What were old people's clothes

The meaning and purpose of clothing - then and now

The history of man's clothing basically begins with the history of man on earth itself. Thousands of years ago, he was exposed to similar environmental influences as he is today. In order to protect himself from rain, cold, snow, but also from too strong sun, he invented simple pieces of clothing that he wore around his body like a second skin. The way people wear clothes has always changed. It soon no longer served only as protection, but also served various other purposes.

Why clothes keep changing

In the beginning, garments actually only served to protect against strong environmental influences. The Neanderthals were only able to protect themselves against the enormous cold of the Ice Age with thick and barely processed animal skins. Ten thousand years later, during the Stone Age, plant fibers or tree bark were also used and sometimes combined with fur to create more practical clothing. Even at that time, around 35,000 years ago, clothing no longer seemed to have a practical use on its own.

Because with the slow but steady cultural and social development of humans, so did their needs and forms of expression. The different cuts, colors and patterns of early clothing show that the individual pieces should not only protect the body, but also decorate it - sometimes a special fur or the chain with the teeth of a rare animal served as a distinction, possibly signaling this Position in a group or family.

At the latest with the invention of the sewing needle, which was initially made from animal bones, clothing made further significant advances. Refinements such as belts, hats and buttons that were no longer just useful for a long time emerged. The Egyptians are believed to have started between 4,000 and 3,000 BC. to weave and spin.

Origins of the term "fashion"

From around the 15th century onwards, the expression “fashion” for a certain form of clothing developed in France, which always emphasized its topicality. The latest fashion is always determined by the silhouette, the color and the materials. And so it is until today. These three characteristics alternate from year to year, with fashions repeating themselves again and again or recurring in slightly different ways.

As long as social classes (want to) distance themselves from one another and people emulate beauty ideals or cannot resist the power of fashion, clothing will continue to develop. In addition, there are stricter ethical standards, which in times of increasing global warming and scarcity of resources, also result in the invention of new materials for clothing.

The current state of clothing and fashion

Since conscious clothing is commonplace these days, it has long been impossible to speak of a specific fashion that extends across all countries or even generations. You almost get the feeling that every age group has its own trends and styles, and every city has its own peculiarities.

A precise analysis of current fashion is difficult because it is changing incredibly quickly and would probably be out of date with an assessment and an attempt to explain why what type of clothing can prevail where and where. Numerous factors influence fashion today.

However, in times of digitization and the possibilities of quickly exchanging ideas via the Internet, the tendency towards certain scenes in which there is a separate code of clothing can be clearly observed.

About scenes, influencers and fashion

Subcultures, such as certain genres of music around which scenes are formed, can make great use of the Internet. One subculture has always been differentiated from the other - be it through their ways of dealing with one another, through certain behavior in public or through outward appearances, such as clothing.

Certain hip hop fashions, for example, have changed over and over again since the beginning. From the bizarre look of a Grandmaster Flash to the now ubiquitous - then still special sports outfits to the style of the pimps with heavy gold chains and fur jackets. Sports fashion in particular found its way from the subcultures to the middle of society, where today it is hard to imagine casual wear without it.

With the Internet, the subcultures have found the perfect platform for representation: Today, new trends are spread within a very short time via social media or video platforms such as YouTube. In the past, you could only look at your idols on record covers, magazines or later on music television, but digital channels are now faster.

With internet access, everyone has the opportunity to get permanent and immediate information about who has been wearing what where and which item of clothing is the latest hype in the scene. Anyone who wants to show off color and who wants to dress up appropriately for their scene can buy the clothes of their idols.

This tendency can be observed even more drastically in the area of ​​so-called "influencers" - people with a strong presence and high reputation in social networks, who often reach a significantly larger number of people than representatives of a certain subculture. Since they sometimes have just such an enormous reach, it makes sense for various companies to make use of this potential and to provide advertising and marketing through the help of influencers.

Manufacturers as trendsetters

Certain fashions and trends are ultimately even produced by some companies themselves. They are basically only interested in being able to sell new clothes every year. This constantly changing fashion, also known as fast fashion, is characterized by significantly more collections per year that are to be brought to men or women. This contrasts with a current trend that runs in the opposite direction, slow fashion, which will probably become even more important in the future.

The market for fast fashion

Most of the clothing produced and worn worldwide today can still be described as fast fashion. This is fashion that usually appears in fashion houses around the world shortly after it has been shown at certain fashion shows in countries such as Paris or New York or in videos by various influencers on the Internet. It is intended to disappear from the shop windows as quickly as possible and land in the closets of consumers and buyers.

