The pace of change accelerated considerably in the following century, and women and men’s fashion, especially in the dressing and adorning of the hair, became equally complex. Art historians are therefore able to use fashion with confidence and precision to date images, often to within five years, particularly in the case of images from the 15th century. Initially, changes in fashion led to a fragmentation across the upper classes of Europe of what had previously been a very similar style of dressing and the subsequent development of distinctive national styles. These national styles remained very different until a counter-movement in the 17th to 18th centuries imposed similar styles once again, mostly originating from Ancien Régime France. Though the rich usually led fashion, the increasing affluence of early modern Europe led to the bourgeoisie and even peasantsfollowing trends at a distance, but still uncomfortably close for the elites – a factor that Fernand Braudel regards as one of the main motors of changing fashion.
Though textile colors and patterns changed from year to year, the cut of a gentleman’s coat and the length of his waistcoat, or the pattern to which a lady’s dress was cut, changed more slowly. Men’s fashions were largely derived from military models, and changes in a European male Silhouette were galvanized in theaters of European war where gentleman officers had opportunities to make notes of foreign styles such as the “Steinkirk” cravat or necktie.
The fashion industry is a product of the modern age. Prior to the mid-19th century, most clothing was custom-made. It was handmade for individuals, either as home production or on order from dressmakers and tailors. By the beginning of the 20th century—with the rise of new technologies such as the sewing machine, the rise of global capitalism and the development of the factory system of production, and the proliferation of retail outlets such as department stores—clothing had increasingly come to be mass-produced in standard sizes and sold at fixed prices.
Although the fashion industry developed first in Europe and America, as of 2015 it is an international and highly globalized industry, with clothing often designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sold world-wide. For example, an American fashion company might source fabric in China and have the clothes manufactured in Vietnam, finished in Italy, and shipped to a warehouse in the United States for distribution to retail outlets internationally. The fashion industry has long been one of the largest employers in the United States, and it remains so in the 21st century.