Twentieth-Century Fashion

1908 woman in white dress

Women's fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century was largely a matter of status. The stylish silhouette was defined by the narrow sans-ventre corset, which squeezed away the belly and gave the body an S-shaped line; by the long, sweeping skirt lengths; and by high rigid collars. Textile designs took the lead from art nouveau plant ornamentation. Parisian couturiers, such as Jean-Philippe and Gaston Worth (sons of the first celebrated grand couturier Charles Frederick Worth), the Callot sisters, Jacques Doucet, and Jeanne Paquin, were at the forefront in such society dresses.

This style was diametrically opposed by the "health dress," propagated by advocates of women's rights, artistic women, and doctors. This design hung loosely without a corset. Its sack cut was rejected by most style-conscious women, despite the designs of art-nouveau artists like Henry van de Velde.

The suit began to establish itself as a multi-faceted garment, becoming a symbol, eventually, of democratic fashion. The businesswoman used it in her career and the society lady as a travel and recreation outfit. The jacket was mostly styled in a masculine cut with lapels and cuffs; the frock coat was occasionally shortened above the ankle. Suits were offered by manufacturers as well as posh tailors such as John Redfern and Henry Creed. With the advent of the suit, the blouse became the central style element, featuring both luxuriously decorated and simple models. Comfortable kimono blouses, with cut-out sleeves, could be worn over skirts. Top coats, or paletots, taken from men's fashion, and carcoats or dusters, satisfied the desire for functional clothing. Around 1908, the Parisian couturier Paul Poiret created a new style called la vague. Inspired by the Ballets Russes, he combined the body-liberating "health dress" with elements of Asian dress. Paul Poiret had ties with the world-famous Vienna Workshops, which operated their own fashion department.

Originating in England, the Edwardian style (named after King Edward VII) was the leader in international men's fashion. Men's fashion was regulated by exact rules, which were published by prominent tailors, as to when and under what circumstances each suit was to be worn.

Business attire included the sports jacket (sack coat) and the more elegant suit jacket. Daytime suites incorporated the frock coat (Prince Albert). The cut-away was considered suitable for more private and prestigious occasions. The smoking jacket fulfilled the role of comfortable, casual evening attire. There also existed specialized sporty ensembles. It was important always to choose the correct hat: soft felt, bowler, homburg, canotier, panama, or top hat. There were also many different coats to choose from, such as paletots, chesterfields, raglans, and ulsters.

Fashion 1910-1919

International fashion until 1914 was heavily influenced by the avant-garde French couturier Paul Poiret. He helped initiate the Art Deco style and inspired other designers such as Erté and Mariano Fortuny, whose delphos gowns of the finest pleated silk were also world famous. In 1910 Poiret publicized the hobble skirt, which was, despite its uncomfortable cut, quite fashionable for a short time. It fell loosely, straight to the top of the calf, but was narrowed, from below the knee to its ankle-length hem, with such a narrow yoke that a lady could only hobble. Poiret also proposed a long pants-dress, but few women dared to be seen on the streets in the new jupes culottes. For eveningwear, Poiret even suggested broad harem pants worn under a long tunic with a wire-stiffened, upturned hem.

From 1912 until the outbreak of World War I, evening clothes were marked by the new social dance craze, the Argentine tango. Poiret's creations seemed custom-made for the new popular dance: closely wrapped skirts with high slits in the front, gold-embroidered tunics, and turbans with upright feathers. Men wore the cutaway and the fashionable frock coat, sometimes in strong colors like dark red, or featuring checkered trim. Accompanying hats were oversized.

During World War I (1914-1918), clothing tended to be as simple as possible: moderately wide skirts, not quite reaching the foot, and hip-length jackets. In 1915-1916, war crinolines-ankle length and fluffed with two or three skirt layers-were en vogue; a year later, however, these fell victim to the more economical use of fabric provided by the sack cut. The fashion in 1918 was livened up by large side pockets and skirts that narrowed towards the hem, creating the barrel look of 1919. Most of the fashion salons in Paris had closed. But some wealthy women bought comfortable jersey suits with hip-length jumpers and simple skirts from Gabrielle Chanel in Deauville, thereby establishing her fame. In the United States, especially in New York, clothing manufacturers were active.

