Back in the early to mid 1900’s, it was not uncommon to see people dressing to the nines for most occasions. What seems like a simple venture out nowadays was a reason to dress up back then. This includes going to the movies, sporting events, and even going to certain stores. Men would wear a full suit and tie, while women would don nice dresses, heels, jewelry, and hats. So, what changed?
Going out used to be a big deal. Whenever anyone would go out to do just about anything, they took the time to dress nicely. There was always a certain amount of pressure to make a good impression. When films first came out, for instance, – even when they were silent and less than a minute long – it was a big deal. If you were going out to the movies, chances are just about everyone you knew was doing the same. It’s not like it is now, where there are at least ten movies out at a time. Back then, there were no multiplex theaters, and the same movie could be playing for many months.
Movie theaters used to be comparable to a Broadway theatre. They were very fancy, with nice seats and intricate designs on the walls. When the Great Depression hit, people used to go to the movies as an escape from their problems. Since going out did not happen as much at the time, every chance to go out was a chance to show off a pretty dress or a nice dinner jacket. It was much more of a special occasion – theaters would be packed with people from all walks of life. Now, people are still likely to dress nice when going to see a live play or an opera, but movies have become more casual.
Another influence that dramatically changed people’s clothing style is cinema. In a lot of ways, movies made lasting impressions on many people’s sense of fashion. In the 1950’s, jeans became popular among teenagers, due in part to movie icons, such as James Dean. Teenagers found that they could relate to his characters, particularly when he starred as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. His red jacket, white t-shirt, and blue jeans became quite an iconic look.
Katharine Hepburn, who always played independent and free spirited characters, was often seen wearing slacks in her films. This may have helped prompt women to start wearing pants as well. It should also be noted that during that time, feminism was on the rise and much like the phrase “the one who wears the pants” women started to wear pants more often than they would wear skirts and dresses, partly due to fashion and partly to show that they should have equal control as men did at that time.
Casual outfits have become much more standard these days. Now, everyday wear and even attires meant for special events have a much different look to them. While dressing up used to include at the very least a suit and tie for guys, now it is more likely composed of a regular button up shirt or a polo, coupled with a pair of cargo pants or dark blue jeans. It has become more about looking presentable than looking extra classy. Men certainly don’t want to come off as slobs, but they would likely get strange looks if they showed up at the movies in a full tuxedo. Girls, on the other hand, can easily still pull off dresses in everyday situations. However, they are much less formal. Depending on the age of the couple in question, dinner at a nice restaurant followed by a movie is still a classic date. Should they dress up, it would primarily be for the fancy restaurant, and not as much the movie.
Looks and fashion trends are forever changing. Each era brought some truly unique styles that some still can’t believe were considered fashionable. I am sure that twenty years from now, some modern clothing pieces will be questioned as well. While in the early 1900’s, people were more likely to dress for style – comfort seems to be priority now. However, there are still high class theaters that offer dinner service with the movie. Perhaps if it becomes more popular, dressing up for the movies may come back in fashion.