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Episode
273

Curiosities of Fashion

Jun 21, 2022
Arts & Culture
-
24
minutes

Throughout history, people have worn what we now consider to be strange and unusual clothes.

In this episode, we'll explore some unusual fashions through history, and look at how historical and political events have changed what we wear.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is going to be the start of another three-part mini-series, this time on fashion.

[00:00:30] In this episode, part one, we’ll take a look at some of the curiosities of fashion through history. 

[00:00:37] We’ll touch on fashion through the ages, ask ourselves some fundamental questions about why people wear what they wear, consider how this is different now compared to the past, and we’ll look at several very peculiar choices that were highly fashionable at the time.

[00:00:55] Then in part two we’ll look at the growth of high fashion, and the great fashion houses of the 20th century, of course talking about names you’ll be familiar with such as Chanel, Gucci, Dior, and Versace.

[00:01:11] And in part three we’ll look at modern fashion, specifically “fast fashion”, and discuss how this change in fashion is affecting society, fashion, and the environment.

[00:01:25] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:28] And let me start this episode, and this mini-series with what might seem like some provocative questions.

[00:01:36] What are you wearing? 

[00:01:38] And why did you choose to wear it?

[00:01:41] Do you consider yourself to be a fashionable person?

[00:01:45] How are the clothes that you are wearing now different from the clothes that you wore 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago? 

[00:01:54] And what sort of clothes do you think you might be wearing 10, 20, or 50 years from now?

[00:02:02] Even for those of us who would not claim to be great followers of the latest fashions or trends, we are all influenced, to a certain degree, by our cultural settings, by what is considered to be cool and appropriate, by what is considered to be fashionable. 

[00:02:20] So, in this episode we are going to look at some of the curiosities of fashion through the ages.

[00:02:27] To begin with, we’ll look at a couple of examples of how historical events have changed fashions almost overnight, and why. 

[00:02:36] Then we’ll look at women’s fashion in particular, and look at the journey to “liberate” women’s fashion.

[00:02:43] And to conclude, in case you will need some further evidence that fashion is just a very strange subject, we’ll look at five unique examples of very unusual fashions through the ages.

[00:02:56] And this is evidently a vast and complicated topic, we’ll have to treat some of these subjects with broad brush strokes, so you will forgive some simplifications, but I hope it’ll be interesting nonetheless.

[00:03:11] Right then, let me start with something that you might accuse, unless you’re a naturist, that is, of being a truism, of being something so obviously true that there’s no point in saying it.

[00:03:23] Wearing clothes is a good thing.

[00:03:26] Clothes keep you warm when it’s cold, they block out the sun when it’s too hot, they protect you from rough surfaces.

[00:03:35] And apart from these very sensible practical reasons for wearing clothes, clothes have an excellent social function too, as it’s unacceptable to be naked in public in most modern societies. 

[00:03:49] The clothes we wear also identify us as parts of particular groups or social classes. 

[00:03:55] A queen might wear a crown, a businessman might wear a suit and tie, a judge might wear a wig with white hair. 

[00:04:04] And this has been the case throughout history. Anthropologists estimate that we’ve been wearing clothes for anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 years, that’s half a million years of human history.

[00:04:19] Going right back to the earliest discoveries of clothing, it’s clear that humans have taken some pride in their physical appearance, making jewellery, embroidered clothes, and so on, and using clothes to show style and status in society.

[00:04:37] Evidently, if you were an agricultural labourer in Ancient Greece you wouldn't have spent too much time worrying about what clothes you were going to wear in the morning, nor would a Scottish sheep farmer tending his flock in the 12th century.

[00:04:53] This didn’t mean that fashion didn’t exist for these people, but rather that spending too much time or money thinking about your clothes was something that was typically restricted to those with the financial ability to do it, those at the top of society, who were of course in the minority.

[00:05:13] But it was typically from here, from those at the top of society, that the ideas about what was or wasn’t fashionable would come. Sometimes fashions would be imported from abroad, when visitors from another country would arrive and the style of their clothing would be considered desirable. Sometimes it would be after a particular royal, a member of the royal family, wore a particular style, and everyone would follow.

[00:05:42] And in other cases, fashion would change after huge, seismic political or societal changes, and we are going to look at two of these cases to begin our journey.

[00:05:55] Let’s start in the world of 17th-century England. 

[00:05:59] If you have listened to episode number 232, on when Britain killed its king, this period will be familiar to you.

[00:06:09] I’m talking about the time in England when there was no monarch and when the country was ruled by a man named Oliver Cromwell and his fellow puritans, a Protestant Christian group that arose in the late 16th century. 

[00:06:24] As you may remember, this radical religious group thought that pleasure was inherently sinful, that it was bad. 

[00:06:33] So, it was therefore a logical next step to see all forms of display, such as colourful and extravagant clothes, as bad in themselves. 

[00:06:45] In short, ornaments, jewellery and anything superfluous, anything unnecessary, were forbidden: utility and the practical dominated. 

[00:06:56] Colours were banished and the effect was monochrome – black and white. 

[00:07:02] If you have ever seen a picture of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of England at this time, he is almost always depicted in black and white, and never smiling, of course.

[00:07:14] When the English Commonwealth, or Protectorate as it was known, fell and the king returned in 1660, back came colour and display. 

[00:07:25] Women of fine society, in other words wealthy, urban women, wore expensive and elaborate dresses, often with additional wigs worn on top of their own hair.

[00:07:37] And wigs weren’t confined to women.

[00:07:40] Men started to wear expensive white and powdered wigs, beauty spots, lavish, highly embroidered jackets and heavily decorated shoes. 

[00:07:50] This was the time of extravagant fashions and equally loose morals

[00:07:56] Almost overnight, the country cast off the constraints of puritan living, and, led by the famously fun-loving king, Charles II, a man known as The Merry Monarch, a party atmosphere and extravagant fashions returned, ending the 11 year period of black and white.

[00:08:16] Our next fashion change features an event of much more seismic or volcanic proportions - the French Revolution, which began in 1789. 

[00:08:27] The fashion styles of the extravagant court of France‘s final king, Louis XVI will be familiar to you, and there are many similarities with the style in England that came back with the return of Charles II. 

[00:08:41] Wigs, lavishly embroidered and colourful three-quarter coats for men were the order of the day at the royal court in Versailles. 

