The outbreak of syphilis caused the men’s periwig to catch on in the 17th century. Royals like King Louis XIV of France wore it to hide hair loss. (New York Public Library)
The outbreak of syphilis caused the men’s periwig to catch on in the 17th century. Royals like King Louis XIV of France wore it to hide hair loss. (New York Public Library)

Emergency styling: How disasters, disease have altered hemlines in the past

Periwigs, all-weather gloves and the return of the face veil in the US can all be traced to outbreaks and pandemics, from as far back as the 17th century to as recently as the 20th.
By Cherylann Mollan
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:37 AM IST

Of the many changes wrought by Covid-19, the first pandemic of the 21st century, the most notable would have to be the mask. It too is being embraced, customised, embellished. PR executive Sami Sayyed, 30, for instance, has ten face masks and counting. He keeps collecting new ones to suit different occasions. He has masks to complement his Western formals and his traditional formal outfits, masks that go with his casual wear, others that match his gym clothes. “I see face masks as providing me with an avenue to express my personality and sense of style,” he says.

It was another contagious-disease outbreak — of syphilis — that caused the cascading, poofy men’s periwig to catch on in the 17th century. King Louis XIV of France and Charles II of England took to wearing the big wigs to hide — and overcompensate for — hair loss and premature greys (one of the effects of the sexually transmitted infection they both reportedly contracted ). Soon their noblemen were following suit and wearing the wigs and, in the manner of all court fashions, the trend spread and the wigs became aspirational wear among the upper classes outside the palace walls.

Many nobles had already taken to wearing gloves indoors and all year round at this time, to cover other marks associated with the disease. Wigs and gloves then went from rather embarrassing essentials to customisable accessories. Periwigs began to be ordered in a range of weaves and styles, in varying lengths or with added curls. Some were embellished with jewelled pins or pearls. Wearers went to great lengths to set theirs apart and have their style and status reflected in the wigs.

An ad for chiffon flu veils in Women’s Wear Daily magazine.
An ad for chiffon flu veils in Women’s Wear Daily magazine.

Since periwigs were hard to make and maintain, they became markers of affluence. The grander and more stylised the wig, the wealthier the wearer was assumed to be.

“Clothes play a crucial role in the way we present ourselves to the world,” says Lucy Adlington, costume historian and author of Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 (2019). “We turn to clothes for a boost in morale, or to nurture a sense of security and solidarity. They become tools to express defiance or challenge embedded ideas about gender, decency, shame and ridicule.”

During World War 1, for instance, identity and nationalism became somewhat linked to the cholera belt. In the 1830s, the second cholera pandemic popularised this item of clothing — a broad flannel waistband worn under the shirt.

The cause for cholera, still unknown then, was linked to a chilly abdomen. So people, especially soldiers posted in tropical regions, wore the cholera belt to keep from contracting the disease. During the War, knitting these body warmers became a way for citizens — particularly the women left behind — to express solidarity and support.

Rosie the Riveter by J Howard Miller was part of a 1940s campaign to encourage women to join the workforce. Look how she’s dressed.
Rosie the Riveter by J Howard Miller was part of a 1940s campaign to encourage women to join the workforce. Look how she’s dressed.

The Second World War had a more sweeping impact on fashion, particularly in the UK and US. Due to shortages caused by the War, clothing and fabric were rationed. This pushed designers to innovate and create designs that required less fabric. Hemlines rose, silhouettes became slimmer.

Another consequence of the war was that women entered the workplace to fill up the slots left vacant by the men who’d enlisted, and this gave rise to a whole range of women’s clothing that had not existed until this time—trousers for women, overalls, jackets and shirts.

“Fashion helps us stay hopeful in turbulent times, because it reminds us that there are always ways to make bad times bearable,” says Toolika Gupta, fashion historian and director of the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design. “Our instinct to create pushes us to work around shortages, embrace new ways of dressing, no matter how strange they might seem in the beginning. No matter what happens, we will always find ways to stay inspired and being fashionable is one representation of that.”

Turkish designer Bora Aksu’s latest collection tops off relaxed silhouettes in pastel hues representing frugality with replicas of the face veils worn during the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Turkish designer Bora Aksu’s latest collection tops off relaxed silhouettes in pastel hues representing frugality with replicas of the face veils worn during the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Turkish fashion designer Bora Aksu has drawn on this pandemic and the 1918 influenza one as inspirations for his Spring/Summer 2021 collection. The influenza pandemic infected over a third of the world’s population and claimed more than 50 million lives over two years.

