India was booming, and had a diverse plethora of exports which trickled in through the fashion scene in Europe at this time. Women loved wearing Indian cashmere shawls to keep warm in style, with feminized military influenced jackets. Beauty changed themes, and natural beauty became more and more treasured.



Exploration One: Japanese Edo Period

The Edo period was a time when traditional Japanese fashion was in the middle of a literal flip. Samurai were the biggest buyers of silks and clothing. The capital of Japan had been moved from Kyoto to Edo, under the reign of one of Japan’s many military leaders. Clothing was a way for people to display their wealth, and their taste. The wives of the rich were famous for their cold wars. They’d spend their restricted lives one upping each other, using their clothing as a dangerous social weapon.

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The things people looked for in beauty were simpler then, but still as hard to meet as the highlights we place on beauty today. Women were not expected to have an hourglass shape. What was more attractive was a kind of cylinder shape, with a waist matching close to her hips. If you had wider hips, and a smaller waist, all would be concealed with padding on the inside of the kimono. This is something I’ve experienced first hand while wearing mine (See photo below). Thin, feminine shoulders were favored, as it made the kimono bundle better around the body. On top of this, your breasts would be bound down tightly to your chest. The effect of all this bundling is similar to wearing a corset.


Japan has one of those rare textile histories of real style. Most countries go through a hormonal adolescent phase, that many people look back on and think, ‘man, what the hell were we thinking?’. Aside from dying the gums and teeth black in the Heian era, Japan has managed, to this day, to be chic, and fashionable across the table. They focus a lot of detailed attention on color, light, shadow and tone. Color, whether people acknowledge it or not, has so much power over an outfit. People don’t wear enough colors these days. It’s mentally and emotionally stimulating to play with the interactions of different colors when creating an outfit.

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This is me wearing a traditional Japanese kimono.

Underneath your kimono, (kimono can be referred to as any clothing, male or female, as well as the wrap dress pictured above.) you wear fundoshi. This was like a loincloth, and serves the same purpose as underwear. They are another example of some of Japan’s alluring style. Not the same as panties today, but back then, they were beautiful.


Men wear a different style of Japanese dress, starting with the visually prominent Hakama, which can be worn by both men and women- (I used to wear these when I did my Kyudo practice. Kanjuro Shibata Sensei (Sendai) gave me one of his antique Japanese silk ones he used to wear. It was just my size when I was about eight years old).


Exploration One: Vikings Clothing


The Vikings appeared in the late 700’s were a power force across Europe, comparable to the Romans, not in function but in ruthlessness. They took on culture after culture, defeating, looting, and raping their women. They were not without moral code, their religion smiled upon being bitter on the battlefield, as your personal crusade legacy was one of the things that guaranteed you a place in Valhalla. The Vikings extreme confidence, and courage alone, while facing death in the eye, was one of the most effective battle techniques that made them such a powerful force during the dark ages.

The Viking culture, is in my opinion one of the most interesting anthropological studies to dive into. Their religion was incredibly unusual, and they really did bare their faith, and would die for their faith, which isn’t what made them unstoppable, it was their drive that was incarnated by their religion. I think that their religion was the reason for the Vikings legacy. Their faith led their culture to success.


The Vikings fashion sense was driven mostly towards warmth, their winters were harsh, long, and dark. They wove their cloth from mostly linen, and wool, and then layered themselves in animal skins. Belts, boots, and shoes would be made from leather, and helped make many different accessories. They used bone to create pins, and combs. The vikings were famous for their elaborate hairstyles, and grooming was very important to being socially stylish.

The Viking women’s braids were very intricate.

Women mostly wore dresses, in the winter it would be a thick woolen dress, which would drop to her ankles. This would be accompanied by layers, should the weather need it. In the warmer times of the year, their dress would change to a lighter, summer dress. Headwear wasn’t uncommon, but still in a simpler form. Braids, and long hair, was popular for women. Hoods were a way to keep the head warm. Brooches were the main form of jewelry, there were beads and combs which would tie onto their clothing, and use as a decoration, and status symbol. If you were from a higher class background, you’d be able to afford the nicest luxurious versions of these dresses.

Men wore a simple tunic, accompanied by a pair of hose - sort of like thick fitted trousers. They might wear a belt around their waist, and this would hang a couple personals on it. Money purses were popular, as well as hunting knives. Many men wore leather boots, and a hat atop their heads. It was popular for them to grow their facial hair, and braid bits of their mane.

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The Vikings most impressive artistry came in the form of woodwork, leather work, and metal work. They used simple materials, to create true art forms, and this was the last major culture to do so. After this point in history, artwork took a turn towards painting rather than craft. The Viking people would craft individual boats into perfection, their jewelry, and metal embellishment far succeeds many people today. They had an old mythical element in their artwork which has never been achieved in the same way. I wish more of their art had been saved, it’s one of my favorite periods.