[00:08:50] Women wore similarly extravagant dresses, complete with especially distinctive so-called “panniers“, meaning baskets in English, which were skirts which became ridiculously wide at the waist, almost looking like tables. 

[00:09:07] These bulky baskets were created through the use of whalebone, metal and reeds

[00:09:13] They made a kind of cage over which the expensive dress would sit. 

[00:09:19] This fashion, which like many fashions migrated across the English Channel, was mocked in an article in The Gentleman‘s Magazine in 1750, with one frustrated lady writing, “The whole side of a coach is hardly spacious enough for one of us,” 

[00:09:37] As you will remember, The French Revolution brought with it a throwing off of old ideas, and fashion was no exception to this dramatic shift. 

[00:09:47] So, out with the decadent emblems of the failed aristocracy

[00:09:52] In with clothes which demonstrated the new spirit of liberation and human potential. 

[00:09:59] Probably the most famous example of this was the “sans culottes”, the style of not wearing tight breeches that the aristocracy would wear, but instead wearing loose-fitting trousers. The term “sans culottes” literally became the name for the group of people, the common, working people, and is one of the most notable times that a group of society became named after a particular fashion choice.

[00:10:28] But another particularly important demonstration or manifestation was in women‘s clothing – the so-called Empire dress, otherwise known as the Empire silhouette.

[00:10:42] If you think back to any European works of art, or even TV shows or films from the early 19th century, this was the predominant style of dress for women. 

[00:10:54] It was typically white, made of a light cloth, tight under the breast, and then loose all the way down.

[00:11:02] It was quite the opposite of the large, pannier style dresses that came directly before the revolution, and symbolised a more free, more egalitarian society, one where displays of luxury were, at least initially, frowned upon.

[00:11:20] But the Empire dress didn’t last for particularly long, and by the mid 19th century, at least in Britain, women were forced back into tighter and less comfortable clothing.

[00:11:32] And this leads us on to our next section, which is actually a brief exploration of how changes in society led to changes in women’s clothing in a period of only 100 years or so.

[00:11:46] We’ll focus on England here, but you may well notice some similarities with fashions in your country, especially if you’re from Europe.

[00:11:56] By the 1820s or so, the more comfortable Empire Dress was no longer in fashion. 

[00:12:03] Corsets, the tightly fitting hard undergarments, that pulled everything in and made it difficult to breathe, were back. 

[00:12:12] The dresses that would be worn over the corset tended to be heavy duty, and there would be things called “bustles” that were tucked into the dress, just behind the bottom. 

[00:12:24] These bustles were basically cushions, and created the strange look of a woman who was often leaning over with a very large bottom.

[00:12:35] What’s more, these dresses would often have wide hoops around the bottom, pushing them out, in effect turning the dress into a steel cage.

[00:12:46] The technical term for this was a Crinoline.

[00:12:49] I imagine you will have seen pictures of these, but if you haven’t, imagine a dress that is pushed out by a large cage, creating a sort of cone shape, and making it practically impossible for the wearer to do anything active in.

[00:13:07] And that was partially the point. 

[00:13:10] Society in Victorian England suggested that the right way for a woman to behave was to sit around and listen, often to the man, or to the older lady, who was telling her what to do. 

[00:13:23] It didn’t matter that the woman couldn’t really move because she wasn't supposed to be doing much moving.

[00:13:31] In fashion terms, things started to change in the final decade of the 19th century with, again, Parisian influences spreading across Western Europe with the so-called era of the Belle Époque or literally beautiful time. 

[00:13:48] For women the gains were greatest because they had been kept in incredibly uncomfortable and impractical clothes for the majority of the 19th century.

[00:13:58] The increasing popularity and social acceptability of sporting activities, especially for women, was to be an important factor in changing fashions.

[00:14:10] These relatively liberated pastimes required suitable clothing; you couldn’t run around wearing a steel cage, and so the concept of “sportswear” was born. 

[00:14:21] Finally there was some liberation from the tight-fitting and completely impractical clothing of the 19th century, and this paved the way for much of the more comfortable clothing that became fashionable in the 20th century. 

[00:14:36] There is obviously a whole lot more to say about the changes in women’s fashion since then, but this brief look is simply intended to give you some idea of how changing attitudes to what women should or shouldn’t do led to differences in what was and wasn’t acceptable in terms of women’s fashion.

[00:14:56] Now to the final stage of the episode – five of the strangest fashion curiosities across the ages. 

[00:15:04] First of all, let us go back to Krakow in Poland and to the year 1340. Here in the Polish royal court arose a bizarre fashion for men’s shoes that were absurdly long and thin or - pointy. 

[00:15:20] The name for these shoes was Krakows or poulaines, meaning in the Polish fashion.

[00:15:27] These shoes were so impractical that the wearer sometimes had to add a chain which went from the shoe to his knee, so allowing him to walk without too much difficulty. 

[00:15:40] This fashion spread across Europe and can be seen in many paintings of the time and for many decades afterwards. 

[00:15:48] Interestingly, in the same way that fashions throughout the ages have caused controversy and annoyed established powers, so these shoes were condemned by the Church as “devil‘s fingers”, with one church official complaining that men couldn’t kneel to pray because the shoes were too pointy.

[00:16:08] Now you might have thought that these shoes were a thing of the past, but similar kinds of shoes were very popular in the UK in the 1950s, after being popularised by a group called the “Teddy Boys”.

[00:16:22] As you can see with the overly long and pointy shoes, having clothes that were far too big for you, thereby demonstrating that you had enough money to buy superfluous or unnecessary stuff, was clearly a way of displaying your social status and wealth.

[00:16:40] You can see a similar idea during the Middle Ages in the Venetian fashion of “Dogalina“ sleevessleeves so long that they reached the woman‘s knee. 

[00:16:51] Again, although to the modern eye the sleeves might look absurd, the demonstration of excess was evidence of your wealth and status.

[00:17:01] Who knows, in years to come perhaps the practice of paying more for a pair of jeans that are ripped, that have holes in them, might seem equally strange to our descendents.

[00:17:13] Our next stop is with a distinctive and, again, bizarre fashion trend, in this case something that is exclusively male. 

[00:17:22] You may be guessing what I am about to talk about – yes, the male codpiece, worn famously by 16th century monarchs, such as Phillip II of Spain and Henry VIII of England. 

[00:17:34] A codpiece is the hard piece of material worn over the male genitalia.