The most important novelty of twentieth century women's clothing occurred outside of the fashion world. Long trousers for women were inaugurated, neither by haute couture nor by every-day fashion, but by women's work clothing, which was still mostly borrowed from men. Directly following the war, people worked with what was available, altering uniforms and army tarps or other leftovers, to create civilian clothes.

During the war, the uniform replaced all other suit types, and most tailors-if they stayed in business at all- specialized in its manufacture. After the war, tailors resorted to alterations of uniforms and the reworking of recycled-sometimes fragile-materials into suits which had to be reinforced with buckram, thus creating the socalled starched suit. Men's trousers had very narrow legs all the way to the hem. The trench coat appeared, courtesy of the transition from military into civilian clothes.

The 1920s

1920's fashion

During the 1920s the length of a skirt's hem became, for the first time, a serious fashion question. While the clothes of 1920-1921 were still calf length, and (around 1923) even ankle length for a short time, after 1924 women favored skirts that hardly covered the knee. In 1922-1923, fashion was influenced by the discovery of the grave of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen. Anyone who could afford it, bought a djellaba for a house dress or had their evening dresses decorated with Egyptian ornaments. Otherwise, loose-hanging dresses were characteristic for the time. Mostly they had drop waists and sometimes a pleated hem or godet folds which provided freedom of movement. Daytime clothes had high closings, dressed up with baby-doll or men's collars.

Evening clothes and elaborate society toilettes corresponded in cut to daytime clothes. Evening clothes, however, featured generous front and back décolletage, the front décolletage underlayed with a flesh-colored slip. It was not modern to show one's bosom, and breasts were pressed flat with fabric bands. The simple cut of the evening dress was compensated for by expensive fabrics of lace, gold or silver lamé, loose hanging pearl necklaces, the use of monkey-fur fringe, and extensive embroidery. In 1927, the tendency to lengthen the evening gown's hem set in and the waist returned to its natural place. By 1928 the evening gown was already calf length, while the daytime dress remained knee length until about 1930.

In haute couture, Gabrielle Chanel made her reputation with dresses, jersey suits, and knit jumpers. In 1926 she announced the "little black dress," a black evening dress impressive for its simple elegance. Like Chanel, Jean Patou favored clear lines and extremely simple elegance, beginning with his own collection for the United States. Jeanne Lanvin, in contrast, presented a decidedly feminine, romantic line. Her robes de style (based on historical styles), with their wide paniers, became world famous. Lanvin was also known for her mother-child creations.

Short skirts brought the legs, and thereby rayon stockings, into the picture. Bobs and page-boy haircuts were as typical of the time as were simple, form-fitting toques and cloche hats. Sports became a fashion trend: tennis in a short skirt without stockings, skiing in a Norwegian suit with long knickers, swimming in a one-piece bathing suit without whale-bone reinforcements. The 1920s metropolitan fashion spectrum included the garçonne (female boy) in a pants suit with man's hat and even an Eton crop. In the evenings, the gamin style featured a smoking (tuxedo jacket), or complete smoking suit, and a monocle. And the garçonne also appropriated men's pajamas for household and nighttime wear.

The Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industrials Moderne, held in Paris in 1925, was an epoch making event which later gave the name Art Deco to the period. Among the seventy-two fashion designers, Sonia Delauney created the biggest sensation with her suits and coats in patterns of "simultaneous color contrast."

After 1924, men's suits had a slightly tapered waist, and the trousers widened slightly. Dandys were recognizable by their extremely broad trousers, known as "Oxford bags," and by their exaggeratedly pointed winkle pickers or shimmy shoes. For golf, hiking, or hunting, men wore Norfolk jackets and plus fours.