Countless collections are produced annually for this purpose, which are intended to stimulate demand and spread trend after trend. Most consumers follow this industry practice by constantly buying new clothes. In order to be able to afford this, however, the clothing must not exceed a certain price. To make this possible, companies can only produce in a certain quality - otherwise it is not worthwhile for them.

Criticism of fast fashion

Fast fashion is repeatedly criticized because it takes place to the suffering of many employees from emerging countries. These too are poorly paid if clothing is to be cheap in industrialized countries. But ultimately, many consumers also suffer from the ideology of constant throwing away and buying new, as investing in more expensive clothing that does not break so quickly would be much more worthwhile.

Chemicals that are often used in the production of cheap clothing to make them look better quality are also harmful to the health of the producer and the wearer. For example, because of the formaldehyde it contains, clothing can trigger contact allergies, which in individual cases can lead to respiratory diseases and other complaints.

Slow fashion as a countermovement

For a long time there has been a kind of counter-movement to fast fashion for the reasons listed above, slow fashion, which is about slowing down textile production and sustainably improving the working conditions of all those involved. Clothing should again serve its original purpose and protect the body against environmental influences, with quality and sustainability in the foreground.

In addition, the production process should be transparent - the buyer should also know exactly where the clothing comes from, what is in it and who produced it and how. It is not said that the appearance of clothing has to suffer as a result. Mostly it only differs in price, since the materials are of higher quality and the producers are paid more appropriately. Compared to luxury brands, slow fashion is usually still an extremely cheap alternative to conventional fast fashion.

Even large fashion chains are slowly jumping on this bandwagon, which is increasingly changing consumer attitudes in this direction. It is true that one has to take a close look to see whether it is really sustainable where it says sustainable - but a change in the fashion industry seems to be slowly emerging. This can also be observed in terms of the materials used.

Sustainable fashion made from unusual materials

Just under 7.5 billion people currently live on earth and by the end of the century it could be more than 11 billion. These not only have to be supplied with enough food, but also with clothing. Their production consumes a lot of resources, some of which are already in short supply. Although cotton production is still increasing worldwide, the proportion of cotton used in the fiber market is slowly but surely decreasing.

For many people, polyester is no longer an option either; instead, alternative materials are increasingly being used. Since crude oil as the basis for man-made fibers is becoming increasingly scarce and the prices thereof will continue to rise, more natural materials are on the advance. These many consumers now also seem more appropriate for underwear than synthetic fibers.

The future of fashion and clothing in general therefore looks more natural and often even vegan. Various fibers made from renewable natural substances have the potential to soon displace cotton from its place. The following fabrics are of particular interest to the clothing industry:

  • Lyocell (a fabric made from eucalyptus or beech wood)
  • flax
  • hemp
  • bamboo
  • Corn waste
  • sugar

More and more alternatives to man-made fibers

As early as the 1930s there was the idea of ​​making clothes out of milk, with a lot of chemistry still being used. More recent approaches try to develop a purely natural milk fiber, above all to do something good for the wearers of the finished garments. Because the low-irritation and pleasant substance could then be of particular interest to allergy sufferers.

It is not unlikely that even more comparable alternatives to conventional materials will establish themselves in the near future. But when and to what extent man-made fibers will be replaced remains to be seen. A look at the various eras shows that fashions and items of clothing have always been in flux and that every age has and will always have its own trends.

Sugar is also an unusual raw material for textiles, but could also establish itself as an alternative due to its cellulose content.

The history of clothing in eras

In the beginning there was the fur

Even the first human ancestors had to resort to a "second skin", that is, to the first temporary clothing that protected them above all against the cruel temperatures during the Ice Age. Although he knew about homo erectus, who lived about 1.85 million years ago and until about 40,000 years ago and is considered to be "the first man to stand upright", did not yet use the sewing needle, but he was able to use a so-called awl Drilling holes in skins to hold them together with leather cords or animal tendons.

Of course, there is much less to say about clothing from that time than about clothing from other eras, because clothing finds of such old pieces are quite rare and a real stroke of luck.

Ötzi, who lived in the Neolithic and was found in 1991, provided at least one more detailed example. Using genetic analyzes of the pieces of leather and fur obtained, researchers were able to find out that Ötzi's equipment was made from a combination of at least five different animal species:

  • goat
  • sheep
  • Beef
  • brown bear
  • deer

While the jacket and “leggings” consisted of parts of the farm animals goats, sheep and cattle, Ötzi used brown bear fur for his hat and deer leather for the quiver.

Clothing from the Paleolithic, on the other hand, is less well known. It is believed that outerwear was mainly made of reindeer skin, as reindeer were the main prey of Ice Age man. Since beavers have one of the thickest fur in the animal world, beaver fur could also have been used.

