T-Shirts to Togas: Cultural Fashion Design

Each of our world's cultures has its own history with regard to clothing. Different parts of the world wore varying styles of garments in ancient times, and the differences continue today. However, there is no denying that cultures' styles have affected one another over the years. Today's designers often find inspiration in the styles of the past. They also find inspiration in the styles worn in other cultures.


The traditional garment worn in Japan is widely known as the "kimono." A kimono is a long t-shaped robe with wide sleeves and attached collars. The garment is wrapped around the wearer's body with the left side overlaying the right side and is secured by an obi, which is a type of sash tied in the back of the kimono. Most kimonos consist of 12 separate pieces. In the Japanese language, the term "kimono" simply means "a thing to wear." However, this term is generally used to differentiate between traditional Japanese attire and the modern attire worn by today's Japanese people. Historically, women could choose from several different varieties of kimono. These choices were generally made based on the age of the woman and the type of social event she was attending. For example, the furisode is a kimono with long flowing sleeves. It was typically worn by unmarried women in very formal settings. On the other hand, a yukata kimono can be worn casually by both married and unmarried women. Yet another type of kimono, the elaborately embroidered uchikake, is only worn by brides or during stage performances. Still more complex is the junihitoe, a complex kimono with twelve layers that was only worn by ladies of the court.


In ancient Rome, men who were slaves, freedmen, or working class plebes typically wore a tunic, which was a short sleeved garment made of wool. Similar to today's tshirts, the tunic was also worn by higher-class individuals for comfort while they were at home. The toga, on the other hand, was worn only by Roman citizens. Togas were large robe-like garments, and they were usually worn in public settings. People typically chose their tunic or toga based on their class in society. For example, Magistrates wore the tunic augusticlavia, while Senators wore the tunic laticlavia. While any adult male could wear the plain toga virilis, only Senators and Magistrates could were the off-white toga praetexta. Roman generals wore the purple toga picta during parades, while the darker toga pulla was only worn in times of mourning. Finally, political candidates wore the white toga candida as a symbol of purity. Unmarried women in Rome sometimes wore a garment similar to a tunic that was known as a peplos. The peplos consisted of two pieces of cloth joined at the sides and fasted with pins to form a sleeveless dress. More commonly, however, single Roman women wore a different tunic known as a chiton, which was a sleeved dress made from two pieces of cloth. The colors and fabrics used for chitons usually indicated the wearer's wealth or social status. Married women typically wore a stola, which was a loose fitting garment similar to a toga. In many cases, married women covered the top of their stola with a palla, which is a garment similar to today's shawls.


As in Ancient Rome, the clothing in Ancient Egypt was used to signify the social status of the wearer based on the Egyptian Caste System. Slaves were usually naked, while commoners wore loincloths. All Egyptian men from the commoner class and above also wore a calasaris, which was a short linen kilt. Egyptian women in the commoner class and above wore calasaris that fell to their ankles. Women also wore decorative collars and shoulder straps. Both sexes secured their clothing with belts. Upper class Egyptians wore thinner linens, and they wore gold as a symbol of their status. Jewelry made from other stones and metals, however, was worn by Egyptians of all social classes. Both men and women wore makeup and wigs.

United States

Fashion in the United States is much more complex than fashion in ancient civilizations. With so many sub-cultures and influences, a variety of styles are worn in the United States, including some styles that originated in the native country of the wearer. In colonial America, European influence was most prevalent, with women wearing long dresses and men wearing suits and hats. In the 1700s, men typically wore waistcoats and undershirts. Women wore gowns with petticoats, which was a layered skirt. Women also wore corsets to make themselves appear thinner. In the 1800s, the style was influenced by Victorian London. Women wore more practical dresses, pants, and even swimsuits. In the 1920s, people in the United States became more expressive with their clothing. For example, women in the 20s, known as flappers, wore clothing that exposed a significant amount of skin. In modern America, many subcultures of fashion exist. Though clothing is still designed for a specific gender, the line between women's and men's clothing is much less defined. Perhaps one of the best examples of this phenomenon is blue jeans, which are worn by both men and women. Blue jeans began in the late 1800s as work pants, but eventually transitioned into casual wear in the 1960s.

Written by: , a staff writer at ooShirts.com