has never been merely a window dressing. Montezuma handed over an
entire kingdom to Cortez because the conquistador wore a small black
hat that Montezuma had dreamt about: the very hat Quetzalcoatl would
be wearing when he came to reclaim the Aztec throne. Fashion affects
its era as much as it is affected by the times--what people wear
has impact on their customs, economics, politics, and physical environment.
We look. We see. We hear volumes about customs, sex, politics, ego,
status, and even the local weather based upon what people are wearing.
is an indisputable link between fashion and "the big picture."
The sixteenth-century meeting between Francis I and Henry VIII on
the Field of the Cloth of Gold saw each ruler hoping to overwhelm
the other through the sheer magnificence of his dress. The production
of fashion and textiles is directly related to the rise of guilds
and towns in the Middle Ages and sweatshops in the twentieth century.
And you could say that the British lost the war and the Colonies
because the Red Coats
out like a sore thumb. Fifteenth-century doorways were redesigned to accommodate
toppling hats, the long-handled spoon was invented so people could eat
over their ruffs, and the Victorian woman caged in crinoline redefined
the century's sense of personal space (only three women wearing crinolines
could possible stand in a room at the same time).Through wars, changes
in technology, the rise of the mass media, and shifting values and ideals,
fashion has prevailed in America, shaping and displaying what it really
means to be an American. Taking a year-by-year romp through Interwar America,
we'll see how fashion reveals (at least some of) the naked truth about