Comparative Showcases
Fashion
A Hundred Years of Fashion: Styles and Trends in Europe

 

 

The Video Active materials on the topic of 'Fashion' demonstrate that fashion has been a regular topic of interest on television since TV's earliest days, especially in news and lifestyle programming. Furthermore, fashion shows as well as fashion programmes are a common feature on television across Europe. The Video Active items principally inform us how fashion in Europe and the popularity of specific clothing styles and trends have changed – or remained the same – throughout the 20th and early 21st century. As a result, the materials give insight into the evolving nature of fashion, and fashion programming throughout Europe.

 

Starting in the 1910s, items showcase contemporary fashion styles and trends on an (inter)national level, beginning with fashion in everyday life. In Denmark, a newspaper reportage on the Politiken's Whitsun excursion to Mols in 1915 features characteristic pictures of the fashion of the time (DR, 1915). A film on the local libraries of Copenhagen in 1922 also features images of period fashion, such as a lady with a hat (DR, 1922). The 'Week in Review 53/1935' (DR, 1935) reports on weekly events in Denmark, including Miss Denmark showing the fashion wear of 1936: long evening gowns. The film 'Welfare - Care 1947' (DR, 1947) regarding the social welfare services in Aalborg 1947 showcases period clothes and hats, especially worn by the elderly. Such items demonstrate the everyday use of fashion, but also focus on fashion as a commodity or commercial industry. For example, the lifestyle item 'Frederiksværk partying 1953' (DR, 1953) shows young girls shopping in Frederiksværk (including in a dress shop), and demonstrates how clothes from the steam laundry are being handed over for distribution.

 

The earliest Video Active clip of a fashion show is from 1949. In Herning, Denmark, women and girls display clothes on the catwalk (DR, 1949). The fashions include dresses and outdoor clothing, as well as everyday clothes and party clothes for girls and women of all ages. A bridal couple accompanied by bridesmaids closes the show. As demonstrated by the Video Active materials, fashion shows have become a common feature on television in Europe since the 1950s, particularly in news and lifestyle programming. Fashion shows in Europe are held at a wide variety of locations, and present an even larger variety of clothing styles and trends to admirers and prospective buyers. The Austrian news & lifestyle programme 'Fenstergucker: Fashion Inside' (ORF, 1959) shows a fashion show by the professional association of Austrian's clothing industry in a studio. Also in Austria, the news programme 'Streiflichter aus Österreich: A housewives' fashion show' (ORF, 1962) reports on how a couple of housewives present their self-made creations at a fashion show in the Konzerthaus in Vienna. The Italian news report 'Fashion worn in Japan as well' (IL, 1964) gives an account of a fashion show in Japan. At this particular runway show, models wear kimonos that are identical in shape but dissimilar in design and colour scheme. In contrast, the Italian news programme 'Oddities of Men's Fashion' (IL, 1968) demonstrates how men will dress in 1968, by means of a fashion show for men's and women's clothes in Milan. Also in Italy, the news features a report on 'Wedding Dresses: The Latest Fashion' (IL, 1976), an outdoor fashion show in Villa Borghese, where models parade in the season's new wedding dresses. A 1999 fashion show in Belgium exclusively showcases kid's fashion. The news item 'Kid's Fashion Brussels: Dance and Fashion Kids Show' (RTBF, 1999) reports from Kid's Fashion Brussels, a professional show dedicated to kid's clothes. This year, the show was a dance show, staged in cabaret style by the 'Ballet-Jeunesse' dancers from the Académie Franz Constant. The Austrian daily society magazine 'VIP Magazine' (ORF, 2000) shows the preparations for a fashion show by the Swedish clothing company Hennes and Mauritz (H&M), who present their new fashion trends for 2000 at a fashion show in a former slaughterhouse in Stockholm. Finally, the report 'News: Sonia Rykiel and social integration' (RTBF, 1997) gives insight into how fashion shows can also be used as a means of social integration for disadvantaged young people. The news programme shows how young girls take part in the development of a 'ready-to-wear' collection and fashion show, supervised and controlled by Sonia Rykiel.


From the 1950s onwards, fashion programmes appear on television in Europe. In the Netherlands, multiple TV programmes are exclusively devoted to fashion and popular clothing styles. For example, 'Holland- Line' (S&V, 1955) is a fashion programme from the AVRO (General Association of Radio Broadcasting), broadcasted from the Hotel Bouwes in the Dutch town Zandvoort. The programme uses a truck to film reportages on location. 'S-, H- Picture Lines' (S&V, 1954) is a VARA (Association of Worker Radio Amateurs) programme that reports on Dutch winter fashion. And finally, the NCRV (Dutch Christian Radio Association) programme 'What do they look like' (S&V, 1953) is a fashion show studio programme, which is specifically aimed at the youth.

