History of Clothing and Cosmetics
Page last modified 2712/2019
For dyes see Chemistry
1/2008, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain supported the banning of miniskirts and bare midriffs at Ascot, to ‘maintain standards’.
2000, The arrival of trainers rapidly displaced Doc Martin boots (see 1/4/1960). Sales of Doc Martins crashed from £235 million in 1999 to £90 million in 2003, and profits turned into a £62 million loss for 2003.
15/7/1997, Gianni Versace, clothes designer, was shot dead at the age of 50. The chief suspect was Andrew Cunanan, a gay serial killer; the FBI beleived Versace was shot in revenge for infecting other men with HIV. Cunanan was found dead on a houseboat at Miami Beach, having committed suicide when the police arrived. However there were rumours of a mafia money-laundering connection, and that Cunanan had been killed to hide the true killer’s identity.
17/9/1985, Fashion designer Laura Ashley died after falling downstairs at her home.
1983, London Fashion Week, held twice a year, started.
1979, Reebok running shoes now began to challenge the market position of Nike.
1973, British fashion now included flared trousers and platform shoes.
24/3/1972, Cristobal Balenciaga, Spanish fashion designer, died in Valencia, Spain.
10/1/1971. Coco Chanel, French fashion designer and one of the most influential couturiers of the twentieth century, died aged 87.
25/1/1970. Mary Crosby, inventor of the bra, died in Rome aged 77.
1966, The Scott Paper Towel Company tried ti market paper dresses, as disposable clothing that cost just $1. They sold half a million, but they tore, the colours ran in the rain,they could catch fire. Despite never requiring washing, the fashion faded almost as quickly as the colours. Predictions that by 1980 25% of clothing would be made of disposable paper were never realised.
1967, The first Laura Ashley shop opened in London. Meanwhile Twiggy popularised a ‘waif’ type look.
23/9/1966.Mr Joe Kagan, raincoat maker to Mr Harold Wilson, suggested that by the 1980s men would be wearing something like a mini skirt with a toga over it in cold weather. Jean Paul Gaultier also attempted to introduce mini-skirts for men in the 1990s.
1965, In London, Carnaby Street and the Kings Road were now established fashion centres.
1064, The mini-skirt was forst exhibited at a fashion show in Paris.
21/8/1964, In London, three women were found guilty of indecency for wearing ‘topless’ dresses.
1963, Brut aftershave for men was introduced, and was very successful. It fared better than a competitor product, Pub Cologne for Men, sold in a rum-barrel-shaped bottle, with the tagline “Pub Cologne for Men Uncorks the Lusty Life”.
8/2/1963, The Beatles were asked to leave the Carlisle Golf Club because they were wearing leather jackets.
1962, The first silicone breast implants were carried out in the USA.
1960, Lycra was first produced commercially, for swimwear. Developed by Du Pont in 1959, it was used for swimwear, being stretchy and clingy.
1/4/1960, Doc Martin boots were first produced under licence in the UK by R Griggs and Co. See 2000.
1959, The Mayor of Benidorm, Pedro Zaragoza Orts was excommunicated by the local archbishop after he signed an order permitting the wearing of bikinis on the city’s beaches.
30/1/1958, Yves St Laurent held his first Paris fashion show, aged 22. He was apprenticed to Christian Dior at 18 and when Dior died in 1959 he became head designer of the Dior fashion house.
1957, The first twin-tub washing machine was produced.
1956, Velcro was patented by the Swiss inventor, George de Mestral. Inspired by the way burs attached to clothes, its name derived from a combination of velour (velvet) and crochet (hook).
1955, Tight jeans were fashionable in North America and western Europe.
1953, Ultra high stiletto heels were the main thing in fashion.
1952, Acrilan, a synthetic fibre discovered in the 1940s, began to be used for clothing manufacture.
9/11/1950, ICI announced its to build a factory at Redcar to manufacture a new fabric, Terylene.
