Is Fashion A Tool For Self-Realization?

The standard clothing of girls and women was a dress and a skirt with a blouse for centuries, and designs for special occasions and festive events were created within these clothing types.

The social constraints put on women lost their grip around 1910 in the Western World; women gained more independence and careers. Mass production of clothing developed fast, making fashion accessible and affordable, and more variety was available. Before this, the style was reserved for the wealthy.

Being granted more rights and codetermination in society and public life, women realized the need to reflect their newly adapted role in their clothes. New fashion styles were needed to equip them with growing self-esteem and the desire to dress in styles that signaled their distinct personalities.

The first milestone was reached when women discovered the beauty of their legs and that they were worth showing off. Until 1920, women’s skirts came down to the ankles, but a sudden change took place in the era of the “Crazy Twenties. ” The result was that the hem of dresses and skirts fluctuated between ankles and knees.

Physical constraints such as corselets were replaced with brassieres that flattened the bust. Focus on the waist completely disappeared. Instead, the hips were garnished with loose sitting belts, creating a curveless style. The “Boyish Look” turned into a female revolution in the history of women’s fashion and the general role women played in society.


The first short hairstyle in women’s history, “the Bob,” was introduced and enthusiastically embraced by the female gender. For many, it was a symbol of liberation from the traditional long hair; for others, it was simply that maintaining short hair was more convenient.

The fashionable straight-cut style lasted a full decade, and the liberation of traditional clothing proceeded with high speed in 1930. Ensembles of the separate sweater and pleated skirt grew more popular by the day, and suits dressed working women and girls. Participating in businesses and being part of the staff in offices, the cases were like a statement of the change that women were seeking a way to find their self-determined place in a world ruled by men.-,

In 1930, women replaced straight-cut fashion with something more aligned with their femininity. Graceful, slim lines and a natural waist enjoyed growing popularity. Feminine shapes were again accepted and also emphasized. The length of skirts and dresses stayed on mid-calf for nearly a decade, which we refer to today as “Midi.” At the end of the 30ies, the hem ended 6 inches below the knee, where it stayed until the forties. Slightly padded shoulders hinted at what would be trendy in the ’40s.

In “the forties,” the attention to fashion did not have as much space as many women wished for. Women had to replace the workforce of men in factories and service industries because men went off to fight in World War 2. Women had to be mothers and fathers to their children, keeping the Nation functioning. They took on roles that were, until then, reserved for men only. The fashion then was held simple; the garments had to last a while.
Nevertheless, an appealing manner could be showcased. The most eye-catching difference with past styles was the padded square shoulders, a symbol for these years: a woman had to stand her ground and needed broader shoulders to carry the load. Skirts and dresses ended just above the knee and were tailored for a small waist. The suit was most popular then, composed of a skirt and jacket.

Presented in a film by a female actress wearing a suit with pants and tie and looking breathtaking sexy, created the “Marlene Dietrich Look.” Pants, reserved until then for the male gender only, also became a garment for women. The pants reached the waist and were closed with a zipper on the side. Using a fly for women’s pants did not even cross the mind of designers; it was simply out of the question. Anyway, the pants’ success was certain; they conquered the hearts of women in the Western World by storm and have, since then, fast fashion items.

In 1947, the “New Look” caught women’s attention, replacing the “utility fashion look” of wartime. With the return of men, femininity in fashion was back, too. Women wanted to look pretty and desirable; therefore, the feminine flair of the “New Look” created by Christian Dior was enthusiastically embraced. Rounded shoulders, accentuated bust lines, and clearly defined waist-marked dresses, coats, and suits. Half-circle ruffled dresses and skirts were trendy. Collections offered more versatile designs, from plaited skirts above the knee to dresses that ended just below the calves.

Created on the streets of America was the fashion of teenage girls. Bobbysocks, knee-length skirts, and sports sweaters were their favorite fashion at the end of the 40ies. The fashion industry swiftly picked this up and discovered a new target group.

Teenagers had the feeling that they were very different than their parents. Rock and roll, the film industry, television, and magazines in the 50s confirmed this feeling as all these trends were, in most cases, neither understood nor approved by parents. The fashion industry gladly fulfilled the need of these teenagers to be different. Jeans, T-shirts, leather, and denim jackets were introduced, and teenage fashion took off. The more rights to decision-making were granted to young people, the more variety and fashion styles could be found in malls and boutiques.

During the 50s, the way fashion was presented changed drastically. Collections did not last a decade but changed to two groups in one year. Various clothes were available, ranging from a full circle, ruffled skirts supported by starched petticoats to the trendy dirndl dress. The 50ies brought new and dashing patterns to choose from to women. Cotton skirts with a tropical landscape showing palm trees, a beach, and a sunset printed all around, or the cute, slim fit, polka dots ¾ pants emphasized a pretty figure. Creativity exploded in Paris after hunger and the fear of not surviving the next day. Life was lived to the fullest in Western Europe and America.

Fashion accelerated in the 60ies, from a revival of the “Marlene Dietrich Look” to the introduction of the mini-skirt that celebrates its success. The Hippie Look followed Gypsy, meaning girls wore see-through batiste Indian shirts with no bras and long skirts or velvet bell bottom pants with embroidered tops, leaving their bellies uncovered. Jeans had reached the status of evergreens and dressed from teenagers to daddies. Grown women could wear anything they wanted, whether a mini-skirt or ankle-length skirt, figure-hugging narrow skirts, or a suit with a rainbow-colored blouse. Pretty much everything was in fashion.

A loop back to a more conservative style was tried in the mid-70s. Convincing women to choose a mid-calf skirt as the only available fashionable length above a mini skirt failed miserably. Women demanded both, and the fashion industry has provided both since then.

At the end of the 1970s, children were finally heard, and since then, designers have also created clothes for kids. Children are allowed to choose from a huge diversity of styles and trends, have a voice in how they are dressed, and have a clear idea of how they want to look.

Fashion is picking up social trends and mirrors groups’ roles within a society. It is an extension of people’s personalities and a tool for self-realization. It seems that it also reflects how far these groups can express themselves freely, creatively, and unhinderedly.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.