A Fashionable Top 10

Egyptian Collar

Adorned collars were standard issue in ancient Egypt. Set against typically drab garments, collars added color and vibrancy to Egyptian outfits as well as denoted the class of the wearer. In the higher classes, gold and gemstones were customary, while the lower classes usually made due with colored pottery beads. One can definitely see the inspiration from the Egyptian collar in modern necklaces. Adorned collars, as a badge of social status, have been prevalent throughout history. While creating a lightbox of our favorites we were quite amazed at how beautiful and impressive they are! Though the trends change every year, collars & necklines are still one of the most important aspects of an outfit, as they quite literally set the stage.

Our favorite collars through the ages

Collar in the form of the vulture goddess Nekhbet, from the tomb of Tutankhamun (c. 1370-1352 BC) (gold inlaid with semi-precious stones) / Boltin Picture Library
Collar in the form of the vulture goddess Nekhbet, from the tomb of Tutankhamun (c. 1370-1352 BC) (gold inlaid with semi-precious stones) / Boltin Picture Library

Isis and Nefertiti, from the tomb of Nefertiti (c. 1297-1185 BC), Thebes;  Sophisticated sheath dress by Michael, Autumn 1955 (b/w photo) by Zanton / Fashion Museum, Bath, UK
Isis and Nefertiti, from the tomb of Nefertiti (c. 1297-1185 BC), Thebes; Sophisticated sheath dress by Michael, Autumn 1955 (b/w photo) by Zanton / Fashion Museum, Bath, UK

Egyptian Sheath Dress

One of the staples of every modern woman's closet also got its start in ancient Egypt. Most Egyptian women wore simple tailored sheath dresses called kalasiris. Typically made of linen, they were long, fit close to the body, and came in an array of different woven patterns. It was the 'go-to' dress of its day, as it was functional for everyday use but could also be embellished with feathers or beads for more formal occasions.

More images of sheath dresses

 

Roman Toga

Unlike the simple silhouette of the sheath dress, the Roman toga was a complex series of intricate folds, usually belted. Also unlike the sheath dress, the toga was not a democratic garment. It was to be worn by Roman citizens and free men only. Interestingly, women were not allowed to wear togas unless they were prostitutes. Slaves were relegated to simple tunics. In dress only, slaves of the Roman republic had an easier time of it. After its time in the sun, many Roman citizens rejected the toga as too cumbersome and eventually the fashion ended. Nowadays, you might see a homemade and slightly less fussy version worn by college students when attending the ubiquitous rite of passage: the toga party. Thank you John Belushi!

Horace, Virgil and Varius at the house of Maecenas by Charles Francois Jalabert / Musee des Beaux-Arts, France, Giraudon
Horace, Virgil and Varius at the house of Maecenas by Charles Francois Jalabert / Musee des Beaux-Arts, France, Giraudon

Artemis, goddess of hunting (c. 3rd - 1st century BC) / Tarker; An underwear model poses on the catwalk at a fashion show, 1949 (b/w photo) / SZ Photo
Artemis, goddess of hunting (c. 3rd - 1st century BC) / Tarker; An underwear model poses on the catwalk at a fashion show, 1949 (b/w photo) / SZ Photo

Greek Strophion

The strophion, which means breast band, was worn by Greek women to support their breasts. Unlike the modern brassiere, its descendent, the strophion was worn on the outside of their clothing. Madonna would have been proud.

Images of the modern brassiere

A Short History of Women's Hats

The history of women's hats started in the middle ages. The Medieval wimple (bottom left) was worn by most women to hide their hair (considered in that day to be provocative). In the Renaissance, the gable headdress (left center) and the French hood were the two main styles of headwear and were worn specifically for adornment and to display wealth and status. In the 19th century, the rage was tall, elaborate updos and hats were often the cherry on top, but not the main character. In the first decade of 20th century wide-brimmed Edwardian hats were all the rage (right center). Piled high with flowers, feathers, fruit and even dead birds, these hats were all about making a statement. You'll still find Edwardian hats around - Kentucky Derby anyone? Perhaps our favorite hat trend, the cloche hat (bottom right) debuted around that same time and was popular through the 20s and early 30s. Like the clothing trends of the time, the cloche hat was streamlined and less feminine than earlier fashions. The close-fitting, bell shaped, felt hat looked great on top of the shorter bob hairstyles of the moment.

