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Laid-back Fashion / January 18, 2024

Why Was Fashion So Elegant in the Past?

In the past, fashion was not just about wearing clothes, it was a form of art and a way to express oneself. People took great pride in their appearance and dressed to impress. The elegance and sophistication of past fashion can be seen in the intricate details and craftsmanship of clothing. But why did everyone dress so nicely back then? Was it just a status symbol or was there more to it? This article will explore the reasons behind the elegant fashion of the past and how it reflects the values and societal norms of that time. So, let’s dive into the world of fashion history and discover the secrets behind the stylish and sophisticated attire of the past.

Quick Answer:
Fashion was more elegant in the past due to a combination of factors such as a greater emphasis on craftsmanship and attention to detail, a higher standard of living, and a more sophisticated society. People in the past placed a greater value on appearance and presentation, and fashion was seen as a way to showcase one’s status and wealth. Additionally, there was a greater focus on tradition and etiquette, which influenced the way people dressed and presented themselves. All of these factors contributed to a more elegant and refined approach to fashion in the past.

The Golden Age of Elegance

The Roaring Twenties

Flapper Dresses and Beaded Headbands

During the 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, fashion underwent a significant transformation. Women’s fashion, in particular, became more liberated and reflected the changing social attitudes of the time. Flapper dresses, which were often loose-fitting and knee-length, became popular among young women. These dresses were often made of lightweight fabrics such as silk or chiffon, and featured simple, yet elegant designs.

In addition to flapper dresses, beaded headbands were also a popular accessory during this time. These headbands were often adorned with shimmering sequins and beads, and were worn to add a touch of glamour to any outfit. The use of these headbands was not only fashionable but also practical, as they helped to keep hair in place during the lively dances that were popular during this era.

The Influence of Art Deco

The Art Deco style, which was popular during the 1920s, also had a significant impact on fashion during this time. This style was characterized by bold geometric shapes, bright colors, and luxurious materials such as gold and silver. Many fashion designers of the time were influenced by the Art Deco style, and incorporated its elements into their designs.

One example of this can be seen in the use of geometric patterns and shapes in clothing. Women’s dresses often featured bold, geometric designs, such as diagonal lines or chevrons, which were inspired by the Art Deco style. In addition, the use of metallic fabrics and beading, which were popular in the Art Deco style, also influenced fashion during this time.

Overall, the Roaring Twenties was a time of great change and innovation in fashion, and the styles of the time reflected the changing social attitudes and values of the era. The flapper dresses, beaded headbands, and Art Deco influences of this time continue to inspire fashion designers today.

The Glamour of Hollywood

Hollywood played a significant role in shaping the fashion industry during the Golden Age of Elegance. Film stars, who were considered style icons, influenced the fashion choices of people around the world. Their iconic looks from classic films continue to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts today.

The glamour of Hollywood was not just limited to the stars’ on-screen appearances. Their off-screen fashion choices also left a lasting impact on the fashion industry. Actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor were known for their impeccable sense of style, and their looks were widely imitated by women around the world.

One of the most significant contributions of Hollywood to the fashion industry was the creation of the “star look.” This involved dressing stars in glamorous gowns, jewelry, and accessories that were designed to enhance their beauty and glamour on the screen. This style was then replicated by fans and followers, leading to a significant increase in demand for luxury fashion items.

The impact of film stars on fashion was not limited to women. Male actors like Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart were also considered style icons, and their looks influenced men’s fashion trends during the Golden Age of Elegance.

Overall, the glamour of Hollywood played a crucial role in shaping the fashion industry during the Golden Age of Elegance. The style choices of film stars influenced the fashion choices of people around the world, leading to a significant increase in demand for luxury fashion items.

The Craftsmanship of Old-School Fashion

Key takeaway: Fashion in the past was elegant due to factors such as custom-made garments, attention to detail, high-quality materials, personal style, and the influence of fashion icons. The timeless appeal of classic styles, such as the little black dress and tailored suits, continues to inspire fashion designers and influencers today. The art of dressing well involves principles such as proportion, balance, and harmony.

The Tailor’s Art

Custom-made garments

In the past, fashion was more elegant due to the custom-made garments that were created by skilled tailors. These tailor-made clothes were designed to fit the individual measurements and body type of each person, resulting in a more flattering and comfortable fit. This level of customization was not only limited to high-end fashion but was also common among everyday clothing. The attention to detail and personalization of these garments set them apart from the mass-produced clothing of today.

Attention to detail

The tailor’s art was characterized by a meticulous attention to detail. Every aspect of the garment was carefully considered, from the cut and fit to the fabric and stitching. The tailors of the past were masters of their craft, and they took great pride in their work. They used traditional techniques and tools, such as needles, pins, and scissors, to create intricate designs and finishes. This attention to detail was evident in the quality of the garments, which were made to last and to be passed down from generation to generation.

