Show Us Your Favorite Historical Fashions

FASHION! Throughout history, clothing and fashion have served as some of the most iconic signifiers of a given time and place. Personally, I have always been intrigued by the style of dress during 18th-century colonial America. However, the Colonials weren’t the only ones enamored with high fashion. During the 14th-century across medieval Europe, pointy shoes were in vogue. When the Ottoman Empire was at its peak, the royal court gave books to foreign rulers and emissaries that illustrated the various outfits worn across the empire. Now, we want to hear about your favorite historical fashion trends or bygone bits of clothing!


(Image: John Singleton Copley/Public Domain)

In the thread below, tell us about your favorite historical fashions, whether it was a certain piece or an entire cultural look. Where was it commonly worn? How was it made and what did it symbolize? What’s the history? Would you wear it right now on a dinner date? Be sure to include any pictures you might have as well. Your response may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Let’s get stylish (historically speaking).

2 Likes

When I first joined the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), I didn’t think much of medieval fashions; I was much more a fan of (American) Civil War and Victorian dress. Then, at SCA events, I saw people in medieval-style clothing and was quite struck. From early Celtic gowns and tunics, adorned with extremely colorful painted Celtic knotwork borders and “twisty beasties,” to Tudor-era dress and headgear (NOT like you see on The Tudors!), I found it all delightful. Some of it was also very comfortable!

Later, I got more into Regency English dress for both men and women. The bonnets and caps for women and hairstyles and cravats for men are particularly interesting, I think; I can tell you from experience that those bonnets are not easy to make!

All styles can be found easily with a brief Internet search.

6 Likes

If money and society were no object, I would come to work in this “Bord de rivière au printemps” Art Nouveau dress. Look at that dragonfly! Those waterweeds!

20 Likes

I think you would legit float into the office lol

1 Like

My personal favorite are the 1940s femme fatales of the Film Noir era. I love the structure of the clothes with the careful seaming and darts that create the perfect hourglass shape. Lauren Bacall is my fashion icon and I incorporate her style into my everyday wear. Photo%20Nov%2014%2C%209%2043%2026%20AM|400x500

Lauren%20Bacall%20Humphrey%20Bogart%20%20%20The%20Big%20Sleep%20robe

8 Likes

Last month Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts had a wonderful exhibit of the works of Toulouse-Lautrec. The art was so colorful especially the pictures of the women dressed in their finery. All of the women were shown with the lovely hats of the day and the exhibit included several examples of these hats. As much as I enjoyed the pictures, I was especially struck by this authentic example of a purple velvet hat that was over 100 years old but that looked like someone had just made it. I was amazed at the almost perfect condition it was in. I wonder if it was owned by a rich woman that didn’t wear it often and had servents to take care of her clothes. Or did it belong to a woman that had to work for a living and took extra care of it as it was the best hat she had?

9 Likes

The sack suit. The cutaway front! The four buttons! The mismatched vest/trousers!
Perfect! I’m not kidding—I wish they still made them.

7 Likes

You can still have a tailor make this for you.

I love the Regency period of English fashion for women. It was loose, comfy and not as bulky as 18th century and later 19th century clothes. Dresses looked like today’s nighties, and I bet they were a lot cooler than the before-and-after periods of style. My other favorite is Katharine Hepburn who along with Lauren Bacall had simple clothing that wasn’t fussy! For men, I like that the Regency period also allowed them to eventually stop having to wear knee-length pants and stockings, which were not often pleasing to the eye if you were bow-legged or skinny or fat.

5 Likes

I’d definitely wear that.

2 Likes

If I can’t pull off Roman gladiator garb (I figure it’s, erm, only for very special and exclusive occasions) then you’ll find me either rocking out in '60s countercultural clothing (hippy shakes and all that) or maybe samurai clothing (worn in a culturally-sensitive and conscious fashion, of course.)

I mean, this guy is definitely feeling my mood and looking mint while he’s about it!

5 Likes

Haha, my mom was a child of the counterculture. I was certainly thinking about posting some Edo period dress (Its my favorite historical period.)

1 Like

WOW, stunning

I agree, this is a true example of fashion and life marry!!

I love Coco Chanel, as she also exemplifies what you show. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had a memorable stunning exhibit years ago. Everything on display could be worn today. Also love French Barbizon and Belle Époque era clothing in the heyday of Worth…

3 Likes

I think the idea of disposable men’s clothing ws really the best. I am talking about detachable collars. They were made of stiff paper and white cotton fabric or linen, which was then glued together with lots of starch. This contraption had a buttons on the front and back and was attached to the top button of a band-collared shirt and then buttoned to the back button of the shirt. Trivia- that was how that back collar button on a button-down collared shirt came to be. Then the man’s vest and jacket over all of that. Must have been sooo comfortable! This way, you did not have to wear a clean shirt every day, since the collar was what got to dirty- you just had to buy the throw-away collar. Which was good because you likely did not have many actual shirts.

5 Likes

So cool, I was actually ironing a shirt the other day and thought “glad this shirt has a back button, makes the collar easier to iron.” Now I know the origins.

2 Likes

In the early days, many of those collars were made of celluloid and would spontaneously combust every once and a while.

5 Likes

As another historical reenactor (SCA), I have a soft spot for Ancient Roman culture and clothing. Hard to complain too much about tying on a glorified rectangle :stuck_out_tongue:

I really enjoy researching, creating, and wearing the clothing of Rome and trying to get closer to what it might have felt like to wear and actually interact with the world in a tunica and palla (and occasional stola for formal events). Because so much of the written history we have of women’s clothing is really just cranky old men complaining, I also take a particular joy in wearing those things they complained about. Women: Sartorially sticking it to the man for millennia!

6 Likes

This was truly awesome lol! Thanks for sharing :beers:

1 Like

LOL! That is FUNNY! In the photo I put in my post, you can see some were also made of RUBBER! Sooooo comfy!

2 Likes