In honor of DRESSTEMBER, here are some bet-you-didn’t know factoids about fashion and dresses!
1. The first articles of clothing weren’t stitched together. They were tied or laced onto the body, which meant they didn’t come off easily for laundering. Clothes were not made for fashion, but rather for utility.
2. The skirt is the second oldest women’s garment in history. The oldest would have been what amounts to a vest or tunic made of animal hide or fur.
3. In ancient Roman times, purple was a color so valuable that it was against the law for anyone other than the emperor or his family to wear a garment dyed completely purple.
4. Some of the first items traded to Native Americans for furs were strips of red cloth, from the Vikings, about the width of one’s hand, which the Natives then tied around their heads as decoration.
5. In the 1500’s fashion designers showed off their designs by making doll size clothing versions of their own fashions.
6. A typical Elizabethan Noblewoman wore ten items of clothing or more at one time—a nobleman wore just as many!
7. Rayon was invented in the 1880’s as a cheap substitute for Silk.
8. The ladies at the French Court of Napoleon were known to wear nothing but a white empire gown to balls and other evening social events.
9. In the Victorian era, there was no such thing as maternity dresses for fashionable gals. Instead, they were forced to go into ‘confinement’ and sometimes even take to bed for the duration.
10. When the Victorian bustle first came into vogue, older ladies were shocked and scandalized by such a fashion. They felt that the swaying of the derrière would be too provocative, and that the slimmer skirt showed too much of their figure.
11. The first patented bra was made out of handkerchiefs around the turn of the 20th century. However, archaeologists claim Viking women wore them thousands of years ago to provide their bust support during fighting. The practice disappeared once Christianity took over and women were forbidden to wear pagan clothing.
12. In the thirties, clothing was rather drab and plain as a rule, favoring plainer colors and styles to cut down on cost. However, housedresses (housecoats) and aprons were amazingly brightly colored, as the cheaper material used often came in bright calicos & poplin prints
13. As a substitute for stockings, leg make-up (you heard me, make up for your legs!) was invented during World War II, complete with a pencil to draw a line up the back of the leg to imitate the seam on a stocking, and stencils to produce the effect of a knit pattern.
excerpted from 1001 Unbelievable Facts by Helen Otway, Arcturus Publishing Limited, 2010