Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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Clothes have been used to define the sexes since the earliest times. On the whole, men's clothes have been more practical with separate legs in lower garments to facilitate activity, whilst the fashionable male silhouette has often emphasised a broad chest and narrow hips. Women's dress has been more restrictive and decorative, with layers of long skirts hampering movement and an ideal hour-glass figure emphasising bust and hips with a narrow waist between. However, within these general parameters, clothing has frequently played with the established concepts of sexuality; even eighteenth century ladies wore masculine-style jackets and hats for riding; and women in the 1920s took their boyish appearance to an extreme with bust flatteners, bobbed hair and dropped-waist dresses. Male "dandies" in the early nineteenth century revelled in sporting lavender trousers and perfumed gloves with rings on top, just as the New Romantics of the early eighties wore make-up, frilled shirts and extravagantly draped scarves and sashes.

This section looks to the conservative "ideal" of male and female as well as to the extreme and the exception, and it provides a flavour of costume's long-standing interaction with human sexuality.

Related Themes:

1920s Dance Dresses
Women's Shoes
Suits for Men & Women
1960s Fashion
1970s Fashion