4/10/1950, Three generations of the Bowler family marked the centenary of the bowler hat.
See Science and Technology for the plastics inventions of the 1930s and 40s which made new fashions, cosmetics and clothes possible in the 1950s and 60s.
1949, The first aerosol hairspray for women was marketed. Hair could now be kept ‘in place’ all day without the need to visit a hairdresser; in 1952 25 million aerosol hairspray cans were sold.
1947, False ‘eyelash strips’ were first used in movies to enhnace the looks of stars such as Elizabeth taylor and Sophie Loren. Female moviegoers soon demanded a version for themselves, which was marketed in the 1950s under the name ‘Eyelure’. From here false long fingernails were also invented so working women could have short nails during the day but adopt the elegantly long nails of wealthy (non-working) women in the evening.
12/1946, Nylon stockings went on salein London, the first nylon product commercially manufactured in theb UK
5/7/1946. The bikini was officially invented by French engineer Louis Reard. “It is a two-piece bathing suit that reveals everything about a girl except her mother’s maiden name”, said the Americans about the bikini. Two months earlier the French designer Jacques Heim had created the Atome, another two-piece bathing suit, so Louis Reard was inspired to create an even smaller bathing suit. Reard knew he had created an explosive item, so he called it the bikini, as the US military exploded an atom bomb on the south Pacific island of Bikini atoll. No Parisian model would wear the bikini at the time as it was considered indecent, but Reard hired a nude dancer, Micheline Bernardini, to wear it at his presentation. The bikini was banned in several Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy, but Reard kept promoting the garment, insisting it was not a real bikini unless “it could be pulled through a wedding ring”. In the 1950s Brigitte Bardot helped promote the bikini and by the 1970s it was more or less accepted in most countries.
3/2/1946, The Hosiery Designers of America chose actress Jane Russell’s legs as the ‘perfect pair’.
18/11/1945, Dr W N Leek, in Cheshire, claimed that the falling UK birth-rate was due to people wearing pyjamas in bed instead of nightshirts.
11/2/1943, Mary Quant, Welsh fashion designer, was boirn.
1942, The US Navy issued specifications for a new type of undershort, called the ‘T-shirt’, made of white cotton with a round neck and short sleeves at right angles to the body making a ‘T’. The new garment, eminently suited to bearing printed slogans or symbols, began to be worn as a shirt on its own by the end of World War Two.
1941, In Switzerland, Velcro was patented by George de Mestrel. He returned home from a walk to find burrs stuck to his clothing. Examining them under the microscope he saw tiny hools, and sought to improve on zips that were prone to jamming. The name Velcro comes from velours croche, French for hooked velvet. Commercial manufacturing of Velcro began in 1952.
23/1/1941, Nylon was first produced in Britain, at Coventry.
15/5/1940. Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time, in America. In New York alone, 72,000 pairs were sold in the first eight hours. The name was reputedly inspired by the cities with the greatest fashion potential for this new product – New York and London. Rising hemlines from the 1920s had created a need for some sort of covering to smooth out colour imperfections and bumps on women’s legs, now exposed for the first time in centuries.
20/2/1939. The first washing machine went on show in London at the British Industries Fair.
27/10/1938, DuPont announced that its new synthetic fibre was to be called nylon
29/4/1937, American chemist Wallace Hume Carothers committed suicide just two months after he patented nylon.
16/2/1937. Nylon was patented by the American chemical company E.I.Du Pont, having been developed under the direction of Dr Carothers. The material was first produced in Britain in Coventry on 23/1/1941. It was used for military needs only, mainly for parachute fabric; nylon stockings were made from December 1946.
1/8/1936. The French designer Yves St Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria.
22/1/1936, The patent was granted for the first modern rucksack, in which the metal frame was incorporated in the material rather than being external.
16/5/1934, Officials at Wimbledon first allowed women competitors to wear shorts.
