Fashion History: The First American Fashion Magazine

Social media and the internet let us see the latest fashions while they are being presented. Fashion blogs are a way to see what celebrities and everyday people are wearing, the trends they are trying, and the products they are using. It’s no wonder the fashion industry is constantly having to present something new—we’re consuming so much information so quickly! But before the internet, people sought fashion magazines for their fashion news and trends (and the socialite gossip, of course).

Harper’s Bazaar (first spelled as Bazar) is the first American fashion magazine. First published on November 2, 1867, the fashion magazine is still published today.  While the first issue featured articles on fashion and literature, the publication later included news of socialites, fashion trends, and was a place for some of the fashion industry’s most famous photographers and editors to showcase their work. See more on it’s nearly 145-year history at

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Fashion History: The Invention of Blue Jeans

Above is the picture of the patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” that would become the blueprint for the blue jean.

There’s a reason Levi’s are synonymous with blue jeans. It was Levi Strauss who invented the true-blue pants. An immigrant from Bavaria, Strauss worked at his family’s dry goods store in New York when he decided to move west in hopes of making a fortune during the gold rush.

It was in San Francisco that Strauss opened his own dry goods store that counted many of the miners as customers. Over the years he became a successful businessman but that was just a taste of the success that was yet to come. Enter Jacob Davis.

Davis was a tailor in Reno, Nevada and would frequent Strauss’ store. He wrote a letter to Strauss explaining his method of tailoring pants with metal rivets at the pockets and zip front, to reinforce them for the working conditions of the miners. In the letter he stated that he didn’t have the funds to patent the design, but was hoping Strauss would supply the monetary means so the two could go into business. An enthusiastic Strauss quickly agreed and the two were granted the patent for “Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings” on May 20, 1873. This date is often called the birthday of blue jeans.

Image via moderhistorian

Sources,, modernhistorian

Fashion History: The Cone Bra

Madonna donned the infamous cone bra during her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour. Designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, the cone bra epitomized his provocative aesthetic, giving him his “enfant terrible” reputation.

Gaultier took inspiration from the vintage Perma-Lift bullet bra created in the 1940s. These pointy brassieres were often worn by the famous movie actresses of the day and started the popular “sweater girl” look.

An obvious sign of sexuality, Madonna took this concept to the brink in her famous 1990 music tour by making it popular to wear underwear as outwear. Now More than 20 years later, Madonna has reprised her most famous costume for her MDNA tour.

Sources: NYMagTheStyleNotebook,

Images: InStyle, Flickr, Huffington Post,

Fashion History: The Origin of the Stiletto Heel

Named after an Italian dagger, stiletto heels are one of the most well-known (and well-loved) silhouettes in fashion — but did you know they’ve only been around since the 1950s? Previously, heels had to be thick and sturdy because they were made out of materials such as wood. However the brilliant idea to use a thin, supportive steel rod to reinforce the heel changed everything.

Sketches from Manolo Blahnik, a master of the stiletto silhouette

This steel rod makes a stiletto a stiletto and allowed designers to make heels taller, thinner and sexier than ever. A bit of controversy surrounds the stiletto: Both Salvatore Ferragamo and Roger Vivier (who was designing for Christian Dior at the time) take credit for the stiletto and introduced the style in 1953. Regardless of who conceived the ingenious construction, we thank them for allowing us to walk a little taller, feel a little more confident, and (let’s be honest) look a little thinner.

Info Source: Worsley, Harriet. 100 Ideas That Changed FashionLondon: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011. Print.
Image Source: Manolo Blahnik 

Fashion History: The Christian Louboutin Red Sole


The signature accent that launched a lawsuit and a thousand imitations, the red sole allows us to spot a Christian Louboutin pump from across the room. The famous finishing accent has become a status symbol, accompanying the strut of your favorite celebs and infamous Real Housewives alike. But where did Mr. Louboutin come up with this ingenius accent? In an interview with ABC News, Louboutin tells the story:

I had a girl working with me, trying on the shoes so when she was not trying on shoes, she sort of had nothing to do, so she was sort of waiting, and, so she was doing her nails, at that time… and I thought, why, this black has to be the red! So I grabbed her nail polish, and painted the soles.