The 1930s

1930's fashion

At the beginning of the 1930s, clothing was cut to be form-fitting again, with the waist at its natural place. Bodices, with rubber and stretch reinforcements, hugged the body's curves. Shoulder pads and wide lapels, off-the-shoulder collars with flounces, as well as tight belts, all aimed to make the waist appear slimmer. The hem was lengthened with godet folds and pleats from the knee to the calf, providing freedom of movement. Evening gowns were preferably of shimmering satin, and reached to the floor, often with a small "mermaid" train. It was en vogue to have plunging back décolletage, with wide crisscrossing straps, and a waterfall or sweetheart collar. The success of the new body-conscious line can be traced back to the Parisian designer Madeleine Vionnet and her "invention" of the bias cut, whereby material, cut diagonally to the weave, clung to the body and flared out towards the hem like a bell.

Elsa Schiaparelli was not to be outdone on the idea front. In her collections, she worked with trompe l'oeil effects as well as allusions to surrealistic artists. Schiaparelli's wide pagoda shoulders, invented in 1933, had a major influence on everyday fashion. Suits, jackets, and dresses after 1933 were unthinkable without padded shoulders.

In the fascist countries (Italy, Spain, and Germany), women's fashion became a matter of political agitation, as exemplified by the introduction of the German Girls Club (BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädchen) uniform. Alpine costumes also suited the tastes of National Socialist Germany. The world-famous Berlin manufacturers, which had been over 80 percent in Jewish hands, were, for the most part, ruined (i.e., liquidated) due to the "Aryan cleansing."

The year 1936 was one of the most innovative in men's fashion. The double-breasted suit, with four buttons instead of six, created a furor, as did patterned shirts worn with gray flannel suits. Shirts also featured the new kent collars and somewhat wider cravattes, tied into windsor knots. In daywear, three-button gabardine suit and oxford shirts with button-down collars were common.

The 1940s

1940's fashion

During World War II (1939-1945) and the first years following, fashion was dictated by the need for practical, simple clothes and the rationing of resources and materials. In England the government encouraged "utility clothing." In Paris, during the German occupation, only very few haute couture houses remained open. In all countries, special magazines and brochures dispensed advice on remodeling old clothes or how to make new clothes from combining pieces of old ones. Skirts and coats became shorter, suits took on the character of uniforms, and wide shoulders dominated more than ever. Hats and shoes were often hand-made and wool stockings and socks replaced silk. In the United States, Claire McCardell created a furor with her "pop-over" dresses, leotards, and sea-side "diaper suits."

A new epoch in fashion was marked on February 12, 1947, with the opening of Christian Dior's house. He called his first haute couture collection "Ligne Corolle" (calyx line), but the fashion press called it the "New Look," because almost everything about it was new. The simple suit jacket, the small lapels, the narrow wasp waist, which emphasized the hips, and, above all, the narrow shoulders. For the first time in over a decade, there were no shoulder pads. Just as new were the extremely wide calf-length skirt, flat broad-rimmed hats (wagon wheels), high-heeled pumps and long gloves, which lent this daytime wear an impressively elegant flair.

At first, due to the lack of necessary materials, the new style could only be produced slowly, but soon countless private seamstresses were busy fulfilling the dream of the "New Look." In the spring of 1948, Dior's "Ligne Envol" (pencil line) followed, introducing narrow skirts with the famous Dior slit, underlayed with material for walking ease. Nylon stockings were in high demand, leaving shiny rayon and woolen stockings forever in the past.

After the war, a new fashion invention created a lasting impression. On July 5th, in Paris, the French mechanical engineer Louis Réard presented his two-piece bathing suit which he called the bikini. Although there had already been two-piece bathing suits since 1928, Réard's bikini stood out because of its extremely skimpy cut. The bikini, however, was not generally accepted until the late 1960s.

Men's clothing played a rather limited role; uniforms dominated. Trench coats and duffle coats (montys) were all-around coats. The American jazz scene's zoot suit, with its long frock coat and wide trousers, was considered modern.

