Crop Top: From Exotic Allure To Flashback Fashion Trend

The crop top was initially popular in warmer parts of the world. The delay in adoption in the West, however, was owed to practical reasons. Crop tops don’t, after all, provide much protection or warmth in cooler climates. That said, the belated adoption of the crop top was also cultural in nature. Crop tops were considered daring, immodest, and exotic. 

Even after they became more common, crop tops caused a stir among fashion critics and modesty advocates alike. Modern wearers of the crop top faced much criticism. However, the garment’s controversial reception also makes it a symbol of feminist autonomy. Let’s take a closer look at how this garment gained popularity in the West and became a culturally significant garment. 

Crop Tops Were Traditionally Worn in Many Cultures

While crop tops are a fairly recent adoption in Western fashion, they’ve been around for centuries in other cultures. The traditional Indian sari was worn over a cropped top called a choli. The choli emerged in North India in the 10th century as part of a traditional three-piece outfit for women.

The choli was the uppermost part of the outfit and was traditionally made of cotton. As the choli evolved, silk was also used in its making, giving the garment a more elegant and sophisticated association.

Western Sensibilities Class the Crop Top as “Exotic”

Initially, a crop top style known as the bedlah was created by cabaret owner Badia Masabni in Egypt. Badia was famous for her dancing clubs across Cairo. Today, she is known as the woman who brought the belly dance to public attention and spearheaded its popularity across the global stage.

Her bedlah was a two-piece costume used to show off the midriff during belly dances. Dancers wore the costume during performances at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. At the time, American audiences associated the bare-midriff look with the exotic dance and people from faraway lands. 

The Rise of the Crop Top in Western Fashion

Although the crop top was initially criticized for its revealing nature, it eventually increased in prominence in American and European fashion circles. Relatively conservative versions of the crop top rose to popularity in America as early as the 1940s. They were typically worn with high-waisted skirts, thus showing off very little skin. 

More daring versions became popular in the 1970s when the crop top became an outfit of choice for daring sex symbols. In due time, high-profile celebrities like Madonna and Cher began sporting the crop top in various guises. By the 1990s, this iconic piece of clothing became an important element of fashionable dress. Crop tops were not limited to women, either. Men frequently wore them as fashion statements, as well. 

The modern-day version is something of a flashback to these trends in the 80s and 90s. Today, women frequently wear crop tops as a statement about liberation and body positivity, especially within the plus-size fashion scene. 

Hula Skirts: Fresh, Floral Fashion

Historically, hula skirts have conjured up images of women in grass skirts and coconut bras dancing on beautiful tropical beaches. While the ocean scene isn’t too far off, the rest of the image is the product of 19th century Western stereotyping.

Traditional hula skirts were made of ti leaves or kapa cloth. Additionally, the coconut was never worn as an upper-body covering. The traditional hula dance is a moving expression of faith in powerful goddesses.

The Polynesian Triangle, according to the New World Encyclopedia, consists of islands within the geographic triangle of New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, and Easter Island. The traditional hula skirt is closely intermingled with matters of the faith on these islands. It is not known for certain the true origin of the hula skirt within the Polynesian Triangle. Historians also do not agree on when the skirt first materialized.

Today this garment is a beautiful skirt with a silhouette in between that of a full and an A-line skirt, with a distinctive smocked waistband.

The Hawaiian Islands and the Hula Skirt

The hula skirt is popularly associated with the Hawaiian Islands. It was worn during the sacred hula kahiko dance. At the time, the hula skirts were made of ti leaf and kapa cloth. The original construction of the skirt was changed as it gained in popularity, simply because these traditional materials were unavailable in the contiguous United States.

In the 19th century, it was common to see hula dancers portrayed in Vaudeville and early motion pictures wearing grass skirts. The Polynesians created the fabric for authentic hula skirts, the kapa cloth, from the bark of a mulberry plant called Wauke.

In Hawaii, this plant-based cloth was produced by first undergoing a fermentation process. The extra step of fermenting the Wauke bark resulted in a textile of finer quality. From then on, making kapa cloth became a highly skilled art form. The fabric is produced by pounding the fibrous bark of the mulberry plant into sheets.

