WWDScoop asked a panel of fashion scholars and museum curators to name inventions that changed the face of fashion. Below, a ranking of the most frequently cited developments.
1. DENIM: “I doubt if there are many people on the entire planet that don’t own, or want to own, a pair of jeans,” says Eddie Bledsoe, of the Otis College of Art and Design.
2. ZIPPER: First introduced in the late 1890s, the version with which most are familiar was patented in 1913. “Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the first to employ zippers in her garments [in the Thirties], and she used them liberally,” explains Lauren Whitley of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
3. SPANDEX/LYCRA: Created in the late Fifties by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc., “It turned the girdle into control-top pantyhose and is the most widely used fabric today behind polyester,” says Lisa Micheels of the School of Fashion Design in Boston.
4. ELASTIC: Used as early as the mid-1800s, elastic could be found in women’s shoes, girdles, bustle skirts, children’s clothing, pants and socks. “Not until the invention of elastic in the 19th century and its further development and refinement in the 20th, could woven garments be molded to the body,” says Cally Blackman, of Central Saint Martins in London
5. BIAS CUT: In 1922, French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet invented a “bias” cut—which allowed fabric to cling to the body and move with it. Tim Lyons of the Chicago History Museum states, “Thanks to this invention, we finally started to celebrate the female form in its natural shape.”
6. LOOM: “The loom has got to be the greatest fashion-related invention of all time—where would we be today if we still had to rely on animal skins or bark cloth?” asks Joanne Dolan Ingersoll of the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
7. NYLON: Developed in the Thirties by du Pont, nylon replaced silk stockings and silk parachutes in World War II. Gayle Strege of Ohio State’s Historic Costume & Textiles collection points out, “Nylon was also used for net crinolines in Fifties’ bouffant skirts and as veiling in wedding veils.” Today, it’s seen in hosiery, rainwear and swimwear.
8. VELCRO: Known as the fabric of hook-and-loop fasteners, it was first invented in 1945 by Swiss engineer George de Mestral. “Though Velcro has been widely used in shoes, designers have also incorporated it into men’s wear and women’s wear,” says the Fashion Institute of Technology’s John Mincarelli. “The temptation to play with [it] is overwhelming. You can’t put this stuff in people’s hands without them playing with it.”
9. CORSET: “The corset was used in the quest to perfect the human form,” says Tim Lyons. “The natural shape of the female body wasn’t perfect, but the corset could create the perfect figure.”
10. BRA: “Let’s face it: a lot of problems can come from not wearing one,” says Lyons. The bra was originally developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to replace the corset.
Also mentioned.... Other innovations that drew the experts’ attention.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast