Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When Does Fashion Go Out?

When researching fashion trends of the past it's really hard to tell when the older styles were put aside and forgotten. They usually stay around, being worn by the older folks and those resistant to change, until eventually everyone adopts the new way.

It's kinda like the new iPhones and such. They are the hottest thing in cell phones. But I don't have one. Does that mean my two-year-old phone isn't going to work anymore? I'm going to use it for a long time until it wears out. Eventually I'm sure I'll get some sort of touch phone, but I'll stick with what I have for now.

This is the same sentiment for clothing. I have a favorite skirt from around 2005 that I still wear and isn't much out of style. I'll probably have it in my closet for some time because I love it. And yet, that doesn't prevent me from buying a new skirt today to include in my wardrobe.

All the articles and fashion publications we read from decades past show current trends. Once the new stuff is talked about the old items are lost from the written word.

Take the corded petticoat for instance. Just because the wired crinoline was patented in 1856 doesn't mean the petticoat was discarded immediately. As my five-year-old skirt still is worn, I bet the corded petticoat from 1845 was still worn in 1850 (if it was not worn out of course).

What do you think? How long are fashions worn before they are tossed aside? Would you have continued to wear a corded petticoat when a steel hoop skirt was available?


Annette Bethke said...

I think it would depend on where you were, social class, your thoughts on fashion, etc. I think it is too complicated of a situation to say by 1860 no one wore them.

n4c4c4 said...

You also have to consider where people were located. Those in large cities like Paris and London were exposed to fashion styles that may have taken 2 to 5 years or longer to catch on in rural areas. I just watched Pride & Prejudice, the one with Keira Knightley. At the balls, the younger girls are wearing Regency fashion, but the older women were wearing Georgian style. I thought that was very intuitive of the Costume Designer. Here in New Mexico, it doesn't matter what is in style, the broom skirts, prairie skirts, western wear and more costumy style are always in fashion here.

Laura Perry said...

The Pride & Prejudice example is exactly what I was thinking of. I'm 40-something and I don't wear the same kinds of clothes the teenagers do; I'd look stupid and out of place. Older people tend to be more conservative and change fashions more slowly. There are exceptions, of course, but my elderly friends and relatives largely stick to styles that aren't exactly fashion-forward. There are retailers that cater to these preferences, and I'm sure in the past there were seamstresses who hung onto their 'out-of-fashion' patterns for their older clients.

There's also the issue of budget. Not everyone can afford new clothes when the styles change. Many rural people, and poorer urban people, simply wore their clothes until they wore out before buying or making new.

My living history activities at local historic sites depict poor, rural people. We key to 1860 because we're working at Civil War sites, but the older women all wear 1850s or even 1840s styles. And none of us wear cages, just corded petticoats. Cages were very expensive. I recently read a diary of a mid-19th-century woman who talked about the one woman in town who could afford a cage. So I think budget definitely has something to do with it as well.

Connie said...

I completely agree. I costumed Pride & Prejudice last year for our community theatre. I had more traditional Victorian styles for the older ladies for exactly that reason. And the working class (servants, etc) would likely have worn skirts and tops, since you can get by with fewer skirts. Also, men seem to be even slower to adopt new styles, with older men still in knee breeches while younger men were moving to the long pants. I find the same thing in furnishings -- I've never been able to redecorate to accommodate every new design fashion, so I like to mix in old pieces with new (you know, like real people have).