Watermarks, floral patterns, and distinctive designs made from plant dyes further enhance the beauty of the Hawaiian kapa cloth. Once the designs are printed to the kapa cloth, plant resin is applied to set the dyes.

How The Hula Skirt Became Taboo

Unfortunately, with the influx of foreign influences to the islands in the early 19th century, the hula skirt and its associated dance of worship were banned. The cultural and religious beliefs of European Christian missionaries clashed with the traditional beliefs on the islands.

Shortly after the death of King Kamehameha I, his wife, Queen Ka’ahumanu, came to power. The queen had converted to Christianity, and in the year 1830, she made it illegal to perform the hula. The Queen’s rule ended with her death just two years later. However, many textile, cultural, and religious traditions were lost to the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands because of her royal edicts.

Fortunately, her successor, King Kamehameha III, was more friendly toward the original beliefs of his people and ignored the ban on hula dances. In the mid 19th century, hula dancing was again legal. However, heavily regulated performances could only commence after the payment of expensive fees. 

The Kapa Cloth: Then and Now

As the hula dance saw a decline, so did the production of the kapa cloth. Foreign trends soon dominated the islands and those who produced kapa cloth took their knowledge of the craft to the grave. Today’s hula skirts are brightly colored with wide, smocked, and elasticized waistbands.

Modern hula skirts are typically made from blends of cotton and polyester rather than the traditional kapa cloth. In the 1970s, a resurgence of respect for cultural heritage resulted in a renewed interest in the virtually lost art of kapa making. The 20th-century revival of the art faced many challenges, as modern textile makers had to produce the cloth with very little information to guide them.

Today, it is extremely difficult to find clothing made from the Wauke bark. Skirts may be called kapa or tapa skirts, but they are generally a reference to the design elements rather than the actual material of the garment. Modern hula skirts are overwhelmingly produced from varying blends of modern fabrics like cotton and polyester. Although kapa cloth is rare, the modern hula skirts are beautiful and impart a unique character to the lovely Hula Kahiko and Hula Auana dancers.

Dungarees: The Working Man’s Pants

Dungaree has a long history as durable fabric for work attire.

Dungarees: an apparently simple clothing item packed with a big historical punch. You have probably donned a pair of these pants once or twice in your life, or maybe you’re an avid wearer. Not only do dungarees have a storied past, but they are also making fashion waves in the present. 

Beginnings

Dungarees were born in a small, dockside village in India called Dongri. The blue or white-colored cotton cloth produced here, “dungri,” was sturdy, durable, and thick — a perfect medium for workwear. British colonialism eventually brought the fabric to England, where the cloth’s name morphed into “dungaree,” the word we know today. The late 1700s saw the use of dungarees as an outfit for factory workers, farmers, mechanics, and slaves. 

In Great Britain, the term refers strictly to overalls. In America, it can refer to fabric, a pair of jean trousers, or overalls. As early as the mid-1800s, with the assistance of businessmen Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, dungarees came into use across America as the uniforms of manual laborers and military men. In fact, various professions were assigned specific types of dungarees. For example, railroad workers had vertical striped overalls and painters had white overalls. Dungarees were also used as utility wear for members of the U.S. Navy during World War One. 

Modern Dungaree

Until the middle of the twentieth century, dungaree was not a woman’s fabric, nor was it worn by members of the upper class. This all changed as the age of motion pictures was ushered in. Audiences across America watched dungarees turn into an essential look for cowboys, greasers, and rebels. Many celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and Elton John, began to sport dungarees. Soon, the clothing changed from a fashion faux-pas to a must-wear look. 

Today, dungarees are being sold by lots of major fashion retailers, such as Forever 21, Urban OutfittersFree People, and Nordstrom.

Some current celebrities who have been seen showing off their own pairs of dungarees include Milly Bobby Brown from the popular Netflix original Stranger Things and Elizabeth Moss from Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson, Taylor Swift, and even Beyoncé have also joined in on the trend. While dungarees today are very popular among women, they are having a moment in men’s fashion, as well. Male celebrities like actor Chris Pine, musician ASAP Rocky, actor Ashton Kutcher, and musician Chance the Rapper have all stepped out in dungarees. 

