Fashion History. Evolution and changes.
Fashion? Yes, a frivolous thing, a triviality compared with health, love or death. In fact, fashion has not always been important. If we think about old Greek or Roman civilizations, we see the little consideration they had for dressing and its limited progress during centuries. Simple tunics and fabrics screwed to the body. Only in the end of the Roman empire, coinciding with its Christianization, motives began to be most complicated, a style that will last during the Byzantine period: see the mosaics of Justinian and Theodora in Ravenna (Italy).
Neither the Middle Ages were a good period for fashion. Repetitive designs, because they only focused on looking for beautiful fabrics and dyes, most came from the East through Constantinople (Istanbul). Precisely, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and the routes to Orient were cut, Europe will start to think about its own patterns and artists as Michelangelo will design the uniforms of the guards of the Vatican.
We can see this new like through the Renaissance paintings, more and more luxurious, and progressing quickly.
Raphael Sanzio has left us different portraits of smart women with expensive dresses and hats. Particularly, I like this one of Jeanne d’Aragon.
But it was in the Baroque years when fashion started to be really important, and rich people began to compete to be more stylish, both men and women. Velazquez painted the eternal Meninas with their unrepeatable fantastic big skirts and wigs of loops and in France, the king Luis XIV started to promote fashion laying the foundations of French distinction (see the portrait of Luis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud).
During these years, America has a luxurious fashion too and, for example, the actress known as La Perricholi, lover of the Viceroy Amat in Lima (Peru) used to sew rubies on her clothes.
The Industrial Revolution and the new democratic ideas of the American and French revolution started to simplify the fashion and in the 20th century, with the incorporation of the woman into the work, feminine fashion had a complete change, a revolution leaded by Coco Chanel.
Nevertheless, Impressionist artists and their new everyday themes have left us a great number of paintings which represent the colorist fashion at the end of the 19th century: Renoir painted happy parties; Degas smart dancers; Pissarro the fashion for the countryside; Sorolla for the beach; Gauguin the exotic dresses of Taiti; Mary Cassatt tender mothers… a great end for this long marriage between artist and fashion.
With the invention of the photography and the search of new ways of expression in painting (Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract, Action Painting, Land art, Body art…), fashion will be more and more represented in photos and magazines. However, I would like to name Frida Kahlo and her self-portraits with traditional Mexican dresses and Tamara de Lempicka with her sophisticated post-war women.
Art is a whole world, we can appreciate it from different points of view. It could be interesting to focus on the way of dressing of its protagonists. Why not?