The 1950s

50's style dress

In the 1950s Paris regained its position as the capital of fashion. Christian Dior dictated the lines-every season he was ready with another: the H-Line of 1954, for example, which rejected the narrow waist for the first time, and the famous A-Line of 1955. Hardly less influential, however, were the designers Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Hubert de Givenchy, Cristobel Balenciaga, and in Italy, Emilio Schuberth and Emilio Pucci. In 1954, Chanel reopened her salon and advertised an instantly famous suit with a loose jacket and slightly flared skirt in direct contrast to Dior's stiffer, more tailored style. In 1957, with Christian Dior's death, Yves Saint Laurent followed in his footsteps. His trapeze, or tent line, wherein he dared to negate the female figure, was a sensational, if controversial, debut success.

Naturally, women had other concerns besides Dior's fashion dictates, but many private seamstresses took cues from one or another haute couture line. The fashion magazines too adapted elite fashions for the average consumer.

The fashion picture at home and abroad was defined by two basic points: the narrow line with its strong body-consciousness and the attention drawn to the hip line by a gathered waistband, and the broad swinging, youthful petticoat. Both tried to create a dreamy wasp waist, magically narrowed by a corset-the guepière-or girdle. In addition to suits and jackets, the shirt dress, with its casual, sporty cut, shirt collar, and cuffed sleeves, was a garment suitable for all occasions.

In cocktail dresses, women favored extreme designs like Dior's cupola or Givenchy's balloon look, whose broad skirt was drawn in sharply at the hem. New synthetic materials like nylon, perlon, dralon, trevira, terylene, elastic, and imitation leather fulfilled the dream of fashion for all. "Drip dry" and "wash and wear" were the magic words of advertising, relegating the iron to the past. For teenage leisure time, there were jeans, capri pants, and ballerina shoes. The childishly-cut short nightgown with bloomers, called the baby doll, was new. Aggressively intellectual teenagers were attracted to French existentialism and wore black turtlenecks, tight black leather clothes, and black stockings instead of transparent nylons.

Carefully coordinated accessories were a part of stylish every day wear. Shoes with rounded tips and square heels evolved in 1955-1956 to their famously pointy shape and stiletto heels.

German winter sports fashion became an international model. Maria Bogner's ski pants, "the Bogner's," became a household word in the United States, as did the first one-pieced elastic ski overall, invented by Bogner in 1955.

After 1953, Italy, with its body-conscious suits, began to compete with traditional English tailoring. On the whole, men's fashions were conservative: nylon shirts were snow white and ties narrow. The Hawaiian shirt was a popular leisure garment. The English Teddy Boys, a teenage fringe group, wore frock coat-like jackets and extremely narrow pants; their hair was styled back over their foreheads in a wave with lotion. The toughs, on the other hand, were known by their black leather outfits.

The 1960s

The years from 1959 to 1963 were a transition period from the decidedly lady-like style of the 1950s to the teenage style of the ensuing years. Teenagers favored wide-swinging petticoats while the mature woman chose narrow sheath dresses and, as an afternoon or cocktail dress, an extravagantly layered look, with a tight-fitting skirt layered under a shorter tulip skirt. The real 1960s fashion began in 1964. "Swinging London" became the fashion metropolis of the youth. Mary Quant and her little-girlish thigh-length smock dresses made headlines. Her mini-style was not intended to be elitist, but popular; thus she marketed her own fashion stockings, without which the mini was hardly wearable. The sharply-angled Vidal Sassoon hair style was also new. The counterpart to the Mary Quant look was Barbara Hulanicki's exotic Biba look from London. Twiggy became the most famous mannequin and the "most expensive beanstalk in the world." Thinness became, from this point on, a requirement of beauty. In 1964, Rudi Gernreich introduced his topless bathing suit, which corresponded to the tendency towards sexual liberation. He also invented the "no bra" brassiere.

