A Brief History of Fashion Design: From the Classical to the Hippie Look

We look at the evolution of fashion design from the times of Mad King George to the Psychedelic Seventies. Some of the iconic designs from histories are listed described below

1800 -1837: Late Georgian Era


This period covered the reigns of George III, Prince of Wales, William the IV, till the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837.

Regency fashion based on classical lines and ornamentation inspired successively from the Greek, Etruscan, Egyptian and Spanish, was the dominant design. Gothic designs made their mark in 1820 and continued till 1837. Parallel to the Gothic, the Romantic influence also was in vogue where the feminine dress was contrasted by the gallant military uniforms.

1837 -1913: Victorian Era


  • 1837-1856: Crinoline Era. Charles Worth, the first modern Couturier, established himself.
  • 1860-1882: The bustle was in prominence. Also called First Bustle Era.
  • 1883-1901: The Second Bustle Era. where bustles became more elaborate and waists narrower. It was the time of the Gibson Girls and tailored suits.
  • 1901 -1914: The classical styles were slowly being replaced by geometric and other styles. The S-bend, mono-bust and Paul Poiret’s Directories line of clothes took centre stage.

The end of the 1800s saw the Art Nouveau movement which had dresses with linear curves and decorative art. Floral designs and belled skirts ruled the designs.

The period from mid-1890 to 1914 was called La Belle Epoque by the French which was dominated by a decadent style of elaborate beautiful dresses and luxurious living.

1914-1918: The First World War period saw female emancipation and skirts with higher hemlines. Clothing became more practical.

1920-1938: Roaring Twenties and the Stylish Thirties. Art Deco movement, the Flappers, and Bright Young Things defined style. Short skirts, cloche hats and bobbed hair were in.

1939-1945: WWII. Shortages and austerity ushered in an era of utility clothing.

1947-1970: This post-war period and beyond saw many movements and upheavals in fashion design. It was the heyday of Christian Dior, Hollywood glamour, Prêt-A-Porter, Rock and Roll, jeans, miniskirts, the hippy look and the psychedelic Op Art.

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