Ornamentation in Clothing, Past and Present

“Bling bling Everytime I come around yo city Bling bling, Pinky ring worth about fifty, Bling bling, Everytime I buy a new ride Bling bling, Lorenzos on Yokahama tires, Bling bling. ” Sounds ridiculously silly but isn’t. “Bling” has been around a lot longer than the B. G. Bling dates back to prehistoric times. Websters Oxford English Dictionary defines Bling as “jewelry often gaudy or ostentatious,” its etymology coming from “the sound it makes”. “It is a hip-hop slang term referring to specifically very expensive jewelry and other accoutrements, and also an entire lifestyle built around excess spending and ostentation.

” Bling was more important for the ancient man than it is for any modern age celebrity. To say that it represented status is an understatement. For ancient man clothing was not only essential protection from the elements, it was a symbol of power. A prehistoric woman seen wearing a beaded bag was an object of envy. Not because of the beautiful colors and intricate patterns, but because it meant she wasn’t hungry. If she had the time to sit around and hand bead a piece of cloth it meant that she wasn’t using that time to look for food.

It meant she had the luxury of a full stomach and could think about something else; that’s wealth in prehistoric times. The more intricate the beading, meant the more time she had free and wasn’t hunting-she had time to think and be creative. Her beaded bag simply stated without the use of words, how wealthy she was and her standing in society. Clothing and accessories, such as jewelry, has always represented a person’s whole identity. Hundreds of years later, in the court of Louis the 14th, the same exact thing was going on.

Civilization has created many languages, yet people still chose symbols rather than words to present their wealth and power. During the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, French fashion took over the leading role in Europe. This was caused by France having developed into the main political and cultural power, thus turning French fashion into an equally “absolutistic” regime. During the period from 1660 onwards, fashion in France, according to the absolutistic ideal, became rigid, ordered and strict in its do’s and don’ts of etiquette. What a courtier wore to the ball wasn’t a whim of mood: it was a carefully calculated look.

This look stated exactly who he was and how wealthy he was. The man’s handbook for dress code stated that a man must think about what he wears and make sure it coincides with what he wants to say about himself. “Men wore wigs, vests, breeches, and coats; women wore two dresses over a corset and a hooped or padded skirt. The extravagance of a noble man or woman’s clothing was intended to show the public how much social standing that person had. In fact, during the reign of Louis XIII, a law was passed stating that only the nobility could wear precious stones and gold.

” One vest contained over 250 yards of ribbon and was heavily embroidered. Women wore hoop skirts which were considered symbols of wealth. A woman who did not wear a hoop was not invited to social functions. At times the hoop was as wide as three people, making it difficult for women to pass each other in doorways or to sit on sofas. That is not just throwing on whatever’s clean. Clothing has a reason, nothing is accidental. Examples of symbols of things in the court. no one could wear a bigger thing than the queen or king. What we wear represents who we are in a very specific way.

And it always has. You think you are wearing a black shirt because it’s slimming and because you look good in black. That isn’t necessarily true. You are wearing black because decades of human history are engraved into your subconscious. Maybe you wear black because it seems sophisticated. But why? If you look at just the present there doesn’t seem to be an answer. Why is black cool? One has to look throughout history. During the Renaissance, black was the color of artists and intellectuals. Michelangelo wore black and so did Raffael. Black represented solid respectability.

Tzarevna Elisabeth also picked black as her personal color; she was considered by the Russian people as the intellectual ruler. They wanted to distinguish themselves as artists and as intellectuals, to set themselves apart in a way that everyone could see. Maybe that’s exactly why the beats of the 60s wore black, they were also artists, they were also intellectuals. And maybe that’s why we think of black as cool. Another example is the color purple. It has a very rich look. It’s a bit ostentatious even. But why? The answer once again lies in history, and is passed down intuitively from generation to generation.