[00:17:41] Going back to 14th century Europe, the fashion of the time was for men was to wear tight trousers that fitted very closely to the skin, leaving very little to the imagination

[00:17:54] There was therefore the awkward issue of how the male genital area was dealt with, and the codpiece was born. 

[00:18:03] Over time, these codpieces became bigger and bigger, with the intention being that the eyes were drawn to the size of the codpiece

[00:18:12] It’s easy to think it ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight, but for the majority of the 16th century men of high status would wander around with these very large boxes under their trousers.

[00:18:27] It’s even stranger when you think that the original idea behind the codpiece was hiding the genitalia, and in fact it changed into a tool to draw attention to it, but fashion is strange and unpredictable.

[00:18:42] Now, moving on to our fourth and penultimate example. 

[00:18:45] Wigs, as we have seen, have been a feature of fashion display at various points in history. 

[00:18:52] Men‘s wigs have been a relative rarity, so it is interesting to note the odd, if brief, fashion of the 1760s and 1770s for an outrageous head display worn by a particular type of Englishman called the “macaroni”. 

[00:19:10] And no, I do not mean the famous Italian pasta of that name, but the nickname for a type of male English aristocrat who wore a large wig topped with a small feather or a hat. 

[00:19:25] This distinctive and lavish fashion is said to have been imported back to England in the early 1760s by aristocrats returning from the Grand Tours of Europe, having observed the fashion during their tours of foreign capitals. 

[00:19:42] These young men developed this strange fashion, as well as a taste for the pasta called macaroni, and when they returned to England they called themselves Macaroni.

[00:19:54] And on a related note, you may know the children’s nursery rhyme, Yankee Doodle.

[00:20:00] In this nursery rhyme there are the lyrics:

[00:20:03] Yankee Doodle went to town

[00:20:04] A-riding on a pony,

[00:20:06] Stuck a feather in his cap

[00:20:08] And called it macaroni.

[00:20:10] It was actually a song written by the British to make fun of unstylish and uncultured Americans who thought they could just put a feather in their hat and be a “macaroni”, thinking that anyone could buy style and high fashion. 

[00:20:26] And strangely enough nowadays this song is treated as a sort of patriotic song by Americans, but its origin is very different.

[00:20:36] And our final unusual fashion trend for today’s episode brings together a monarch, sweets, showing your wealth, and something that is just clearly a bad idea.

[00:20:48] In Elizabethan England, in the late 16th century, sugar was still a luxury that only the richest in society could afford.

[00:20:57] The richest person in Elizabethan society was, of course, Queen Elizabeth, and she loved the taste of sugar.

[00:21:05] She loved it so much, in fact, that her teeth turned black and rotten

[00:21:11] In an attempt to copy the queen and show that they too were rich enough to afford sugar, women in high society England started to colour their teeth black.

[00:21:22] I’m not sure that this would be considered attractive by many modern standards, but having said that, perhaps people will look back in 500 years to the fashion of having gold teeth and think a similar thing.

[00:21:35] Who knows?

[00:21:36] And that is one of the many strange things about fashion. 

[00:21:40] What seems completely normal, and indeed “fashionable” at one point in time seems utterly bizarre years later. 

[00:21:49] No matter whether you are 20 years old, 40 years old or 80 years old, or anywhere in between, you probably look back at pictures of your parents and think that they used to wear very strange clothes.

[00:22:02] And going back to the very first question I asked you right at the start of the episode. What are you wearing now?

[00:22:09] You probably think it’s completely normal, nothing strange at all. Of course, by most modern standards, it probably isn’t, as long as you are not wearing a codpiece or very pointy shoes, it’s normal for now.

[00:22:23] But in decades and centuries to come, if history is anything to go by, it might be considered very strange indeed.

[00:22:33] OK then, that is it for this brief look at the curiosities of fashion throughout history. 

[00:22:39] It’s a huge topic to cover, but I hope that this little dip into it has been interesting, and perhaps it’s made you think about what you’re wearing in a slightly different way.

[00:22:50] As a reminder, this is part one of a little three-part series on fashion. 

[00:22:56] Next up we’ll look at the arrival of the great fashion houses of the 20th century, then it’ll be an exploration of the world of fast fashion.

[00:23:05] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:23:09] What do you think causes things to go in and out of fashion?

[00:23:13] What are some of the most unusual fashions that you’re aware of?

[00:23:16] What modern fashion do you think people will look back on with most amusement?

[00:23:22] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:23:26] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:35] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:40] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

                                                               [END OF EPISODE]

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is going to be the start of another three-part mini-series, this time on fashion.

[00:00:30] In this episode, part one, we’ll take a look at some of the curiosities of fashion through history. 

[00:00:37] We’ll touch on fashion through the ages, ask ourselves some fundamental questions about why people wear what they wear, consider how this is different now compared to the past, and we’ll look at several very peculiar choices that were highly fashionable at the time.

[00:00:55] Then in part two we’ll look at the growth of high fashion, and the great fashion houses of the 20th century, of course talking about names you’ll be familiar with such as Chanel, Gucci, Dior, and Versace.

[00:01:11] And in part three we’ll look at modern fashion, specifically “fast fashion”, and discuss how this change in fashion is affecting society, fashion, and the environment.

[00:01:25] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:28] And let me start this episode, and this mini-series with what might seem like some provocative questions.

[00:01:36] What are you wearing? 

[00:01:38] And why did you choose to wear it?

[00:01:41] Do you consider yourself to be a fashionable person?

[00:01:45] How are the clothes that you are wearing now different from the clothes that you wore 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago? 

[00:01:54] And what sort of clothes do you think you might be wearing 10, 20, or 50 years from now?

[00:02:02] Even for those of us who would not claim to be great followers of the latest fashions or trends, we are all influenced, to a certain degree, by our cultural settings, by what is considered to be cool and appropriate, by what is considered to be fashionable. 

[00:02:20] So, in this episode we are going to look at some of the curiosities of fashion through the ages.

[00:02:27] To begin with, we’ll look at a couple of examples of how historical events have changed fashions almost overnight, and why. 

[00:02:36] Then we’ll look at women’s fashion in particular, and look at the journey to “liberate” women’s fashion.

[00:02:43] And to conclude, in case you will need some further evidence that fashion is just a very strange subject, we’ll look at five unique examples of very unusual fashions through the ages.

[00:02:56] And this is evidently a vast and complicated topic, we’ll have to treat some of these subjects with broad brush strokes, so you will forgive some simplifications, but I hope it’ll be interesting nonetheless.