 

Fashion programmes, as well as news magazines and specials on fashion, have often asked the following main question throughout the years: What will the fashion trend be for the next year(s)?  Different broadcasters across Europe have dealt with this question in often similar ways. '9.000.000: What will the fashion be in 1966?' (RTBF, 1966) is a fashion special of a news magazine launched by the INR (former name of RTBF) in 1959 – 9 million was the number of inhabitants in Belgium at that time. This special tries to foresee what the  fashion will look like in 1966, by asking questions such as 'What will the trend be for 1966?' and 'What kind of clothes are presented for summer with 'Op' (Optical Art) patterns?' Models present the various fashions, accompanied by explanatory commentary. The magazine Woman Today, broadcasted in Belgium in the 1970s and dedicated to women, discusses topics such as fashion and cooking, but also alcoholism and drugs. In the item 'Woman Today: Black fashion' (RTBF, 1969), it is stated that black will always be a topical colour in fashion: it goes through time and plays with textures and fabric. Models wear the latest styles and trends in a luxurious residential setting, and these images are accompanied by a voice-over and a variety of music. Fashion trends are also the central subject of the Belgium programme 'Tienerklanken: Day vogue' (VRT, 1970), which is aimed at teenagers and young adults (up to the age of 25). Accompanied by music, models show the latest trends in casual wear, peignoirs and cocktail dresses. The Italian news item 'Italy: How is 2000 fashion going to be?'(IL, 1969) looks much further into the future. With the help of stylists and artists, this reportage tries to imagine how life will be in 2000, and consequently what people will wear. Finally, the Dutch fashion magazine 'Special About Fashion' (S&V, 1987) gives an overview of the upcoming spring fashion, make-up, accessories and hair styling, by means of a fashion reportage in Paris and models wearing the latest fashions in a video clip.

 

As a medium, fashion always looks to the future, but also reflects on its own history to find inspiration for the latest trends. Therefore, some programmes also demonstrate how fashion designers look back on fashion's own history for inspiration. For example, the news magazine 'Prism: Fashion international' (ORF, 1975) demonstrates how the 1975 autumn and winter trends got their inspiration from the fashion of the 1920s and 1930s. Again, models present the various fashions, accompanied by explanatory commentary.

 

Such television programmes can also give insight into the role of television as a medium of expert cultural authority. For instance, a Danish School TV programme for contemporary education (for sixth to eighth grade pupils) consists of three programmes about being 'in' or 'out' in different areas. In the first episode of the programme 'In or Out: Fashion' (DR, 1985), it is discussed in interviews when something is 'in' or 'out' in the area of fashion. The role of the 'expert' commentator is especially noteworthy in this context. For example, the magazine Woman Today aired a fashion item on women wearing shorts, titled 'Woman Today: Shorts for women, bad taste garment' (RTBF, 1971), in which a male commentator describes this piece of fashion as a mark of 'bad taste' in the fashion of the time.

 

To conclude, television programmes throughout the years demonstrate on the one hand how fashion is a cultural form that moves across national borders. For example, the Italian news report 'The fashion of jeans infects young people not only in Italy' (IL, 1977) showcases that wearing jeans is a popular trend both in and outside of Italy, and states how the fashion of jeans infects everyone without making distinctions in age or social status. The programme portrays jeans-wearers from every walk of life, next to jeans commercials, the manufacturing of jeans, and jeans being fitted and sold in stores. On the other hand, fashion offers diverse opportunities to promote more nationally specific products, styles and customs in the industry. For instance, the item 'Demonstration of Greek plots, jewels and popular handicraft' (HENAA, 1965) gives an account of a gala with Greek textiles, jewels and popular handicraft items made by Greek designers, for the promotion of the capacities of Greek production in the domain of female fashion.

 

The Video Active items show how fashion styles and trends have been a central subject of interest on television across Europe. The broadcasting of fashion shows in various European countries demonstrates the transition from showing fashion in a studio to televising fashion shows on location. Through ever-changing styles and trends, fashion is portrayed on television as part of everyday life, but also as a form of art, a commodity, a mark of taste (good or bad), and a cultural form that, like television, can move across national as well as social borders.

 

Berber Hagedoorn