Purple was the royal color. It was very expensive because it was so hard to make. One bah of purple dye took 50,000 oyster shells. That’s how the color became a symbol of wealth and power. It was considered ostentatious even back in the days of Julius Caesar. The man was considered to be showing off when he wore a purple toga, that display was even the final straw in Brute’s decision. The list of examples goes on and on, proving that our so called whims aren’t whims at all, but decades of fashion history inscribed in our fashion sense. Today we buy designer clothing for the name rather than its beauty.

Clothing labels have become our “bling” in a very intense and frightening way. Our award shows are not unlike the balls of Louis the 14th, where every inch of outfit is judged and scrutinized over. A lot of the designers we know today as legendary fashion symbols started out in the 1950s. Things looked very good for fashion then. Dior and Balenciaga made their names famous because they made beautiful clothing. There were no T-shirts with labels across the chest and no Louis Vuitton bags with the nauseating logo all over them. It made sense to pay a lot of money for something that was exceptionally well made and creative.

My mom owns a Dior coat she bought in the 70s that has only a tiny label in the back. None of the gaudy name graffiti that exists on the Dior line today. What identified a designer back then was the cut, the specific style that belonged to only that designer. The masters didn’t need to write their name all over a dress for the world to know it was theirs; they just needed to apply their unique style. You would know a Dior from a Givenchy in 1950, but you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the 2000 collections from the same houses.

It used to be that you could go to a store of your favorite designer and buy your whole wardrobe. Today we shop all over because designers no longer adhere to specific styles; instead they jump around according to fashion trends. Since designers all have an eclectic style, they need to compete more with each other and that’s where the labeling comes in. The integrity of the designer is disappearing and gaudy bling is getting in the way. Something very strange is happening with labels today. We are completely obsessed with showing our wealth. We really are no different and no less ridiculous from the court of Louis XIV.

Going into any of the high fashion stores in Milan shows nothing but labeling; a pair of pants by Galliano is not recognized by the unique cut or color, but instead by the fact that it says “Galliano” three thousand times all over it. Today people actually pay for T-shirts made by famous designers just because it says “Gucci” or “Dolce and Gabbana” across the chest in glitter. This isn’t paying thousands for a beautiful dress; this is paying thousands for a T-shirt of no better quality than that of Fruit of the Loom. We are label whores. It isn’t only labels, but our whole lifestyle that is filled with this constant display of wealth.

We buy accessories, like key chains and cell phone holders, from designers just because their name is on it. We are buying their status. We do not care about the clothing anymore, we just care about the status. Celebrities today even spend millions for dog accessories; a sure sign that things have gotten interesting. The most expensive Dolce and Gabbana bags aren’t the most beautiful ones, it’s the ones that say, “D & G, check the label. ” Another example of the fact that we buy names instead of creative designs is how easy it is for a celebrity to become a designer these days.

You can have no design inspiration, but just slap your name on a T-shirt and there’s your line. Kylie Minogue, very popular all over Europe, has started a lingerie line that sells while Alexander McQueen is having a hard time. This is completely absurd. Elizabeth Hurley’s line and Gwen Stefani’s “LAMB” collections are also selling wonderfully. Many hip-hop artists and executives have started their own fashion labels and clothing lines that are selling in Paris, including Russell Simmons (Phat Farm), Damon Dash and Jay-Z (Roc-a-Wear), and OutKast (OutKast Clothing).

These people are not designers, they have just found another way to market their name and make money. We shower ourselves in jewelry and fake glittering shirts. The evolution of adornment has taken a very interesting twist in this decade compared to where we were going in the 90s. It seemed as though in the 1990s we were heading in a totally different direction. The 1990s was the decade of anti-fashion. The most significant event in 1990s fashion was the rise of grunge fashion in 1992. No label flannel sweatshirts and plain tshirts ruled the world.

People dressed down in what can be called the essentials. Designers were forced to put away their colors and volume of the 1980s and think about what young people really wanted. They wanted comfortable clothing that didn’t have a label on it. Let us create our own labels. Maybe it is due, to some extent, to this lul in fashion that a backlash has occurred. We flashour wealth today like prehistoric man did thousands od years ago. The reason for the amount of extreme flashing of our wealth that we have going on today is due to something much deeper then just a backlash.