Dungaree vs. Denim

It’s easy to assume that dungaree is simply another word for denim. The two fabrics are very similar and are useful for tough, sturdy clothing pieces. In fact, dungaree is often dubbed “blue-denim.” In reality, the two fabrics are only somewhat distinct. Dungaree fabric is traditionally made from yarn pre-dyed with indigo, while denim is dyed after weaving. When dungaree is being woven, the warp threads (threads that run vertically) are pre-dyed blue, while the weft threads (threads that run horizontally) are left white. Aside from this slight difference, dungaree and denim are identical. 

Fit and Feel

Dungarees began as an uncomfortable, unfashionable and poorly-fitting garment. Much has changed since their inception; you can now buy a pair of fantastically comfortable and stylish dungarees. Most are now sold pre-shrunken, which means that the buyer does not have to worry about his or her pair of dungarees shrinking after the first wash. Instead, they can walk out of the store with the perfect size. You can also buy dungarees in a variety of finishes, from acid-wash to dark-wash, and styles, from flared to super-skinny. If you don’t already have a favorite style, start exploring. Your options are nearly endless. Nowadays, the term “dungarees” is interchangeable with “jeans” and “denims,” so keep that in mind. 

For more information in the realm of dungarees, check out our post on jeans. Happy reading! 

The Shawl: A Timeless Look with Versatile Purpose

Shawls come in many shapes and styles.

What makes a shawl a shawl? It’s not the color, the material, the shape, or even the size. After all, shawls come in a wide variety of hues and patterns. They can be delicately knitted and lacy or thick like a blanket. They can be shaped like triangles or ovals. They can be large or small. The one thing that makes a shawl a shawl is the way that it’s worn: draped over the shoulders.

Beyond that common ground, the many different shawls of the world have the characteristics of their time, culture, and purpose. 

Shawls Have Been Around as Long as Humans

In one form or another, shawls have been a part of human history for as long as we know. Their earliest primary purpose was likely to provide warmth. They are an easy way to layer on protection and trap body heat without having to learn any complicated sewing techniques or patterns.

The word shawl comes from the Indian world shal. The earliest versions of garments were traditionally worn by men.

Shawls began to circulate throughout Europe in the late 1700s. Many of these shawls were Asian in origin, and the most popular version was made from pashmina. The word pashmina has Persian roots and refers to a specific kind of wool that is easy to weave. This wool comes from a particular breed of goats found in the Himalayas in Kashmir. This material and the beautiful shawls created from it can be traced back to the 3rd century B.C.E. At the time, the material was only worn by royalty, as it was rare and highly valued. 

In the 15th century, the ruler of Kashmir is believed to have founded the region’s wool industry. This is why people today in Western cultures refer to pashmina as “cashmere.” To this day, the soft material is associated with luxury and preciousness, and pashmina shawls are still popular and coveted items. They’re primarily worn by women and provide warmth, beauty, and modesty. They are often brightly colored and ornately designed with intricate patterns. 

The popularity of shawls in Europe is historically connected to the rise of neoclassical women’s fashion. In the late 1700s, women’s dresses tended to be made out of flimsy material influenced by Greek and Roman attire. These dresses may have been graceful, but they were not very warm. Shawls provided an easy way to have comfort and warmth while still being fashionable. 

Shawls Provide DIY Fashion

While the 20th century saw a rise in the use of elegant shawls to accompany evening gowns, shawls have also found popularity in a much more everyday, down-to-earth style.

Modern shawls truly come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and colors. They are also a popular item for textile artists (amateur and professional) to make themselves. With no holes for the arms or the head to worry about and no sizing required, shawls can offer a relatively simple pattern for beginners. At the same time, the versatility and relatively small size of many shawl pattern options provide room to experiment and explore creative ideas for even the most seasoned of creators. They do not use a tremendous amount of yarn, making them an affordable option, as well. 

Today’s shawls are primarily worn by women and might be used for added warmth. Also, they can be used to simply add a pop of color and texture to an otherwise simple outfit or to exist as a creative expression of individuality and artistic effort. Whether short or long, bright or muted, angular or round, shawls have been part of human ingenuity since antiquity and appear poised to stay around for a long time. 

Jumpsuits: From Parachuting to Wedding Day Attire

Jumpsuits have been worn for decades in different areas of fashion.

The jumpsuit is an iconic piece of fashion that stands out for its unique appearance and sense of being cool (and maybe even a little aloof). The most recent resurgence of the jumpsuit in women’s fashion is seen as a throwback to designs from the 1970s and 1980s. While this homage is certainly present, there is a much longer and more storied history to the one-piece outfit. 

Jumpsuits Got Their Name from Literal Jumps

First, let’s take a look at what a jumpsuit is. Put simply, it’s a one-piece outfit with pant legs. It typically has sleeves, but sleeveless versions are common in the modern-day fashionable iterations. The jumpsuit has some close relatives, including the jumper—a one-piece dress that is often worn over a shirt or blouse and is most common for young girls—and the romper, which is a one-piece outfit that has shorts on the bottom instead of pants legs. 

The early appearance of jumpsuits was very practical in nature, and their long sleeves and legs were designed with protection in mind. Jumpsuits got their name because they were worn by people (typically men, at the time) jumping out of airplanes with parachutes. They quickly spread as uniforms among other, often male-dominated, dangerous lines of work such as race car drivers and pilots. 

The jump from being primarily an article of men’s clothing to one that is mostly associated with women is also rooted in the tough nature of the labor done while wearing such a garment. In the World War II era, women adopted the jumpsuit as both a symbol of their empowerment and capabilities and as a practical item to wear while completing the manual labor necessary for war. 

Fashion and Function Merge

Today’s jumpsuits are more fashionable than the often plain versions used as uniforms for dangerous jobs. But their utilitarian influence remains as part of their allure. Today, jumpsuits are often seen as a way to look put together without having to go to great lengths to get ready in the morning. The ease of having a single garment to put on instead of layering together and meticulously matching multiple garments is desirable for its simplicity. Why spend hours picking out the right clothes when you can put on one single piece and be ready for the day? 

At the same time, the pants legs make them more versatile than many dresses. As the phrase “wears the pants” denotes, pants are seen as symbols of power, independence, and competence. In 2018, fashion retailer Ann Taylor launched a “pants are power” campaign to highlight how important pants are to women’s independence and fight for equality. Adding them to an otherwise flowing and fashionable look of a feminine pantsuit demonstrates a woman who refuses to be put in a box. 

There is another trend that takes this combination of feminine form and powerful function to an even greater height: the bridal pantsuit. Perhaps worn most famously by Solange Knowles, the bridal jumpsuit combines the luxurious fabric and delicate hues of typical bridal wear with the functionality and silhouette of the jumpsuit. In Knowles’ case, choosing to wear a jumpsuit made it easy for her to take a wedding day bike ride. 

Overall, the jumpsuit remains a symbol of power and strength, just as its uniform origins demanded of it. Today, though, power and strength are combined with beauty, femininity, and grace to demonstrate that no one has to choose between looking great and being strong. Whether the wearer is on the dance floor, out running errands, under the hood of a car, jumping from a plane, or even walking down the aisle on her wedding day, the jumpsuit is an article of clothing that has seen it all. 

World Garment: Maternity Dresses Then and Now

Pregnancy dress styles have changed over time.

So, you’re carrying your little bundle of joy for the next nine months, and you want to look fashionable while wearing something that’s easy on your tummy, right? Most women prefer wearing maternity dresses because of their flexibility between grace and comfort. But, throughout time, maternity dresses have evolved to adapt to changing styles and the need to still be comfortable. Learn more about the origins of maternity dresses and why they’re popular among pregnant women. 

Where Did The Maternity Dress Originate? 

Eastern Europe: Medieval Times 

An apron was once worn as maternity wear. According to the Huffington Post, “It was worn to cover the space left open by tops that no longer fit the belly or reached down to the pant line.” It continued to be worn for centuries, throughout the Middles Ages and beyond. Yes, an apron!

