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 Pre-18th century


Exploration of what is known about human dress during early human prehistory shows how dependent humans were (and still are) dependent on technology. 

In certain areas of the world, early humans needed dress for a variety of reasons like to keep warm or protection from the sun. Prehistoric man used animal skins from their environment, but they developed technology to acquire those materials and shape them into garments. Humans also valued some of the items of dress as markers of status or as ornamentation, which continues into the 21st century. Other technologies were required to construct clothing as humans began created textiles from fibers found in their environment. 

The evolution of the dissemination of information and trends spans centuries, and communication technology played a dominant role in that evolution.

  • Block printing, originally used to print fabrics in Europe as early as the 13th century, began to be used to print books in the early 1400s due to a need for automatic writing (Tortora & Eicher, 2015).

  • Costume books, books consisting of a series of woodcuts or etchings representing current styles, were introduced in the late 16th century (Richardson, 2004). Costume books were the precursor to fashion plates. 

  • The journal, Mercure Galant, first featured the fashion plate in 1678 (Calahan & Cannell, 2015).  The French designed fashion plates using copper and steel engravings to depict women, and sometimes men, dressed in the most popular styles (Calahan & Cannell, 2015). The plates had two purposes: to disseminate the emerging fashion trends and act as a reference for constructing or altering a garment in the latest style. 

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