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During Which Historical Period Was Fashion At Its Height?

Updated April 26, 2018 2.4k votes 409 voters 14.5k views12 items

List RulesVote up the fashion era you'd most like to make a comeback.

What were the best fashion eras throughout history? Each period in Western civilization has its own style, but not all are created equal. It's undeniable that some periods have just been more fashionable than others. From empire-style gowns to flapper dresses, some of the best clothing throughout time has come out of significant eras. The most important historical fashion has been deeply rooted in time and place. It has also been representative of changes in society as a whole, and style has always meant more than simply what garments a person is wearing.

The history of fashion trends is interesting - but that doesn’t mean it has always been pretty. Even as some periods of history have contributed to significant developments in men’s and women’s fashion, they’ve just as frequently produced oddities that are memorable only for their sheer wackiness. Just as beauty standards have changed over time, so too have standards of dress. From ancient civilization to modern times, clothing has always changed with the world, but when fashion was at its particular best is an entirely different matter.

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    The 18th-Century Elite Loved Dressing Up – Even If It Made It Difficult To Walk Through A Door

    Photo: Marie Antoinette / Columbia Pictures

    Fashion in the 18th century was as dynamic as it was over-the-top for wealthier classes - even as the Industrial Revolution and materials from around the world made clothing cheaper and more accessible for lower classes. Clothing was immaculate and refined, with rich fabrics and remarkable detail.

    No one - especially no man - was ever fully dressed without a wig. Wigs were made of actual hair sourced from everything from yaks and horses to human beings, and hairdressers developed poufs to take hair to even greater heights. Petticoats and hoop skirts were a must for ladies. Court dress was especially regimented, and women were expected to wear ridiculously broad dresses that forced them to walk sideways through doors.

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    The Victorian Era Lived Its Own Hoop Dreams

    Photo: Gazette of Fashion / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Victorian era - 1837 to 1901 - covered a huge swathe of time in British history, but the values and fashions it upheld were shared across much of the Western world. Victorian women were all about the petticoats and hoops, and so they relied on various frameworks beneath their skirts. However, these skirts grew so elaborate and heavy by the middle of the 19th century that women had to use crinolines - a kind of steel fashion cage - and, later, light bustles to support their outfits. They also relied on extremely restrictive corsets to give themselves impossibly small waists that contrasted with wide hoops - as a result, the average waist size was around 22 inches

    Though Victorian men didn't have to subject themselves to restrictive - but distinctive - fashion, they still did know how to cut a figure. Top hats, for example, were the hallmark of a gentleman, since they were too expensive for the average worker. 

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    The Swinging '60s Were All About Chicness, Social Change, And Outer Space

    Photo: U.S. Embassy New Delhi/U.S. Department of State / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The 1960s reached new heights in chic, thanks to the classic lines of fashion worn by people like Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. Though the elegance of James Bond gave men a classy look to aspire to as well, celebrities like the Beatles eagerly donned the new casual looks of the era - think checkered pants and turtle-neck sweaters. American fashion in the 1960s even reflected broader social issues, like feminism and the Civil Rights movement. 

    Although '60s fashion could be cool, chic, and symbolic, it could also be, put simply, a hot mess. Take, for example, Space Age fashion. Led by designers like Paco Rabanne, Space Age style embraced materials like metallic fabric to give men and women a far-out look. Joining Space Age and metallic ensembles in the "Best Left In The 60s" category: tie-dye, neon colors, and vinyl fabrics.

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    Everything Was Longer In The Middle Ages

    Photo: Percy Anderson / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Though the Middle Ages covered an incredibly diverse collection of centuries, one thing is clear: fashion kept getting bigger - or, at least, longer. Like most historical eras, fashion was closely tied to class. Merchants and nobles had the money to spend on rich fabrics and designs to display their wealth and social standing. Even throwing money away on excess fabric - just because you could - was a thing. Long, draping sleeves became a hallmark in the later Middle Ages. Men and women wore dogaline sleeves in Venice, and they were so long they reached the knee. By the late 15th century, crakow shoes with long, pointy toes were all the rage for both men and women. Wearers actually had to stuff their shoes with hair so that they would keep their shape.

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