Western Culture: 14th Century 

However, maternity clothes were first conceived (pun intended) during the 14th century. Western culture adopted clothing that introduced more of a woman’s feminine features. Maternity dresses began to hug a woman’s features a little more. The seams were let out on most dresses, but wealthy women would have their dresses tailored for their pregnancy. 

The Baroque Period: 1600-1750

The first recorded maternity gown was the Adrienne Dress, which was known for its empire waist, voluminous folds, and flowing fabric. During Medieval times, especially Elizabethan England, maternity dresses included laced bodices with center panels to account for a woman’s growing waistline. It’s important to note that, during that time, all classes of dresses could be easily adapted for pregnancy. During the Georgian era (1714-1811), maternity dresses became more practical. The sacque gown was also popular in the early 1800s. 

This style of dress had no seams, just flowing fabric. Napoleon’s first wife, Empress Josephine, was responsible for making this style popular. In fact, bibs were added to the bust line to make it easier to breastfeed. Today, the style has been revisited by stars like the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and the late Princess Diana. 

20th Century-Now 

For many decades into the 20th century, maternity wear still sat on the back burner (particularly maternity dresses). Another sleeveless garment, the Pinafore was worn as an apron and could be bought in nursery shops. Maternity clothing was never considered profitable among designers until the formation of the paparazzi. Lane Bryant catered to women with maternity dresses when catalogs started to gain ground during the 80s.

In the late 90s, the media began taking an interest in pregnant celebrities, and the stars became inclined to look good in front of the camera. Celebrity moms-to-be like Angelina Jolie-Pitt and Katie Holmes made designers take note in the early 2000s. During this time, the maternity clothes industry grew by 10 percent as designers like Michael Stars and Juicy Couture began to create plunging V-necks, floor scraping maternity gowns, and chic tops for a growing baby bump.

Today, maternity gowns have no boundaries. Many women aim to look chic and smooth during pregnancy. Maternity dresses aim to highlight that women still live very active, fit lifestyles while they’re pregnant. Brands like Spanx have developed popular maternity wear for pregnant women that includes form-fitting, slimming, and body shaping dresses for expecting moms-to-be. 

Conclusion 

Women are no longer limited in their maternity fashion dress styles. A body-conscious society with an emphasis on fashion has caused maternity dresses to be ever-evolving. From working expectant mothers to celebrities, women are opting to look stylish during their pregnancy.

The Sweatshirt Is Always There to Keep Us Warm

Sweatshirts have a long history in fashion.

From a basic warm pullover for athletes to the world of high fashion, the ever-present sweatshirt has become one of the most popular garments for warmth and comfort for both men and women. It is also a garment with cultural significance and an advertising medium.

Sweatshirt History

The sweatshirt made its appearance as a recognized word in the dictionary around 1925 when the long sleeve, collarless pullover became popular with athletes. This utilitarian garment, originally made from heavy, fleecy cotton, provided warmth while it absorbed perspiration. It was used primarily by male athletes while training for sports.

The original sweatshirt did not have pockets or the piece of material now sewn to the lower front of the garment to keep hands warm. The zipper front “hoodie” was introduced by Champion Athletic wear in the 1930s for sports teams to wear while they were on the sidelines during cold weather. Football team players and people in the stands used this comfortable sweatshirt for warmth, and they could even cover their heads with the hood that was adjusted with a pull string. Pockets were added to the hooded sweatshirts that also featured the team colors and logos. 

Sweatsuits

The popularity of the sweatshirt, with either the tradition crew neck or a zipper and hood, spread rapidly. A pullover with a short zipper and a collar was also made from sweatshirt material. The sweatshirt became outerwear worn over t-shirts, collared shirts, and other tops with short or long sleeves.

Loose-fitting sweatpants were made from the same material, often with pockets and an adjustable elastic waist along with elastic at the ankles. The pants may also have the ribbed knit found at the wrist of most sweatshirts at the ankles. They matched the sweatshirts to form sweatsuits. The ribbed knitted material around the wrists of sweatshirts offers a tight and warm fit. 

The sweatsuit remains popular with joggers, runners, and other athletes. Sweatshirts and pants are made for both men and women. This style, also known as a tracksuit, was later designed in other fabrics with added colorful details, logos, and trims.

