Getting Dressed Over the Centuries: 35 Videos Show How Women & Men Put on Clothes During Ancient, Medieval & Modern Times

Across vast swathes of the world, many of us — arguably too many of us — have grown accus­tomed to putting on lit­tle more than a T‑shirt and jeans every morn­ing, regard­less of our sta­tus in soci­ety. We all know it was­n’t always this way, but we may not ful­ly under­stand just how much it was­n’t always this way. Through­out most of civ­i­lized human his­to­ry, dress­ing did­n’t just reflect one’s way of life, it prac­ti­cal­ly con­sti­tut­ed a way of life in itself. Thanks to Youtube chan­nel Crow’s Eye Pro­duc­tions, we here in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry can enjoy detailed, even cin­e­mat­ic re-cre­ations of the dress­ing process in var­i­ous eras and places the West, from Roman Britain to Renais­sance Flo­rence to 1969 Lon­don.

You can watch all 35 of these dress­ing videos in chrono­log­i­cal order with this playlist. Many of the dressers, includ­ing such august per­son­ages as Prince Albert and Queen Vic­to­ria (on Christ­mas Day, no less), occu­py ele­vat­ed social posi­tions.

But the maids and gar­den­ers of the Vic­to­ri­an era had to get dressed too, and though their cloth­ing may be sim­pler than that worn by the roy­als — or even by the mid­dle class — it’s no less reveal­ing of his­to­ry. One could no doubt tell an even rich­er sto­ry of tech­no­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and cul­tur­al change over the cen­turies through the cloth­ing of “the mass­es” than through the cloth­ing of the elites.

Even war, that most tra­di­tion­al his­tor­i­cal sub­ject of all, has its con­nec­tions with dress. This playlist fea­tures three videos on the dress­ing rou­tines of sol­diers, nurs­es, and young women dur­ing the First World War, as well as one on the mem­bers of the Wom­en’s Land Army dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Estab­lished in 1917, the WLA orga­nized “Land Girls” to take over the agri­cul­tur­al work while the men who’d been doing it were out fight­ing on the front.

This was just the kind of effort neces­si­tat­ed by total war, as well as one that could only have been per­formed by women. It’s also, there­fore, engag­ing­ly approach­able by a series like this, with its pri­ma­ry focus on wom­en’s dress — which, at least since the Great Male Renun­ci­a­tion, has had a pret­ty spec­tac­u­lar his­to­ry of its own.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Wealthy Women (Like the Mona Lisa) Got Dressed in Renais­sance Flo­rence

How Fash­ion­able Dutch Women (Like the Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring) Got Dressed in 1665

Author Imag­ines in 1893 the Fash­ions That Would Appear Over the Next 100 Years

Fash­ion Design­ers in 1939 Pre­dict How Peo­ple Would Dress in the Year 2000

Life Mag­a­zine Pre­dicts in 1914 How Peo­ple Would Dress in the 1950s

Google Cre­ates a Dig­i­tal Archive of World Fash­ion: Fea­tures 30,000 Images, Cov­er­ing 3,000 Years of Fash­ion His­to­ry

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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