In addition to the quality of the garments themselves, the tailor’s art also encompassed the personal relationships between the tailor and their clients. A good tailor would take the time to get to know their client’s preferences and style, and would work closely with them to create a garment that was not only well-made but also reflected the client’s individuality. This personalized approach to fashion was a hallmark of the tailor’s art and contributed to the overall elegance of fashion in the past.

Quality Materials

In the past, fashion was renowned for its elegance and sophistication, and one of the primary reasons for this was the high-quality materials used in the creation of garments. From luxurious fabrics to intricate embellishments and trims, every aspect of the fashion design process was carefully considered to ensure that the final product was not only aesthetically pleasing but also of the highest quality.

High-end fabrics played a crucial role in the elegance of past fashion. The use of fine materials such as silk, satin, and lace was commonplace, and these fabrics were often imported from distant lands. Silk, for example, was highly prized for its softness and shine, and was commonly used to create sumptuous gowns and other elaborate garments. Similarly, lace was used to add a touch of delicacy and refinement to garments, and was often used to adorn collars, cuffs, and hems.

Embellishments and trims were also essential components of the elegance of past fashion. These included everything from intricate embroidery and beading to delicate tassels and fringe. Each of these elements was carefully chosen to enhance the overall appearance of a garment, and to add a touch of glamour and sophistication.

Overall, the use of high-quality materials was a hallmark of past fashion, and helped to create garments that were not only beautiful but also durable and long-lasting. This attention to detail and craftsmanship was a key factor in the elegance of past fashion, and continues to inspire designers and fashion lovers today.

Fashion as a Form of Self-Expression

A Time of Optimism

During the past, fashion was often seen as a reflection of confidence and prosperity. People wore clothing that was elegant and luxurious, showcasing their wealth and success. This trend was particularly evident during times of economic growth and social stability, when individuals felt optimistic about their future prospects.

One reason for this optimism was the rise of industrialization, which brought about unprecedented economic growth and job opportunities. With more money in their pockets, people were able to afford finer clothing and accessories, leading to a greater emphasis on luxury and elegance in fashion.

Additionally, during this time period, there was a greater focus on individuality and self-expression. As people became more affluent, they began to see their clothing choices as a way to express their personal style and tastes. This led to a more diverse range of fashion trends, with people experimenting with different colors, patterns, and silhouettes.

Overall, the past was a time of optimism, with people feeling confident and prosperous. This confidence was reflected in the fashion choices of the era, which emphasized luxury and elegance.

Personal Style

Fashion has always been a means of self-expression, allowing individuals to communicate their unique personalities and styles through their clothing choices. In the past, personal style played a significant role in fashion, with individuals placing a great deal of importance on expressing their individuality through their attire.

One reason for the emphasis on personal style in past fashion was the lack of mass-produced clothing. Unlike today, where clothing is often produced in large quantities and sold in stores worldwide, in the past, clothing was typically made by hand or in small workshops. This meant that each piece of clothing was unique, and individuals had the opportunity to express their personal style through their clothing choices.

In addition to the uniqueness of each piece of clothing, past fashion also placed a great deal of importance on the quality of materials used. High-quality fabrics, such as silk, velvet, and brocade, were highly prized and often reserved for the wealthy. These luxurious materials allowed individuals to showcase their personal style and wealth through their clothing choices.

Another factor that contributed to the elegance of past fashion was the attention to detail in the design and construction of clothing. From intricate embroidery and lacework to elaborate trims and buttons, clothing from the past was often adorned with meticulous detail. These details not only added to the overall aesthetic of the garment but also allowed individuals to express their personal style through the choice of embellishments.

In conclusion, personal style played a significant role in the elegance of past fashion. With the emphasis on individuality, high-quality materials, and attention to detail, past fashion allowed individuals to express their unique personalities and styles through their clothing choices.

The Influence of Fashion Icons

Style Icons of the Past

In the past, there were many fashion icons who significantly influenced the way people dressed and perceived fashion. These style icons were not only trendsetters but also cultural symbols who helped shape the fashion industry as we know it today.

Some of the most iconic looks and styles of the past include:

  • Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
  • Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from the subway scene in “The Seven Year Itch”
  • Grace Kelly’s wedding dress in “Rear Window”
  • Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra costume
  • Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats and oversized sunglasses

These fashion icons had a significant impact on fashion trends. They set the standard for beauty, elegance, and sophistication, and their looks were often imitated by women all over the world. These style icons also inspired designers to create new looks and push the boundaries of fashion.

Moreover, these fashion icons were not only popular during their time but also remain influential even today. Their looks continue to inspire designers and are often referenced in contemporary fashion. They have become a part of popular culture and will always be remembered as some of the most iconic figures in fashion history.