An Advertising Medium

College, universities, and even high schools began to add their names and logos to sweatshirts in the 1950s and 60s. They were sold to students and alumni who still wear them with pride. 

If educational institutions and sports teams can advertise, anyone can! Businesses began handing out sweatshirts to employees with the company name and logo emblazoned on the back or front of the shirts. Catch-phrases and slogans were added to the sweatshirts.

The manufacturer’s logo also appears on many sweatshirts and pants. The Nike “swoosh” is probably the most recognized logo, but Adidas, Puma, and other sportswear companies make sure everyone knows their name on sweatshirts and other athletic wear.

Cultural Significance

Colorful sweatsuits with hoodies became the uniform of the Hip-Hop movement that started in the South Bronx in the 1970s. The loose-fitting garments offered freedom of movement for street dancers who added trainers, hats and gold jewelry to the costume.

Skateboarders adopted sweatshirts and pants for warmth, as well as for protection if they landed on the pavement. Surfers used sweatshirts for warmth after leaving the ocean. Sylvester Stallone added to the popularity of the hooded sweatshirt in his iconic movie Rocky in 1976.

High Fashion

Clothing designers recognized the popularity of the loose-fitting and warm sweatshirts, so they began to modify the clothing for people who wanted a little more style. Norma Kamali designed an entire collection for women using sweatshirt material in the 1980s. Dolce and Gabbana created a hooded sweatshirt with a message that said “l’Hip-Hop C’est Chic,” while Michael Kors added a fur vest over the sweatshirt! 

The sweatshirt continues to be popular throughout the world where men and women need warm garments. The styles include a pullover with a hood and pockets, the zipper hoodie, collared versions, and the classic crewneck. The fabrics range from lighter weight cotton knits to heavy cotton and blends with soft fleece linings. Sweatshirts and pants come in all sizes and colors to fit people of any size. It is the ultimate warm and comfortable garment that will always be with us.

The Waistcoat: Stand Out Like a Noble

The waistcoat (or vest, as Americans tend to call it) has gone through several transformations since its introduction in the 17th century. While both shape and size have changed considerably, so has the garment’s association. It has gone from being a flashy show of opulence to a more muted display of somberness and back again. Today’s waistcoats are typically reserved for special events or for those with high-profile careers where dressing formally is an everyday requirement. 

Let’s take a closer look at the many ways this garment has been used over the years. 

King Charles II Kicks Off the Trend

King Charles II was facing a dire time in his reign. His people had undergone the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, and it did not seem appropriate for the king to be decked out in flashy lace while most of his subjects were in mourning and recovery. The French court was known for its excessiveness, so he wanted a style that was pared-down, simpler, and would use fewer lavish materials. The waistcoat was a fitted, knee-length garment that had cuff-length sleeves. 

By 1670, nobility across the land wore the trend, but they had forgotten or discarded the king’s initial desire for understatement. Instead, they used the trend to stand out. The designs became more and more lavish. At the same time, the shape and size began to change. It grew shorter, and collars and sleeves became less common as well. 

Waistcoats for Sporting Men and Women

By the 18th century, British waistcoats were popular for both men and women, particularly for sporting activities. This trend continues to this day as the waistcoat is considered a staple of British “country” clothing. The most iconic of these waistcoats is the tweed variety. 

While waistcoats are primarily considered to be men’s clothing, women have similar garments. Women’s versions became more popular in the late 19th century. These short bodices would be worn over a full evening gown, giving the silhouette a sharp contrast. 

The Men’s Suit Evolves

At one point in the evolution of the waistcoat, it was popular to wear one under a jacket with a sash or buttoned girdle around the waist. This may sound familiar as it is the precursor to today’s modern men’s formal suit, complete with cummerbund for the most formal modern events. 

While today’s version is mostly associated with weddings, there was a time when the three-piece suit was considered everyday wear for just about every man. The reason? They had to know what time it was, and the waistcoat provided a convenient pocket in which to store a watch. As the trend moved to wristwatches, though, there was less need for a waistcoat, and it ceased to be a widespread daily piece of attire. 

