Most people put on their outfits every day without questioning the history of clothing as they do it. You're clearly not one of these people, since you've landed on this page! Here's a list of things we still wear today and why we started wearing them.
The history of clothing is a very strange story with a lot of twists and turns. How did we go from neanderthals who wore only loincloths to men wearing leggings and heels as a sign of status, besides the fact that it looks fabulous? Do neckties serve an actual function? Was Queen Victoria the first influencer?
We'll answer all these questions and more in this list of the historical origin of clothes we still wear.
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13th-Century Judges In China Wore Sunglasses To Hide Their Facial Expressions
13th-century Chinese judges were masters of the "poker face" long before Lady Gaga sang about it - even long before poker was even invented in 1829! While the judges were serving, they'd wear glasses made of smokey quartz to shield their eyes from view. This kept the defense from seeing their expression throughout a trial or interrogation.
The Inuit people also created an early version of sunglasses in the late 19th century. Since they were constantly surrounded by snow, the reflection of the sun hurt their eyes, so they created sunglasses out of whalebone to protect their vision.
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Bras Date Back To Ancient Greece And Rome
Women have been inventing undergarments for comfort and style for a long time. In ancient Greece, women tied fabric around their chests tightly and secured the back with a pin. Roman women wore similar garments when they were playing sports to keep their breasts in place.
These simple garments eventually evolved into corsets, which were stiff and time-consuming to lace. The first structured camisoles in France added support with whalebone inserts.
In 1913, New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob patented her design for what we consider the modern bra, with cups that separate and support the breasts. The original bra was "two handkerchiefs joined by ribbon." She was inspired to create this new article of clothing because she was frustrated with the plunging necklines of the trendy dresses at the time, which didn't work out for her curvy figure.
Apparently, many other women had the same issues Mary Phelps Jacob did. She opened a factory with another woman, which became the first bra manufacturer ever. Jacob eventually changed her name to Caresse Crosby and became a well-known patron of the arts and literary publisher.
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Panties Were First Worn As A Chastity Device
There have been many forms of undergarments throughout history, but underwear as we know it, with two separate sides for each leg, didn't exist until the 1600s, and it wasn't for comfort. These "panties," or short cotton pants, were worn by women to protect them from flashing anybody if they fell off a horse - because being indecent is the biggest concern when getting bucked off an animal.
Panties were also worn by women to protect them from being assaulted. Cecil Saint-Laurent states in her book The Great Book of Lingerie, "These drawers also protect them against adventurous young men, because if they slip their hands under their skirts they can't touch their skin at all."
As time went on, women's undergarments became more advanced and restrictive, including corsets, whalebone frames, and bum rolls to add volume to their skirts. Things began to change around the end of the 19th century, as shown in this 1874 illustration of a ladies' dress reform meeting at Freeman Place Chapel in Boston.
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Hawaiian Aloha Shirts Were Made By Japanese Women Repurposing Kimonos
Contrary to popular belief, Jimmy Buffet did not invent the Hawaiian Aloha shirt to sell at his Margaritaville restaurant chain. This tropical tourist favorite was likely created by local Japanese women living in Hawaii in the 1920s who adapted kimono fabric for use in men’s shirting for their families.
Soon after, Americans adopted the Hawaiian shirts as a way to brighten their wardrobe. In the 1930s, only the mega-rich could afford trips to Hawaii, so the Aloha shirt became a symbol of wealth.
After the American perspective of Japan changed because of WWII, the traditional Japanese prints like cherry blossoms were swapped for more tropical renditions, like hibiscus flowers and palm trees.
By the '60s, everyone from Elvis to Richard Nixon rocked an Aloha shirt, making them a popular staple in the American wardrobe.