What is the history of fashion?
This is a huge question, since people have been wearing forms of clothing since we first walked the earth, but I will try my best to cover some recent, and important milestones in fashion:
Several important inventions relating to the production of fabric emerged in England in the eighteenth century. England passed laws preventing these tools and machines from leaving the country. Thus, Americans had to import their fabric from England. However, Samuel Slater secretly memorized details of important inventions and smuggled them to America. He created the first textile mill in Colonial America and, as a result, New England became America's textile center (Frings 8).
In 1829, French tailor Barthelemy Thimmonier (1793-1859) invented the first sewing machine. Because they feared that this machine would take away their jobs, local tailors formed a mob and attacked Thimmonier and destroyed his invention. In 1859, Isaac Singer (1811-1875) developed the foot treadle, which the user pushed repeatedly to propel the machine. He spent one million dollars a year on sales promotion and, by 1867, was making one thousand machines per day. In 1921, the sewing machine became electric, dramatically simplifying sewing and increasing the speed with which garments could be made. Entrepreneurs soon caught on and, for the first time, were able to mass-produce clothing (Frings 90).
Mail order catalogues became an important business starting in the 1920s. The National Style Book, published in New York in 1924, offered woman's dresses for very inexpensive prices (Herald 16). The clothing was then mailed to customers within a few days. With the invention of the mail order catalogue, customers were able to purchase clothing without going into a store or hiring someone to make something for them.
The development of photography in the mid-nineteenth century was also extremely important to the fashion industry because it allowed fashion businesses to reproduce and advertize pictures of their clothing (Craik 248). This was a big change from when fashion advertisements were hand drawn.
Fashion magazines became important forces later on. Vogue magazine, founded in 1894 in New York, was particularly important in its ability to inform people of fashion trends going on around the world and thus create the desire for new styles and trends. (Frings 13).