In the 1960s, the waistcoat was again adapted, this time to fit the needs of the countercultural hippie subgroup. Their version was still form-fitting and buttoned up, but it was longer—often reaching to the knees. They also added the colors and patterns that have come to be associated with hippie culture including floral designs and patchwork in bright colors. 

The Dolce and Gabbana spring 1993 line took influence from these hippie versions of the waistcoat. Female models walked the runway sporting chokers adorned with peace signs and colorful versions of suits and vests. The brand continues to play with suits (including waistcoats) for women as an androgynous and chic display of fashion. 

Today, the waistcoat is not considered an item of everyday wear except for in elite circles. While some high-level executives and lawyers may don a waistcoat on a daily basis, most people see them as special occasion attire. Even on these special occasions, they tend to be more muted in color and style and rarely have the flash and detail that they had when associated with nobility. However, the waistcoat has seen many different twists and turns in its evolution, and maybe we will one day see a return to the bright and flashy versions of yesteryear.  

Bohemian Dress: A Revolutionary History

In reference to fashion, many people think the word “Bohemian” refers to the style’s origins in the central European area once known as Bohemia, but this is a common misconception. In fact, bohemian dress earned its name because the early 19th century artists, intellectuals, writers, and free-spirits with which the fashion was affiliated were assumed to be gypsies, who were mistakenly thought to come from Bohemia in central Europe. Today, the term is associated with anyone or anything that is socially unconventional or offbeat, especially in an artistic way. The bohemian style reflects this with its flowing lines, gauzy fabrics, loose silhouettes, and unconventional artistic prints, but it emerged as a way of taking even the simplest of fashion to new artistic heights.

The Emergence of Bohemian Dress

As Elizabeth Wilson notes, bohemian dress emerged in post-Revolutionary France at a time when the status of fashion, much like the status of the artist herself, was evolving. Bohemian dress signaled a new way of thinking wherein one’s clothing reflected the inner self rather than simply signifying social class or profession. Art and fashion were interlinked for bohemians, who used fashion to extend art into everyday life. By using themselves as canvases upon which clothing became a work of art in its own right, bohemians resisted being seen merely as impoverished artists, no matter how humble the garments themselves might be. Today, the label “bohemian” has become a catch-all term for clothing that is off-beat and reflects artistic leanings. Once considered unconventional, the styles that early bohemian dress inspired are now staples of mainstream fashion in the 21st century.

Romantic Influences

Wilson notes that the emergence of bohemian styles coincided with the 19th-century Romantic movement’s new vision of the artist-as-genius. Rather than just being craftspeople, artists were now seen as possessing special creative qualities that made them distinct from everyone else. To reflect this in their clothing, the Romantics preferred “rich materials and colors, wide-brimmed hats, and long flowing curls,” which became the beginning of the bohemian style.

Additionally, both the stories of Henri Murger and the emergence of male dandyism, in turn, played a role in creating this iconic style of dress. Where Murger’s stories described impoverished artists in disheveled threadbare clothing, Dandyism highlighted the importance of self-expression through dress, especially in ways that later influenced gender-bending styles of bohemian attire. Murger’s stories, the Bohemian lifestyle, and Bohemian dress later influenced Giacomo Puccini’s widely popular 1896 opera La Bohème, which in turn influenced many 20th-century bohemians.

Evolution of Term

In the late 19th century, dress reformers like the Pre-Raphaelites adopted bohemian styles while pushing to make fashion more wearable and comfortable, especially for women. Vasily Kandinsky’s famous Arts and Crafts movement also adopted the style because of their interest in roomier waistlines, greater ease of movement, and less restrictive sleeves for working artists. Aesthetically, bohemians pushed for innovative styles inspired by the artistic counter-cultures that favored them, making them popular with anyone who wanted to go against the grain of mainstream fashion. Over time, bohemianism was increasingly seen as the fashion of rebellion, counter-culture, and non-conformity. By the early twentieth century, bohemianism was also associated with gender-bending fashion and early LGBTQ culture. The term was especially common among American lesbians in the 1930s, who self-identified as bohemians to signify preferences.