[00:03:11] Right then, let me start with something that you might accuse, unless you’re a naturist, that is, of being a truism, of being something so obviously true that there’s no point in saying it.

[00:03:23] Wearing clothes is a good thing.

[00:03:26] Clothes keep you warm when it’s cold, they block out the sun when it’s too hot, they protect you from rough surfaces.

[00:03:35] And apart from these very sensible practical reasons for wearing clothes, clothes have an excellent social function too, as it’s unacceptable to be naked in public in most modern societies. 

[00:03:49] The clothes we wear also identify us as parts of particular groups or social classes. 

[00:03:55] A queen might wear a crown, a businessman might wear a suit and tie, a judge might wear a wig with white hair. 

[00:04:04] And this has been the case throughout history. Anthropologists estimate that we’ve been wearing clothes for anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 years, that’s half a million years of human history.

[00:04:19] Going right back to the earliest discoveries of clothing, it’s clear that humans have taken some pride in their physical appearance, making jewellery, embroidered clothes, and so on, and using clothes to show style and status in society.

[00:04:37] Evidently, if you were an agricultural labourer in Ancient Greece you wouldn't have spent too much time worrying about what clothes you were going to wear in the morning, nor would a Scottish sheep farmer tending his flock in the 12th century.

[00:04:53] This didn’t mean that fashion didn’t exist for these people, but rather that spending too much time or money thinking about your clothes was something that was typically restricted to those with the financial ability to do it, those at the top of society, who were of course in the minority.

[00:05:13] But it was typically from here, from those at the top of society, that the ideas about what was or wasn’t fashionable would come. Sometimes fashions would be imported from abroad, when visitors from another country would arrive and the style of their clothing would be considered desirable. Sometimes it would be after a particular royal, a member of the royal family, wore a particular style, and everyone would follow.

[00:05:42] And in other cases, fashion would change after huge, seismic political or societal changes, and we are going to look at two of these cases to begin our journey.

[00:05:55] Let’s start in the world of 17th-century England. 

[00:05:59] If you have listened to episode number 232, on when Britain killed its king, this period will be familiar to you.

[00:06:09] I’m talking about the time in England when there was no monarch and when the country was ruled by a man named Oliver Cromwell and his fellow puritans, a Protestant Christian group that arose in the late 16th century. 

[00:06:24] As you may remember, this radical religious group thought that pleasure was inherently sinful, that it was bad. 

[00:06:33] So, it was therefore a logical next step to see all forms of display, such as colourful and extravagant clothes, as bad in themselves. 

[00:06:45] In short, ornaments, jewellery and anything superfluous, anything unnecessary, were forbidden: utility and the practical dominated. 

[00:06:56] Colours were banished and the effect was monochrome – black and white. 

[00:07:02] If you have ever seen a picture of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of England at this time, he is almost always depicted in black and white, and never smiling, of course.

[00:07:14] When the English Commonwealth, or Protectorate as it was known, fell and the king returned in 1660, back came colour and display. 

[00:07:25] Women of fine society, in other words wealthy, urban women, wore expensive and elaborate dresses, often with additional wigs worn on top of their own hair.

[00:07:37] And wigs weren’t confined to women.

[00:07:40] Men started to wear expensive white and powdered wigs, beauty spots, lavish, highly embroidered jackets and heavily decorated shoes. 

[00:07:50] This was the time of extravagant fashions and equally loose morals

[00:07:56] Almost overnight, the country cast off the constraints of puritan living, and, led by the famously fun-loving king, Charles II, a man known as The Merry Monarch, a party atmosphere and extravagant fashions returned, ending the 11 year period of black and white.

[00:08:16] Our next fashion change features an event of much more seismic or volcanic proportions - the French Revolution, which began in 1789. 

[00:08:27] The fashion styles of the extravagant court of France‘s final king, Louis XVI will be familiar to you, and there are many similarities with the style in England that came back with the return of Charles II. 

[00:08:41] Wigs, lavishly embroidered and colourful three-quarter coats for men were the order of the day at the royal court in Versailles. 

[00:08:50] Women wore similarly extravagant dresses, complete with especially distinctive so-called “panniers“, meaning baskets in English, which were skirts which became ridiculously wide at the waist, almost looking like tables. 

[00:09:07] These bulky baskets were created through the use of whalebone, metal and reeds

[00:09:13] They made a kind of cage over which the expensive dress would sit. 

[00:09:19] This fashion, which like many fashions migrated across the English Channel, was mocked in an article in The Gentleman‘s Magazine in 1750, with one frustrated lady writing, “The whole side of a coach is hardly spacious enough for one of us,” 

[00:09:37] As you will remember, The French Revolution brought with it a throwing off of old ideas, and fashion was no exception to this dramatic shift. 

[00:09:47] So, out with the decadent emblems of the failed aristocracy

[00:09:52] In with clothes which demonstrated the new spirit of liberation and human potential. 

[00:09:59] Probably the most famous example of this was the “sans culottes”, the style of not wearing tight breeches that the aristocracy would wear, but instead wearing loose-fitting trousers. The term “sans culottes” literally became the name for the group of people, the common, working people, and is one of the most notable times that a group of society became named after a particular fashion choice.

[00:10:28] But another particularly important demonstration or manifestation was in women‘s clothing – the so-called Empire dress, otherwise known as the Empire silhouette.

[00:10:42] If you think back to any European works of art, or even TV shows or films from the early 19th century, this was the predominant style of dress for women. 

[00:10:54] It was typically white, made of a light cloth, tight under the breast, and then loose all the way down.

[00:11:02] It was quite the opposite of the large, pannier style dresses that came directly before the revolution, and symbolised a more free, more egalitarian society, one where displays of luxury were, at least initially, frowned upon.

[00:11:20] But the Empire dress didn’t last for particularly long, and by the mid 19th century, at least in Britain, women were forced back into tighter and less comfortable clothing.

[00:11:32] And this leads us on to our next section, which is actually a brief exploration of how changes in society led to changes in women’s clothing in a period of only 100 years or so.

[00:11:46] We’ll focus on England here, but you may well notice some similarities with fashions in your country, especially if you’re from Europe.

[00:11:56] By the 1820s or so, the more comfortable Empire Dress was no longer in fashion. 

[00:12:03] Corsets, the tightly fitting hard undergarments, that pulled everything in and made it difficult to breathe, were back. 

