Historians and experts usually utilize the term “costumes” when referring to dresses. But, whatever the case or term for reference used for various purposes, this only goes to show how much clothing items, specifically dresses, play a significant role in the history of humanity.
Some authors and scholars even base their studies of eras and centuries on woven clothing pieces. Most of them can tell which part of the history’s timeline these items belong to just by looking at the dresses, along with their features, functionalities, textures, and materials.
With this kind of dynamic, it shows that the types and kinds of dresses vary from one era or time to another. Accordingly, there is an apparent evolution when it comes to clothing and dressing.
Importance of Dresses
The importance of dresses varies from one group of people to another. The era or period of time is also another factor to determine the specific importance of these clothing pieces to the wearers.
In the early centuries, people do not seem to care much for appearance and style. This is why dresses at that time are mainly for protection from external factors, like weather and the environment.
As time passed by, though, the importance varied greatly. From a merely protective garment, dresses became more of a statement and expression.
This post is a brief guide to the evolution of dresses. You will notice the varying difference when it comes to the essence, function, and style of the items based on the period of time in history.
The World’s Oldest Dress
Scholars and experts take that the world’s oldest dress is the so-called “Tarkhan Dress.” It originated from Egypt over 5000 years ago.
While the physical evidence has already proven that dresses existed thousand years ago, there are some historians who believe that people from a much earlier period wore dresses, as well. Still, the Tarkhan Dress remains to be the world's oldest clothing piece for women. It obtained its name from the Tarkhan cemetery in Cairo, Egypt where it was found earlier in 1913.
The Beginning of the Fad
Considering that no one knows when exactly the wearing of dresses began, history can date back to the emergence of the fad. As noted, the dresses from the Mesopotamian civilization appear to have started the trend.
Experts believe that the people from this period did not only utilize dresses for protection but, they also used them for beautification. As claimed, Mesopotamian dresses all came with elaborate embroidery, proving that they were not merely for cover-ups.
After the Mesopotamians, dresses from Egypt followed. But, unlike the dresses from the Mesopotamian civilization, Egyptians did not initially make dresses with elaborate patterns or designs. They were only items to cover themselves up.
In the timeline, Minoan cultural dress followed. These items are said to have played a very important role in the history of dresses.
As explained, Minoans used wool and dyed linen to produce and make their dresses. They also had intricate patterns, using both simple and complex weaving procedures, as well as embroidery.
In 30 B.C., dresses from Ancient Greece emerged. They differ from the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Minoan dresses as Greeks valued comfort and functionality more.
During and in between these periods also came the Roman and Etruscan dresses. Many individuals described these items and garments as more similar to the Greek dresses.
13th to 18th Century Dresses
In the 15th century, or during the early medieval times, experts believe that dresses became more intricate. Structures and layers also became apparent, as well as the heavy and ornate fabric, which all signified the wealth of the wearer.
A century later, Tudor-style dresses became common among the public. They featured long, draped sleeves, and velvet fabrics.
These dresses also usually came with square necklines. This became popular as women would typically match it with layers of jewels and necklaces.
In the 17th century, high-waisted dresses were replaced by pieces that emphasized the waist. Noble individuals were the more common people who wore such garments during this period.
Variations of dresses were evident by the 18th century. In the 1760s to 1770s, dresses from American colonies and European countries varied greatly. While Americans wore much simpler dresses, European royals reportedly “piled on pageantry.”
Dresses In The 19th Century
Full skirts, ruffles, and off-shoulder sleeves all became the norm of dresses in the better half of the 19th century, especially during formal occasions. However, there were still huge differences when it comes to the style and intricacies between European and American dress.
In the latter decades of the century, though, the Victorian era emerged. Dresses across the globe became seemingly more uniform. White and black pieces were the choice of conservative women, and they usually came with long sleeves and high necks.
The Modern Era
During the early decade of the 20th century, the Victorian era dresses persisted. It did only last, however, until the Edwardian era entered in the 1910s.
Dresses during this period were boxier and looser in terms of design. The biggest change, though, was the shorter hemlines as they climbed up above the ankles.
A decade later, a revolution in the style of dresses emerged further. Modern styles and designs entered the scene, and women abandoned the floor-length pieces for the knee-length dresses, alongside the sleeveless items.
In the 1940s, Christian Dior introduced new styles, which all took inspiration from the feminine figure. At the same time, tea-length and coat dresses became the norm.
In the '60s, dress styles and designs continued to move away from the historical counterparts. Trends on mini-skirts and mini dresses went global, and women quickly adopted the whole new dynamic.
During the latter years of the century, jumper dresses also became popular. Trends on sweatshirts, suits, blazers, slip dresses, and even maxi dresses surfaced, as well.
Wide access to music, movies, and celebrity culture played a significant role in the emergence of the new dress styles and designs. This has since become the custom all over the globe, even reaching the recent years.