Modern Bohemian Trends

The development of mass media after 1945 brought the term into popular use, and bohemian dress, in turn, began splintering into different sub-styles. Beatnik culture, for instance, favored “white lips, black kohl-ringed eyes, peasant skirts, black stockings, and ‘arty’ jewelry.” Later, hippies adopted the bohemian style, adding flared silhouettes, various types of fringe, ethnic-inspired clothing, and beadwork to their repertoire.

Today, the style is most evident in counter-culture fashion like the goth style and in what is sometimes called boho-chic to refer to peasant skirts and tops, flowing hair, and natural jewelry. Boho-chic has been especially popular throughout the early 2000s with celebrities like Nicole Richie, Jennifer Aniston, Blake Lively, and Selena Gomez popularizing bohemian-inspired looks. Timeless, creative, and carefree, the bohemian style has stood the test of time and will likely continue to be around for generations to come.

The Bikini: Making Waves for Decades

When romping around the beach or laying out poolside, the sun beating down in waves of blistering heat, the least amount of clothing possible is necessary. Cue: the bikini. An inter-continental staple, the bikini has been around for longer than one might expect. 

Ancient Ties

The first appearance of bikini-esque wear takes us back to ancient Greece and Rome. Artifacts sourced from these eras, such as a mosaic at the Piazza Armerina in Sicily, display women gymnasts and athletes wearing bandeau-style tops and brief style bottoms. As it turns out, the ancient Greeks and Romans were far ahead of their time; no garment so revealing came into fashion between then and the mid-1900s. 

Building Up to the Bikini

In the Victorian era, swimming was a wildly elaborate concealment process. Women used a cart called a “bathing machine.” A woman would enter the cart to change into her full-coverage bathing clothes, have a horse pull her cart into the sea, and finally disembark, slipping unseen into the water. 

In the early 1900s, swimming legend Annette Kellerman found herself facing indecent exposure charges after donning a one-piece, tank suit at a beach in Boston. Soon after, a wool, knitted one-piece, complete with a cap and stockings, became classic beach garb for women.  

In the early 1940s, what we might now consider to be a high-waisted bikini became appropriate. Stars like Ava Gardner and Esther Williams popularized this trend. Few took issue with the swimwear; the concealment of all skin below the bellybutton satiated the masses.

Birth of the Modern Bikini

The summer of 1946 ushered in the first bikini and the world was scandalized. At a poolside fashion show, a designer named Jacques Heim debuted what he called the “atome,” a perhaps distasteful nod to the recently developed atomic bombs and a suggestion that the clothing garment might have a similar impact. Shortly after, on July 5th of 1946, rival designer Louis Réard debuted an even tinier piece. He named his design “le bikini,” named for the United States’ atomic testing site, Bikini Atoll. He too was suggesting equal monument to the bomb. 

The backlash to the introduction of the never-before-seen bikini, or rather, the never-before-seen parts of a woman’s body, was enormous. Americans firmly believed that the bikini would never make it to their shores. In countries like Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the swimsuit was immediately banned. The outfit was taboo. 

Bound for the States

Harper’s Bazaar became the first magazine to promote the bikini in the United States, despite iconic fashion editor Diana Vreeland’s comment that it revealed “everything about a girl except her mother’s maiden name.” However, for about a decade afterward, the bikini was on a slow climb to popularity. By 1960, it was an American staple. Singer Brian Hyland solidified the trend with his hit song, “Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

Throughout the next few decades, the bikini only grew in fashion fame. James Bond female protagonist Ursula Andress wore a bikini for her role in 1962, designer Rudi Gernreich debuted his androgynous “monokini” in 1964, and the very first Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue came out in 1967.

Today, nearly every female celebrity, from Kylie Jenner to Heidi Klum to Simone Mariposa has rocked a bikini in public. New styles have cropped up, like the high-neck, the one-shoulder, the ruched bottoms, the thong, and the bandeau top. Even the 1940s high-waisted bikini look is having a moment in modern fashion. 

Despite a history of scandal and unstable footing, the bikini is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it’s about time for an update to the classic beach look. What up-and-coming swimwear style is destined to shake up the world next?