As the world raises a toast to women, Navya D’Souza flips through fashion history and discovers the women behind the trends.
There’s very little that comes between women and their love for fashion. And while some of us our content flaunting it, there are those who actually invented it. Here’s a list of women whose style contributions made history.
Dubbed as the ‘little boy look’ when it made its debut in the hallowed pages of Vogue, in 1926, the Little Black Dress is one of fashion’s most enduring trends courtesy Coco Chanel. This fashion empress transformed a colour that was previously restricted to widows and the clergy into a symbol of versatility, appealing to all. Since then, the Little Black Dress is a wardrobe must-have and it is little wonder that every new fashion fad claims to be “the new black”.
Brussels-born, Diane Von Fürstenberg first entered the spotlight when she married German Prince Egon zu Fürstenberg in 1970. A divorce, two years later, might have claimed her title and her charmed existence, but it did little to affect her independent steak. This Belgian-American designer went on to reinvent fashion savvy and created the wrap dress that not just revolutionised fashion but also came to represent women’s liberation for innumerable workingwomen in the 1970’s. So much so that the wrap dress, she first designed, is immortalised at the Cosmetics Institute of the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For women, across the world, who couldn’t look at the mirror without cringing at the sight of bulging curves, Sarah Blakely and her creation – Spanx- came as a god send. While selling fax machines from door-to-door, Blakely sorely missed comfortable hosiery that also flattered her curves. She invested her life savings; all of USD 5000, into the creation of comfy, confidence-boosting shape wear. Spanx was born in 2000. Since then, it has made it to the Oprah’s Favourite Things list, made Blakely the youngest self-made billionaire and has put her in an hallowed spot in many a woman’s lives.
In full bloom
While bloomers are no longer considered fashionable, the first ones invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller did heaps to assert a woman’s standing in society in the 19th century. All though Miller invented the baggy pants that tapered at the ankles and were worn under skirts. It was American women’s rights activist, Amelia Bloomer, who popularised it in her magazine, The Lily, and also lent her name to it. The bloomers were meant to be a comfortable, practical alternative to the long, heavy skirts that women wore while going about their daily chores. Although, they were heavily ridiculed in the Victorian era, they paved the way to a dress reform that altered the way women dressed.
Many will tell you that Mary Quant was not the inventor of the mini skirt. Still, Quant is widely believed to be the designer force behind making it a wardrobe staple in the 60’s. While The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd ushered in a brand-new era in music, Quant made sure that the mini skirt became second skin to the youth brigade that headlined the Mod phenomena. Quant named the skirt after her favourite car, the Mini, and said on many occasions that the mini was a practical option to the long, flowing skirt that made it impossible to run behind or climb buses. Quant went on to introduce coloured and patterned tights, launched hot pants and, even, claims to have invented the duvet. Today, she is mentioned in the same breath as Dior and Chanel.
After graduating from fashion school in 1960, Gabriele Knecht spent years designing everything from brassieres to women’s sportswear and even designer clothes for children. Through the years, Knecht discovered that clothes makers still used the age-old T-design for the sleeves, which worked on the principle that the range of movement of the arms is equal in front and at the back of the body.
Knecht’s love for kinematics, synergetics, physics and cosmology led her to discover that this widely accepted principle was untrue and hampered free movement of the arms. After much work on the topic, Knecht came up with the Forward Sleeve Design, which she patented in 1984. This design brought the lower point of the sleeve, near the armpit, a little inwards and forward compared to the upper point of the sleeve. This tiny adjustment let the arms move freely and allowed the garment to fall gracefully on the body.
Cream of the crop
Pants were made for men and only later adopted by woman. The design, however, remained the same until Sonja de Lennart got creative.
In 1948, two years after starting her boutique in Munich, Sonja de Lennart added sexy to the wide, manly pants that women wore and created Capris. The cropped pants were tighter, were more suited to a woman’s curves and also proved to be the perfect thing to wear on a hot summer’s day.
All these women’s creations did more than just make style statements. While each of these contributions helped women look and feel better, they also changed the way the world thought about women in society.Their stitches in time help us look oh-so-fine even today.