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The History of Dresses

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With the recent launch of our limited edition dress collection, we thought it was the perfect time to dive into the history of dresses and share how this iconic wardrobe piece has always been at the forefront of fashion.

The Origin of the Dress

We first see the dress make an entrance in history when humanity began to live with one another and create naturally-occurring groups. Once these social groups became well-defined in categories such as culture, language and the arts, the importance of the dress was elucidated. In it's inception, dresses defined distinction amongst communities, cities and even countries.

Ancient World Introduces the Dress

The dress as we know it today was a garment that evolved throughout the ancient world and over 100 and 1000's of years. Below are the dresses that started it all: 

Mesopotamian Dress

The History of Dresses

Egyptian Dress

The History of Dresses

Minoan Dress

The History of Dresses

Greek Dress

The History of Dresses

Etruscan Dress

The History of Dresses

Dresses in More Modern Times

In the early 19th century, dresses started out being lightweight and on more of the simple side. However, in the 1830's the styles developed into over-sized silhouettes and puffy sleeves and by the mid 19th century, dress frames were being made of whalebone or steel wire which were called crinolines under their skirts.

From the 1840s onward accentuating small waists with cinch corsets became what was fashionable. It wasn't long until the late 1860's brought Victorian women dresses in which the front of the skirt was flat, but the back was bulky and bulged outwards. This particular style was called a bustle and although it was a popular dress style, by the 1890's this silhouette disappeared.

Dress Inventions

With the evolution of the dress came the development of a number of clothing inventions in the 19th century. Thomas Hancock invented elastic in 1820. The safety pin was invented in 1849 by Walter Hunt. In 1882 Henry Seely invented the electric iron, although it didn't become common until the 1930's. Lastly, the zip fastener was invented in 1893 by Whitcomb Judson. And although dresses had been the acceptable form of fashion for women for years, it was in1863 that Butterick made their iconic paper dress pattern for the first time. All of these clothing inventions played a pivotal role in not only the fashion trends of dresses, but key elements that are still present in dress styles today.

20th Century Dresses 

A revolution in women's clothes occurred in 1925. It was during this time that women ditched the longer hems and began wearing knee length dresses. Even feminine details became less popular and in the mid and late 1920s it was fashionable for women to embrace a boyish and figure-less look. However, that was short-lived. In the 1930s women's dress became more conservative again.

It wasn't until World War II that the less-conservative hemline came back into circulation, and this was because it was necessary to save material during that difficult time, so shorter hems were the best option. Dresses and all other types of clothing and fabrics were rationed until 1949.

The New Look

The History of Dresses

In 1947 Christian Dior introduced the New Look, which embraced long dresses with narrow waists, accentuating a women's 'hour glass' figure. Throughout the next decade dresses remained feminine and the silhouettes full. It wasn't until 1965 when Mary Quant invented the mini skirt and dresses, along with all other types of women's clothing, became more relaxed and informal.

Today's Dress

Today's fashion has brought dresses of all styles and shapes to the forefront. From t-shirt and shift styles, to flowing-bohemian and maxi fits. Regardless of style preference, there is a dress for everyone and every season. In fact, there are over fifty different style of dresses circulating in the fashion sphere today.

You can shop the artTECA limited edition wearable art dress collection here

The History of Dresses


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