It seems too real to be true: dresses and skirts that leave more to the imagination than the eye, and shirts that cover up rather than display everything. This is what fashion looked like during the 1950s and 1960s—however, this idea of fashion is one that is no longer prevalent in our society. Now, people have thrown out the iconic images that represent what true fashion was about—from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly, and even Elizabeth Taylor. These images of the classic and timeless celebrities have been replaced with those of Rachel Zoe, Lady Gaga, and even Rihanna. Currently, these women control the fashion world, serving as living, breathing displays for fashion houses across the world. These women define what to wear and how to wear it. According to the book “100 Ideas that Changed Fashion,” by Harriet Worsley, “Throughout history, prominent people have always exerted tremendous sway in fashion. Royalty, actresses, and royal mistresses have all been trendsetters.”
As a result, the way society decides to dress is no longer a true representation of themselves, inside and out, rather fashion has become a way to emulate their favorite celebrity. What if Hepburn, Kelly, and Taylor were still the main focuses of fashion—would the way we dress differ? For one, more would be covered, and less would fall out.“Prominent actresses and fashion designers have often formed highly successful mutually beneficial relationships, with the success of each raising the other’s profile,” Worsley states, “From the beginning of the twentieth century, celebrities started to play a crucially important role in fashion—by patronizing designers and, in wearing their clothes, giving prominence to their designers.”
But who controls the fashion world will be a task that is difficult to change due to the way fashion and trends are advertised today. These types of celebrities have become walking billboards for designers such as Cavalli, Chanel and Gucci. Today, designers have started to rely on celebrities to create the trends for them, rather than relying solely on the general public. When fashion first started to become prevalent in modern day society, many viewed it as a form of art—a true expression of one’s self.
Fashion was mostly inspired by music and mediums of art and how they both evolved over periods of time. For example, 1980s was the decade when underwear as outerwear made its way to the mainstream. “The image of Madonna dancing on-stage during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour wearing a Jean Paul Gaultier corset with a sharply pointed bra is unforgettable—but not scandalous. Madonna regularly performed in bras, slips and corsets,” Worsley writes.
And now this image of Madonna is one that still resonates within society, except now celebrities such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga have continued to keep this trend alive. However, this scandalous image of fashion is one that was not prevalent during the Hepburn, Kelly and Taylor era—back then, it was all about simplicity, understated beauty and glamour. But even though these iconic women did start the trend of glamour, it was music that helped keep that trend alive.
“The extraordinary stage costumes of David Bowie spearheaded this outbreak of camp drama, which found popularity mainly in Britain. Together with Marc Bolan, the extrovert lead singer of T. Rex, and members of such bands as Sweet Rexie, Roxy Music, Slade, and The Glitter Band, Bowie adopted platform heels, flamboyant makeup and highly theatrical clothing,” Worsley said. But this image of glam is one that is now masked by the scandalous designs that trendsetters like Rihanna and Lady Gaga wear.
Slowly, designers stopped designing for the modern day woman and started to design for theatrics and reaction—a trend that Bowie started. However, the theatrical fashion that is being produced now is not glamourous, instead it focuses more on sexuality rather than individuality and beauty. While some celebrities such as Kate Middleton, Alexa Chung and even Taylor Swift are trying to bring class back into the fashion world, it is overshadowed by the trash. In order to make a change to how society decides to represent themselves, there needs to be a change in how designers design their muses.
Worsley states, “More than ever, designers are clamoring to dress movie stars for red-carpet events such as the Oscars. And with an increasingly media-hungry public, and the currency of celebrity being somewhat cheapened, the fashion houses are busier than ever trying to seduce the major stars of the moment with their designs.”
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