FASHION HISTORY ESSAYS
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Below are overviews of fashio​​​​​​​n history essays written for the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. To read the full essays, please visit BergFashionLibrary.com for more information.

   
Peacock Revolution: American Men’s Fashions in the 1960s

The 1960s was an era of social and political revolution around the world. Among the tectonic changes was a dynamic transformation in American men’s dress—a peacock revolution. The postwar baby boom generation came of age in the 1960s. These “youthquake” men grew their hair long and donned radical new styles of clothes largely as a break with the conformist traditionalism of their parents, but also as a way to explore and assert their individuality. Among the diverse new options in menswear were vividly colored and patterned mod fashions from Carnaby Street in London. From Paris, couturiers expanded their fashion creativity to include menswear, offering innovative suit designs with shaped, youthful silhouettes and iconoclastic details like collarless necklines. In America, street looks from college campuses and music festivals ranged from subtle antiwar protest styles such as flower power motifs to homemade hippie styles like tie-dyed T-shirts and jeans, much of which was appropriated by the fashion industry and commercialized for a mass market. In addition, multicultural influences on fashion inspired many American men to include in their wardrobes the Nehru jacket, Arabian kaftan, or African dashiki. The splendor and diversity of fashion options for the peacock male continued to evolve throughout the 1960s and beyond, paving the path for a vibrant pluralism in men’s dress for his Gen X children and Gen Y millennial grandchildren.



Peacock Revolution Legacy: American Men's Fashions in the 1970s

The 1960s peacock revolution in young men’s dress had developed as a visual expression of the rejection of the conformist, traditional values of their parents and establishment authorities. Long hair, hiphugger pants, see-through shirts, protest street looks, Nehru jackets, colorful scarfs, and love beads had been alarming to the America’s elders. But by the beginning of the 1970s, the once radical looks had become so commercialized by the fashion industry, pop culture, advertising, and Hollywood that they lost their original subversive impact. Instead of American men’s styles developing from the creative, personalized looks from the street or from innovative famous-name designers, menswear trends of the 1970s were largely led by ready-to-wear makers, which mass marketed the next iterations of styles in the chain boutiques of malls. The snug-fitting hiphugger bell bottoms became exaggerated into elephant bells in 1972, and then disappeared entirely in 1975. Sexualized youthquake clothes reemerged in the late 1970s as disco fashions that included skintight designer label jeans and fitted, fluid nylon shirts. In 1973, tailored trousers called baggies reintroduced the high-rise waist, wide legs, pleats, and cuffs. The Gatsby suit revived the Depression era draped-cut silhouette, but now in a padded, rigid construction of synthetic fabrics. Casual suit styles for young men evolved from the safari and vest suits into the decade’s iconic leisure suit. At the end of the 1970s, men expressed their self-indulgence by piling on the latest branded clothes to achieve the layered look. From bell bottoms to baggies, leisure suits to Gatsby styles, disco to layered looks, the legacy of the 1960s peacock revolution had become a schizophrenic evolution of mass market fashions in the 1970s.



   
American Women's Fashions 1970-1979

The 1970s was an era of striking contrasts in women’s fashions.  In the early 1970s, the thigh-high miniskirt dominated, but by the end of the decade, most hemlines were well below the knee, some sweeping the ankles. The polyester double knit pantsuit and platform shoes were favored by career women of the early 1970s, but a few years later, natural fibers and designer logos of the layered look prevailed in corporate offices. Sexualized styles such as hot pants and snug hiphugger bellbottoms were replaced by conservative looks in the mid-1970s, but returned in the disco era as skintight designer jeans and skin-baring tops for nights on the dance floor.  The street looks of students and antiwar protestors vanished with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, yet, at the end of the decade, rebellious youth found a new nonconformist identity with the tribal dress of punks. These and other iconic styles of the schizophrenic 1970s have endured decade after decade, and have been a constant source of inspiration for subsequent generations of designers.
 
    
    
    


From hippie to hip, 1969
Polyester high-rise trousers, 1974
Layered look, 1978
Fashion Fads and Fancies of the 1920s

The 1920s in America was the era of America’s first youth rebellion. This first post-Victorian generation came of age in the decade variously labeled the Roaring Twenties, the Great Euphoria, the Coolidge Prosperity, the Machine Age, and the Jazz Age. Flaming Youth, as novelist Samuel Hopkins Adams dubbed America’s young, rebelled against the values and conventions of their parents, and sought their own distinct identity in attitude, behavior, and especially in dress. Young women had emerged in the post-World War I years as the New Woman who could vote, attend college, earn a paycheck, and make her own decisions. These independent young women were frequently called flappers, and became identified with bobbed hair, makeup, knee-length dresses, hose rolled below the knees, cloches, and Louis heel pumps. They also discarded their constricting corsets, wildly danced the Charleston and the shimmy to jazz music, learned to drive cars, smoked cigarettes, and drank illicit liquor in speak-easies. And most alarming of all to their parents, many flappers explored the era’s sexual revolution that ranged from petting parties to premarital sex. The young men of the era, often called “sheiks” after Rudolph Valentino’s starring role in a desert romance movie, likewise played hard, drank hard, and drove cars too fast. They projected their distinct identity with fashion fads such as art deco ties and hatbands, wide-legged Oxford bags, and voluminous plus fours worn with clashing Fair Isle sweaters and golf hose. Flaming Youth burned brightly for the brief era that was the 1920s. With the collapse of the U.S. economy at the end of 1929, the sheik and flapper suddenly vanished as the decade closed, becoming history and lore.

    
Sheik and Sheba, 1928
Leonardo da Vinci, Festaiuolo 

Leonardo da Vinci is universally known for his paintings of the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, inventions of flying machines and armored tanks, architectural and civic development plans, anatomical research and drawings, and studies of the natural sciences. Yet one aspect of Leonardo’s remarkable achievements that is often overlooked is his theatrical work. As a festaiuolo, or master of festivities, Leonardo developed, organized, and directed productions for festival pageants, triumphal processions, masques, jousting tourneys, and plays, for which he choreographed performances, engineered and decorated stage sets and props, and even designed costumes.

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Leonardo da Vinci,
Festaiuolo (PDF)
"Wilderness Man"  pageant costume by Leonardo da Vinci,  c. 1491.