The Genesis of Fashion As We Know It

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We usually think of fashion as a contemporary phenomenon, but in her article "Renaissance Fashion: The Birth of Power Dressing," Cambridge University's Ulinka Rublack makes a good argument that the concept as we know it got started way back in the 1300s. By the end of the era, "clothes already formed an important part of what we might call people’s ‘psychic landscapes.’ Wardrobes could become repositories of fantasies and insecurities, as well as reflecting expectations of what a person might look like and behave." Particularly interesting is her research on one Matthaus Schwarz, an Augsburg accountant who had watercolor paintings of himself in various outfits bound into a book—making him possibly the world's first fashion blogger.

In addition, black "continued for some time as the international shade indicating sumptuous restraint," and people were already worrying about achieving and maintaining a slim silhouette—evidence, perhaps, that we can't blame the modern fashion industry for society's obsession with body image. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

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