Category Archives: Fashion Trends

Fashion Rules

When these two words are used together, I hear two different meanings. On the one, Fashion Rules seems to need the punctuation of exclamation points and to perhaps be preceded by “Dude!” It is a call to those obsessed with the newest, the latest, the trendiest to confirm just how important fashion is in their lives. And, I do have to agree with them.

Fashion Rules! – because it is so important to the communication of our beliefs, our opinions, our social status, our definition of self that it can be the visual representation of “us”. As William Blake wrote: “….the human person is composed of three parts: body, soul and clothes.”
And so for some (many?) the choice of our fashion is rarely random. We take the time to consider how we are representing ourselves, even if all we are concerned with is being appropriately clothed for the weather.

But “Fashion Rules” can also be taken to mean defining what exactly “appropriately” clothed means.

I had a discussion about this topic with a recent donor and visitor to the Fashion Resource Centre. She and I were talking about the change in expectations regarding appearance. She told me about a recent event that two of her adult children had attended. The event was held outside at a very well-to-do couple’s home and before attending they were wondering what the other guests would be wearing and what they should wear. If it was a garden party should she wear a dress? And if so, what kind of dress? How “dressed” up should they be? How “casual” was too casual? As it happened when they arrived most guests had opted for jeans!

photo_001

Not that long ago (ok maybe not that long ago if you are my age) there were Fashion Rules about what to wear to what occasion. We both decried the loss of those opportunities where “dressing up” was a requirement, not just from the perspective of acceptance by others but as a sign of respect to those you were with. The chance to wear a more formal dress or suit seems to be acceptable at very few occasions – prom, as parents of the bride/groom and if you happen to be a celebrity. (Maybe that is why there are so many of those dresses and gowns on racks in many department stores?)

I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of these no longer observed Fashion Rules.


When Prince Albert passed away his heartbroken wife Queen Victoria sunk into mourning in a way that we certainly no longer do. This became another way to show respect for family members who had passed but it was also a way to demonstrate to others your social status and wealth. The etiquette books dictated not only what you could wear but how long you should do so in order to show the proper respect.

The stages of mourning included: deep mourning which was to last a minimum of one year plus one day. All colour in your wardrobe was replaced with black and not just any black. It was necessary that all things with shine be put away too. Your lovely gold jewelry would be replaced with jet beads and mourning jewelry made of bog oak as well as hair (from the deceased of course). Your clothing had a matte rather than shiny finish to the fabric and you were draped in unrelenting black.

The next stage was Second Mourning and this lasted for an additional year. Black was still your colour but it could now be made of a fabric like silk which has a bit of shine to it.
After this came Ordinary mourning in which a bit of white might be added to your collars and the cuffs of your long sleeved dresses. This stage lasted a further six months.

And finally your last six months of mourning called Half Mourning would allow you to slowly (ever so slowly) to add colour to your wardrobe. But, this was also restricted to specific colours: white, grey (black mixed with white) and finally a mauve colour (grey mixed with purple).
This applied to women’s fashions and men were only required to wear a black arm band, and for considerably less time than the three years plus one day that women adhered to. This type of mourning ritual was thankfully reserved for those relations closest to you: your mother, father, siblings, and husbands.

However, if in the midst of this process, another close relation passed away you were expected to begin the process once again.

Hats were an essential part of a fashionable woman’s wardrobe until the Catholic Church decreed in the 1970s that women no longer needed to wear head coverings to church. Prior to this, women wouldn’t think about going to the grocery store, never mind church without a proper hat.
As well, beehive hair styles popular in the preceding decade had also made wearing hats something of a challenge and the young women of the 1960s also wanted to be less, rather than more like their mothers who had grown up with a wardrobe of headgear.

hat_001hat_collage_2

During World War II hats were one of the few items not subject to rationing and became a creative outlet for women to achieve a smart new look. There were different types and styles of hats appropriate seasonally as well as by occasion.

image_003

Dior’s New Look of 1947 influenced the silhouette through the 1950s and suggesting women who were fashionably attired did so by wearing accessories which matched and complemented their entire look and this became a very successful marketing strategy for the fashion house.

