American fashion history

American fashion history

Although America is in comparison a fairly newly established country, it’s impact on fashion cannot be denied as being revolutionary especially throughout the 20th century after the Industrial Revolution. Since the birth of cinema americas fashion influence has been extremely centred around its pop culture, from Fred Astaires tailored suits, Audrey Hepburns romantic full skirts, the blue jeans of James Dean and even today Kim Kardashian’s snug fitting dresses have influenced not only fashion but has seen women go under the knife in order for their apple bottom jeans to be significantly more ‘bottom.’

If there’s one thing those living in ‘the land of the free’ love, it’s being loud, proud and speaking up for what they believe in, an extremely positive trait to have in such a diverse community, however this is almost always met with some kind of controversy. The Zoot suit is an extraordinary example of this. Originating in New York in the 1930s, being adapted from the ‘drape’ suit popular in london. They were characterised by a very over the top oversized suit often in a bright colour and matching extravagant hat. This caused a lot of tension in America for 2 reasons; the making of the suits was seen as wasteful in a time where clothing was being rationed due to war, and secondly, because the majority of people wearing zoot suits were young Mexican American men, and America is historically quite racist. This lead to several arrests for the crime of simply wearing a specific item of clothing, which of course led to rebellious Mexican American youths wanting to wear the suit more as protest, which led to riot in 1943 with hundreds of white US soldiers, sailers and candle stick makers traversing the US beating up any Mexican American men they viewed as ‘unpatriotic’ due to their flamboyant attire.



the 1950s saw a clear separation in fashion for men and women, after the war with traditional gender rolls being reinforced, men could be seen in casual suits and work attire whilst the women donned traditionally feminine dresses and silhouettes. With Christian Dior debuting ‘the new look’ long dresses with cinched waist and full flowing skirts. However during the 50s with the introduction of Hollywood for one of the first times we saw several different styles emerging at the same time and women in particular were beginning to see they had different options when it came to style. From Audrey Hepburn with her Dior classically feminine styles to Marlyn Monroe with her glamour and tight fitting silhouettes. Men were also beginning to wear more casual styles and even items that were traditionally workwear such as Levi’s jeans popularised by bad boy actor James dean. 

The 1970s saw hippy subcultures, counter culture, provocative against Vietnam war with influences such as the Beatles, flowy styles bell bottoms and tie die. Opposite to that celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn maintained their classically feminine style with Chanel suits. 

battle of Versailles 

In1973 5 top designers, Steven burrows, Oscar de la renta, bill blass, Anne Klein, Halston. Intended as a friendly competition but became a defining moment for American fashion as designers who did mostly ready to wear stole the show with contemporary music and designs different from what other countries were doing. 


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