Wednesday, December 3, 2008

100 years of fashion

My last post reminded me of an illustration I did for the Kansas City Star about ten years ago. I was asked to create an illustration that represented the last 100 years of fashion, from 1900 to 2000. Once I started researching what to illustrate for each decade it became a very illuminating and fascinating project. Fashion might be considered silly and without merit but when you look back at what women wore each decade during those years, it mirrors what was happening in the world at that time. For me it was a very interesting and valid way of interpreting history, especially with what women were doing to achieve more freedom and equality.

The reason I thought of the illustration was because of the incredibly big skirt and the incredibly small waist of the woman feeding the squirrel in that Christmas greeting card. It reminded me of Dior's "New Look." It's my first clue in trying to figure out which era that greeting card belongs. I still need to research it a bit more because it could be from the 30s (going by the typeface) or the 50s (going by the paper texture). Something to research but in the meantime, the newspaper illustration is more interesting. :-)

Christian Dior came up with his "New Look" after World War II ended. During the war women  were needed in the workforce but when the war ended, women returned to the role as "homemaker."During the war, nothing was wasted, including fabric, but after the war there was an economic boom and Dior created dresses that had huge, huge skirts that used a lot of fabric but with incredibly cinched waists (his inspiration came from the Gibson girls as well as pre-Civil War attire). Besides wearing a girdle, a corset was worn over the girdle to cinch the waist in even more. Well, this was not too practical for a lot of women and before you know it things changed a lot and became the 1960s. 


I find it incredibly amazing to see how much change happened in the world from the 1900s to the 1920s. The Gibson Girl and her shirtwaist (which was actually a new fashion style because women were entering the workforce) became the flapper in the 1920s. Women were clothed from under the chin to their feet and in 20 years, they were sleeveless, without corsets (although bras started to be manufactured in the 20s) and they exposed their legs. Lots of things were happening in the first 20 years of the 20th century-the right for women to vote with the 19th amendment passing (which took decades...at least five of them), the invention of radio, movies, automobile production, airlines, food refrigeration, etc.

Fashion is decidedly personal and casual these days. The only thing looking 1990s in my 1990s depiction is the zigzag parted hair but ten years later, she really doesn't look that dated. Makes you kind of wonder what will happen next because women's fashion doesn't seem to have those extreme swings anymore. Makes you kind of hopeful to see where the world is headed in the future since things have sort of settled down fashionwise. That some sort of equality (for everyone) has almost been reached.