Individuality and demarcation in antiquity

In ancient Egypt there were mild climatic conditions and an open approach to nudity, which is why most Egyptians were only scantily clad. The clothes were light and made of linen. In general, any clothing was a luxury. The nature of the materials and the way in which the clothing was worn set the aristocratic from the bourgeois class.

The clothes of the common people therefore mostly consisted of coarser, not so delicate linen. In Egypt, jewelry and wigs were almost more important than clothing because they separated the layers even more clearly and served as status symbols.

In Greece and Rome, too, clothing was used to indicate a person's status and to distinguish rich from poor, or free from unfree, i.e. slaves.

Particularly noteworthy are the tunic and toga, the main clothing of the Romans. Both were made of wool or linen and individually wrapped or tied. While almost every citizen of Rome wore the tunic, the toga was reserved for male citizens and was only worn on important occasions. Particularly high state officials were also given their toga edged with purple stripes.

The middle age

Around 600 AD, at the time of the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages, society and fashion began to change together. Christianity called for the body to be veiled, which was not compatible with the more revealing clothes of antiquity. Instead, the trouser legs and sleeves became longer and new shirts and undergarments were created.

At the time of the minstrels, the clothes of the poor also differed markedly from those of the rich, which was even written down in prohibition and mandatory lists. For example, the pointed shoes stuffed with moss or cotton had to have different dimensions, depending on whether they were worn by a prince or prince or a simple knight or ordinary citizen.

From the middle or end of the 14th century, men began to wear jackets that were shortened at crotch height, so-called "piebalds", and longer stockings. A wide variety of headgear, such as various hoods with veils, was established for women, as it was considered elegant to cover the hair. In the age of feudalism, this fashion was primarily intended to express the power and privileges of the nobility.

Clothing becomes fashion

With the invention of the printing press, the discovery of America and humanism, as well as the formation of nation states in Europe, the modern age began and with it a new epoch of fashion, which also went through some changes within a few decades:

Since the Burgundian court had assumed a leading role in Europe in the 15th century, the bourgeoisie also adopted the clothing that was customary there. Gentlemen continued to wear tight-fitting piebalds, as well as trousers and stockings that basically merged into tights. Overall, slimness, which should be worn outwardly through the body-hugging clothing, was considered an ideal of beauty. Long coat skirts and the "Tappert" open to the side were created. Two-tone garments and, above all, the color red (burgundy red) were reserved for the nobility as an expression of their class.

With the death of the last Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold in 1477 and that of his heir, Maria, the house was extinguished in 1482, and with it the role model function of the Burgundian court in the field of clothing. Since Italian cities such as Milan and especially Venice became important trading centers, Italian clothing dominated the fashion world throughout Europe during the Renaissance.

However, it was only possible to speak of fashion from the 16th century, when men also became more willing to experiment and wore more conspicuous and decorated "pubic capsules" that emerged from the bib of men's trousers. Apparently the range of clothing now served to protect the body, but above all to express one's status and individuality.

Baroque and Rococo and beauty care

In the 17th and 18th centuries, men's and women's fashion became more and more similar. In addition to the "crook", the ruff typical of the time, a wide shoulder collar was also worn.Padded vests were replaced by the first suit-like garments. Long, open jackets were also worn with knee breeches made of the same material.

An absolute must for every fashionable gentleman was a long, curly wig under which the hair was clipped short. Since wigs were too expensive for men from the lower classes, they wore their hair as long as possible.

The hairstyles powdered with rice flour at the beginning of the Rococo in the 18th century, which were replaced by huge structures in the hair made up of chains, flowers, fruits and all kinds of jewelry, were just one absurdity of beauty care at that time. Bathing and washing were considered unhealthy and improper, which is why dirt and skin spots were covered with small patches made of black taffeta in the shape of hearts or stars. Furthermore, pale skin contrasted with strong blush and lipstick was considered an ideal of beauty.

Practical fashion and fashion in the 20th century

With the beginning of the industrial revolution in the middle of the 18th century, a social restructuring began in England and social and living conditions changed profoundly. Fashion has now become much more practical so as not to get in the way of work.

In Paris, on the other hand, it was not until the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century that the privileges of the nobility were replaced, which also made clothes more practical and comfortable. Only those who wanted to show their loyalty to the French court continued to wear more traditional court clothing.

In the 20th century, fashion finally became what it is today: a cultural asset and mass phenomenon that is commonplace in media and advertising. Even the period of the Second World War, which briefly interrupted the fashion enthusiasm of the 20s and 30s, led to fashion improvisation and innovation due to the lack of materials.

To this day, this history of innovation in fashion of the 20th century continues and new trends and clothing styles are basically emerging every decade. In addition to body protection, the main function of this clothing is to confess that you belong to a certain scene or to convey a message.

February 6, 2018