Many cultures through history have followed fashion. Styles of clothing have changed as a result of contact with other societies and competition for status within a society. Yet not until the 14th and 15th centuries, during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, did styles begin to follow a regular pattern of change in Europe. The beginning of fashion dates to that time.
The beginning of fashion is associated with this growth of trade and business and the rise of the economic system known as capitalism.
Fashionable items of clothing came from all parts of
Fashion tends to follow power. During most of the 15th century, Venice and other Italian city-states held economic power in Europe, but the center of power shifted to Spain after navigator Christopher Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas for Spain in 1492. During the 16th century the Spanish style increasingly dominated European fashion. Men at the Spanish royal court favored black clothing, with a large white ruff at the throat. The fashionable silhouette for both men and women became bulky and stiff. Men’s short breeches and doublets were padded. Skirts became wider and were supported by a farthingale (hooped petticoat), also known as a wheel or drum, which grew wider toward the bottom. Upper-class women adopted a boned corset, which flattened and narrowed the upper body.
Fashion also helped create an impressive royal image. Queen Elizabeth I of England, for example, used fashion to make a statement of political authority, to assert her power and legitimacy. Ornate garments encrusted with jewels, gold, and other decoration asserted her power and her right to rule, even though she was a woman.
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