Throughout civilization, fashion has evolved and gone back to older times. It has had many ups and downs, along with many controversies of appropriation and appreciation.
But, there are some things we just are accustomed to by this point. What we forget though, is that there is always a story behind a creation. Below we have complied a list of 15 cultures, indigenous people and cultural history that created many fashion and beauty trends we see today.
Along with this list, you'll learn the truth about some myths or misconceptions. Or you'll just be wowed by where fashion trends have come from over the years.
16 Flower Cross-Stitch
Ukraine is making new fronts in the fashion industry. Especially recently, top designers have been taking the runways by storm with Ukrainian inspired fashion. Fashion designer Vita Kin of Vyshyvanka is one of many fashion designers using traditional embroidery patterns to create stunning tops, blouses, and dresses. And other designers are recreating traditional costume items into jackets.
You may see these patterns as a bohemian theme at festivals, concerts, or just on the street. But what you may not know is that these handcrafted patterns have been around for hundreds of years. Most Slavic cultures have a variation of the cross-stitch flower designs that Kin uses to create her masterpieces.
It is a controversial topic, but Aboriginal people in both Canada and the United States have contributed to fashion trends — even if they don’t approve of it all.
Aboriginal people in North America use distinctive colors, beadwork, designs and apparel, all of them with a different meaning. Even the patterns in the designs have meanings to their culture and beliefs.
Many knockoffs have hit the market from Urban Outfitters selling fluorescent feathered headdresses to H&M with their own variety of headdresses, but they haven't been accepted as fashion. Even top designers flaunt their work at Fashion Week shows across the world saying it's authentic art when it's really cultural appropriation
But, many people who don’t understand the meaning of the clothing they wear do enjoy it. A longtime favorite in colder countries like Canada has been mukluks, moccasins, and gauntlet mittens.
All of these items were originally made hundreds of years ago for practical reasons, but they also have meaning in the beadwork and the craftsmanship that now you see in other items like on jewelry and other accessories.
14 O’odham Symbols
In the United States, again there has been quite a lot of controversy around Aboriginal clothing and designs being used in the fashion world. But there are companies that have done it right like Nike. This past year Nike teamed up with O’odham tribe member, Dwayne Manuel. Manuel specializes in drawing and graffiti art while living in Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community in Arizona. The team came up with one of the hottest lines this year, Desert Journey. The line comes with a snazzy pair of shoes you’ve probably seen kickin’ around town.
The Man of the Maze shoes explains how the Maze signifies the path of life. Each turn represents the impact of everything that happens, with the Sun in the center and a figure representing the O’odham people.
The line also includes other shoes, jackets and gear using Manuel's inspiration.
With music festivals comes new fashion trends, especially when celebrities flock to them. One of these trends is the bindi. It has sparked quite a lot of controversy but despite the varied views the bindi has stuck around.
Regardless of the controversy, music festivals didn’t start this trend out of the blue. In fact, the trend goes back to the 1960s when the Beatles became spiritual. It then resurrected in the 1990s when celebrities got wind of the culture like Björk and Siouxsie and the Banshees who got together to create a debut album for Talvin Singh. The album blended Bollywood and Bhangra beats that later blossomed the fashion trend of the bindi and other Bollywood trends. Even Gwen Stefani rocked one in her music video with No Doubt, Just A Girl.
Since then, celebrities like Iggy Azalea and Katy Perry, have worn the bindi as a fashion accessory. And well, we all know that if the most popular celebrities in the world are sporting them, there may be a few people jumping onboard too.
12 Eye Liner
Whether you use a pencil or liquid eyeliner, you never really think about the history of it. This tiny miracle hails from Egypt. Originally, Egyptians wore it to fight off eye disease and evil spirits. The American Chemical Society reported in 2010 that the eyeliner did, in fact, help fight off infection. The report admits that the Egyptians didn’t think eyeliner was a medicine but magical. Some Egyptians believed that the makeup's role had to do with the ancient gods Horus and Ra who would protect them against illnesses. The report found that the substances in the makeup boosted production of nitric oxide, which revs up the immune system. The scientists believe that the Egyptian "chemists" may have deliberately used these lead-based cosmetics since two of the compounds did not occur naturally and must have been synthesized.
If it weren't for archeologists stumbling upon the tombs in Egypt in the early 1900s, eyeliner wouldn't have boomed for women in Europe and now be a social norm across the world.