Modern-Day Style Icons

Contemporary fashion influencers

In the present day, there are numerous fashion influencers who have made a significant impact on the fashion industry. These individuals have cultivated a loyal following on social media platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube, and have leveraged their influence to collaborate with major fashion brands and designers. They are often known for their unique sense of style, which has inspired countless individuals to experiment with new trends and styles.

Some of the most notable contemporary fashion influencers include:

  • Chiara Ferragni: An Italian fashion blogger and entrepreneur, who is the founder of The Blonde Salad. She has collaborated with numerous fashion brands, including Chanel and Dior, and has been named one of the most influential people in the fashion industry by TIME magazine.
  • Aimee Song: A Canadian fashion blogger and designer, who is the founder of Song of Style. She has worked with several major fashion brands, including H&M and L’Oreal, and has amassed a large following on social media platforms.
  • Camila Coelho: A Brazilian fashion influencer and entrepreneur, who is the founder of Camila Coelho New York. She has collaborated with numerous fashion brands, including Michael Kors and Victoria’s Secret, and has been named one of the most influential people in the fashion industry by Harper’s Bazaar.

The enduring appeal of classic style

In addition to contemporary fashion influencers, classic styles and iconic fashion figures continue to exert a significant influence on modern fashion trends. The timeless appeal of classic styles, such as the little black dress and the tailored suit, has ensured that they remain relevant and fashionable even decades after they were first introduced.

Iconic fashion figures, such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, continue to inspire fashion designers and influencers alike. Their iconic looks and signature styles have been reproduced and reinterpreted in countless ways, demonstrating the enduring power of fashion history and the lasting impact of fashion icons.

Overall, the influence of modern-day style icons reflects the enduring fascination with fashion and the desire to emulate and be inspired by those who have made a significant impact on the industry. Through their unique sense of style and their collaborations with major fashion brands, contemporary fashion influencers have become key players in shaping modern fashion trends and defining what is considered fashionable and desirable.

The Timelessness of Elegant Fashion

Classic Styles

Enduring fashion trends

One reason why fashion was so elegant in the past is because of the enduring fashion trends that have stood the test of time. These classic styles have been adapted and modified over the years, but their timeless appeal has remained constant.

For example, the little black dress, first introduced by Coco Chanel in the 1920s, is still a staple in any woman’s wardrobe today. Similarly, the tailored suit, a fashion icon of the 1940s, continues to be a popular choice for both men and women.

The appeal of timeless elegance

Another reason why classic styles are so appealing is because of their timeless elegance. These styles are not just fashionable, but they also have a certain sophistication and refinement that sets them apart from more trendy or avant-garde looks.

Classic styles often feature clean lines, simple silhouettes, and high-quality materials, which contribute to their timeless appeal. They are not necessarily limited to any particular era or fashion movement, making them versatile and adaptable to any setting or occasion.

In addition, classic styles often have a certain nostalgic quality that can evoke a sense of tradition and heritage. They can connect us to the past and provide a sense of continuity with previous generations.

Overall, the enduring fashion trends and timeless elegance of classic styles have contributed to their ongoing popularity and have made them a staple of elegant fashion throughout history.

Adapting Elegant Style for Today

When it comes to incorporating timeless elegance into modern fashion, there are several key considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to maintain the essence of the original style while updating it for contemporary tastes. Here are some ways to achieve this balance:

  • Updating classic looks for modern wear
    • One approach is to take classic silhouettes and update them with modern fabrics and colors. For example, a vintage suit can be modernized by using a lighter fabric and brighter color, or by pairing it with a more contemporary shirt and tie.
    • Another way to update classic looks is to add subtle details that reflect current fashion trends. For instance, a classic coat can be elevated with the addition of bold buttons or a contrasting collar.
  • Maintaining the essence of elegant fashion
    • While it’s important to update styles for modern wear, it’s equally important to maintain the core elements that make them elegant. This might include using high-quality materials, focusing on craftsmanship and attention to detail, and incorporating timeless design elements such as clean lines and classic proportions.
    • Another way to maintain the essence of elegant fashion is to draw inspiration from historical styles that have stood the test of time. For example, the classic tailoring and impeccable fit of 1920s suits can be adapted for contemporary wear by using modern fabrics and colors.

Overall, the key to adapting elegant style for today is to strike a balance between updating styles for modern wear while maintaining their core elements and essence. By doing so, it’s possible to create looks that are both timeless and fashionable.

The Art of Dressing Well

Understanding Elegance

In the past, fashion was characterized by a sense of refinement and taste, with clothing and accessories that were designed to convey elegance and sophistication. But what exactly constitutes elegant fashion, and why was it so highly valued in the past?

