Saturday, April 24, 2010
Wedding Dress & Neck Ties-Birth (Fashion Trend) and Evolution(Tradition)
One thing that fascinates me about clothing is its evolution through history. What is considered tradition nowadays wasn’t necessarily tradition at all several years ago. Let’s briefly examine two garments that are steadfastly recognized as traditional: for women the white wedding dress and for men, neck ties.
Throughout the world it is common place to see a bride wearing a white wedding dress at her marriage. Though the color may vary in shades of eggshell, ecru and ivory it is undoubtedly recognized that a traditional wedding dress is white in color. The white wedding dress became popular and consequently traditional around 1840, when Queen Victoria wore a white wedding dress at her marriage. She chose white to incorporate some lace she owned into the gown. With the official wedding photographed being widely published the trend took off and remains in effect today. (By the way, contrary to popular belief that white historically represents purity the traditional color symbolic of purity was actually blue). A white wedding dress is a good example of how a fashion trend evolved into a tradition.
Sharply contrasting white is the popular color of red wedding dresses in Eastern cultures such as China, India and Vietnam. The color red is symbolic of good luck and auspiciousness. However, you will usually find a wide variety of wedding gown colors that are worn at Asian weddings these days. I remember a Kuwaiti friend of mine talking about how she would like a traditional wedding and planned on wearing a green dress. Apparently shades of blue and green used to be the typical color for Islamic brides in the Middle East. Though many modern Arabic Islamic brides opt for the western white wedding gown these days, many still choose a green dress for the Henna party that takes shortly before the wedding ceremony. I’m not sure if the brides realize why green is the traditional color.
Another example of a style that has evolved and become a tradition is the men’s neck tie. Back in the 1600’s it became stylish for men to wear cravats around their necks. This trend actually started, because Croatian mercenaries who were part of the Military Frontier in French Service during the Thirty Year’s War, wore a cravat as part of their uniform. The cravat was part of their military uniform that denoted rank, by the type of fabric, example a fine silk cravat was of an officer. The Parisians took an interest and the fashion trend was born. Other men’s fashionable neck pieces that were introduced over time were the stock, solitaires, neck cloths, ascots, scarf/neckerchief, and bow ties and finally the long tie-these styles of the day all originated from their predecessor-the cravat. It really wasn’t until the 1920’s when a version of the today’s long tie emerged. Back at the turn of the century the ties were shorter because men wore their pants at their natural waistline. Anyhow, you can see how history has evolved the cravat into today’s neck tie. Ask yourself what is the purpose of a neck tie today? Really it proves to be more of a health and safety hazard than having a particular function or purpose. Though attempts to free society of this tradition have come and gone the norm remains for men to tie a piece of decorative fabric around their neck. Men have been doing that for over 400 years so most likely that is a tradition that will be around for some time longer. At least it is a piece of clothing that serves the mere purpose of fashion for men.