Fashion and what is fashionable has long been up for debate and people regularly wonder about the lengths others will go to to be on trend. Sometimes you look back a few decades and wonder why people ever thought that looked good but other times a look becomes so classic or iconic that it can just seamlessly slip into our day to day lives without people ever remembering its origins. Here we look at 10 fashion items that changed the world.
1. The Bikini
Designed by French automotive engineer Louis Reard, the daring two-piece swimwear was debuted in 1946 at the Piscine Molitor, a famed and extremely popular swimming pool in Paris. The design certainly caught the attention of many as it was immediately banned from beaches and pools in countries across the globe for being 'indecent' and The Vatican even declared it sinful. It is perhaps with some irony that France will look back on this decision given recent events but the outraged caused was seized upon by a one Marilyn Monroe. The movie star instantly set about posing for photos in the swimwear further cementing her status as a sex symbol and pushing the bikini on to become the most popular piece of swimwear by the end of the century.
2. Air Jordan
Nike's iconic sneaker was not only a design phenomenon but also a marketing one. A sneaker designed for the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan in 1984, Jordan went on to endorse the shoe when it was released to the public in 1985. At the time, so great was Jordan and the shoes popularity, that they flew off the shelves because of Jordan wearing them in NBA games, something that was not permitted at the time as non-NBA sanctioned endorsements were not permitted in the league and so Jordan received a $5000 fine each game he played with them on. Despite this, Nike coughed up the fine for his infringement as they were selling so well thanks to the player's continued wearing of them and this cost was just a drop in the ocean to what they were making back in profits. The famous Jumpman logo of the brand was inspired by a silhouette of Jordan dunking and Air Jordans are still going strong in their latest iteration.
3. High Heels
High Heeled shoes have been around since the 9th century but weren't really considered a fashion until much later as they were worn for practicality by Persian horseback warriors in order to lock the foot in place on the stirrup and this idea permeated throughout the East and eventually Europe over the ages. In medieval Europe, men then started to wear elevated shoes in order to show their elevated status and so they were now a fashion statement rather than one of use. It wasn't until the 16th century that the fashion took off for women as Catherine De Medici, a noblewoman and one time Queen-consort to France, began to wear them and they have been in and out of popularity ever since. The high heel that we know and love today came about when French fashion designer Roger Henri Vivier stylized the stiletto for popular use in the 1950s, although it had bee around since the late 19th century in fetish wear.
4. The Leather Jacket
The leather jacket started life as a military item that was heavily insulated and often worn by pilots in order to shield them from the harsh conditions found at high altitude and this led to leather jackets with a sheepskin or fleece interior being referred to as 'bomber jackets'. Motorcyclists also picked up on the useful nature of the protective nature and it became part of the essential motorcycling quit as well. As such Hollywood seized upon the idea of using the leather jacket, predominantly in war films, but it became a way of shaping character and so throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the clothing item was then associated with screen icons. Soon it began to slip into sub-cultures and musical acts also began using them as a way of defining an image.
5. The Little Black Dress
It was Coco Chanel who brought us the iconic little black dress, debuting it in a fashion magazine in 1926. Prior to this black dresses were only ever worn in mourning and it was considered indecent to wear them outside of such periods. Popular media of the day also aided in the popularity of the garment as color television was only just starting to come in and so bright prints would often distort meaning that glamourous characters or stars always wore black in order to look chic and smooth on screen such as Audrey Hepburn in her iconic role in Breakfast At Tiffany's.
The origin of sunglasses can be traced back centuries to the Inuit who used flattened walrus ivory with tiny slits in them in order to shield the eyes from harsh rays of sunlight reflected off of frosty, snow-covered surroundings. However, its involvement in popular culture didn't really take off until the 1920s when Hollywood movie stars began wearing them in order to hide their faces a little whilst out in public as well as covering their red, bloodshot eyes that occurred due to the harsh studio lights. By 1938, LIFE magazine said that sunglasses were just a fad in America but they were fast becoming an established part of pop-culture and the outbreak of WWII actually aided their iconic status. With America joining the war, Ray Bans created a type of reflective sunglasses for fighter pilots that cut down on glare from the sun at the high altitudes they were flying at. As such, they style was dubbed 'aviators' and the most enduringly popular and legendary style of sunglasses was cemented in cultural history.
7. The Brassiere
Brassiere comes from the French word for the upper arm and was first used in 1837 but garments for supporting women's breasts date right back to ancient Greece in the form of supporting cloth or fabric but the two cupped item as we know it originates from Tyrol in Austria from about 1440. It wasn't until 1955 however that a Canadian company came up with the 'wonderbra', which was the first push-up bra on the market. Although fashion had taken hold on the underwear market by the 1970s, it wasn't until Victoria's Secret started showcasing lingerie with bold and frilly patterns that lingerie moved out of fetish wear and more into the open, seeing a move away from dowdy and practical towards stylistic and aesthetically pleasing.
8. The Miniskirt
Invented in 1965 by fashion designer Mary Quant, she wanted to create something that was both practical and stylish and 'would allow women to run for the bus' and was actually named after the designer's favorite car, the mini cooper, rather than being a comment on its length. Upon its release, many European countries set about banning the garment as they saw it as an invitation to rape and the skirt then instantly became associated with the burgeoning women's liberation movement at the time as it was seen as a way of freedom of expression and many protested others ruling on how women should or should not dress.
9. Denim Jeans
The material denim was invented in the French town of Nimes around 1500 and was dubbed 'de Nimes' or 'of Nimes' before eventually being known as denim. Italian sailors from Genoa used to wear the material in trouser form and so the phrase “bleu de Genes” meaning the “blue of Genoa” was again coined by the French and that is where the name 'jeans' comes from. Despite this early history, the jean as we know it didn't come into existence until 1871 when Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss created workmen's trousers using the denim material after attempts with hemp. The trousers were soon adopted by Californian miners and then became seen as a symbol of rebellion against constricting and formal work clothes becoming a cool and casual item throughout the 1950s as they were worn by movie stars.
10. The Wrap Dress
Widely to be thought invented by Diane von Furstenberg in the 1970s, the wrap dress was actually created by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s and was further expounded upon by Clare McCardell in the 1940s. However, when von Furstenberg brought her unique take to the design which was consistently knee-length, in a clinging jersey, with long sleeves, in 1973, it became some iconic that it was to forever be associated with her. Claiming that she was inspired by her divorce to create the dress von Furstenberg said it was “created in the spirit of enabling women to enjoy sexual freedom."