Aksu’s new collection uses relaxed silhouettes and pastel hues to represent the frugality that permeated fashion at the time. Gauze caps and veils are reminiscent of the chiffon influenza veils women wore in the US to prevent infection. Newspaper clippings of the time trace how women sought to integrate these into their wardrobes with customised veils in matching colours and patterns. This marked a return of an item of clothing that had faded away over the previous decades, especially in the cities.

Aksu captures the optimism of the post-pandemic world of the 1920s too, in the ruffles, layers and airy fabrics like organza and tulle. “Cataclysmic events like wars and pandemics push people find new ways to find beauty and self-expression in the clothes they wear,” Aksu told Wknd. “Fashion allows for this expression of individuality. It has the power to inspire hope and signal change.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Hermes is seen on a store in Paris, France, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Hermes is seen on a store in Paris, France, April 24, 2020. (REUTERS)

Why go to Paris when you can buy Hermes in Hangzhou?

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 02:16 PM IST
Buying luxury at home is the new normal for Chinese shoppers. All the big fashion houses will need to adapt.
Close
Nidhi Sunil is first Indian model to be appointed as the global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris. (Photo: Instagram/NidhiSunil)
Nidhi Sunil is first Indian model to be appointed as the global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris. (Photo: Instagram/NidhiSunil)

Felt free after stopping hyper involved relationship with my mirror: Nidhi Sunil

By Mallika Bhagat, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:42 PM IST
India born New York based lawyer-turned-model, who is the first Indian global spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris, talks about her foray into modelling and inclusivity in the industry.
Close
Haruki Murakami(Instagram)
Haruki Murakami(Instagram)

Japanese author Haruki Murakami designs T-shirt collection inspired by his works

By Alfea Jamal, Hindustan Times, Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 01:46 PM IST
Japanese author Haruki Murakami, who has written global bestsellers including Kafka by the Shore and Norwegian Wood, recently collaborated with high street fashion brand Uniqlo and designed eight graphic T-shirts that are inspired by his love of music as well as his literary works.
Close
Vidya Balan in <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>59k dress(Instagram/balanvidya)
Vidya Balan in 59k dress(Instagram/balanvidya)

Vidya Balan makes a style statement in 58k purple pinstripe dress

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 11:28 AM IST
  • For a photo shoot, Vidya Balan wore a purple pinstripe dress with a mauve jacket and opted to go sans-accessories. The Kahaani actor taught us how to channel a fierce vibe with our glam in new pics.
Close
Arjun Kapoor turns stylist for Shanaya Kapoor (Instagram/ shanayakapoor02 and arjunkapoor)
Arjun Kapoor turns stylist for Shanaya Kapoor (Instagram/ shanayakapoor02 and arjunkapoor)

Shanaya Kapoor slays in oversized hoodie as cousin Arjun turns stylist for her

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 09:50 AM IST
  • Shanaya Kapoor shared images from her impromptu at-home photo shoot with fans on Instagram. The photo shoot was a family affair, as Arjun Kapoor turned stylist and Khushi Kapoor edited the images and delivered the final product.
Close
Hina Khan is a boss babe in co-ord set(Instagram/ realhinakhan)
Hina Khan is a boss babe in co-ord set(Instagram/ realhinakhan)

Hina Khan in 12k co-ord set is all about boss babe vibes with a hint of elan

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 08:28 AM IST
  • Say goodbye to your winter clothes cause it's time to slay in some gorgeous floral print mini skirts and tops like Hina Khan. The actor recently shared images of herself wearing a summery co-ord set and we love it.
Close
Euphor by Amit Aggarwal (Photo: Instagram/AmitAggarwalOfficial)
Euphor by Amit Aggarwal (Photo: Instagram/AmitAggarwalOfficial)