Exploration One: Indian Saree and the Mughal Period (1526-1858)


The Mughal period in the Indian subcontinent is one of the most important parts of its political history. Back then, India wasn’t so connected, and it was filled with religious and political prejudice. The Mughal period was the time in history when Emperor Akbar, a muslim ruler, conquored and then united kingdom after kingdom. It was a time of prosperity, trade and textile decadence. The combination of Sikh, Muslim and Hindustan peoples, led to much diversity in the cities, and many cultural norms. The diversity led to people wearing a combination of the traditional sari, the dhoti, and tailored silk trousers, vests, and jackets.

I’ll be going over, and showing you the contrasts between these three ancient ways of dress.

The Sari

Advertising Photographs of Air India Crews - 1971 (3)

The traditional saree, is a long piece of fabric which is tied around the body as clothing. You would wear this with a saree blouse, which is basically a crop top which exposes the back and stomach area. Generally speaking, a sari is sold, long enough so there’s enough fabric to make a matching blouse to be worn with it. There are literally dozens of ways to tie a sari around your body, because of the diversity of the Indian cultures. If you were from the North, you’d represent it by the style with which you wore your saree, the same goes for all parts of India. There’s an almost unlimited supply of silk, colors, quality, and prices to choose from. The sari world is a vast and exciting place in India to this day.

This shows only four, out of the dozens of styles you can wear your saree. With this much history of the saree being worn, you’d hope they’d have a few different ways of wearing it.

The Dhoti

The Dhoti is a simply designed long jacket like shirt. It goes down just below the knees, and can be worn in plain cotton or linen, or something like viewed below, covered in jewels and made from luxurious silks. Long baggy trousers were worn, similar to what the Turkish Ottoman were wearing close to the same time. Lastly, a popular accessory would be a shawl scarf.

This is a very luxurious modern day Dhoti, most likely for his wedding day.

Mogul Empire Dress

The Mogul way of dressing, was probably the most advanced when it came to fitting, design, and complexity. It was the fashion for both men, and women to wear fitted trousers, and jackets. What really marked your station in society was the silks used to make your clothing, and the jewels you wore.



Women from noble birth would wear fitted pants, with a long decorative skirt, which would fan out around them in a circle. This, they would pair with a blouse, some covering the belly, and others leaving it exposed. On a hot day, the girl would probably wear this and a shawl, which in public would cover her head. In more formal circumstances, she might be wearing a tight fitting jacket as well. This was far from the end of it, the bling was some of the most important part. Bangles have been a part of Indian history for thousands of years. The silk road was booming further East, and in their lands. Merchants, and bankers were the richest people in the world back then. Pearls were found in the strands, precious jewels, silver and gold. The richer you were, the more jewels you had, it was a simple way of life, but an expensive one. Facial piercings were common, but mostly just in the nose. Earrings were popular, as were many different kinds of rings, necklaces, anklets, and silver/gold weave fabric.



Men wore a much more masculine version of what women wore, without the skirts or crop blouses. They wore fitted trousers, or more flowing trousers which resembled what the turkish were wearing at the time. The patterns were relatively simple, but grand. Their shirts could either be tucked into their trousers, and dramatized with a bling belt (as seen below), or they would drop down over their clothing in an oversized look, good for displaying the silk which they used. Jackets were fairly common.

This is an historically accurate textile representation of Emperor Akbar’s clothing from the Mughal period. It’s from the movie Jodha Akbar, a great movie to see if you’re interested in this era of dress. This actor is Hrithik Roshan, and he’s a very dreamy Bollywood actor, who I’d very much recommend.


Exploration One: French Rococo, Georgian and Macaroni

High fashion in France during the times leading up to the French revolution, is arguably the most luxurious period in textile and style history. The courts dictated the directions that fashion swung, and the royal family were, of course, the unrivaled stars of the garment scene.

In this period of fashion, names must be thrown, as it contains probably THE biggest fashionistas of all time, including Marie Antoinette, Madame du Pompador and Madame du Barry. The luxury in which the aristocracy lived during this time is almost inconceivable to people of today. Luxury was not just limited to clothing, it was jewelry, hats, shoes, handbags, parties, hair, food, dogs, carriages, furnishings, and palaces. The high class lived in such elegant beauty, it’s no wonder that the entire country was bled and nothing was left for the poor. This is one of the hardest fashion eras to explain, as the trends were changing so rapidly. The aristocracy would set the trends, and people of lower station would try and mimic their style. This would mean that people of a higher station would feel the need to create new trends to set themselves apart from people beneath them.

Getting the husband to help out. Notice the monkey hanging out on the floor.

Women wore a slip to begin with, which was immediately covered with a corset. Every morning a lady would lean against a post and have her corset fastened. Women would be expected to wear corsets every day of their lives from around 9-11, until the day they died. The combination of wearing them from such a young age, and having them pulled in so tightly, led to a literal deformity. All of their organs would be pushed in odd ways, and this is presumed to be one of the reasons for the health problems women had back in this time.