Now in his 20th year of designing shoes, Louboutin takes his sole very seriously. Last spring, Louboutin filed a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent for selling shoes with a red sole, a concept his design house trademarked in 2008. Yves Saint Laurent ended up winning the case, but the battle wages on in a court of appeals.

Aside from the red sole, a Christian Louboutin shoe is a work of art, handmade and reflecting forward-thinking fashion. But for those of us who cannot afford the sometimes thousand(s)-dollar pair of shoes, there are ways to get a red soled shoe of your own. The UK company Save Your Sole sells well-made red soles that you can add to your own pumps, or you can do what Louboutin himself did and simply paint yours with red nail polish for a fun (but short-lived, unfortunately) red sole of your own.

Sources from ABC News and Fashionista

Fashion History: Why Do We Wear White Wedding Dresses?

Wedding dresses weren’t always white — at least not until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840. And though she wasn’t the first woman to wear white at her wedding, she’s why Western women do today. Instead of sliver or gold royal robes, Queen Victoria chose a white satin and lace dress. Her risky yet rewarding sartorial decision caught women’s attention, and white gowns became the norm by the 1920s.

“The Marriage of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert” by George Hayter

Before Queen Victoria, women traditionally wore blue, pink, their favorite color, or even black on their special day — it all depended on their social position. If you were wealthy, you could afford to wear a lightly hued gown; if you weren’t, you chose a less delicate dress you could wear several more times. But Queen Victoria’s example coupled with the blurring of class lines prompted the proliferation of white dresses. As social status became less defined by clothing, more women wore similar gowns on their wedding days. White gowns became available at many price points and were no longer reserved for the rich.

But what about white as a symbol of purity? This connection is simply a modern notion, resulting from the popularity of white wedding dresses. Blue historically represented purity and virginity — that is, until Queen Victoria came along.

Info Source: Worsley, Harriet. 100 Ideas That Changed Fashion. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2011. Print.

Fashion History: How The LBD Came to Be Popular

The Chanel “Ford” the frock that all the world will wear is model 817 of black crepe de chine. The bodice blouses slightly at the front and sides and has a tight bolero at the back. Especially chic is the arrangement of tiny tucks which cross in front. Imported by Saks.

The picture and text above appeared in an October issue of American Vogue in 1926. While the style transformation was not immediate, this Chanel editorial piece is credited as the first to define the Little Black dress, simply known as the LBD.

Every lady is familiar with the power of the LBD. It’s the go-to look that you know will fit the occasion. It’s slimming and always suits the occasion. Vogue described it as the “‘Ford’ of the frock” alluding to the universal popularity of Henry Ford’s motor car that was prevalent at the time.

Coco Chanel was forward thinking in her use of jersey (because of its low cost) and simple silhouettes. As a never-married, business-savvy woman, Chanel championed a new kind of woman who was self-efficient. In fact, when Christian Dior’s New Look, which featured waist-cinching, A-line-cut silhouettes, became popular, Chanel felt they were old-school and not suitable for the post-war ‘liberated’ woman. In turn, she pushed her simple, boxy silhouette and pant looks. Today she is often credited with getting the woman out of the corset. Simplicity was key to her, even focusing her wardrobe on neutral black, white, and tan colors. All of these distinguishing characters make it fitting that Chanel would be the designer who eventually began the concept of the go-with-anything, perfect-for-any-occasion, go-to dress. And the rest, really, is history.

Sources: Voguepedia and Metropolitan Museum

Image and Source from


Fashion History: The First Bikini

It wasn’t the first (technically) and it won’t be the last, but the picture above shows the first bikini designed by Louis Reard on July 5, 1946. Considered scandalous because the low waistline revealed the navel, Reard could only find nude dancer Micheline Bernardini to model his design.

Four days earlier on July 1, the U.S. Army had conducted nuclear test at the Pacific island Bikini Atoll. Hoping his design, which was deemed “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit,” would cause an explosion of interest, Reard called his garment the “bikini” after the island.

While midriff baring swimsuits preceded the bikini, as well as formfitting one-piece bathing suits, it’s specifically the two-triangle top and triangular front and back bottom (that sits below the navel) that comprise the original ‘bikini’ design. The designer boasted that the minimal design could fit into a matchbox like the one Bernardini is holding in her hand in the photo.

For a more in-depth look at the bikini please check Time MagazineEsquire, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Image via retronaut