1933, In Britain, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) made the first commercially-produced synthetic detergent.
1932, The so-called ‘coat shirt’ was introduced to the UK by Cecil Gee (whose first clothes shop opened on London’s Commercial Road in 1929). It was a shirt that buttoned all the way down and so could be put on ‘like a coat’ and buttoned up the front. Previously men’s shirts had a neck opening and had to be passed over the neck, the so-called ‘dress shirt’. This made the shirt prone to tearing and the collar had to be separately attaehcd with studs. The coat shirt was meant to appeal to the East End working classes of London who could not be bothered with attaching a separate collar. There was a brief revival of dress shirts, so-called ‘grandad shirts’, with no collar, in the 1980s.
1930, It was now socially acceptable for women to wear trousers when playing golf or riding a horse.
7/9/1925. Laura Ashley, clothes designer, was born (died 1985).
8/4/1925. Italian Catholic bishops banned scantily clad or bare legged women from churches.
1923, The word ‘zip’ (see 1851) was coined by the US company BF Goodrich, who launched a range of zip-fastening galoshes in 1932. They wanted an ‘action word’ that would dramatise their product.
1922, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) banned the Fez hat in Turkey as he westernised the country.
22/5/1921. The US city of Chicago planned to fine women for wearing short skirts and exposed arms.
5/5/1921, Coco Chanel’s Chanel no. 5 Perfume was launched.
1919, The zip fastener was marketed commercially by the Kynoch Company in Birmingham, UK, as the ‘Ready Fastener’.
1917, The need for women to cut their hair short for work in the factories led to the fashion for the ‘bob’ hairstyle.
1916, False eyelashes were invented by US film director DW Griffith for his 1916 film, Intolerance. The film was critically acclaimed, but was a financial failure, however the eyelashes caugh on. Also around this time, nail polish and bright red lipstick began to be employed by Hollywood for glamourising its actresses, creating new fashions in the wider world.
20/11/1914, Emilio Pucci, Italian fashion designer, was born in Naples, Italy.
13/11/1914. The brassiere was patented in the USA by heiress Mary Phelps Jacob.
4/11/1914. At the Ritz-Carlton hotel, New York, Edna Chase of Vogue magazine organised the first catwalk fashion show.
15/7/1913. In Richmond Park, near London, a woman was arrested for wearing a split skirt.
29/4/1913, The improved version of the zip fastener, as we have it today, was patented by a Swedish engineer, Gideon Sundback, from New Jersey.
9/3/1913, Andre Courreges, French couturier who invented the mini skirt in 1964, was born.
4/11/1912, Pauline Trigere, fashion designer, was born in Paris.
23/7/1912, In the USA, the ‘Modesty League’ protested against tight dresses.
1910, Rayon stockings for women became available in Germany.
27/5/1909, The first electric washing machine, the Thor was patented by Alva Fisher for the Hurley Washing Machine Company.
1908, In the US, electric irons went on sale.
1907, The first electric washing machine was produced; the Thor, designed by Alva J Fisher of the USA.
6/6/1907 The first clothes washing powder was launched in Dusseldorf, Germany. It was called Persil, from two of its active ingredients, perborate and silicate.
1906, The first Panama Hat to be so-named was worn by US President Roosevelt during a tour of the Panama Canal.
21/1/1904, Christian Dior, French fashion designer, was born.
8/1/1904, Pope Pius X banned women from wearing low-cut dresses in the presence of Church dignitaries.
30/9/1902. Rayon, or artificial silk, was patented by Samuel Slocum.
3/12/1901. King Camp Gillette (1855-1932) patented his first safety razor.
1900, Beards, fashionable in England during the 1800s, now began to give way to the clean-shaven look.
10/9/1896, Elsa Schiaparelli, sportswear designer, was born in Rome.
1892, The gymslip was invented by Margaret Tait, a student at the Hampstead Physical Training College. It was a short dress that permitted girls to compete in team games.