Couture’s escapist euphoria

By Manish Mishra
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:58 PM IST
Viewing any Amit Aggarwal show is akin to a meditative process, an attempt to tune into the shifts that are flowing through AA’s sensibilities
Close
Janhvi Kapoor sets Roohi promos on fire in sheer ivory saree by Manish Malhotra(Instagram/janhvikapoor/manishmalhotra05)
Janhvi Kapoor sets Roohi promos on fire in sheer ivory saree by Manish Malhotra(Instagram/janhvikapoor/manishmalhotra05)

Janhvi Kapoor sets Roohi promos on fire in sheer ivory saree by Manish Malhotra

By Zarafshan Shiraz
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:33 PM IST
  • Leaving fans hooked with her saree chronicles, Janhvi Kapoor serves another sensuous look from Manish Malhotra’s collection in an ivory-coloured six yards of elegance as she promotes her upcoming film ‘Roohi’ on Day 4
Close
Slay spring sundowner or summer brunch like Vidya Balan in asymmetric kurta set(Instagram/who_wore_what_when)
Slay spring sundowner or summer brunch like Vidya Balan in asymmetric kurta set(Instagram/who_wore_what_when)

Slay spring sundowner or summer brunch like Vidya Balan in asymmetric kurta set

By Zarafshan Shiraz
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:22 PM IST
  • Vidya Balan recently dolled up for an e-interview and we love everything about retro-chic vibe. From her dove grey asymmetric kurta to smart narrow pants, we can’t wait to recreate the delightful silhouette as we walk into spring-summer
Close
Aditi Rao Hydari aces flirty summer fashion in chic pink strappy bustier, pants(Instagram/sanamratansi)
Aditi Rao Hydari aces flirty summer fashion in chic pink strappy bustier, pants(Instagram/sanamratansi)

Aditi Rao Hydari aces flirty summer fashion in chic pink strappy bustier, pants

By Zarafshan Shiraz
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 04:44 PM IST
  • Want to set mercury soaring when going for lunch or an evening out? Take fashion cues from Aditi Rao Hydari’s romantic steamy look for The Girl on The Train promotions in a pink strappy twisted bustier teamed with wide-leg pants that look flirty enough to add drama to our summer closet
Close
Deepika Padukone in the Levi's ad(Instagram)
Deepika Padukone in the Levi's ad(Instagram)

Deepika Padukone's Levi's ad set ripped off from Sooni Taraporevala's Yeh Ballet

By Alfea Jamal, Hindustan Times, Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 04:11 PM IST
Sooni Taraporevala shared images of scenes from the Levi's ad and from her film, Yeh Ballet, sharing "No such dance studio exists in Mumbai which is why we built it. Basically the director of this (Levi's) ad saw Yeh Ballet and decided to plagiarize our set down to the very last detail."
Close
Kriti Sanon in denim-on-denim outfit(Varinder Chawla)
Kriti Sanon in denim-on-denim outfit(Varinder Chawla)

Kriti Sanon nails the classic combo, pairs denim romper with white accessories

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 03:17 PM IST
  • Kriti Sanon recently gave us outfit goals as she stepped out in a bodycon denim romper with white accessories for casual outing. We can't help but marvel at the choices of the fashionista.
Close
Meghan Markle and Prince harry during interview(Instagram/CBS)
Meghan Markle and Prince harry during interview(Instagram/CBS)

Meghan Markle is maternity fashion goals in 3 lakh dress with Prince Harry

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 11:49 AM IST
  • For her much anticipated interview with the media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle wore a black silk dress and showed that she knows how to do maternity fashion right.
Close
Madhuri Dixit in Finding Anamika.(Instagram)
Madhuri Dixit in Finding Anamika.(Instagram)

Madhuri Dixit paints the town red in Finding Anamika's first glimpse

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Alfea Jamal, Hindustan Times, Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 10:34 AM IST
Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit, will soon be seen in the upcoming drama webseries Finding Anamika in which she plays a global superstar. Madhuri shared a glimpse of herself from the show, and she looked as ravishing as she did back in the day.
Close
Janhvi Kapoor at Roohi promotions(Instagram/mohitrai)
Janhvi Kapoor at Roohi promotions(Instagram/mohitrai)

Janhvi Kapoor stuns in simple blue spaghetti-strap dress at Roohi promotions

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:54 AM IST
  • Janhvi Kapoor recently stepped out in an ethereal flowy dress for a promotional event of her upcoming film Roohi. The dress that is worth 22k is one of our favourite looks donned by the actor.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP