Fashion is a distinctive and often habitual trend in the style in which a person dresses. It is the prevailing styles in behaviour and the newest creations of textile designers. Because the more technical term costume is regularly linked to the term “fashion”, the use of the former has been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while “fashion” generally means clothing, including the study of it. Although aspects of fashion can be feminine or masculine, some trends are androgynous.
In the 16th century, national differences were at their most pronounced. Ten 16th century portraits of German or Italian gentlemen may show ten entirely different hats. Albrecht Dürer illustrated the differences in his actual (or composite) contrast of Nuremberg and Venetian fashions at the close of the 15th century (illustration, right). The “Spanish style” of the late 16th century began the move back to synchronicity among upper-class Europeans, and after a struggle in the mid-17th century, French styles decisively took over leadership, a process completed in the 18th century.
“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”
Though textile colors and patterns changed from year to year, the cut of a gentleman’s coat and the length of his waistcoat, or the pattern to which a lady’s dress was cut, changed more slowly. Men’s fashions were largely derived from military models, and changes in a European male Silhouette were galvanized in theaters of European war where gentleman officers had opportunities to make notes of foreign styles such as the “Steinkirk” cravat or necktie.
Though there had been distribution of dressed dolls from France since the 16th century and Abraham Bosse had produced engravings of fashion in the 1620s, the pace of change picked up in the 1780s with increased publication of French engravings illustrating the latest Paris styles. By 1800, all Western Europeans were dressing alike local variation became first a sign of provincial culture and later a badge of the conservative peasant. Although tailors and dressmakers were no doubt responsible for many innovations, and the textile industry certainly led many trends, the history of fashion design is normally understood to date from 1858.
The Haute house was the name established by government for the fashion houses that met the standards of industry. These fashion houses have to adhere to standards such as keeping at least twenty employees engaged in making the clothes, showing two collections per year at fashion shows, and presenting a certain number of patterns to costumers. Since then, the idea of the fashion designer as a celebrity in his or her own right has become increasingly dominant.