Looking at the silhouette created by the incredibly full, often pleated skirts of the 1950s, the large picture hat that is often shown with the New Look was the perfect complement from a design perspective. The female form is “bracketed” with a large circle created with the long and full skirt at her hem and with an almost equally large circle on the top of her head.

hat010

Speaking of sparkle, rhinestone jewelry that was so popular in the 1950s was also something that was generally worn “after 5.” While Marilyn Monroe sang “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” women wore rhinestones as an acceptable alternative. They could be found adorning not only bracelets, brooches and earrings but handbags, shoes and, of course, dresses. But, any of these worn before 5:00 looked decidedly out of place.

image_004

jewelry

These are just a few examples of Fashion Rules that have disappeared, whether for good or bad is up to the individual to decide. And, while there are those who still live a life with the opportunity to dress for the red carpet I think it is sad that these folks are in the minority. Wouldn’t you love to have more occasions to wear a beautiful gown, with a wonderful hat, spectacular shoes and amazing bling?

Fashion does rule the day and in a very different way now than in the past.

Dale's signature

Slow Down Fast Fashion

Browsing through a magazine today,  I came across what is not really news, nor a really a new movement but one that has become more a part of the way we are choosing to eat.  The article discussed the concepts of dining close to where the chef has a farm, or “farm-to-table” and savvy shoppers who fill their grocery carts with food that is not only wholesome, organic and good for them but is produced in a way that is good for animals and the environment alike.  You too may know the concept of sustainability as one that has become trendy in the food world.

What has this to do with fashion?  The concept of fashion and sustainability is also one that is not really news but has begun to become a movement that will hopefully become as important to us as the attention we are paying to feeding our bodies.

It is important to remind ourselves that there are 7 billion people currently on earth,  and the vast majority made up of societies who deem wearing clothing a necessity,therefore  the fashion industry is as important to humans as the food industry.  One of the inherent characteristics of fashion is that it involves change.  And, as so many people tell us – “Change is Good!”  This adage might help someone who is balking at the idea of accepting a new technology into their business lives, but is a motto that few fashionistas need to be given?

The speed of change is something else that we should examine.  If change is good does it necessarily mean that it must occur immediately?  Our initial answer may likely be a resounding yes!  We seem to have little patience anymore for the light to turn green, for the song to upload, for the app to open.  We want everything to happen quickly and no better example of that in the fashion world is what has been deemed “Fast Fashion”.

Fast fashion has certainly contributed to a fashion addiction for many.  The need to have the newest and trendiest is not necessarily a new concept but the possibility of that being available to anyone with $14.99 is what has enabled us to become the ultimate consumers.

Gobbling up a new product every two to three weeks was not possible, even five years ago.  Slow fashion meant that there were new fashions but it took much longer for those trends to diffuse through society.  The production of merchandise was slower and I would suggest it was better for this lack of speed.  The quality of the product was definitely superior to some of the merchandise available to us today.  This superiority also meant that the longevity of the product was assured.

In the not so far off past, there were items in everyone’s closet that they kept for years because the style was deemed to be classic.  The LBD as proposed by Coco Chanel is a perfect example.  Our Fashion Resource Centre has many wonderful examples of these Little Black Dresses for exactly that reason – they were classic, could be worn for a number of different occasions and by more than one person in the family!

3dresses

Dresses from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

In examining some of today’s fast fashions, there are few that I could say “need” to be added to our Fashion Resource Centre. In fact, I’m not sure that they would ever make it to the collection as the quality of the product is so poor that it is likely to be discarded by a wearer rather then them thinking it would make a good donation.

pic4

Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Earlier periods in the history of fashion production attempted to create patterns that would be as economical in the use of the fabric as possible. During WWII “Utility Dressing” was a movement of British fashion designers to create fashionable and utilitarian garments for women during a period when rationing was required. Today the wastefulness to be found not only in the cutting of fabric but in the use and pollution of natural resources is appalling.

Customers paid dearly for the garments they purchased in times past and this might have been one of the reasons for the slower diffusion of fashion trends. They paid for the artistry of the designers as well as the producers of the actual garment. Today, men, women and children are paid wages that are as close to slave labour as it is possible to be. And, these business practices are fueled in part by the consumers who demand low prices and fast fashion.

pic5
It is not simply the Little Black Dresses that prove interesting in the study of fashion. The attention to detail that designers and manufacturers considered important to their reputation as well as to the comfort of their clients is important to examine. When we look at the care to ensure that each tiny pleat has been added with mathematic precision to add the desired fullness to a skirt or the exacting placement of each bead, rhinestone and thread in the embroidery of a gown we admire not only the symmetry, the decoration and the artistry but the passion that fueled the need to create such a thing of beauty.

Although we have the ability to create fast fashion there is a need, and hopefully a desire among designers and consumers to pause and consider the value of slow fashion. The fashion industry needs to feed the soul with the beauty of a unique garment, lovingly created and done so with the least impact on human beings and the endangered environment.

Dale's signature