[00:12:12] The dresses that would be worn over the corset tended to be heavy duty, and there would be things called “bustles” that were tucked into the dress, just behind the bottom. 

[00:12:24] These bustles were basically cushions, and created the strange look of a woman who was often leaning over with a very large bottom.

[00:12:35] What’s more, these dresses would often have wide hoops around the bottom, pushing them out, in effect turning the dress into a steel cage.

[00:12:46] The technical term for this was a Crinoline.

[00:12:49] I imagine you will have seen pictures of these, but if you haven’t, imagine a dress that is pushed out by a large cage, creating a sort of cone shape, and making it practically impossible for the wearer to do anything active in.

[00:13:07] And that was partially the point. 

[00:13:10] Society in Victorian England suggested that the right way for a woman to behave was to sit around and listen, often to the man, or to the older lady, who was telling her what to do. 

[00:13:23] It didn’t matter that the woman couldn’t really move because she wasn't supposed to be doing much moving.

[00:13:31] In fashion terms, things started to change in the final decade of the 19th century with, again, Parisian influences spreading across Western Europe with the so-called era of the Belle Époque or literally beautiful time. 

[00:13:48] For women the gains were greatest because they had been kept in incredibly uncomfortable and impractical clothes for the majority of the 19th century.

[00:13:58] The increasing popularity and social acceptability of sporting activities, especially for women, was to be an important factor in changing fashions.

[00:14:10] These relatively liberated pastimes required suitable clothing; you couldn’t run around wearing a steel cage, and so the concept of “sportswear” was born. 

[00:14:21] Finally there was some liberation from the tight-fitting and completely impractical clothing of the 19th century, and this paved the way for much of the more comfortable clothing that became fashionable in the 20th century. 

[00:14:36] There is obviously a whole lot more to say about the changes in women’s fashion since then, but this brief look is simply intended to give you some idea of how changing attitudes to what women should or shouldn’t do led to differences in what was and wasn’t acceptable in terms of women’s fashion.

[00:14:56] Now to the final stage of the episode – five of the strangest fashion curiosities across the ages. 

[00:15:04] First of all, let us go back to Krakow in Poland and to the year 1340. Here in the Polish royal court arose a bizarre fashion for men’s shoes that were absurdly long and thin or - pointy. 

[00:15:20] The name for these shoes was Krakows or poulaines, meaning in the Polish fashion.

[00:15:27] These shoes were so impractical that the wearer sometimes had to add a chain which went from the shoe to his knee, so allowing him to walk without too much difficulty. 

[00:15:40] This fashion spread across Europe and can be seen in many paintings of the time and for many decades afterwards. 

[00:15:48] Interestingly, in the same way that fashions throughout the ages have caused controversy and annoyed established powers, so these shoes were condemned by the Church as “devil‘s fingers”, with one church official complaining that men couldn’t kneel to pray because the shoes were too pointy.

[00:16:08] Now you might have thought that these shoes were a thing of the past, but similar kinds of shoes were very popular in the UK in the 1950s, after being popularised by a group called the “Teddy Boys”.

[00:16:22] As you can see with the overly long and pointy shoes, having clothes that were far too big for you, thereby demonstrating that you had enough money to buy superfluous or unnecessary stuff, was clearly a way of displaying your social status and wealth.

[00:16:40] You can see a similar idea during the Middle Ages in the Venetian fashion of “Dogalina“ sleevessleeves so long that they reached the woman‘s knee. 

[00:16:51] Again, although to the modern eye the sleeves might look absurd, the demonstration of excess was evidence of your wealth and status.

[00:17:01] Who knows, in years to come perhaps the practice of paying more for a pair of jeans that are ripped, that have holes in them, might seem equally strange to our descendents.

[00:17:13] Our next stop is with a distinctive and, again, bizarre fashion trend, in this case something that is exclusively male. 

[00:17:22] You may be guessing what I am about to talk about – yes, the male codpiece, worn famously by 16th century monarchs, such as Phillip II of Spain and Henry VIII of England. 

[00:17:34] A codpiece is the hard piece of material worn over the male genitalia.

[00:17:41] Going back to 14th century Europe, the fashion of the time was for men was to wear tight trousers that fitted very closely to the skin, leaving very little to the imagination

[00:17:54] There was therefore the awkward issue of how the male genital area was dealt with, and the codpiece was born. 

[00:18:03] Over time, these codpieces became bigger and bigger, with the intention being that the eyes were drawn to the size of the codpiece

[00:18:12] It’s easy to think it ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight, but for the majority of the 16th century men of high status would wander around with these very large boxes under their trousers.

[00:18:27] It’s even stranger when you think that the original idea behind the codpiece was hiding the genitalia, and in fact it changed into a tool to draw attention to it, but fashion is strange and unpredictable.

[00:18:42] Now, moving on to our fourth and penultimate example. 

[00:18:45] Wigs, as we have seen, have been a feature of fashion display at various points in history. 

[00:18:52] Men‘s wigs have been a relative rarity, so it is interesting to note the odd, if brief, fashion of the 1760s and 1770s for an outrageous head display worn by a particular type of Englishman called the “macaroni”. 

[00:19:10] And no, I do not mean the famous Italian pasta of that name, but the nickname for a type of male English aristocrat who wore a large wig topped with a small feather or a hat. 

[00:19:25] This distinctive and lavish fashion is said to have been imported back to England in the early 1760s by aristocrats returning from the Grand Tours of Europe, having observed the fashion during their tours of foreign capitals. 

[00:19:42] These young men developed this strange fashion, as well as a taste for the pasta called macaroni, and when they returned to England they called themselves Macaroni.

[00:19:54] And on a related note, you may know the children’s nursery rhyme, Yankee Doodle.

[00:20:00] In this nursery rhyme there are the lyrics:

[00:20:03] Yankee Doodle went to town

[00:20:04] A-riding on a pony,

[00:20:06] Stuck a feather in his cap

[00:20:08] And called it macaroni.

[00:20:10] It was actually a song written by the British to make fun of unstylish and uncultured Americans who thought they could just put a feather in their hat and be a “macaroni”, thinking that anyone could buy style and high fashion. 

[00:20:26] And strangely enough nowadays this song is treated as a sort of patriotic song by Americans, but its origin is very different.

[00:20:36] And our final unusual fashion trend for today’s episode brings together a monarch, sweets, showing your wealth, and something that is just clearly a bad idea.