1886, The California Perfume Company was founded (based in New York) by David McConnell. In 1939 he renamed the company Avon Products after the town of his favourite playwright, William Shakespeare. It became famous through the slogan ‘Avon calling’.
10/10/1886. The dinner jacket made its first appearance in public when it was worn by its creator at a ball in the Tuxedo Park Country Club, New York. Hence it was later known as the Tuxedo.
19/8/1883, ‘Coco’ Chanel, French fashion designer, was born near Issoire as Gabrielle Chanel.
1881, The Rational Dress Society weas founded. It promoted clothing for women that ‘followed, not contradicted, the lines of the body’ and stated that female clothing should promote, not impede, mobility and action. See Women’s Rights.
1875, Men swimming in the sea from British beaches, who had previously swum naked, were now expected to wear bathing costumes.
23/7/1875, Isaac Singer, American inventor of the modern sewing machine, died in Torquay, Devon.
1874, Levis began using copper rivets on jeans.
1872, The first Alice Band was named after Alice, main character in Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass.
3/10/1867, Elias Howe, inventor of the first practical sewing machine in 1846, died. He made US$ 2 million from his invention.
1865, The first rubber Wellington boots were made. They were named after a type of riding boot named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
1863, Charles Baudelaire, poet, (1821 – 1867) promoted the idea, in his book The Painter of Modern Life, promoted the idea that women, however naturally beautiful, could always enhance their appearance further through the use of cosmetics. Nature could be ‘surpassed’ through the use of black eyeliner, or rouge on the cheeks.
1860, Artificial dyes now made clothes brighter-coloured.
1858, English dress-maker Charles Worth opened a fashion house in Paris, on the Rue de la Paix.
5/1/1855, King Camp Gillette, American inventor of the safety razor, was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
1853, A Bavarian migrant called Levi Strauss arrived in the US, and set up a clothing company to make heavy duty clothing for the miners digging in the California Gold Rush. His trousers were first made from tent canvas. He added copper rivets to the jeans in 1873.
1851, The first bloomers were made commercially, see Women’s Rights. As more women took up cycling in the 1890s, they wore bloomers as being more practical for this pursuit.
1851, In the USA, Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, patented an early zip or ‘continuous clothing closure’, but he did not exploit it commercially. See 1913, 1923.
1850, Men’s clothing was now much more sombre and less colourful than in 1750.
4/10/1850, The bowler hat went on general sale in London.
17/12/1849, Landowner Edward Coke tested a new type of hat he had ordered to protect his head from low-hanging branches whilst out hunting; top hats were too easily knocked off. This day he visited the Lockes hatters shop in St James, London, to test the new bowler hat, named after its designer, by jumping on it twice. It withstood the test and he bought it.
10/4/1849. Walter Hunt of New York patented the safety pin. He made it in only three hours, then sold the rights for $400 to pay off debts.
10/9/1846, Elias Howe received the patent for his sewing machine. It could sew at 250 stitches per minute, five times faster than any human could.
1843, In the USA, Charles Atwood was granted a patent for a new hook and eye system of clothes fastening. Previously people had used pins laces, clasps buttons and buckles to fasten their clothes.
25/7/1843, Charles MacIntosh, the chemist who patented waterproof fabric in 1823, died in Glasgow.
1840, Death of the dandy and fashion leader Beau Brummell (George Bryan). Born 1778, he introduced long formal trousers as formal day and evening wear for men. He fled to France in 1816 to avoid gambling debts, and died in an asylum for the insane.
18/4/1834. The world’s first launderette opened in Fort Worth, Texas.
12/2/1831, J W Goodrich of Boston, USA, invented the rubber galosh.
26/6/1827, Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule in 1779, died in Bolton.
8/1/1825, Eli Whitney, American inventor of the cotton gin, which made separating of fibre and seed easier, died in New Haven, Connecticut.