To understand the concept of elegance in fashion, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Classicism: Elegant fashion often draws inspiration from classic styles and designs, which have stood the test of time and remain timeless and relevant. This means choosing clothing and accessories that are well-made, of high quality, and designed to last.
  • Simplicity: Elegant fashion is not about over-the-top embellishments or ostentatious displays of wealth. Instead, it is about understated elegance, with simple and well-proportioned shapes, clean lines, and a restrained color palette.
  • Attention to detail: Elegant fashion is characterized by attention to detail, with an emphasis on quality materials, workmanship, and finishing. This includes things like impeccably tailored garments, perfectly coordinated accessories, and thoughtful touches like matching patterns and colors.
  • Comfort: Elegant fashion does not have to be uncomfortable or impractical. In fact, many classic elegant styles are designed to be comfortable and versatile, making them suitable for a range of occasions and settings.
  • Confidence: Perhaps most importantly, elegant fashion is about confidence and self-assurance. When you feel good in what you are wearing, you exude confidence and poise, which can have a powerful impact on your overall appearance and demeanor.

In summary, elegant fashion is about timeless design, quality workmanship, attention to detail, comfort, and confidence. By understanding these key elements, you can develop your own sense of style and refinement, and incorporate elements of elegance into your wardrobe.

Embracing Elegance Today

Incorporating Elegant Fashion into Modern Wardrobes

Elegance is not merely a matter of following fashion trends, but rather an attitude towards dressing well. To embrace elegance today, one must first understand the principles of classic elegance and then incorporate them into their modern wardrobes.

The Importance of Respecting the Art of Dressing Well

Dressing well is an art form that requires a certain level of respect and appreciation. To embrace elegance today, one must respect the art of dressing well and appreciate the history and cultural significance of fashion. This means taking the time to learn about different fashion eras, studying the work of famous fashion designers, and understanding the role that fashion plays in society.

By respecting the art of dressing well, one can develop a deeper appreciation for elegant fashion and learn how to incorporate it into their modern wardrobes. This involves understanding the principles of classic elegance, such as proportion, balance, and harmony, and using them to create outfits that are both stylish and timeless.

Incorporating Classic Elegance into Modern Wardrobes

To incorporate classic elegance into modern wardrobes, one must first understand the principles of classic elegance. These principles include:

  • Proportion: Clothing should be well-fitted and flatter the body.
  • Balance: An outfit should be balanced and not look overwhelming or too busy.
  • Harmony: The colors and patterns in an outfit should work well together.

By following these principles, one can create outfits that are both elegant and modern. For example, a classic coat dress paired with a pair of trousers and a simple top can create a timeless and elegant look.


Embracing elegance today requires respecting the art of dressing well and understanding the principles of classic elegance. By incorporating these principles into modern wardrobes, one can create outfits that are both stylish and timeless. Whether it’s a classic coat dress or a well-tailored suit, elegant fashion is a testament to the art of dressing well and a celebration of the beauty and craftsmanship of clothing.


1. Why did people dress more elegantly in the past compared to today?

In the past, people placed a greater emphasis on appearance and presentation. Clothing was a way to express one’s social status, personal taste, and cultural identity. Elegant attire was also a symbol of respect and reverence for formal occasions. Additionally, fashion was influenced by the royal court and upper-class society, which set the trend for elegant and sophisticated clothing.

2. Was fashion always expensive in the past?

Fashion was not always expensive in the past. While high-end designer clothing and accessories were available for the wealthy, there were also affordable options for the average person. Clothing was often made at home or purchased from local merchants, and people would frequently pass down clothing to their children or relatives. As a result, fashion was accessible to a wider range of people, and not just the wealthy elite.

3. Did people wear the same clothes for different occasions in the past?

In the past, people typically had separate wardrobes for different occasions. Formal attire, such as suits and dresses, were reserved for special events like weddings, balls, and parties. Everyday clothing was more practical and functional, and included items like work clothes, casual dresses, and outerwear. Additionally, people would often wear their best clothes when going to church or attending other religious ceremonies.

4. Why did women wear corsets in the past?

Women wore corsets in the past to achieve a smaller waist and a more hourglass figure. Corsets were often made of stiff materials like whalebone or steel, and were laced tightly around the waist and ribcage. While they were uncomfortable and restrictive, corsets were seen as a symbol of femininity and elegance. They were also a way for women to show off their wealth, as corsets were often expensive and required regular maintenance.

5. Did men wear suits and ties in the past?

Yes, men did wear suits and ties in the past. However, the style and cut of the suit was different than what we see today. In the 19th century, suits were often made of heavy fabrics like wool and were designed to be more formal and structured. Ties were also narrower and tied in a simpler knot. As the 20th century approached, suits became more modern and streamlined, with lighter fabrics and a looser fit.

Why Men Should Always Dress Up – Jordan Peterson

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