As you can see, the ribs of the corseted woman have literally grown into the shape which the corset demands. All of the vital organs are squished down low, deep into the gut. The corset was designed to flatten the stomach and lift the breasts, while pulling the shoulders back, which increased the wearers posture greatly - wether they wanted it to or not.



On top of the corset, a heavily decorated bodice would be placed. Usually laced up from the sides, or sometimes the back. This resembles the under corset, yet is usually made of finer materials. The front panel you see heavily decorated with ruffles and embroidery is called the stomacher. This was usually a very luxurious and overly exagerated. Low cut bodices barely covering the nipples were the height of fashion, the vest worn so tightly that the breasts typically puckered over the front seam. It wasn’t uncommon for a ladies nipples or areola to simply slip out from time to time at parties and balls. Mind you the women would, of course, be ‘so shocked’ and ‘mortified’ by the occurrence. In many illustrations of women from the time, nipples peak out from the tops of their stomachers.


Sleeves were exaggerated and embroidered and toyed with. There are hundreds, and hundreds of different kinds of sleeves from this era. Three quarter length sleeves were the height of fashion. It was an age in clothing where anything went, and those of the highest station could basically do as they pleased.


The pannier was the skeleton of the dress. It came in all shapes and sizes, but this version is an oval shaped hooped skirt. The pannier was usually made from whale bone and would give the dress its famous shape. In between each section of the whalebone structure was a thick shaping fabric called crinoline. The weight of all the different layers would constrict the movement of females dramatically. This dress shape is where french doors came from, as women needed a larger gap opening to enter and exit rooms due to the size of their skirts.


The skirts would be layered on top of the whale bone underskirt. This photo above shows the back view of the skirts. This is a court dress of the finest quality (Honestly, it gives me shivers, and goosebumps). The silk used to create these skirts, mixed with the embroidery probably took a year or two of more then one seamstress to make. This period in fashion was extremely fond of drapery, the drapes in the skirts added to the texture, and floaty cloud like effect this period is so famous for.

This is one of Marie Antoinette’s MANY gowns.

As you can see from the picture above, the Rococo high fashion was so illustrious, it was literally covered in bows, lace, poofs, ruffles, and multidimensional layers. Shaping was absolutely everything. Next to the Japanese Heian period, this was another highlight in the dying, and silk trade history. Skirts were usually designed to drape down across the back, and open in the front exposing the numerous layers of interesting petticoats.


One of the hardest things to keep up with in this time was the numerous kinds of prints, silks, colors, and embroideries which went trending through the fashion scene. Every season had a different set of fashionable colors. The French and English silks differed greatly from each other. England had a great interest in Botany at the time, as Kew Gardens had just been founded in 1759, and thousands of different species of flora were being shipped in and studied from across the globe. This was reflected in English textiles, as not only did different plants and flowers appear embroidered or printed on their silk, they were actually accurate to the species. The French silks and embroideries reflected interests from the east, tropical birds, monkeys, and hunting dogs were quite common, although they weren’t exactly historically accurate.


This was one of the greatest eras of all time for shoes as well. People could do almost anything you could imagine with shoes. Feathers, embroidery, pearls, bows, metalwork, jewels ivory carving - the whole shebang! Men originally wore heels, and after a while women adapted them as their own, as a masculine highlight.


Just like women, dresses came in all shapes and sizes during this time. Ankle length skirts, floor length skirts, and long draped skirts. Some skirts were draped in the front, some in the back. Some had lace trim, some had ruffles, and some embroidery. Everyone was trying to make a fashion statement, and it wasn’t limited just to the women....

This was the time of the Macaroni, and the Dandy!

This was a giggle in the French history of fashion for men, never had they gone through such lengths in the name of clothing before. Although not all men dressed up to scrap to be worthy of the great title ‘macaroni’ or ‘dandy’. Those who did would be remembered for hundreds of years to come.


Here is an iconic comic doodle, probably in a newspaper in Paris. It’s captioned ‘what is this my Son Tom?’. This photo depicts a father, and a son who’m happen upon each other in the street. The father teases him over his appearance, but also remarks upon his hat. This was a time when old customs such as lifting one’s hat to one’s elder were overlooked because of how high their wigs perturbed from their heads. If one needed to tip ones hat to someone in these days, they’d need a small decorative sword or cane to reach.

The macaroni wanted to distinguish themselves from ‘just any other’ wealthy tradesmen or gentlemen of lesser title, so they’d peacock themselves by showing their loyalty to France, and the aristocracy. This was a time in France when the commoners, and the blue bloods were the most divided in history, and the nobles subsequently liked it that way.


A macaroni would wear the standard male garments, although they’d push their fashions to the absolute max. He would power his face, wear wigs of all shapes and sizes, and cover himself in a masculine(ish) version of the women’s lace, ruffles, silks, pearls, and jewels, including a jacket, waistcoat, breeches, stockings, hat, shoes, a and decorative sword or cane. A true macaroni even wore a corset, and point toed heels, with buckles to add height. They wanted to shock people. They wanted to look like a creature of myth, like something that wasn’t from this reality.