[00:20:48] In Elizabethan England, in the late 16th century, sugar was still a luxury that only the richest in society could afford.

[00:20:57] The richest person in Elizabethan society was, of course, Queen Elizabeth, and she loved the taste of sugar.

[00:21:05] She loved it so much, in fact, that her teeth turned black and rotten

[00:21:11] In an attempt to copy the queen and show that they too were rich enough to afford sugar, women in high society England started to colour their teeth black.

[00:21:22] I’m not sure that this would be considered attractive by many modern standards, but having said that, perhaps people will look back in 500 years to the fashion of having gold teeth and think a similar thing.

[00:21:35] Who knows?

[00:21:36] And that is one of the many strange things about fashion. 

[00:21:40] What seems completely normal, and indeed “fashionable” at one point in time seems utterly bizarre years later. 

[00:21:49] No matter whether you are 20 years old, 40 years old or 80 years old, or anywhere in between, you probably look back at pictures of your parents and think that they used to wear very strange clothes.

[00:22:02] And going back to the very first question I asked you right at the start of the episode. What are you wearing now?

[00:22:09] You probably think it’s completely normal, nothing strange at all. Of course, by most modern standards, it probably isn’t, as long as you are not wearing a codpiece or very pointy shoes, it’s normal for now.

[00:22:23] But in decades and centuries to come, if history is anything to go by, it might be considered very strange indeed.

[00:22:33] OK then, that is it for this brief look at the curiosities of fashion throughout history. 

[00:22:39] It’s a huge topic to cover, but I hope that this little dip into it has been interesting, and perhaps it’s made you think about what you’re wearing in a slightly different way.

[00:22:50] As a reminder, this is part one of a little three-part series on fashion. 

[00:22:56] Next up we’ll look at the arrival of the great fashion houses of the 20th century, then it’ll be an exploration of the world of fast fashion.

[00:23:05] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:23:09] What do you think causes things to go in and out of fashion?

[00:23:13] What are some of the most unusual fashions that you’re aware of?

[00:23:16] What modern fashion do you think people will look back on with most amusement?

[00:23:22] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:23:26] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:35] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:40] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

                                                               [END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is going to be the start of another three-part mini-series, this time on fashion.

[00:00:30] In this episode, part one, we’ll take a look at some of the curiosities of fashion through history. 

[00:00:37] We’ll touch on fashion through the ages, ask ourselves some fundamental questions about why people wear what they wear, consider how this is different now compared to the past, and we’ll look at several very peculiar choices that were highly fashionable at the time.

[00:00:55] Then in part two we’ll look at the growth of high fashion, and the great fashion houses of the 20th century, of course talking about names you’ll be familiar with such as Chanel, Gucci, Dior, and Versace.

[00:01:11] And in part three we’ll look at modern fashion, specifically “fast fashion”, and discuss how this change in fashion is affecting society, fashion, and the environment.

[00:01:25] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:28] And let me start this episode, and this mini-series with what might seem like some provocative questions.

[00:01:36] What are you wearing? 

[00:01:38] And why did you choose to wear it?

[00:01:41] Do you consider yourself to be a fashionable person?

[00:01:45] How are the clothes that you are wearing now different from the clothes that you wore 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago? 

[00:01:54] And what sort of clothes do you think you might be wearing 10, 20, or 50 years from now?

[00:02:02] Even for those of us who would not claim to be great followers of the latest fashions or trends, we are all influenced, to a certain degree, by our cultural settings, by what is considered to be cool and appropriate, by what is considered to be fashionable. 

[00:02:20] So, in this episode we are going to look at some of the curiosities of fashion through the ages.

[00:02:27] To begin with, we’ll look at a couple of examples of how historical events have changed fashions almost overnight, and why. 

[00:02:36] Then we’ll look at women’s fashion in particular, and look at the journey to “liberate” women’s fashion.

[00:02:43] And to conclude, in case you will need some further evidence that fashion is just a very strange subject, we’ll look at five unique examples of very unusual fashions through the ages.

[00:02:56] And this is evidently a vast and complicated topic, we’ll have to treat some of these subjects with broad brush strokes, so you will forgive some simplifications, but I hope it’ll be interesting nonetheless.

[00:03:11] Right then, let me start with something that you might accuse, unless you’re a naturist, that is, of being a truism, of being something so obviously true that there’s no point in saying it.

[00:03:23] Wearing clothes is a good thing.

[00:03:26] Clothes keep you warm when it’s cold, they block out the sun when it’s too hot, they protect you from rough surfaces.

[00:03:35] And apart from these very sensible practical reasons for wearing clothes, clothes have an excellent social function too, as it’s unacceptable to be naked in public in most modern societies. 

[00:03:49] The clothes we wear also identify us as parts of particular groups or social classes. 

[00:03:55] A queen might wear a crown, a businessman might wear a suit and tie, a judge might wear a wig with white hair. 

[00:04:04] And this has been the case throughout history. Anthropologists estimate that we’ve been wearing clothes for anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 years, that’s half a million years of human history.

[00:04:19] Going right back to the earliest discoveries of clothing, it’s clear that humans have taken some pride in their physical appearance, making jewellery, embroidered clothes, and so on, and using clothes to show style and status in society.

[00:04:37] Evidently, if you were an agricultural labourer in Ancient Greece you wouldn't have spent too much time worrying about what clothes you were going to wear in the morning, nor would a Scottish sheep farmer tending his flock in the 12th century.

[00:04:53] This didn’t mean that fashion didn’t exist for these people, but rather that spending too much time or money thinking about your clothes was something that was typically restricted to those with the financial ability to do it, those at the top of society, who were of course in the minority.

[00:05:13] But it was typically from here, from those at the top of society, that the ideas about what was or wasn’t fashionable would come. Sometimes fashions would be imported from abroad, when visitors from another country would arrive and the style of their clothing would be considered desirable. Sometimes it would be after a particular royal, a member of the royal family, wore a particular style, and everyone would follow.

[00:05:42] And in other cases, fashion would change after huge, seismic political or societal changes, and we are going to look at two of these cases to begin our journey.

[00:05:55] Let’s start in the world of 17th-century England. 

[00:05:59] If you have listened to episode number 232, on when Britain killed its king, this period will be familiar to you.

[00:06:09] I’m talking about the time in England when there was no monarch and when the country was ruled by a man named Oliver Cromwell and his fellow puritans, a Protestant Christian group that arose in the late 16th century. 

