According to the Fashion Theory
The Journal of Ladies Fashion Reviews Dress, Body & Culture, fashion is defined as “the cultural construction of the embodied identity.”
As such, it encompasses all forms of self-fashioning, including street styles, as well as so-called high fashion created by designers and couturiers, to fashion, something is to make it in a particular form.
Most commonly, fashion is defined as the prevailing style of dress or behavior at any given time, with the strong implication that fashion is characterized by change. As Shakespeare wrote, “The fashion wears out more apparel than the man.”
Probably because clothing has such an intimate relationship with the physical body and, by extension, the personal identity of the individual.
Fashion Through the Ages
Fashion is most often thought of as a phenomenon of the Western world from the late Middle Ages onward, but fashion-oriented behavior existed in at least some other societies and historical periods.
A regular pattern of stylistic change with respect to dress and interior decoration existed in Europe by the fourteenth century.
By the seventeenth century, Paris was the capital of European fashion and the source of most new styles in women’s dress. By the eighteenth century, however, fashions in men’s clothing tended to originate in London.
Definition of Orientalism
While the use of the term “Orientalism” has changed over time, it generally refers to the appropriation by western designers of exotic stylistic conventions from diverse cultures spanning the Asian continent.
The influx of Asian Merchandise in the West
For example, the importation of Chinese ceramics exploded in the seventeenth century.
Not only did these wares remain popular for centuries, but they also inspired the creation of stellar ceramic companies like Sevres in France and Meissen in Germany.
Even plants, like the legendary flower from Turkey that led to the “tulipmania” craze in Holland and the brewed leaf that became the status drink of the well-to-do and evolved into the ritualized “high tea,” fueled the love of all things from Asia.
Impact on Fashion
Platform shoes from central Asia led to the creation of the Venetian chopine in the sixteenth century.
Textiles from all over Asia, primarily China, India, and Turkey, inspired the creation of fashions like the robe á la Turquie in the eighteenth century.
This was a more extraordinary phenomenon since the fear of Turkish Islamic invaders was a constant and imminent threat.
The romantic notion of a far-distant land, such as Cathay (or China), filled with genteel philosophers and lovers of art.
As Queen Victoria ascended the throne of England 1837, then the most powerful empire in the world, she oversaw an eclectic art style that would come to dominate the remainder of the nineteenth century.
The end result of one amalgamation, Gothic and Japanese, led to the creation of the Aesthetic Movement. Fashion gowns reflected this blend.
The influence of Orientalism on fashion could be seen in many other ways, both frivolous and profound.
For example, the fad for harem pants from Turkey appeared in the form of fancy dress costumes at balls,
On the other hand, items of dress from Asia would become essential for women through the mid-nineteenth century.
Fashion periodicals of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s seem to indicate only a minimal interest in foreign dress for most designers, as compared with earlier decades.
However, a strong revival of ethnic influences arose during the mid-1960s, as the fashion world responded to the purposeful rejection of standard, mass-produced fashion by young people.
Coupled with this renewed interest in non-Western cultures was the emergence of Asian designers.
After World War II, other Asian garments began to find their way into the fashion mainstream. One example is the quintessential twentieth-century Chinese dress-the qipao or cheongsam.
Fictional prostitute in Richard Mason’s novel, The World of Suzie Wong, published in 1959.
It is clear that the continued fascination with Orientalism continues into the twenty-first century.