Exploration One: Medieval Clothing Europe (1100-1400)

In 1327, Edward II founded the round table, which can be used as a landmark for the end of the old days, and beginning of the new, modern, medieval period. The ideals of chivalry and knighthood swept across the land. People were able to create complete careers, be given land, and gold, from their king, for competing well in competitions, and on the battle field. People still believed in magic, and creatures we’ve come to know today as mythological.

Medieval clothing is one of the turning points in fashion history. It’s a time when court dress exploded across Europe, and wool, linen, and especially silk industries boomed. Silk was prized so dramatically, that first, it could only be used at highly regarded religious ceremonies. Interest in fashion blossomed across Europe, and the silk road brought interesting jewels, silks, fiber, and ideas from the East. The textile business was flourishing so much, that it became possible for people from a range of classes, and walks of life, to buy higher quality clothing. It’s a part of history when men and women’s styles of dress distinctly parted from each other, and each sex embraced different desirable proportions.


The Textile Evolution of this Time:

The horizontal loom: The invention of the horizontal loom gave weavers the opportunity to create huge pieces of artwork out of silk. The looms could produce pieces of silk up to 6 1/2 feet, by 98 feet.

Dyes of the Time:

Cloth of Scarlet: Extracted by the Mediterranean insect, the kermes,
Purple: the ancient shellfish dye,
Perse, Blue/Green): Distilled from a plant distantly related to the wallflower - can be found in many places,
Brown and black: Came from the outward shells of walnuts,
Whitened: Fabrics were whitened by soaking them in buttermilk and being left in the sun to dry.


Women were expected to have small waists, narrow shoulders, and a fair complexion. Small hands were significantly valued as well, and were considered an expression of a woman’s feminine nature. Women wore fitted dresses, which usually tied up in the back. Sleeves were anywhere from 5 inches wide, some being so long that they touched the floor. At the beginning of the 400 year era, women would wear a robe which would wrap across their body. As time progressed the dresses became long, and flowing, with various layers. The skirts themselves didn’t protrude too dramatically from the body, but would gradually grow in size up through the renaissance, and continued up until the neoclassical phase.

A little later in the Medieval ages (around 1100-1200) the surcoat came into fashion. The Surcoat, originally made for women, found its way into male fashion as well. The armholes were made very big, so you could peacock the robe-like garment you had underneath. If you came from a wealthy family even your girdle would be made from precious materials, and covered in precious jewels.


One of the most exciting aspects of this period was the trends in headwear. Hats had so much to do with public standing and class. There were hundreds of styles, so it’s hard to do justice to the almost endless plethora of fashion statements you can see in visual representations of the time. Men wore hats too, generally a little less prodigious then their female counterparts. Velvet was popular, as well as colored wool, and furs such as otter, and beaver. Your hat would establish which class you came from, and this is why the medieval times are so famous for their headwear today. There is hardly any visual representation of people from those days, which doesn’t include a hat on top of their head, be they male or female.

During the crusades, purses came into fashion, and they’d attach to your belt with a ribbon or metal cord. Gold, silver, pearls and precious jewels were very much in fashion as the Medieval period hit its luxurious peak around 1200-1300. Court dress was wild with a variety of exotic furs, usually lining coats. Ermine, otter, beaver, fox, rabbit, ferret, and squirrel were particular favorites of the extremely wealthy. This was a phase in history, just before the globalized world as we know it. With the renaissance came knowledge on a completely different level than ever seen before. It was the last of the dark ages, and the beginning of what we can contemplate as a modern age.

This gives the idea of what a surcoat was like, layered over the women’s wrap dress, and then eventually over whatever men wore.

It was a time in history, when men were the fashionistas of Europe. Significantly less attention was given to women’s clothing, and men used their clothing as a way to peacock around their daily lives, trying to attract approval. Men would wear stockings and breeches. The breeches have been made famous through history, as they had a round ballooning design. The stockings were generally made out of the same material as the breeches. Large belts were in fashion, and if you could afford it, they’d be bling-ed up, and intensified through size and design. Most detailed representations of clothing from the time, are of men. This is thought to be because of the social circumstance of the hierarchy at this time. Men’s proportions drew special attention to making the shoulders large and bold, their legs thin and long, and finally, their genitals dramatized to an almost ridiculous degree.


Here, we can view a variety of looks from Medieval times ... Tights were the most popular trend for men from this era. They would generally wear stockings, shoes, an undershirt, and a constricting vest like over-shirt. The vest can be seen in the painting above, modeled by the man who has apparently chopped off some poor knobs head. You can see from the man in red clothing, that he is of noble birth, obviously having a skilled tailor. The fur on his collar is most likely beaver fur. Pads were added to the shoulders in most cases, in order to make the shoulders stand stronger and wider looking.

