Look around you and you’ll likely notice a whole range of different dress. You may see similar—even the same—attire worn by different people, but it’s rare that two pairs of tops, pants, shoes, and accessories look exactly the same. It wasn’t always like this, says Deirdre Clemente, a historian of 20th-century American culture at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, whose research focuses on fashion and clothing. Not so long ago, Americans were a lot more formal and informal.
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Almost without exception, men wore suits, not only to work but also to school.And the women usually wore long dresses. Clemente has written extensively on the evolution of American clothing in the 20th century, a period that he believes was marked perhaps more than anything else by a strong trend: casual wear, detached from tradition, lost many of its social characteristics. economic impact.
Cheap: People don’t dress up as if they’re rich like they used to.
Change leads above all to freedom of clothing. You can see it on college campuses, in classrooms where students participate in tracksuits, and in the workplace where hard-working Silicon Valley employees wear hoodies and t-shirts. This change, the change in how we dress here in America, has been happening since the 1920’s and is due to the rise of certain garments.It also highlights important changes in the way we use and understand the shirts and pants we wear.
I spoke to Clemente to learn more about the origins of casual wear and the sustainability of this trend. The interview has edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start by talking about what you’re learning. You are a historian and focus on American culture as it relates to fashion.It is true?
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I am a cultural historian. I’m an expert on the 20th century, so don’t ask me about the Civil War. And my focus is fashion for clothes. So I’m a bit of an economic historian, a bit of a marketing historian, and a bit of that kind of historian.When you mix all these things together, all these sub-sections of history, you get what I’m studying.
Well, you know, that’s really true. People say, “Oh, you know, I don’t care about fashion.” They go to the Gap, they go to the Old Navy and they all dress the same, they wear these uniforms. What I really complain about is that it’s a choice in itself, it’s a personal choice because there are a lot of people who don’t.When you buy these uniforms, you say something about yourself and how you feel about the dress and culture. It is not possible to choose tamper-proof mode. Anti-fashion is fashion because it is a reaction to current visual culture, its denial.