[00:06:24] As you may remember, this radical religious group thought that pleasure was inherently sinful, that it was bad. 

[00:06:33] So, it was therefore a logical next step to see all forms of display, such as colourful and extravagant clothes, as bad in themselves. 

[00:06:45] In short, ornaments, jewellery and anything superfluous, anything unnecessary, were forbidden: utility and the practical dominated. 

[00:06:56] Colours were banished and the effect was monochrome – black and white. 

[00:07:02] If you have ever seen a picture of Oliver Cromwell, the leader of England at this time, he is almost always depicted in black and white, and never smiling, of course.

[00:07:14] When the English Commonwealth, or Protectorate as it was known, fell and the king returned in 1660, back came colour and display. 

[00:07:25] Women of fine society, in other words wealthy, urban women, wore expensive and elaborate dresses, often with additional wigs worn on top of their own hair.

[00:07:37] And wigs weren’t confined to women.

[00:07:40] Men started to wear expensive white and powdered wigs, beauty spots, lavish, highly embroidered jackets and heavily decorated shoes. 

[00:07:50] This was the time of extravagant fashions and equally loose morals

[00:07:56] Almost overnight, the country cast off the constraints of puritan living, and, led by the famously fun-loving king, Charles II, a man known as The Merry Monarch, a party atmosphere and extravagant fashions returned, ending the 11 year period of black and white.

[00:08:16] Our next fashion change features an event of much more seismic or volcanic proportions - the French Revolution, which began in 1789. 

[00:08:27] The fashion styles of the extravagant court of France‘s final king, Louis XVI will be familiar to you, and there are many similarities with the style in England that came back with the return of Charles II. 

[00:08:41] Wigs, lavishly embroidered and colourful three-quarter coats for men were the order of the day at the royal court in Versailles. 

[00:08:50] Women wore similarly extravagant dresses, complete with especially distinctive so-called “panniers“, meaning baskets in English, which were skirts which became ridiculously wide at the waist, almost looking like tables. 

[00:09:07] These bulky baskets were created through the use of whalebone, metal and reeds

[00:09:13] They made a kind of cage over which the expensive dress would sit. 

[00:09:19] This fashion, which like many fashions migrated across the English Channel, was mocked in an article in The Gentleman‘s Magazine in 1750, with one frustrated lady writing, “The whole side of a coach is hardly spacious enough for one of us,” 

[00:09:37] As you will remember, The French Revolution brought with it a throwing off of old ideas, and fashion was no exception to this dramatic shift. 

[00:09:47] So, out with the decadent emblems of the failed aristocracy

[00:09:52] In with clothes which demonstrated the new spirit of liberation and human potential. 

[00:09:59] Probably the most famous example of this was the “sans culottes”, the style of not wearing tight breeches that the aristocracy would wear, but instead wearing loose-fitting trousers. The term “sans culottes” literally became the name for the group of people, the common, working people, and is one of the most notable times that a group of society became named after a particular fashion choice.

[00:10:28] But another particularly important demonstration or manifestation was in women‘s clothing – the so-called Empire dress, otherwise known as the Empire silhouette.

[00:10:42] If you think back to any European works of art, or even TV shows or films from the early 19th century, this was the predominant style of dress for women. 

[00:10:54] It was typically white, made of a light cloth, tight under the breast, and then loose all the way down.

[00:11:02] It was quite the opposite of the large, pannier style dresses that came directly before the revolution, and symbolised a more free, more egalitarian society, one where displays of luxury were, at least initially, frowned upon.

[00:11:20] But the Empire dress didn’t last for particularly long, and by the mid 19th century, at least in Britain, women were forced back into tighter and less comfortable clothing.

[00:11:32] And this leads us on to our next section, which is actually a brief exploration of how changes in society led to changes in women’s clothing in a period of only 100 years or so.

[00:11:46] We’ll focus on England here, but you may well notice some similarities with fashions in your country, especially if you’re from Europe.

[00:11:56] By the 1820s or so, the more comfortable Empire Dress was no longer in fashion. 

[00:12:03] Corsets, the tightly fitting hard undergarments, that pulled everything in and made it difficult to breathe, were back. 

[00:12:12] The dresses that would be worn over the corset tended to be heavy duty, and there would be things called “bustles” that were tucked into the dress, just behind the bottom. 

[00:12:24] These bustles were basically cushions, and created the strange look of a woman who was often leaning over with a very large bottom.

[00:12:35] What’s more, these dresses would often have wide hoops around the bottom, pushing them out, in effect turning the dress into a steel cage.

[00:12:46] The technical term for this was a Crinoline.

[00:12:49] I imagine you will have seen pictures of these, but if you haven’t, imagine a dress that is pushed out by a large cage, creating a sort of cone shape, and making it practically impossible for the wearer to do anything active in.

[00:13:07] And that was partially the point. 

[00:13:10] Society in Victorian England suggested that the right way for a woman to behave was to sit around and listen, often to the man, or to the older lady, who was telling her what to do. 

[00:13:23] It didn’t matter that the woman couldn’t really move because she wasn't supposed to be doing much moving.

[00:13:31] In fashion terms, things started to change in the final decade of the 19th century with, again, Parisian influences spreading across Western Europe with the so-called era of the Belle Époque or literally beautiful time. 

[00:13:48] For women the gains were greatest because they had been kept in incredibly uncomfortable and impractical clothes for the majority of the 19th century.

[00:13:58] The increasing popularity and social acceptability of sporting activities, especially for women, was to be an important factor in changing fashions.

[00:14:10] These relatively liberated pastimes required suitable clothing; you couldn’t run around wearing a steel cage, and so the concept of “sportswear” was born. 

[00:14:21] Finally there was some liberation from the tight-fitting and completely impractical clothing of the 19th century, and this paved the way for much of the more comfortable clothing that became fashionable in the 20th century. 

[00:14:36] There is obviously a whole lot more to say about the changes in women’s fashion since then, but this brief look is simply intended to give you some idea of how changing attitudes to what women should or shouldn’t do led to differences in what was and wasn’t acceptable in terms of women’s fashion.

[00:14:56] Now to the final stage of the episode – five of the strangest fashion curiosities across the ages. 

[00:15:04] First of all, let us go back to Krakow in Poland and to the year 1340. Here in the Polish royal court arose a bizarre fashion for men’s shoes that were absurdly long and thin or - pointy. 

[00:15:20] The name for these shoes was Krakows or poulaines, meaning in the Polish fashion.

[00:15:27] These shoes were so impractical that the wearer sometimes had to add a chain which went from the shoe to his knee, so allowing him to walk without too much difficulty. 

[00:15:40] This fashion spread across Europe and can be seen in many paintings of the time and for many decades afterwards. 

[00:15:48] Interestingly, in the same way that fashions throughout the ages have caused controversy and annoyed established powers, so these shoes were condemned by the Church as “devil‘s fingers”, with one church official complaining that men couldn’t kneel to pray because the shoes were too pointy.

[00:16:08] Now you might have thought that these shoes were a thing of the past, but similar kinds of shoes were very popular in the UK in the 1950s, after being popularised by a group called the “Teddy Boys”.

[00:16:22] As you can see with the overly long and pointy shoes, having clothes that were far too big for you, thereby demonstrating that you had enough money to buy superfluous or unnecessary stuff, was clearly a way of displaying your social status and wealth.

[00:16:40] You can see a similar idea during the Middle Ages in the Venetian fashion of “Dogalina“ sleevessleeves so long that they reached the woman‘s knee. 

[00:16:51] Again, although to the modern eye the sleeves might look absurd, the demonstration of excess was evidence of your wealth and status.

[00:17:01] Who knows, in years to come perhaps the practice of paying more for a pair of jeans that are ripped, that have holes in them, might seem equally strange to our descendents.

[00:17:13] Our next stop is with a distinctive and, again, bizarre fashion trend, in this case something that is exclusively male. 

[00:17:22] You may be guessing what I am about to talk about – yes, the male codpiece, worn famously by 16th century monarchs, such as Phillip II of Spain and Henry VIII of England. 

[00:17:34] A codpiece is the hard piece of material worn over the male genitalia.

[00:17:41] Going back to 14th century Europe, the fashion of the time was for men was to wear tight trousers that fitted very closely to the skin, leaving very little to the imagination

[00:17:54] There was therefore the awkward issue of how the male genital area was dealt with, and the codpiece was born. 

[00:18:03] Over time, these codpieces became bigger and bigger, with the intention being that the eyes were drawn to the size of the codpiece

[00:18:12] It’s easy to think it ridiculous with the benefit of hindsight, but for the majority of the 16th century men of high status would wander around with these very large boxes under their trousers.

[00:18:27] It’s even stranger when you think that the original idea behind the codpiece was hiding the genitalia, and in fact it changed into a tool to draw attention to it, but fashion is strange and unpredictable.

[00:18:42] Now, moving on to our fourth and penultimate example. 

[00:18:45] Wigs, as we have seen, have been a feature of fashion display at various points in history. 

[00:18:52] Men‘s wigs have been a relative rarity, so it is interesting to note the odd, if brief, fashion of the 1760s and 1770s for an outrageous head display worn by a particular type of Englishman called the “macaroni”. 

[00:19:10] And no, I do not mean the famous Italian pasta of that name, but the nickname for a type of male English aristocrat who wore a large wig topped with a small feather or a hat. 

[00:19:25] This distinctive and lavish fashion is said to have been imported back to England in the early 1760s by aristocrats returning from the Grand Tours of Europe, having observed the fashion during their tours of foreign capitals. 

[00:19:42] These young men developed this strange fashion, as well as a taste for the pasta called macaroni, and when they returned to England they called themselves Macaroni.

[00:19:54] And on a related note, you may know the children’s nursery rhyme, Yankee Doodle.

[00:20:00] In this nursery rhyme there are the lyrics:

[00:20:03] Yankee Doodle went to town

[00:20:04] A-riding on a pony,

[00:20:06] Stuck a feather in his cap

[00:20:08] And called it macaroni.

[00:20:10] It was actually a song written by the British to make fun of unstylish and uncultured Americans who thought they could just put a feather in their hat and be a “macaroni”, thinking that anyone could buy style and high fashion. 

[00:20:26] And strangely enough nowadays this song is treated as a sort of patriotic song by Americans, but its origin is very different.

[00:20:36] And our final unusual fashion trend for today’s episode brings together a monarch, sweets, showing your wealth, and something that is just clearly a bad idea.

[00:20:48] In Elizabethan England, in the late 16th century, sugar was still a luxury that only the richest in society could afford.

[00:20:57] The richest person in Elizabethan society was, of course, Queen Elizabeth, and she loved the taste of sugar.

[00:21:05] She loved it so much, in fact, that her teeth turned black and rotten

[00:21:11] In an attempt to copy the queen and show that they too were rich enough to afford sugar, women in high society England started to colour their teeth black.

[00:21:22] I’m not sure that this would be considered attractive by many modern standards, but having said that, perhaps people will look back in 500 years to the fashion of having gold teeth and think a similar thing.

[00:21:35] Who knows?

[00:21:36] And that is one of the many strange things about fashion. 

[00:21:40] What seems completely normal, and indeed “fashionable” at one point in time seems utterly bizarre years later. 

[00:21:49] No matter whether you are 20 years old, 40 years old or 80 years old, or anywhere in between, you probably look back at pictures of your parents and think that they used to wear very strange clothes.

[00:22:02] And going back to the very first question I asked you right at the start of the episode. What are you wearing now?

[00:22:09] You probably think it’s completely normal, nothing strange at all. Of course, by most modern standards, it probably isn’t, as long as you are not wearing a codpiece or very pointy shoes, it’s normal for now.

[00:22:23] But in decades and centuries to come, if history is anything to go by, it might be considered very strange indeed.

[00:22:33] OK then, that is it for this brief look at the curiosities of fashion throughout history. 

[00:22:39] It’s a huge topic to cover, but I hope that this little dip into it has been interesting, and perhaps it’s made you think about what you’re wearing in a slightly different way.

[00:22:50] As a reminder, this is part one of a little three-part series on fashion. 

[00:22:56] Next up we’ll look at the arrival of the great fashion houses of the 20th century, then it’ll be an exploration of the world of fast fashion.

[00:23:05] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:23:09] What do you think causes things to go in and out of fashion?

[00:23:13] What are some of the most unusual fashions that you’re aware of?

[00:23:16] What modern fashion do you think people will look back on with most amusement?

[00:23:22] I would love to know, so let’s get this discussion started. 

[00:23:26] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:23:35] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:23:40] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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