Shoes were still very simple, it was popular for the toes to point.

Slowly, as the fourteenth century came along, the timeline blurs to exactly when the Medieval ages subsided, and the Renaissance began. I suppose it was when Italian fashions seeped across Europe and Italy’s artistic dominance over Europe began.


Exploration One: Ottoman Finery - Turkey

Early 1500’s - Mid 1800’s


For the Ottoman court, clothing was much more than just a personal luxury. It defined, not only you, not only your position, and not only your place in society, but societies financial situation as well. If you were a well dressed sultan, then it was automatically assumed that your region of domain, was a wealthy and prosperous place. This meant, that your clothing held your position with power, and publicity between you and your people.

Whenever a sultan, or high born person passed away, they’r clothing would be bundled and stored in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul. Because of the distance of time, some of the name labels have been lost, but because of this textile library, we have an excellent fashion guide to this lush and colorful clothing era.

An Ottoman Emperor

Men wore generally simply cut robes, layered, and made in lush colorful textiles, starting with a dignified ‘outer robe’. Ottoman silk copied many of the Italian designs from this time. An assortment of technicolor patterns, and flora and fauna was a popular look. Long billowing linen, or velvet trousers (as seen below) were all the rage. Ermine was a popular trim for their jackets, as well as squirrel fur. They also, generally wore turbans, which could be spiced up with anything from fur, pearls, and jewels, to even feathers, and expensive velvets and silks alike. Men accessorized with glamourous jewelry, belts, and dramatic bejeweled daggers.

During this era, hardly any attention was given to women’s clothing, as women did not have a public role in society. Because fashion played such a big role in mens lives, socially, politically, and economically, much money was spent on the males clothes. Otherwise, women spent their entire lives secluded, with family, and a few very close friends, this effected women’s fashion, because all of their clothes were casual. For a lot of the Ottoman era, women wore close to the same clothing as men, most of the pieces of clothing were even called by the same name, besides the quality of course. At this time, women were only expected to cover their heads, with casual headdresses. With the turn of the 18th century, it became public law for women to wear vail’s which covered their faces. They wore ankle length pants, which became baggier with time, and a variety of layers of wrist length robes.

It wasn’t unusual for people of this time to wear shoes with stilts on them. This was because the streets were so filthy that they’d need the height, in order to keep their costly silks clean.


Exploration One: Reniassance Dress - Europe 1450-1650

The renaissance in Europe during the 15th-16th century was an awakening of culture and knowledge. Starting in Florence it didn’t take long for the styles and trends to spiral out from Italy. A lot of ‘what was fashion’ was influenced by what the royal families liked to wear. This made Italy’s economy, rely highly on the garment industry.

One of my favorite paintings of all time

Most of the lush textiles, famous to this time, came from Italy. King Henry VIII was probably the most famous renaissance male model of the time, as he wore some of the most luxurious clothing in history. Including intensely vivid embroidery featuring depictions of flowers, leaves, animals, insects and other patterns. They added in different precious metals, including gold and silver, into the weave. It was a time of luxurious extravagance, yet they retained their fantastical belief in miracles, god, and myth. The combination of wealth, and faith, created a wonderful reality to be in for the few lucky men, and women of the upper class. Embroidery became a deep and passionate art form, which some people devoted their life to.


Italy: Italy was a fashion and art plethora of the time. Most of the textiles trade went straight to Italy and out, from there, across Europe. The medici family ruled as one of the biggest powers of the country. Veneitian fashion was elegant and sophisticated, with a true appreciation for the female form.

Germany: loved to exaggerate their slashed and detachable sleeves. The sizes of the puffs expanded and contracted throughout the renaissance.

Spain: grew in power, as a result a lot of Spains growing power, and christian faith, fashion lost many of their bright colors. They were slow with their fashions and tastes, their evolution included the smoothing out and sharpening of the dresses shape. Note: The spanish farthingale is the underskirt structure, which set’s a dress

England: Had two generations of ‘poster children’ during this era, between King Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I, they were some pretty well dressed royals.

King Henry VII

A common look for the renaissance man back then, was a flat cap, popularly in red, and blue, and black and other earthly tones. They wore a tight fitting coat, ending at the top of the neck. People in general wore enlarged and intense detachable puffed sleeves with slashes in them. Allowing the undershirt to peek through the slashes. A cape or fur jacket wasn’t uncommon, and was clipped to the wearer at the shoulders. This made it easier to remove.As in many cultures, the male’s genitals were exaggerated significantly, this was called a codpiece, and was even used as a fanny pouch purse for a long time. The size of these grew until the mid 1500’s, and then eventually vanished from society around 1600. Men wore puffed shorts, sometimes slashed, and typically ending just above the knee with tights. A popular trend was multicolored tights. King Henry XII models a famous silhouette from the early renaissance, a blocky, masculine, and stable form.


