Obscurity is vertiginous....
When the eye sees black,
the spirit sees trouble....
In the night, even the strong
(Victor Hugo, Les Misérables)
Glamorous and modest at the same time, seductive and practical, mysterious and versatile, elegant and powerful, modern, and timeless, the black outfit has its own role as a fashion statement for centuries. It can tell us the most fascinating stories about personalities who wore memorable black clothes in the past and it can draw a picture of creative soul who is still wearing a solemn black attire even today.
Black is the color of authority, intellectuality and dignity. It is also the most flattering of all colors. No one ever looked more contemporary, more appropriate to urban environment appropriate and
elegant than those who chose black in order to impress the world with their appearance, Black is unusual in having attained its status originally through the Church, a standing which was strengthened by its acceptance in courts across Europe, - from Burgundy in the 15th century to Spain in the 16th century. It finally achieved a universality with the merchant classes of 17th century Holland, from whom it had spread to all Western world by the 19th century. By then, its religious asceticism and modesty had been considerably watered down and it had achieved a certain literary romanticism. [2.]
Black also carries associations of power and a special mysterious allure. The black-clad figure is at once terrifying and seductive, whether a Spanish courtier of the time of Philip II, a Hell's Angel, a Punk or a Goth. Even the plain black suit of a banker or civil servant contains a hint of mystery.
The allure of the black outfit has captured the imagination of generations of couturiers and artists and served as the signature of society's most powerful and enigmatic personalities. And therefore, there is a good reason to look back at some moments of history, looking for answers to popularity of black attire!
Origins of Black as a Fashion Statement
Throughout human history, black has been associated with night, death and nothingness. Just imagine that before the invention of electricity, nights were much darker and more dangerous than they are today. The persecuted hero, Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, in one of the its pages says, "Obscurity is vertiginous... When the eye sees black, the spirit sees trouble... In the night, even the strong feel anxious."
Since antiquity, black has often been associated with evil. Yet black has also long carried positive connotations of temperance, humility, and asceticism. There is the black of melancholy and the black of mystery, and the idea of black as a symbol of luxury and wealth. Despite negative associations, black has always played an important role in the history of fashion. Today's formal black evening attire is a direct descendant of the noble black of the Renaissance. Its popularity dates back to the southern countries. Historically, there has been a stronger contact with the Orient. The fashion for black clothes developed in Italy as early as the 14th century and spread rapidly from Italy to northern Europe. Because black dyes were expensive, only the representatives of the highest society - elite could afford to wear black clothes, whether for mourning, as a symbol of authority or piety, or simply as a fashion statement.
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396 - 1467), first wore black when his father was murdered by the French in 1419. In a court of Burgundy that was famous for its splendor, where most courtiers wore brightly colored clothes, luxurious black velvet gowns of the Philip the Good looked not only serious and sombre, but also elegant. Therefore, Duke of Burgundy for the first time in fashion history made it a fashion statement.
The rise of Spanish black was a significant turn in the history of fashionable black clothing. Spanish rulers, such as Emperor Charles V (1500 - 1558) and his son, Philip II (1527 - 1598), were known for wearing black clothing almost every day. That style recalled the austere vestments of clergy. In 16th century the black clothing would prove to be extremely popular in predominantly Protestant countries, such as the Netherlands and England, setting the stage for the rise of black in modern European society.