Mary, Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet; Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn; Girl with Yellow Cape by Pierre Auguste Renoir; Portrait of Jocelyne Verney Gaskin by Joseph Edward Southall
Mary, Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet; Portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn; Girl with Yellow Cape by Pierre Auguste Renoir; Portrait of Jocelyne Verney Gaskin by Joseph Edward Southall

Victorian Bustle

Forgoing comfort, 19th century women eccentuated their backsides with elaborate bustles. Typically constructed with a frame or pad to expand the back of the skirt, the optical illusion was aided by the addition of still more fabric, bows, ruffles and tassels. Though the Victorian woman was covered from neck to ankles in fabric, the appearance of a large derrierre and small waist served to showcase her sexuality. Thankfully, the modern woman doesn't have to contend with the bustle, except perhaps on her wedding day.

Ad for the Italian hatmaker, Borsalino, 1929; James Joyce, 1929 (gelatin silver print) by Berenice Abbott / Philadelphia Museum of Art
Ad for the Italian hatmaker, Borsalino, 1929; James Joyce, 1929 (gelatin silver print) by Berenice Abbott / Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Fedora

Another hat style originally made for women, the fedora (and its cousin, the Trilby) has become a staple in men's fashion for decades. After a short stint as an accessory for middle class women in the 1910s, the fedora became the edgy and notorious sidekick for mobsters like Al Capone during the Prohibition era. The fedora also adorned the heads of early Hollywood's leading men such as Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart. It enjoyed a brief rest in the back of the closet from mid-century until the 1980s when a young Harrison Ford, as the swashbuckling adventurer Indiana Jones, catapulted it back into fame.

The Miniskirt

Perhaps the most earth shattering fashion innovation in history was the miniskirt. In 1964, British designer Mary Quant featured a shortened skirt at her boutique and the trend soon became both reviled and celebrated worldwide. In the 60s, American culture was undergoing massive socio-political changes and the miniskirt served as a fashion metaphor for the revolutionary decade. The rising hemlines served well as a symbol of freedom, equality and the right of self-expression. It's no surprise that the miniskirt still exists today in a thousand different variants.

Former Suffragette Jane Lunnon, March 1968 (b/w photo) / Mirrorpix
Former Suffragette Jane Lunnon, March 1968 (b/w photo) / Mirrorpix

Orange and multi-colored jersey ensemble by Leonard, 1970s; Cream wool two-piece ensemble by Vicky Tiel, 1970s / both from Christie's Images
Orange and multi-colored jersey ensemble by Leonard, 1970s; Cream wool two-piece ensemble by Vicky Tiel, 1970s / both from Christie's Images

Bell Bottoms

Originally designed centuries before as a practical garment for the Navy, bell bottoms as a fashion statement started in the 60s and 70s. The carefree and comfortable wide leg pants became ubiquitous with the hippie movement after triangular shaped fabrics were sewn into regular jeans to widen the bottom. Soon the pants became mass marketed to everyone, both in denim and the new, magical, no-wrinkle fabric called polyester. Thankfully, the polyester kind were tabled in the 80s, but the bell bottom came back in a more subtle fashion in the 90s as "boot-cut" and "flare" jeans.

Denim Jeans

As a fabric, denim has been around since the 17th century. It wasn't until the 1870s that a young entreprenuer named Levi Strauss created an early version of what we now call jeans. The early denim jeans were sold as a sturdy work pant, as they had a patented construction with rivets. Not until James Dean entered the scene in the 1950s in Rebel Without a Cause, did denim take hold as a fashion item. Denim jeans were celebrated by the young, abhorred by adults. Often, denim was seen as inappropriate as it was linked with youth rebellion and it was even banned in some places. Denim had a hard road through the 60s, but the following decades saw the acceptance of jeans as casual wear. It's hard to imagine what we would wear if it weren't for Levi Strauss!

Sleeping Sea 1986 (acrylic on canvas) by Boyd and Evans / Christie's Images
Sleeping Sea 1986 (acrylic on canvas) by Boyd and Evans / Christie's Images


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