Women were expected to wear a corset, bodice, a headdress, with long extensive gowns. Slashed, or detachable skirts, and sleeves were one of the most prevalent features of the renaissance. Many venetian women aspired to have blonde hair, and some even used urine, and other chemicals to try to color it so. The shapes of the dresses changed throughout this period, from finely draped, to cut and formed.

This portrait of young Elizabeth of France, is a great example of the excessive use of lace, and slashes in the puffs of her sleeves. Note the pearls dripping across her bodice.

Pearls were one of the favorite jewels of the time. It was the ultimate status symbol and was used everywhere. High class women were dripping in jewels, from embellishments in their dresses, to their hair, to their jewelry, and even crushed up into luxurious face cream.

Ruffs were another large characteristic of the style of this time, ruffs around the neck, sleeve, shoulder, wrist, it was a way to show off some beautiful lace work. Lace exploded across europe and was prized.

was another one of the ultimate status symbols, fox, ermine.

Headwear consisted of anything ranging from a crown covering hat, hood or headdress. A popular one to note, is the ‘french hood’, a rounded bonnet like cap, which can be seen commonly in portraits of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth, her daughter, was much more experimental with her fashion, and lead the renaissance proudly into the Elizabethan phase.


Coming out of the medieval era, at the beginning of the renaissance, sleeves were long and flowing, folding was a large part of high fashion. Slowly, with Spaniard influence, dresses eventually became boxier, and more masculine, and slowly, towards the turn of the 16th century, they started to become more feminine, in the way they flowed, and the colors which were chosen.

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth the firsts reign, had a considerable impact on fashion, and clothing became more important than ever. She had a collection of the most beautiful crowned jewelry, and wore some of the most expensive outfits in the world back then. Things were so much more precious back then, as each piece of an elaborate outfit, such as hers, would be ‘the best of the best’. Ostrich feathers from Africa, pearls, handmade lace (by the yard), gold thread, ermine, furs, etc. everything was imported from across the world, just for her.


In these days, children dressed like adults, and would probably have close to the same tastes as her mother. Many wealthy families would give their children red coral necklaces, to protect them from illness and the evil eye. Children’s clothing was made to be a little more ‘indestructible’, so to speak, as children have always been slightly messy creatures. Depending on the rank of the mother, the cloth used in the children’s dress would probably be of a slightly lower grade, because children are always growing so much.


Exploration One: The Japanese Heian Period 794-1185

This masterpiece is a remnant of the Heian period

The late 7th through to the 12th century, was the golden age of silk dying in Japanese history. This was known as the Heian period, and is possibly the most luxurious phase of this nations past. The most painful thing about this period to me, is that there are no known artifacts preserved from it. All we know, is from the extensive writings, poetry, and paintings from the time, which were many, as fashion was a certain kind of madness within the high class Japanese culture in this era.


This was a time of repression for women, which allowed women to experience, a certain and unusual kind of reality, completely unique to the Heian period. Cut off from men, and general society, women spent their lives indoors, and concealing their faces from the world. Women of the Heian period were restricted from almost all the realities of life, kept in a literal bubble, she would probably never see a sick person, a poor person, or anything that her family should decide to keep her from. This lead them to be exceedingly innocent, very pale, and for the Heian woman to embody stylish, poetical, and beautiful ‘perfection’. It was her job to become a work of art.

Two Heian babes playing a game

The attention that society payed to the detail of clothing was so intense, and women were judged so dramatically for their choice, that it became an all consuming fanaticism for them. The colors must compliment each other in such a way, that it was a statement. These colors showed their taste, and culture, but it was also the only way for them to express themselves to the outside world. The rooms which women spent most of their time, were on the second level of the house, these rooms typically had an opening just at floor level, in order to cool the room, and allow proper ventilation. This became a means for the gentlemen of the family, and male guests, to peek in at the dress folds of the women sitting indoors, without seeing their faces.

A man outside, either listening to the girls, or chatting to the girls.

Clothing and color, was a source of sexual energy, that was almost neurotic. It was the way which a woman was expected to first attract a suitor, and thus, if you didn’t have good taste, you might never find a husband. When out in public, a woman was only allowed to travel in a man lifted passenger car. She could not show her face as she did this, and thus it became a custom to discreetly hang the folds of her costume from the sides of the doors. Men, if impressed by the colors, they would locate the family which the boxcar belonged to, each car marked by their families seal. Heian women dreamed of growing long flowing hair, and their faces were whitened with powder. An interesting cultural aspect, to this fashion period, is that both men and women used to blacken their teeth. Their eyebrows were shaven off, and drawn on, higher on their forehead. They would also draw their lips in bright red, but would draw them on smaller than their actual size.


This sokutai doesn’t have any saved patterns for it’s creation. All of the reproductions created from the same style, but will never be exactly the same as the originals made long ago. These outfits altogether could have up to 12 layers of silks. It was the popular fashion to have thick and luxuriant folds in their sleeves and dress. The more intense, the more vivid and sensual, the more she would arouse her onlookers.