30/10/1823, Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom in 1785, died at Hastings, Sussex, aged 80.
17/6/1823, Charles Macintosh of Scotland patented a waterproof material for clothes. He obtained this by dissolving rubber in low-boiling naptha and coating fabric with the substance,
9/7/1819, Elias Howe, inventor of the first practical sewing machine, was born in Spencer, Massachusetts.
1812, Women’s fashion in Britain was now for dresses with very high waists, just under the bust.
27/11/1811, Isaac Singer, US inventor and sewing machine manufacturer, was born in Pittsdown, New York State.
27/10/1811, Isaac Singer, inventor of the sewing machine, was born in New York.
11/3/1811, The Luddite Riots began as textile workers protested against new technology replacing jobs.
1807, Tsar Alexander I of Russia banned trousers, probably because the French Revolutionaries had worn them in preference to the hitherto fashionable knee-breches worn by men in the 1700s. He ordered Russian troops to stop and inspect carriages, and any trousers found would be cut off at the knee.
1800, European fashion now began to favour shorter hair for both men and women. Men started wearing trousers instead of knee-breeches.
15/1/1797, The top hat first appeared in London, worn by James Hetherington. He was fined £50 for wearing this attire, and causing a breach of the peace.
1796, William Bundy, British textile machine inventor, produced a machine with several parallel saws that could mass-produce combs. Prior to this the teeth on a comb had been cut individually.
20/7/1793, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, a machine for separating cotton fibre from seeds.
3/8/1792, Sir Richard Arkwright, English inventor who developed a mechanical cotton spinning process, died.
17/7/1790, The sewing machine was patented by Thomas Saint, cabinet maker of Greenhill Rents, St Sepulchre parish, London.
1789, The first steam-driven cotton factory was opened in Manchester, England.
1783, Chlorine (then known as oxymuriatic acid, i.e.’oxidised hydrochloric acid’, before it was known to be an element) began to be used for bleaching clothes.
9/10/1779. The first Luddite riots began in Manchester against the introduction of machinery for spinning cotton.
7/6/1778. Beau Brummel was born in London, as George Bryan Brummel. Although he became a leader of fashion and a friend of the Prince Regent, he died destitute in France, through gambling and extravagance.
22/4/1778, James Hargreaves, inventor of the ‘spinning jenny’ in 1764, died in Nottingham.
26/5/1769. John Kay, Sir Richard Arkwright’s assistant, patented the Flying Shuttle to operate on Arkwright’s spinning frame. Arkwright was born at Preston, Lancashire, on 23/12/1732, the youngest of 13 children to a poor family. He became a barber in Bolton in around 1750. In 1767 he gave up this business to build a spinning frame. This was an improvement on Hargreave’s Spinning Jenny since it could spin threads of any degree of hardness or fineness, unlike the spinning jenny which could not spin any but fine thread. Now 20 or 30 threads could be spun with no more labour than was previously required to spin one thread.
29/12/1766, Charles Macintosh, inventor of waterproof fabrics, was born in Glasgow.
8/12/1765, Eli Whitney, American inventor of the cotton gin, which made cotton-growing much more profitable, was born in Westborough, Massachusetts.
11/2/1765. English wig-makers petitioned George III for financial relief as the male fashion of wearing wigs came to an end. However as wigs went out of fashion, beards came back into fashion, inspired by the Austrians.
1764, James Hargreaves introduced the Spinning Jenny (patented by him in 1770). His forst model could spin 8 threads at once; later versions could manage 120 threads simultaneously.
1756, The first cotton velvets were made in Bolton, Lancashire, England.
3/12/1753, Samuel Crompton, inventor of the Spinning Mule which revolutionised the textiles industry, was born at Firwood, near Bolton. He was the son of a farmer.
1750, The popularity of the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, for the very wealthy, now introduced more showy European elements to male fashion. This included gold buttons and buckles, ruffles, and embroidered waitcoats. Mens’ clothing was bright and colourful, leading on to the era of the ‘dandy’ in the early 1800s.
