While the shirt may seem simple and insignificant, it is actually a very important part of women’s history and fashion. A shirt is not simply a piece of clothing for the upper body, women throughout history have reinvented themselves through shirts. Shirts and blouses became a symbol of freedom and equality for women, but let’s face it; we love shirts no matter what. The evolution of the shirt closely follows the evolution of women and their roles in society. In early centuries, women’s shirts were more about just the functionality of covering the upper body, while men’s shirts became symbols of monetary status and power. For a long time women’s shirts were left behind when it came to style.
Over time, women’s shirts evolved, becoming more about fashion and flare rather than just a practical garment. With the addition of fancier fabrics and more aesthetic changes women’s shirts developed and transformed into a more feminine design. The shirt became more about style and beauty than just merely function. The shirt began to accentuate the femininity of women. Lower necklines and shorter sleeves began to show off a woman’s body rather than hide it. This revealing gave women a more sensual and beautiful appearance, overturning the idea that a woman’s body should always be hidden.
In the last century or so shirts have undergone many changes and modifications. Women’s shirts began to reflect the social movement and mood of each decade. Styles and function evolved with the times. It is amazing to see how different events in history have influenced and changed the way women have dressed throughout time. The evolution of the woman’s shirt was highly influenced by world events, economy and social causes and women’s shirts became a form of self-expression.
Social movements such as equal rights for women fashioned the design of the shirt in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Suffragettes began to use color to show solidarity and resistance while still using acceptable norms. The roaring twenties brought about the glitz and glam of femininity while still remaining true to simplicity by using embellishments and lower necklines to depict the fun of the century.
During World War II fancy fabrics were highly regulated. Glamour was discouraged and gave way to the practical outfit. Shirts became the symbol of solidarity of the hard working woman doing all she could to support the men at war. It didn’t take long after the war for the glamour of women’s shirts to come back in style. The 50’s brought about the rise of glamour again and form-fitting fashion. Shirts became feminine again and closer fitting to the body to show a woman’s curves.
Hippie fashion became a dominant influence in the sixties and seventies. Freedom and rebellion were showcased in the loose-fitting, flowing shirts. The 70’s age of Disco brought about the exact opposite of the hippie movement. Shirts and blouses were more about show using shimmering fabrics. The look of a woman’s top became more about slender lines with larger collars and sleeves. Shirts were created to make a woman look her best in a night club.
In the Eighties teen fashion began to emerge, influencing the new fashion trends. Teens began to use shirts and tops that separated them from their parents. The shirt also became a symbol of rebellion and differentiation of social groups. Shirts defined the teen social cliques of the 1980s; such as the Valley Girls, Punk Rock or Grunge, Jocks, Surfers, Head bangers and the Nerds. The 1990’s saw a lot more commercialization of fashion. No longer was fashion as much about social cliques as it was about standing out and being independent. Designers began to take advantage of this by adding their logo to shirts. Sometimes it was subtle, other times the logo covered the entire shirt.
Celebrities also influenced trends a great deal. Women began paying close attention to what celebrities wore and began emulating the style. That celebrity trend still continues today, and many celebrities have created their own fashion lines. During the last decades women’s shirt lengths began to change and evolve, welcoming the tank, halter and the crop tops. There was also an increase in the popularity of crop tops and halter tops as women’s shirts and blouses became more provocative.
Fast forward to the last decade or so and shirts were once again in the forefront of social causes. A shirt became a way to shatter gender boundaries and become a symbol of even more equality. The line between masculine and feminine began to cross and blur, forming common ground for men and women. The shirt symbolized the power and equality of women in the world. Shirts have long been symbols of the decades, showcasing the current times. Everyone wears them. Everyone has shirts in their closet of many types and designs. The shirt is an excellent way to showcase the person wearing it.
Women’s shirts not only changed and shaped history; they changed and helped shape the fashion world. Enter the fashion designers who took notice of the importance of the shirt. They quickly realized the world was taking notice of the so called “simple” shirt and began to set their personal marks and boundary-pushing creations. Sleeves and necklines and length became freedom fashion statements. A shirt could exaggerate femininity or be gender neutral and often masculine as a social norm.
The shirt also helped to usher in the idea of separates in the fashion world. With the globalization and the massive availability around the world, the need for separates became more apparent. Even with mass retailing of shirts as separates, women still wanted individuality through fashion and design. Designers recognized this need and the fashionable, trendy shirt became more accessible for the everyday woman.
Designers also realized women of all shapes and sizes wanted their shirts, and began to design so the shirt would flatter different women, no matter the body type. Women want comfort as well as flattering designs. Designers began using patterns and prints when crafting shirts, with the idea of flattering different body types and being very eye catching. The shirt can either accentuate the shape of a woman’s body or hide the parts she doesn’t want to show off, depending on the cut and print of the shirt.
First impressions really do count, and shirts are a big part of making a wonderful first impression. Never underestimate the power of a great shirt. A shirt helps portray the image of the woman wearing it. The right shirt is the key to a great outfit. It is a confidence booster. A shirt has the ability to be a stand-out as well as be beautifully understated. Choosing a great shirt helps set the attitude and mood of the day. There are so many varieties of a shirts from casual to business, backyard party to a gala. The shirt is the fundamental base to any outfit.
Shirts make mixing and matching a woman’s wardrobe more versatile. A shirt gives much more versatility than a dress. Shirts are a great counter-part to any bottom. They can be combined in so many different ways, building many outfits and looks, making them an economical fashion choice. A shirt is magically suitable for any season and any occasion.
Every woman can find shirts to make her feel good, no matter the occasion or societal changes. Shirts are probably the most valuable items in every clothing collection. Fashion trends come and go, but the shirt will always be in style and essential to every woman’s wardrobe. They stand the test of time. The shirt is here to stay.