The woman, a divine creature, like a delicate gold fish floating around in a water bowl, or a water lily, bouncing around on the surface during a rain storm.

Here’s an example of a modern reproduction of the Heian period.

A modern ensemble of what the costume would look like, although her eyebrows should be shaven, and she should be wearing the appropriate make up. (See paragraph #4) Note: As you can see, she has a pleated train on her skirt.


Here’s a bunch of different Heian costumes. Oh, like a kid in a candy shop.


Exploration One: Chinese Fashion: The Tang Dynasty 618-907

The Tang Dynasty in China, is one of my favorite clothing periods of the East. Taking place during a renaissance of feminine power, the Tang dynasty was a 300 year stretch between 618-907 AD. China’s only female monarch, Empress Wu Zetian, came into power around 70 years after the beginning of this dynasty, and brought with her a revolution in female rights, like never seen before in China. Tang women were free to educate themselves, history, philosophy, politics and military skills, women had an almost never-ending plethora of opportunities for them to grow in themselves during this time. During the Tang dynasty, poetry was a common pastime for men and women, not just high born men and women, but people from the common population too. Women from all classes could dance, go riding, and even play polo!

The Tang dynasty women had a huge amount of freedom for that time, women were allowed to virtually run wild. Divorce was not looked down upon in the same way, and couples who agreed to divorce mutually were accepted. Even princesses weren’t looked down upon for having the freedom of remarrying, which was an incredible and modern step in society at this time, as princesses have been used throughout time as a way to make ties between families.

This picture shows two upper class women walking a puppy.

FUN FACT: Before 618, women were expected to only ever leave the house wearing a face covering veil, this was partly to protect against dust, but mainly to hide women’s faces from the public. Throughout time, in multiple cultures, this has been a way to isolate women from those outside their families circle. Over the course of the 6th century, the veil decreased in length until it completely disappeared and replaced by a hat, until 713, when that disappeared too.

The effect Empress Wu Zetian’s reign had on feminism was quite dramatic. It became popular to wear very, low cut shirts, exposing cleavage-- Just imagine! Besides the dramatic low cut, a blouse was worn on top of this, with long, narrow, sleeves which extended 6-3ft in length! The blouse had no buttons, but was kept closed by a long, high waisted skirt, which rested just under the breasts, and tied with a ribbon.


By this time in history, the Chinese had already discovered how to harness silk worm’s cocoons, for the making of beautiful silk fabric. This made the Chinese the most advanced out of all the other civilizations in the world back then. They were able to create patterns with shape, patterns, and multiple colors. Their textiles had evolved past ‘simply doing the job’ and into luxury.

26 tang-dynasty-sculpture

Hair was a theatrical, and ornamental add on to their outfit. There were a variety of ‘popular’ hair styles with different names, and it was an important part of being presentable. A few examples of names include, ‘rolled up lotus leaf’, ‘conch shell’, and ‘cloud style’. Common add ons to their updo’s included gold and silver combs and pins, and foe flowers.

This is a lily knot from the Tang dynasty.

Tang women were famous for their makeup, which they liked to change and play with daily. The average day of makeup included a white layer of foundation, typically made from lead, red lips, intricate eyebrows in unusual shapes, a huadian on their foreheads. Two little dots at the corner of the lips was a popular feature in this dynasty, and a faint red curved line at the temples of her forehead.

Huadian: a feather, or a gold/silver piece of foil, cut into a blossom or plum.

The Hufu was a unisex outfit which was accepted by the Chinese as ‘foreigners clothing’, as China was one of the biggest trading capitals of the world at this point. This outfit consisted of a waist length jacket, trousers, and a leather belt and boots. Women of the Tang loved this outfit, as it was an alternative to the skirt, and allowed them to ride horseback easier. The men would wear their hufu made from simpler silk, well, in comparison to women who would wear decadent colors and patterns. Women’s lust for clothes will never change.

Believe it or not, there is hardly any historical information about men’s clothing in the Tang dynasty, as all anyone could talk about was the women’s clothing. Not even the emperors robes, or crown were ever properly described. What we do know is that at court assemblies, people were expected for their robes to match their rank in society. The highest ranking members of court would wear purple, going down from this came vermillion, green, and then finally blue. The men generally wore robes of two kinds during the Tang dynasty, a tighter robe with a round, and short cut collar, or a looser robe with long wide sleeves, and a collar which stood up around their neck.


Generally speaking throughout history, Chinese men wore their hair long, and placed it in a bun atop their heads, Tang men covered their hair with a head cloth, which was later replaced with a hat which did the same job. The Hat came in different shapes, and heights.