Parisian designers participated in youthful unconventionality and ready-to-wear (prêt-à-porter) only reluctantly. Yves Saint Laurent presented clothes with large appliquéd pop-art images in shocking pink, a Mondrian collection with contrasting lines and surfaces, and, in 1966, the transparent look. Paco Rabanne created an uproar with mini sheath dresses of plastic and metal discs and Pierre Cardin's creations featured round holes, "cutouts," as well as molded structures. André Courrège's fashions were the last word in space-age euphoria. His moon maids with silver sequined stretch pants, white synthetic boots, and white sunglasses with slits for seeing, represented pure futurism. His Courrèges-suit, with its geometrically cut jacket and angled cut-out collar, was all the rage. For all opponents of the mini-skirt, trousers were popular in all imaginable forms and lengths, but jeans above all. Pants suits took the place of the traditional suit. Often a super short mini dress would be worn as a tunic over pants. The width of the trouser leg below the knee grew progressively wider. The wider the "bell," the more stylish.

60's hippie dress

For a moment in 1965 it appeared as if the younger generation had said goodbye to the mini skirt, as fashion imitated the film "Dr. Zhivago," with long coats and Russian caps. The hippie and beatnik looks, protesting consumerism, stood in ideological and stylistic opposition to mainstream fashion, and mixed and matched international peasant costumes, like ponchos, Peruvian hats, Eskimo boots, Indian blouses, and Afghani sheepskin jackets. Young people sewed flowers on jeans, wore floppy hats, or showed their naked bodies, painted only with flowers. Creativity was given free reign, under the motto "hand-made is chic": T-shirts were batiked or painted, jeans embroidered, caps sewn, leather-fringed belts braided, silver jewelry twined, vests crocheted, pullovers knit, but the hippie style was swiftly co-opted by the market.

Pierre Cardin's high-necked suits without lapels or collars or with small mandarin collars (or "Nehru") created a furor and were adopted by the Beatles. More radical were the English mods, for whom parkas and Clark shoes were typical. The Beatles' "mop top" hair-do became a generational conflict. After 1965, men favored the colorful ethnic hippie look. The turtle neck sweater and later the T-shirt substituted for the shirt.

The 1970s

"Do as you will," was the fashion motto of the early 1970s. The ideal of the hippies, "we are all equal," set the tone for unisex and folklore looks. Hand-made was in, from batik shirts, knitted shawls, and crocheted caps, to pullover sweaters of hand-spun sheep's wool. Under-statement was cool and second-hand duds were no longer for the needy alone. The brassiere itself fell victim to the general liberation from all restraints. Feminists spoke of the "liberated bosom." Directions from high fashion were lacking; even the Parisian designers found themselves in a crisis. Fashion had to be multifarious, uncomplicated, original, and individual, and the hem length varied between mini, midi, and maxi according to whim and mood. Modern romanticism-the nostalgia wave-lent mini-dresses (still fashionable up to 1973), wraparound tops, wing and flounce sleeves, and bell skirts. Hair was long and softly waved or rolled into corkscrew curls. False eyelashes or painted-on lines magically conjured star-eyes.

Hardly any other fashion created as big a sensation as hot pants in 1971-1972. They were not only worn as super short summer shorts, but also intended for winter with thick wool socks. Hot pants were offset by the beloved maxi coats and high platform shoes. Pants of all kinds provided a relief from the length disputes. There were tight knee-length caddy pants, broad gauchos, knickers, culottes, harem pants, ankle-length drain-pipe trousers, wide Marlene Dietrich trousers, and-still up to 1974-wide bell bottoms. Jeans became the universal clothing, crossing all class and age boundaries. Jackets, pullovers, vests, and T-shirts clung tightly to the body. Pullover sweaters featured witty motifs like trees, houses, or cars. Maxi length party clothes (evening clothes were out) had bold patterns such as Vasarely graphics, pop-art, or Hundertwasser images.

After 1974, a series of looks followed without constituting a single unified style. In 1975 there were caftans and the Chinese look with short quilted jackets. In 1976 the Middle Eastern look dominated, with tunics over harem pants, and, later, the layered look. A master of the folklore mixture was the Japanese designer Kenzo (Takada), whose Parisian boutique "Jungle Jap," had a decided influence. Mainstream fashion, on the other hand, was rather conservative, featuring the umbrella-pleated (or gored) skirt, which came to just below the knee.