We all have a scarf or two that are said to be silk or cashmere, and we adore them. You can pick them up at almost any retail store. We think they’re just scarves, right? But, if you read the labels and they say pashmina, then you know you got a gem. Pashmina shawls have been around for thousands of years but since the craze in the mid-90s they are almost anywhere.
Pashmina shawls don’t come from cheap factories. Instead, they come from a breed of goats that come from Nepal, Kashmir, and the Himalayas.
Nowadays, there is a lot of confusion if the scarves are actually authentic though since many knock-offs you get come from synthetic fabric. But since the prices tend to be pretty reasonable, it’s hard just to have one. A lady needs a colour for every outfit.
10 Cowichan Knitting
Archeologists confirm that Coast Salish people have been living in territories on the Northwest Coast of North America for about 8,000 years and with their history comes one of the coziest and decorative sweaters you may ever wear. The Cowichan sweater is made by knitting distinct patterns into sweaters like animals, names, symbols and sceneries.
Popular with Canadians, it has reached beyond to other countries and fashion designers like Rag and Bone’s Fall 2014 runway show. But the sweater really took off in the 1950s by Mary Maxim, a clothing company that originated in Manitoba, Canada.
Mary Maxim was inspired by the motifs of the Cowichan people on the west coast, so they started to create these one of a kind sweaters. Since then, the company has grown outside of Canada having a location in Port Huron, Michigan too.
In the past, the Mary Maxim sweaters were sported by Bob Hope, Princess Anne and it is even rumored that Sarah Jessica Parker wore one in an episode of Sex and the City.
9 Bohemian Beadwork
The bohemian style always makes its way back to fashion trends and norms no matter what the era. We know it matches up with words like free spirited, loving, hippies, and non-traditional, but it actually is derived from France.
Commonly, Bohemianism referred to the people that were rumored to come from Bohemia, a region in the Czech Republic. These people were known as laid back, free spirited and enjoyed music and art. They were known to be adventurous and most often were vagabonds.
But now we use the word 'bohemian' to cling to fashion trends and innovations. According to World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence, beadwork inspired by Bangladesh has had a global effect since everyone wants the beadwork done.
There are also many other cultures that have beadwork that we see in fashion on a daily basis.
8 Batik Design
Batik is known in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Sri Lanka just to name a few, but is most famous for its Indonesian roots. The design also made its way to other countries like China where they all have perfected it in their regions.
Batiking is derived from a Javanese word, “writing with dots”. It uses a method of dying fabric that dates back to 300 BC. The designs combine Hindu symbols such as birds, blossoms, palms, birds, the tree of life and butterflies.
But later, the Chinese added their touches to the design, consisting of richer and deeper colors. The Java inspired design has come to be one of the most popular designs on the runways and in everyday clothing. In the 1970s, Vogue got wind of the designs and craft. So, Vogue instantly started sharing it with the world. Iwan Tirta, who introduced the fashion designs to Vogue, went on to have even The First Lady Nancy Reagan wear one of his dresses.
Bògòlanfini, also known as mud cloth, comes from several Malian groups along with Nigeria, but is best known to come from Mali.
No — the clothes aren’t made out of mud. But they designs on them were. The designs used to come from clay that would be applied carefully to the clothing. The dark zigzag, lines and triangle patterns have a strong meaning for the people who wear it.
Women would be wrapped in bògòlanfini after they were initiated into adulthood and again after childbirth. The cloth is believed to have the power to absorb dangerous forces in such circumstances. Men would wear it as camouflage while hunting as well. But these days, you can see it on many fabrics of shorts, skirts, dresses, and rompers.
The deep rich browns are now made with other materials than mud because of such a high demand. If it weren't for fashion designer, Chris Seydou, this pattern wouldn’t have gotten popular globally. Even Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta have had it regularly appear on the runways with hats, casual shirts-and-shorts combos, and dresses.
6 The Bikini
The unveiling of the bikini was a spectacle that was almost lost in the history books since women weren’t entirely willing to flaunt off a skimpy suit. Louis Réard, the father of the bathing suit, finally found a model, Micheline Bernardini, willing to wear it.
At the beginning of July in 1946, Bernardini flaunted the bikini to the world at a fashion event at the Piscine Molitor, a popular pool in Paris. But, this innovation didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, the bikini was a thing before we even knew it was.
In Sicily, the Palazzo Trigona Museum holds one of the richest collections of mosaics in Roman archaeological history. The Villa Romana del Casale site says that the structure is from the late imperial era. Inside of it holds a key moment to when the bikini first appeared. The original villa came to be in the fourth century and rumours say that emperors owned it. Inside of this fortress is a mosaic of 10 women playing in bikinis. So even though, the bikini has been around for decades as a common day outfit for the beach, it predates even the inventor of it.
5 Head Ties
In other words a head tie. We all love them but do you know where they originate? Did head ties just show up? No they didn’t certainly didn't.
They came from South Africa having different words for them as well. To list a few head ties are also referred to a gele, tukwi, and duku. The head tie is used as a fashion accessory but also for function.
According to Helen Bradley, author of New Raiments of Self: 'African American Clothing in the Antebellum South, says that the headwrap originated in sub-Saharan Africa.' Bradley also says that 'during times of slavery in the United States, African American’s would wear them to show courage and remember their homeland.'
It served as a uniform of communal identity and a uniform of rebellion since millions of women resisted the loss of their self-definition.
Now, you can see head ties pretty much where ever you go and around the world in different variations.
4 The Little Black Dress
We all have that go-to dress tucked away in our closets for any occasion. Sure, it’s minimal, versatile, affordable and can be very elegant and has been around for almost a century in the fashion world, its history is sewn with a different meaning.
In France, women wore black dresses when mourning. Before Coco Chanel revived the little black dress in the 1920s, it was considered inappropriate to wear it out of mourning.
During the Victorian era, a widow had to wear several stages of mourning outfits for up to two years, and that included a black dress with no accessories or decorations.
But by 1926, it was featured for the first time on Vogue. It went on to be extremely successful in difficult times like the Great Depression.
Over the decades, it became a sexy uniform for businesswomen and then it took a spin with the grunge movement because women would pair it with combat boots. But there is one thing we can for sure know and that there is no debate that the LBD is extremely versatile and a must have.
Many of us may believe that jeans were made in the 1850s by Levi Strauss since Levis are now the biggest name when it comes to jeans. But we are wrong to think this. Others may know some more about the history of jeans and know that they came out of a French town, Nimes. But then again, we’d be wrong to think that this where jeans originated.
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Blue of Genoa"? What does it mean? It starts with jeans. According to Vogue, Genoa in its prime was very prosperous. In the mid-1700s, farmers made clothes called “fustian,” which consisted of cotton and linen wraps. The blue color derived from pressing and sieving methods. Historical evidence confirms the use of the Blue of Genoa can be traced in Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari in Rome and Palazzo Spinola in Genoa. There you can see Liguria gowns in blue cotton and plastic representations of shepherds wearing jeans.
There also is a canvas that is jean material inside of The Diocesan Museum of Genoa.
2 Bright Bold Skirts
Latin America is the motherland of ancient people, even though many of these people are extinct now, museums inform us of what they were like, what they wore and how they lived.
In Colombia, the Embera tribe still makes clothes and accessories out of wood and other materials. They have skirts called “paruma,” which are cotton. These skirts are bright and bold and are made out of natural pigments to create lines and designs. During special occasions, the Embera people paint their body with dye made from natural materials. They make intricate geometric patterns all over themselves. The women wear silver necklaces and earrings which are from silver coins dating back to the 19th century.
Recently, you can see bright, and bold mini skirts hit the racks of retailers that resemble this tribe's wear.
1 Mexican Fashion
Many different influences for fashion have come out of Mexico and continue to do so. From the infamous Aztec tribal prints to the Appliqué techniques for apparel. The Mexican culture has flourished on runways for years. Many designers use different prints inspired by the Mexican culture, one design is the molas, which originally were blouses worn by women. Modern-day designs using appliqué is just one example of how Mexico and designers around the world maintain Mexico's cultural symbolism.
If you remember Frida Kahlo — the painter most famous for her self-portraits — you'll remember her hair piled on her head, big earrings, clusters of flowers, and her unforgettable unibrow. But you will for sure remember her flair for style in traditional Mexican clothing. Her clothing dominated the fashion world in the 1930s and 1940s. She wore traditional clothing that inspired fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Rei Kawakubo and Dolce & Gabbana.
Now, to this day, Mexican traditional clothing and designs flourish at all times of the year on dresses, pants, blouses, shirts, skirts, jewelry and even shoes.