1747, In France, Francois Fresnau made the first raincoat.
1745, Jacques de Vaucanson, born in Grenoble, France, 24/2/1709, invented the self-acting loom for weaving silk.
24/4/1743. Edward Cartwright, inventor of the power loom in 1785, was born at Marnham, Nottinghamshire.
23/12/1732. Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the spinning frame, was born at Preston, the last of 13 children.
28/7/1726, Jedediah Strutt was born in Derbyshire, England. In 1758 he invented the ribbing machine for the manufacture of stockings.
1716, John Lombe travelled to Italy and, as an industrial spy, at great risk to himself, made drawings of the Italian silk spinning machines. Britain already had a silk industry, brought by Hugenots who had fled religious persecution in France; however these Hugenots had not brought the secret of silk spinning with them. Consequently, silk had to be imported expensively. John’s brother, Thomas Lombe, now installed the first silk spinning machine in England in 1718.
1700, Cotton cloth was first manufactured in Britain. It was light to wear, easy to wash, and could be dyed in a wide range of colours, in contrast with heavier wools. Cotton fabric became popular during the 1700s.
1700, In England, with the reign of Queen Anne, beards were seen as strictly for foreigners; Jews and Turks for example.
1660, In England, after the Restoration, beards ceased to be fashionable, see 1700.
1640, Men now ceased to wear the heavy gold and silver neck chains, often with pendants, which had earlier been in fashion in western Europe.
1624, Philip IV of Spain reduced his household staff and banned the wearing of ruffs. This symbol of extravagance was passing out of fashion across Europe, as austerity replaced luxury.
1600, The average age of marriage for women in Japan had risen to 24, from 21 a century earlier. This was a result of the growth in the silk industry; households needed their daughters to stay at home for longer to help with spinning and weaving.
1589, The stocking frame, the first knitting machine, was invented by English clergyman William Lee.
1550, The paving of European city streets was one factor leading to increased shoe sole padding, leading on to a fashion, for a while, of very high heels for both men and women.
1534, Manufacture of woollen cloth began in Worcester.
1530, In England, beards became fashionable again; King Henry VIII was bearded, in contrast to Henry VII who had been clean-shaven. Institutions such as Lincoln’s Inn and the clergy resisted the trend to beards by proscribing them, but these laws were soon repealed.
1521, Silk manufacture began in France; silk had been produced in Sicily since the 1100s.
1512, In England, Parliament forbade the import of foreign-made caps.
1503, Pocket handkerchiefs came into use in Europe.
1499, The first recorded white wedding dress was worn, by Anne of Brittany when marrying King Louis XII of France.
1480, Upper-class male fashion was now for long hair fur-lined garments, short doublets and pointy shoes. Women wore tight bodices with low-cut necklines, and very elaborate headresses, often shaped like butterflies or horns.
1400, Beards began to go out of fashion in England. They had been common throughout the Middle Ages, and in the 1300s a forked style had been common.
1390, Male fashion in England was becoming more extravagant, with padded shoulders, tight waitbands, close fitting hose and pointy shoes.
1200, In Europe, engagement rings came into fashion.
1155, Women’s dresses now shifted to a tight bodice and long trailing gowns.
1102, Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, criticised the ‘effeminate’ long curly hair of male court fashion, along with beards and pointy shoes. Women were adopting very voluminous dresses.
410, Huns, invading the Roman Empire, introduced trousers which began to replace togas. They also introduced the stirrup, which made horse riding easier.
1500 BCE, Silk was being woven in China.
1800 BCE, Minoan men and women both wore corsets.
3000 BCE, Cotton fabrics were first produced in the Indus Valley region.
6500 BE, Early cloth weaving developed in Anatolia, Turkey.
20,000 BCE, Sewing needles in use in France. They were initially used to sew clothes from animal skins.