Timeline: Modern Fashion

—David Johnson

Part I: 1858–1920

Fashion Timeline

In her magazine, the Lily, American feminist Amelia Bloomer promotes the comfort of "bloomers," a simple flaring skirt over Turkish-style trousers.
Englishman Charles Worth establishes first haute couture fashion house in Paris
Paul Poiret establishes fashion house; creates harem pants; first couturier to launch perfume, “Rosina”
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel opens boutique in Deauville, France; revolutionizes and democratizes women's fashion with tailored suits, chain-belted jerseys, quilted handbags; the most copied fashion designer in history
World War I prompts women to work in factories, offices; women wear pants; military cut influences clothes
Circa 1920
Women participate in sports, prompting new styles, including the “flapper”
Early 20s
Madeleine Vionnet creates flowing, feminine clothes, including the chiffon handkerchief dress; creates cowl neck, halter top; sets trends in 1930s
Mid 20s
Popularity of rayon causes decline in use of cotton
Knee-length hemlines mark new high
Late 20s
Elsa Schiaparelli opens Paris boutique; pioneers use of zippers, shoulder pads, unusual buttons; favors bright colors, including “shocking pink”

Part II: 1930–1968

Hemlines drop; then gradually rise
Alix “Madame” Grès becomes famous for elegant draped dresses
World War II forces many Paris couture houses to close
Christian Dior reestablishes Paris as fashion center; revives haute couture; replaces wartime austerity with the glamour of the “New Look” with tight waist, stiff petticoats, billowing skirts
Shoes have pointed toes, stiletto heels
Cristóbal Balenciaga introduces “semi-fit” dresses with soft, round shoulders; is the classic designer of the 1950s
Early 1960s
Pierre Cardin becomes first designer to license his name for various products; is first to create ready-to-wear lines
London boutique owner Mary Quant champions the youth movement; introduces mini-skirt, hot pants; launches Twiggy as supermodel; becomes 1960s most influential 1960s designer
Yves St. Laurent opens fashion house; often uses ethnic inspirations; remains most classic modern designer, heir to Chanel, Balenciaga
Mid 1960s
Influenced by rock music, “Mod” scene makes London major fashion center with fun, revolutionary clothes: bell bottoms, psychedelic prints, wild colors, dresses made of vinyl, paper, cellophane, metal, covered in mirrors; go-go boots; ruffled shirts for men; Nehru jackets; fur vests
Rudi Gernreich creates “radical” fashion—topless swimsuit, see-through blouse, “no bra” look
Calvin Klein begins producing elegant, simple clothes, favoring neural earth tones and luxurious fabrics
Ralph Lauren creates men's wear line; expands into women's wear; favors natural fabrics; designs feature western or country motifs

Part III: 1970–1990

Known as Halston, Roy Halston Frowick dominates 1970s with pantsuits, sweater sets, form-fitting dresses, knit wear
Giorgio Armani creates men's wear line; popularizes Italian tailoring
Claude Montana founds couture house; specializes in leather
Early 1980s
Japanese “school” of designers, including Issey Miyake, Kenzo, Rei Kawakubo, Hanae Mori, enjoy major couture success
The Malden Mills company invents Polarfleece. The soft, quick-drying fabric, made partly from recycled plastic, makes bundling up cozier than ever.
Donna Karan launches line of versatile, casual knits; favors black
Through music videos, Cyndi Lauper shows the world her wacky, colorful look-part vintage, part punk-and helps make thrift shopping the new frontier of chic.
“Anything goes” emerges as fashion credo
The Council of Fashion Designers of America begins Fashion Week in New York City. Fashion Week is a biannual event for designers to show off their latest fashion collections.

Late 1990s
Alexander McQueen emerges as daring new designer; features cozy, romantic designs, dresses looking like quilt blankets, rabbit-skin dresses; favors highly theatrical fashion shows, models parade in rings of fire, get doused with paint or water, skate on real ice
Stella McCartney, at Cloé fashion house gains following with daring new designs

Project Runway, the Peabody award winning and Emmy-nominated show premiers on Bravo. Fashion model Heidi Klum hosts this fashion-competition reality series.

What is Haute Couture? Fashion and Dress

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