In 1976 the fashion press euphorically reported on Yves Saint Laurent's collection "Ballets Russes-Opéra." It was an elegant peasant look with long, wide skirts of shimmering silk and bolero jackets in unexpected color combinations like red, lilac, orange, and pink, delicate sheer blouses with wide sleeves, and golden turbans.

Punk fashion

Beginning in 1977, punk clothing exerted a strong influence on fashion for the next few years. The anti-bourgeois, "no-future" generation shocked with their brutal look: safety pins through cheeks and ear lobes, dog collars and razor blades as necklaces, diabolically made-up eyes, black lips, ripped jeans and T-shirts, torn fishnet stockings, and tough Doc Marten's boots. Their hair, in contrast to their gray and black get-ups, differentiated itself from the mainstream "normals" by its green and red highlights and its spiked (mohawk) styling. Insiders met at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's shop on King's Road, called "Sex" in 1974 and then, later, "Seditionaries" in 1978.

In 1978, the Parisian prêt-à-porter designers, above all Claude Montana, brought the military and punk look onto the runway. Broad "power" shoulders and oversized garments initiated a new fashion silhouette which would become the characteristic style of the 1980s.

The 1975 American book, Dress for Success by John T. Molloy, gave the exile from hippie culture tips on how to market himself with the right clothes, on the power of the white shirt, on how to interpret the codes of tie patterns, and how make it in "big business." Two years later, in 1977, Molloy's sequel followed, The Woman's Dress for Success Book.

The 1980s

The fashion silhouette of the 1980s was defined by over-sized, voluminous gigot (leg of mutton) sleeves and wide padded shoulders which coincided with the fight for women's equal rights. Even eveningwear, which emphasized low-cut necklines and narrow waists, had to have padded shoulders. Hemlines were no longer an issue. Teenagers wore loose mini dresses, but in general skirts extended from below the knee to calf-length. Women wore masculine jackets, short bell-hop jackets or broad-shouldered, box jackets with pants. At the same time, fashion became a sign of prestige and a status symbol, best represented by brand-name labels, and a preference for leather, fur, and gold-colored accessories.

The Japanese avant-garde designers, who attracted a good deal of attention in Europe during the 1980s, stood in sharp contrast to this trend. In the tradition of Japanese clothing, Yohji Yamamoto draped skeins of fabric loosely around the body. In 1981, Rei Kawakubo's fashion company "Comme des Garçons," called the entire Western fashion aesthetic into question. She shredded skirts into fluttering strips, tore material, knotted it together, and layered it crosswise. Black and gray dominated. Issey Miyake was known for his highly experimental use of materials and methods, demonstrated by his rattan bodices inspired by Samurai practice armor in 1982, and his first "Pleats Please" collection of 1989.

In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld became the designer for the haute couture house of Chanel. He reworked the legendary Chanel suit to be new and uncomplicated, and added leather skirts and pants suits. Parisian designers offered a new body consciousness as an alternative to the oversized craze. Thierry Mugler sparkled with corset suits and siren clothes, Jean-Paul Gaultier with skin-tight velvet and grenade bosoms, and Azzedine Alaïa with clinging lace-up clothes.

The American designer style became synonymous with sportswear and clean chic. Ralph Lauren gave tradition a modern face lift with his "country-style" concept. Donna Karan was treasured for her functional "all-day fashion" with jersey bodysuits instead of blouses. Calvin Klein was considered the inventor of designer jeans.

The music scene provided more and more style models. Pop icon Madonna was fascinating as a contemporary Marilyn Monroe. Her appearance in a corset was the impetus of the underwear-as-outerwear craze, featuring bustiers and corsets.

80's disco chick

The fitness craze exerted the greatest influence on everyday fashion in the late 1980s. The ballet dancer's leg warmers, the aerobic fan's leggings, and the bicycle racer's pants appeared in everyday fashion. Leggings available in the wildest patterns, the most garish colors, and the shiniest stretchy fabrics, were worn with blazers or long pullover sweaters.

