Essay On American Clothing Style

The United States is one of the leading countries in the fashion design industry, along with France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Apart from professional business attire, American fashion is eclectic and predominantly informal. While Americans' diverse cultural roots are reflected in their clothing, particularly those of recent immigrants, cowboy hats, boots and leather motorcycle jackets are emblematic of specifically American styles.

New York City and Los Angeles are the centers of America's fashion industry. They are considered leading fashion capitals. New York City is generally considered to be one of the "big four" global fashion capitals, along with Paris, Milan and London.


Fashion norms have changed greatly between decades. The United States of America has generally followed, and in some cases led, trends in the history of Western fashion. It has some unique regional clothing styles, such as western wear.

Blue jeans were popularized as work clothes in the 1850's by Levi Strauss, an American merchant of German origin in San Francisco, and were adopted by many American teenagers a century later. They are now widely worn on every continent by people of all ages and social classes. Along with mass-marketed informal wear in general, blue jeans are perhaps American culture's primary contribution to global fashion.[1] Other fashion trends started in the US include sports wear as fashion along with athletic shoe wear like Converse or Nike . Atheleisure was also popularized in the US around 2012, and as of 2017 the trend has all but dominated the US market. Athleisure has dominated the US market because of its ability to fill a gap in the market, as clothing wasn't usually both comfortable, stylish, and functional.

Fashion industry[edit]

The United States of America is also home to the headquarters of many leading designer labels such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Victoria's Secret. Labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Eckō Unltd. cater to various niche markets, such as pre teens. A new trend in the United States toward sustainable clothing has led to the emergence of organic cotton T-shirts from labels such as BeGood Clothing. New York Fashion Week is one of the most influential fashion weeks in the world, and occurs in late summer every year.[2]

Regional and cultural variation[edit]

Dress norms in the United States are generally consistent with those of other post-industrial Western nations, and have become largely informal since the mid-20th century. Clothing in the United States also depends on a variety of factors including location, venue, and demographic factors such as ethnicity. Jeans are a consistent fashion trend among all classes, with variations being vast in both price and style.

The western states are commonly noted for being more informal in their manner of dress than those closer to the eastern seaboard. Conspicuous consumption and a desire for quality have also led to a strong preference for designer label clothing among many in the middle and upper classes.

The tolerance of body expression that deviates from the mainstream, such as complete body tattoos or nudism, is strongly linked to the sub-culture and location in which an individual may find him or herself. Generally, the United States tends to be less tolerant towards nudity than Western Europe, even in more tolerant areas such as California. The tolerance shown for personal expression such as cross-dressing and piercings varies greatly with location and sub-culture, and may be completely appropriate in one venue while being taboo in another.[3]


  1. ^Davis, Fred (1992). Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 69. ISBN 0-226-13809-7.
  2. ^Guzman, Jacqueline. "The secrets of going sustainable". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  3. ^Thompson, William; Joseph Hickey (1995). Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson. 0-205-41365-X. 

Madelyn Shaw
Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

Anna and Laura Tirocchi maintained a small, personalized dress business in Providence for over thirty years. These decades saw two world wars, a global economic depression, and the transformation of the industry of which they were a small part; however, the knowledge gained through study of the surviving Tirocchi shop inventory and records is only a fragment of the story of the women"s garment industry in America. Were the Tirocchis and their clients unique or typical? Was their experience of and response to the changes in their industry singular or common? To understand the Tirocchis" place in the dressmaking hierarchy of their day and the changes in the structure of their business, one must examine the wider world of American fashion.

Between 1900 and 1950, the ways in which American women of all social and economic levels thought about and acquired their clothing changed considerably. Any pretense to true high fashion in the early twentieth century required the purchase of a custom-made and custom-fitted wardrobe from Paris couturiers or from American importers and reproducers of Paris models.(1) Although Paris was generally the source of high fashion for what was considered at various times "high society," "the smart set," or "café society," it is also true for most of this period that to be well dressed in Paris required both money and social position, or money and celebrity. Women outside the small circle of wealthy frequenters of Paris couturiers did not exist for the style makers. Bettina Ballard wrote of this "small egocentric group of...chic Parisiennes...who inspired the couturiers and the modistes, the women for whom fashion was really created." She pointed out that during this time, society women "wouldn't have been considered eligible for a fashionable reputation until they were at least 35 and with their children behind them."(2) The youth cult of the post-World War II years was foreign to the elegance of haute couture. True high fashion was always the preserve of the few, but, as a later writer pointed out, "No style is fashionable until it is imitated."(3)

American fashion was seen by most critics as primarily imitative, with few original stylists. In spite of this, at all price levels American-made garments clothed the vast majority of American women. During the commercial life of the Tirocchi shop, the American garment industry learned to combine Art with Big Business. The notion that fashion and style could be made available to the majority of women, whether they were working class or leisure class, was an American original [fig. 77]. In the first decades of the twentieth century, class and social structure in the United States were much more fluid than in Europe. Social position was based not only on family and property, but also on wealth, however it was acquired, and on education: it was possible to cross boundaries. The definition of "society" began to broaden, as the aristocracy by birth and old money began to find competition from a new aristocracy of achievement, celebrity, and notoriety: the "café society" of the 1920s. While there was without doubt a leisured "Society" deserving of the capital "S" in the United States, there was also a need for stylish apparel among the countless women who worked outside the home, whether as volunteers or as wage earners.


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