Weird History Of Clothing.


It seems like every decade there is a new crazy shoe style. However, out forbearers did crazy a lot better than we do. How else do you explain these incredibly popular shoe styles? The first ridiculous shoe fad started in the 1300s in Europe. Men and women started elongating the tips of their slippers to points. The points got longer and longer until the wearer was in danger of tripping over them. Instead of realizing they’d taken the fad too far, people started attaching the points to the knee with chain or rope. Some shoes points were stuffed with fabric and made into the shape of a man’s genitals. Of course the clergy was furious and tried to discourage people from wearing these shoes on religious grounds. They got no where.


In the 1500s shoes went the other direction, literally. Instead of length people cared about width. Once people’s shoes were regularly 10 inches across at the toe and causing serious danger to everyone, England’s Bloody Mary passed a law that no shoe could be wider than a still absurd 6 inches.


Today it seems that 6 inch high heels are the craziest we will go with women’s shoes. In the 16th century many Italian women added 8 inch slabs of wood, called chopines, to the soles of their shoes. The logic was it would keep the hems of their dresses clean since the streets were filthy. One has to wonder just how repulsively filthy if they needed more than a foot of clearance. In other parts of Europe these chopines reached 2-3 feet. At that height you literally could not walk without help, in case you fell over.


What we know as a collar today started out for both men and women as a large ruff around the neck. The logic was that this would protect the edges of your clothing from wear. It was more economical to replace a ruff than an entire dress or shirt. As with most popular fashion statements, people started competing with each other to have to most extreme version of the ruff. They eventually got so large that they could be up to a foot and a half across and seriously hindered the wearers’ movement.


As the ruff died out it was replaced by a high, stiff collar. Again, these collars got higher and stiffer over time. By the early 1800s they were actually a physical danger, as the edges could be so sharp they could cut men’s ears. Even as late as 1902 H.G. Wells complained that the starched fabric “made [the] neck quite sore and left a red mark under [the] ears.”


While these days someone with an upturned collar looks like an ass, polo shirts were actually designed to be worn that way. In 1929, René Lacoste created the “tennis shirt” with an upturned collar to prevent sunburn. It was only as people started wearing polo’s on a regular basis (and inside) that they started laying their collars flat.


Ties, or the earliest thing resembling one, can be traced back to a group of Croatian mercenaries at the French court of Louis XIV. The soldiers all wore ties and started a fad. They were nothing more than brightly colored silk handkerchiefs tied around the neck, and served absolutely no purpose (just like ties today, come to think of it) but the style caught on at Versailles. And what people were wearing at Versailles was a big deal to the rest of Europe. Soon men were cutting off circulation to their heads with their own fancy scarves all over the continent. They were called Cravats, derived from the French word for Croatian.


By the early 1800s, the same time men were injuring themselves with those high collars, they were also garroting themselves with increasingly complex cravats. While a few standard knots suffice for the modern tie wearer, back then cravat tying became an art form. It was such a long and complex effort to correctly knot a cravat, involving several servants in some cases, that messing up another man’s tie was a dueling offense.


The supreme dandy of the time, Beau Brummell, wore such complex cravats that it took him five hours to get ready. People considered it an honor to sit there that whole time and watch him. This is what happens when you don’t have television.


The history of men’s underwear is pretty basic. Men went from loin cloths, to something similar to the boxers we have today, to one piece Union-suits, and finally to the boxers we have today. Pretty boring. Women’sunderwear is much more interesting; especially since its history is much briefer. Do you see what we did there? Briefer? Because it’s shorter and also…oh, never mind.


For most of history women didn’t wear any panties. It seems stupid now, but look at that word. Panties. Looks kind of like pants doesn’t it? And at the end of the day aren’t panties just very, very tiny pants? Work with us here. For centuries, panties were considered too masculine for women to wear. So underneath their big dresses, all the great women in history up until about the mid-1800s were going commando. Makes you look at some portraits of Elizabeth I differently.


From about 1830 until the 1860s women wore small panties. However, the large hoopskirts that came into fashion before the Civil War caused a problem, especially outside. Any decently sized breeze could blow your skirt right up. Small just wasn’t going to cover it (get it?) anymore. Women started wearing pantaloons underneath their dresses. Eventually women would start wearing smaller skirts and even pants, returning underwear to the size and shape we know today.


While not its own article of clothing, so to speak, most men would agree that their fly is pretty essential. But how did they come about? Originally men wore tunics, very similar to what women wore. Eventually hose, basically tights for guys, came into fashion. However, they had a slit in between the legs. In order to preserve their modesty men used codpieces.


These flaps of fabric didn’t serve any purpose other than coverage so men started using them as pockets. Need a place to store that new tobacco that’s so in fashion? Codpiece. Want to sneak an extra turkey leg from the banquet? Codpiece. Over time they got larger and more outlandish. If they started out preserving a man’s modesty they ended by being slightly more subtle than a blinking neon sign pointing at a gentleman’s junk. Men had them studded with jewels or shaped to look like the thing they were supposed to be hiding. Over time actual pockets and the development of trousers made the codpiece obsolete.


In the 18th and 19th centuries trousers usually had a flap in the front that buttoned up both sides. Even the first jeans had button flies. The zipper is a relatively new addition to the crotch of trousers, though now it is the most popular style.

The Bra

For most of human history women didn’t see the need for a separate piece of clothing specifically for the breasts. They just let everything hang out, or the garments they wore did double duty, flattening or enhancing as styles changed. Eventually the incredibly painful corset appeared and would dominate the world of women’s undergarments for centuries. As the years went by, and the style for corsets got smaller and tighter, women started to rebel against them. And wouldn’t you if your waist was squeezed so tight all your vitalorgans became one big blob? In the mid-1800s some visionaries invented bra-prototypes but none of them really caught on.


Vogue Magazine coined the term “brassiere” in 1907 but it wasn’t until 1913 that the bra really took off, so to speak. A woman named Mary Phelps Jacob was going to a dinner party and wanted to wear her new gown. It was light and gauzy, as was in style at the time. However, her thick, binding corset would not let the dress lay correctly. Exasperated, she ditched the corset, fashioned two handkerchiefs and some ribbon into a bra and went to the party that way. Her friends were in such awe they asked her to make them some as well.


The next year Jacob applied for a patent for her design. The timing was perfect. WWI was about to start and more women would be going to the factories and doing more manual labor in general. They couldn’t be confined by their corsets. The 1920s saw bras that flattened the chest but by the 1930s bras as we know them today, in different cup sizes that supported breasts, were the norm.

Article/pics from


2 thoughts on “Weird History Of Clothing.

  1. Pingback: Weird History Of Clothing. « Boredom.No.Moredom | Drakz Free Online Service

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s