Towards the end of the decade, the long blazer with straight, knee-length skirt and black opaque stockings became the classic women's business outfit. Evening fashion, and the revival of the cocktail dress, was, in contrast, emphatically feminine. Christian Lacroix, whose first haute couture show in 1987 brought a frenzy of color, became the master of cocktail dresses with jaunty, short tutus and balloon skirts.

In response to massive animal rights' campaigns, the wearing of fur became a "question of conscience," making colorful fake furs and quilted down coats fashionable.

Yohji Yamamoto's new men's fashion, with its flowing, collarless jackets, proffered an alternative to the yuppie's conventional shoulder-padded business suit. Giorgio Armani led the rise of Milan menswear, and the German manufacturer, Boss, achieved international recognition for its men's fashions.

In 1982 Calvin Klein revolutionized men's underwear, making simple ribbed men's briefs a designer item by printing his name in the elastic waistband. In 1985, androgyny became a provocative fashion statement; Jean-Paul Gaultier created skirts for the body-conscious man.

The 1990s

Fashion became a question of "which designer?" with extremely varied styles. In the early 1990s, the Belgian designers Anne Demeulemeester and Martin Margiela started a new style direction with the advent of the grunge and poor-boy look, making Antwerp, which housed designers Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Walter Van Beirendock as well, the new fashion center. The English designer Vivianne Westwood finally received international recognition for her daring reinterpretations of historical styles. London newcomers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen established themselves as chief designers at, respectively, Christian Dior and Givenchy in Paris. Jean-Paul Gaultier continued to be very successful with his underwear fashions, particularly with Madonna at its center. The fashion palette of the Italian designer Gianni Versace spanned from neo-baroque patterns to bondage style, while the house of Gucci, under the direction of the Texan Tom Ford, combined purism and eroticism. Miuccia Prada caught on, with her "bad taste" style, and a successful relaunching of past styles. Giorgio Armani remained the master of purism, while Dolce & Gabbana celebrated women's eroticism with black lingerie and animal prints. Jill Sanders, of Hamburg, perfected her minimalism to international acclaim. The Austrian designer Helmut Lang established himself in New York; his transparent layer look and his mini-malistic lines gave new stimulus to fashion. Alongside the designers, supermodels, like Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford, were central to all fashion events.

Leggings in fashion

In everyday fashion, leggings, in all colors and patterns, dominated at the beginning of the decade. Worn under stylishly transparent, calf-length skirts and long blazers in multi-colored blockings, leggings covered the legs discretely. The transparent look appeared somewhat in mainstream fashion, layered over lace bodysuits, bustiers, and bras. Towards the end of the decade, crinkled shirts, ragged hems, and inside-out seams were accepted. The baguette bag, publicized by Fendi, brought the handbag, after two decades of backpacks, into fashion's center stage.

The marketing of brand names became increasingly important: adults favoring Louis Vuitton, Hermes, or Escada, and teenagers of both sexes favoring sportswear brands like Diesel, Chiemsee, Burton, Nike, Adidas, or Levis. The Italian fashion manufacturer Benetton stimulated heated controversies over its advertising.

Men's fashion was also increasingly determined by designers with clearly differentiated styles, ranging from Giorgio Armani's loosely cut suits to Hemut Lang's body-conscious, relatively high-necked suits and narrow trousers with a satin band on their outward-facing leg seams. Baggy pants and extra-large shirts remained popular with the younger generation. Cargo pants were introduced in 1999 as sportswear.

See also Giorgio Armani; Art Nouveau and Art Deco; Pierre Cardin; Gabrielle (coco) Chanel; Corset; Christian Dior; Europe and America: History of Dress (400-1900 C.E.); Jean-Paul Gaultier; Haute Couture; Karl Lagerfeld; Helmut Lang; Jean Patou; Paul Poiret; Mary Quant; Yves Saint Laurent; Business Suit; Youthquake Fashions.


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Twentieth-Century Fashion