Fashion has always been rooted in the political and socieconomical state of each country. This is where I think the real answer lies. Let us compare the difference of London and New York against Florence and Moscow to illustrate the point. In New York, as in London, the people with the most money and creativety often dress as if they have nothing. The cool kids of the East Village dress in ripped jeans and Tshirt with paint on them. You wouldn’t know how much money someone in these cities had by looking at them because the rich kid can be confused with the local bum.

Going into a bar in London, one can see the most stylish girl wearing a dress that looks old like something gotten at a flee market. It is cool to be unadorned, to be without the obvious accuotrements of wealth in the form of clothing. Labels are hidden on the inside of clothing and hipster designers are able to sell these tattered and worn out looking sweatshirts to celebrities for very high prices. Sweatpants and pajama pants can be seen as the highest form of fashion in New York and London, as long as they are cool pajama pants.

At the tables of the trendiest most expensive restaurants of the downtown people can be seen sipping their drinks in second hand Tshirts, bought for 5 euros at the second hand shop. Something like that can never be worn to a respectable place in Florence or Moscow. These places hardly have second hand or cheap vintage shopping. It isn’t considered cool here to look like a street kid with hair a mess, sitting on a curb. The men and women of these two cities dress in a very apparently rich way. High heels and Gucci shades. The amount of Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana name tags one sees on the street is overwhelming.

The belts of girls and boys, young and old, all scream DESIGNER! in glittered letters. Expensive watches and designer bags crowded with labels are on everyone in the street. The men look clean and put together while the women look like they’ve just stepped out of a salon. What accounts for such a difference is the economies in Russia and Italy versus the economies of England and the US. This is what I`ve been getting at all along. During the World Wars, Russia and Italy have suffered greatly and have been left with economies that have plummeted and now must be built up.

As the countries recuperated and the spending level went up, the clothing changed. At economically and politically unstable times, Russians and Italians had to dress in old clothing and tattered Tshirts not because they were like the hipsters of London but because there was no other choice. It was a thing of necessity rather than of style. There simply wasn’t enough money or product to spend on such frivolities as clothing. Russians starved in the days of Communism and Italians were completely inpovorished y World War II.

Today, these two countries have been coming up for some time now and are stable and relatively wealthy. Maybe not extremely wealthy because the rebuilding of an economy takes time, but by no means poor. Generations of people who have worn old tattered clothing their whole lives now want to show their ability to wear expensive designers. It is not cool or kitsch to wear old T-shirts when all your grandparents had were old T-shirts and ripped jeans. Italian and Russian parents who couldn’t afford it themselves while young, are now willing to let their children spend money on looking like they can afford it.

It is a very sincere way of a people remembering hard times of war and wanting to be as far away from that as possible. Wearing clothing that only someone in a country of stability and money can wear, is a way of putting all those less moneyed years behind you. That is why, I believe, the difference in these four cities occurs. England and the United States, on the other hand, did not suffer much during the World Wars but actually had an economic spurt as a result. England had its Industrial Revolution very early and has been economically strong ever since.

The United States has had a tremendous success in the world of computer technology and is now the richest country in the world. This is why the young people in New York and London think it’s stylish to go vintage shopping. Their parents didn’t have to dress them in old clothing while young so they don’t have any memories of it to get away from. It reminds them of good old times rather than of an impoverished people. This is how we dress today. Our clothing is a byproduct of hundreds of years of history. It is engraved not in our conscious but comes out in our personal style.

Having examined even such a small idea of dress such as “bling,” it is clear that everything has a reason that is historical, economical and social. People throughout history have adorned themselves to show off wealth and status, from prehistoric times, to the Renaissance, to the French court and finally to the 1990s. It is through those and because of those ideas that we adorn ourselves today. It depends on where you are from and what the country’s history is, rather than on a designer’s whim of intuition. Costume history is a social science and clothing is a very real form of artifact.