Exploration 1: Ancient Greek and Roman Dress

Ancient Roman and Greek Dress

In Ancient Rome and Greece, fabric was generally speaking, very costly. As a result of this, people’s clothing remained mostly uncut and much of ‘the look’ was about the drapes they created with their cloth. Because of this, broaches and belts were very common. The class you came from determined which materials and dyes were used in the cloth. Grecians and Romans had less reserve about nudity, it wasn’t uncommon for people to exercise around town in the nude. The romans appreciated decadence in such a way that wasn’t seen again until 17th century France came around. This time in ancient history was a tender one, as civilization was still relatively new to humanity. It was a time when people were still very simple.

As for the clothing that the population wore, there were four items you could count on to wear every day…


The Toga is probably the most remembered article of clothing throughout this time in history, it wasn’t what the average man wore. The toga was a mark of wealth and luxury. It was impractical and thus was held in the golden light of indulgences, that the Roman’s and Greeks were so famous for. They were so luxurious, they could afford to lay around with their clothes falling off all day.

There was a strict law of dress, making it so that you wore clothing that fitted your station. The toga had different forms relating to the higher classes and what kind of upper class person they were.

Freeborn Sons: Wore a white toga with a purple border.

Toga Alba/Pura: Adult males wore a simple white toga.

Toga Pulla: A darker toga, worn when in mourning.

Toga Piota: A purple toga with golden embroidery, reserved for the emperor.

A tunic(a) was the first layer, worn next to the skin. There were many variations of the tunic and ways that people wore them. Men wore a version of the tunic called a chiton, and females wore a full length tunic called a peplos.

- Both were made from rectangular pieces of fabric and hung loosely around ones shape, to be manipulated and folded into a pleasing fashion.
- Women’s tunic/peplos was usually quite oversized and then manipulated into shape daily by the wearer.
- Men sometimes shortened their chiton to be knee length. In comparison to women, the mens tunic was tighter.
- There were two types of tunics. First, the Doric Chiton, made from wool usually. Second, the Ionic Chiton, made from linen or silk, and easier to fold in intricate ways.

This is an Ionic chiton.

Slaves tunic: Slaves basically wore a bag made from two rectangular pieces of cloth with arms and legs cut out. Very simple.

Outdoor Cloak: The popular cloak was for the upper classes, as it required the use of one of the hands to keep it in place, and thus was deemed ‘luxurious’. There were other’s made of a simpler, more functioning fashion, but those were reserved mostly for the laboring man, travelers, and soldiers.


The Roman’s and Greeks created intricate hairstyles involving braids, curls and weaving. They would decorate their head with golden rings, pins, wreaths and flowers.


Exploration 1: The First Clothing

500,000-10,000 B.C.E


The first clothing came 500,000 - 10,000 BCE. Animal hides were used and wrapped around the body. It was a time in history when dramatic temperature changes were common. One day a smart neanderthal realized the potential that skins had. It wasn’t until 40,000 BCE that man discovered to push holes through things and to tie them together to create livable clothes. Neanderthals were beginning to invent tools, and weapons. Eventually wool entered the scene, which was a nice alternative to furs, and skins. The Cro Magnon Man were some of the geniuses of the stone age. Cro Magnons were supposedly the first to be able to use fire, they created the needle, and created tools to help cut tiny holes into skins. It wasn’t until much later that humans evolved from this, and began to create individual styles and cultures, united with their style sense.


Fashion Moment: The needle is one of the prime inventions that changed the face of fashion forever. They were henceforth able to create fitted clothing.


7500-5700 B.C.E

Evidence suggests that they were able to make fitted trousers! Because of the different pigments beings used back then, scientist now believe that body painting was used. The first dyed textiles appear in Catal Hoyuk, southern Analtonia, present day Turkey. Stamps have been found at their sites suggesting they stamped pigment paint onto their outfits for pattern. The oldest pair of sandals ever found were from 4000 BCE and from Egypt. Around 3600 BCE flax becomes the number one fibre used in Egypt.

Fashion Moment: The Chinese make a huge leap in clothing by using silk worms to make silk. This changes the face of fashion forever.

Evidence suggests that the later cave people’s clothing, wasn’t much less developed than modern day eskimos clothing.


Intro to Exploration 1: Textiles Industry


Into the Threads of the High Fashion Garment Industry is an exploration of the history, and the ways of the garment industry. Through this exploration, I will be looking at the history of clothing, starting at the very beginning. 100,000 years ago, during the reign of the neanderthal man, all the way up into a anthropological study into the modern dress of countries across the globe. During this course I will be learning in depth about the uses of different materials in the textile industry, the history of the Silk Road and the process of creating clothing throughout time. I will interview people working in the industry today, for their opinions and ideas. I will study the lives and careers of fashion icons in the last 200-250 years, and create a portfolio of them to exhibit.

Eventually, I need to display my understanding of the textile industry by creating numerous designs, and my first fashion line. My line will be influenced deeply by my life in Nepal, and theories about what fashion is lacking in.

Rising will be producing it’s first complete line in the summer of 2015.