Tag Archives: fashion history

Corset Sales Are Skyrocketing, But Why?

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Beyonce wears one onstage. So does Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. Ebay has sold 1,900 of them in the past three months. Vintage boutiques are marking up their prices like mad. What are they? Corsets, of course! The Spanx of the Victorian era is back in a big way, and their recent popularity has the fashion industry and historians searching for answers. Why is everyone suddenly clamoring for a corset of their very own? After all, they’re not exactly comfortable or practical. The BBC’s Vanessa Barford tackled this question in a fascinating article about the history of the corset, and it turns out that there are quite a few factors contributing to the current trend… Keep reading »

Where Does The Word “Sneakers” Come From?

I came across a little tidbit in the “Hot Contents” section of Elle‘s July issue that said advertising man Henry Nelson McKinney popularized the term “sneakers” while working on a 1917 Keds campaign. The athletic shoes, as Keds were known before this clever moment, had a rubber sole that allowed the wearer to sneak behind unsuspecting friends and family. But as it turns out, the word “sneakers” was in use way before this time. Boys, who were known to harass their schoolmasters, called their tennis shoes “sneakers” as early as 1887, according to a New York Times article at the time that cited The Boston Journal of Education. In addition, the former Jordan Marsh department store in Boston advertised “500 pairs of men’s tennis oxfords (sneakers)” in 1889. Keds maintains that it was the first to prominently use “sneakers,” but according to its own library, there were only two passing uses of the term in ads from the early part of the 20th century — in 1922 and 1934. So I guess we have naughty little Bostonian boys to thank for the term that gave birth to the sneaker head. [NY Times] Keep reading »

Platform Shoes Were Originally A 16th Century Symbol Of Economic Standing

Back in the 16th century, a woman showed her status with the height of her highly-impractical platform shoes. In Italy, however, it wasn’t fashionable to show off your chopines, as the columnar platform shoes from the Renaissance were known. The higher the platform, the more fabric was needed for the dresses of upper-class women and courtesans so the skirt lengths wouldn’t be too short — therefore, the longer the dress, the wealthier the family. During the same period in Spain, women were all about showing off their decked-out footwear. Flashy, overly-decorated shoes peeked out from under the skirts of wealthy Spanish women.

In both countries, really high platform shoes were a way to show off one’s servants as well. A 16th-century woman needed at least two servants to maneuver around in her high chopines, but a little help from a man was also acceptable. This predicament is the reason men offer their hand to a woman today. The fashion of chopines died out in the 17th century, after explorers found new routes from Europe to the East, making Venice less important. The high-heel then became the footwear of choice for the wealthy and has remained so for women across economic levels. Interesting, huh? [Reuters] Keep reading »

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