Fashion Through Time

It is fascinating to study how fashions have changed over the centuries. Clothing is vital for humans in order to protect us from the elements, but it is also used to represent status and other aspects of our being. In many ways, it's interesting to see how some aspects of clothing have remained the same, and how they have advanced due to better technology, trade routes and fabrics. Let's examine some of the main eras of history to see how fashion has evolved.

Ancient Egyptian

The desert environment of Ancient Egypt dictated that clothing had to be light in weight as well as color. Linen and cotton were especially favored for these qualities. Finer linens and silks were used very rarely for royalty or high priests. Men usually went topless, sporting a skirt-like loincloth fastened with a belt, or wore a long loose robe. Women were dressed in a large sheet of fabric that was draped over and around their bodies to form a long robe. Light leather or reed sandals were worn on the feet and well-off people decorated themselves with chunky, ornate metal jewelry.

Ancient Roman

In Ancient Rome, tunics or togas were the norm for both genders. While men's tunics ended near the knees, women's often extended to the floor. The peplos for women looks similar, but was made from two separate pieces of cloth, attached with pins and a belt. Brides would wear a decorated tunic with a bright red veil. Married women wore a stola, which was another tunic worn over the first one, along with a palla or cloak. Upper classes used silks, and elaborate jewelry of precious metals to indicate their status and wealth. Unlike the Ancient Egyptians, who mostly stuck to natural colors, the Ancient Romans reveled in dying their fabrics deep hues that denoted status.


Byzantines favored fabrics with rich colors and patterns, especially silks if they could be afforded. Their clothing was loose and consisted of layered tunics and cloaks. Fashions that originated in Ancient Rome were still popular, such as the toga and stola. Women wore clothing that kept them mostly or fully covered, with veils or wrapped fabric to cover the hair. In Western Europe too, women's fashions tended to be quite layered, voluminous and long. In contrast, men could wear hose, along with a jacket. Rich people opted for fine linens or even silks, while lower classes wore cheaper wool.


In Renaissance times, there were strict guidelines as to what people were allowed to wear. This largely depended on their status or profession. Working classes wore wool or rough linens, primarily because these fabrics were cheaper and easier to work in. For working men and women, clothing was simpler than the upper classes, so that it did not get in the way of their manual labor. Nobility and rich families favored richly dyed and printed fabrics. Women's gowns were tightly-laced at the bodice to show off a fine figure, with large skirts and sleeves. Men's clothing was also specially designed to accentuate their physical prowess. Depending on a person's status, or the occasion, such as a wedding or special feast, sleeve puffs and skirts were extended even further out for a larger impression.

18th/19th Century

Formality and decorum was key during the 18th and 19th centuries. Women were advised to wear conservative clothing to preserve their modesty. Often, the only part of their skin that showed was at the neckline and occasionally, the lower forearms. While tight corsets and large hoop skirts were originally popular, they later gave way to simpler, lighter dressers that accentuated the natural female figure. Men wore breeches or trousers, with starched shirts, and formal jackets. For many years, they would wear their shirt collars extended upwards, instead of folded down. Stylistic differences were sometimes borrowed from neighboring countries. At this time, hats were a favorite accessory and could be quite elaborate especially for well-off women.

1900 - 1980

Changes in technology between 1900 and 1980 meant that people enjoyed rapidly changing fashion trends just about every decade! The 20s were especially notable for their departure from the stiff Victorian fashions. Suddenly loose, informal and even provocative clothing was fashionable. In the coming decades, in part due to the war, women's clothing in particular became a little more conservative and formal during the 50s and 60s, before the hippie movement of the 70s brought back a sense of non-conformist attitudes. During this time, free-flowing t-shirts and dresses, paired with jeans for both genders and bell-bottoms were popular.

1980 - Current

Synthetic fabrics in shocking colors ruled the 1980s. Clothing was exaggerated in the form of mini-skirts, over-sized shoulder-pads, hoodies, and fashions inspired by rock and disco music icons. The 90s brought back a slightly more sober approach with more streamlined clothing. Going into the next century, sleek and minimalistic have now become the cornerstones of modern fashion.

Written by: , a staff writer at