Feb 16th, 2017, 11:05 AM

Echoes of the Past: Ancient Influence in Paris Fashion Week 2017

By Madison Pritchyk
Image credit: Wikimedia/Internet Archive Book Images
Spring/Summer 2017 Haute Couture harkens back to the trends of ancient Greece and Egypt.

History never truly repeats itself, per se, because, rather, history is constantly reinvented. The iconic trends of the past, some as old as 4,000 years, still echo across fashion shows today. Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week 2017 was host to some of these beautiful staples. Designers of the biggest fashion houses drew inspiration from ancient Greece and Egypt, which helped to create shows featuring models that resembled whimsical phantoms of times past. Valentino and Elie Saab drew upon these ancient civilizations' most popular styles, creating a modern representation in ways that respected the history of the look, while additionally staying true to the designers' individual aesthetics.

Ancient Greece

Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino dreamt of a contemporary approach to some of history's most famous looks. Greek influence was evident in his Spring/Summer 2017 collection through his use of light fabrics, pleats and draping. But these styles weren't used only for the sake of fashion—they were used because they were invented during an era that required them. As Greece is situated in a hot climate, ancient Grecians opted out of wearing heavy clothing, instead choosing pieces made of imported linen. Fashion was about functionality and simplicity, something that Piccioli appeared to have kept in mind. The better part of the house's collection looked as though it was inspired by the iconic, classical piece of rectangular cloth known to ancient Greeks as "chiton." The garment was draped across their bodies and pinned at the sides and shoulders, making the unisex design a go-to for men, women, and children alike.

Minimalism is returning as the must-do trend, according to the gods and goddesses of Valentino. However, using one straightforward piece of cloth did not mean the Greeks were not ornate: their clothing was frequently dyed with bright colors and embellished with exquisite patterns. What stood out in Valentino's new line were the otherworldly pastels and collections of embellishments that were sprinkled on the pieces. Each gown was a reference to different mythological characters, including Euridice, Athena, Apollo and Hermes. The elegance of simple shapes paired with the eye catching adornments made the models look like they'd just floated out of a painting.

Ancient Egypt

The spirit of Egypt was strongly communicated in Elie Saab's latest collection. The Lebanese designer riffed off of the ideas from ancient Egypt (roughly 3100-332 B.C.), and the Egypt of the early 20th century. Saab referred to the latter period as the "golden era of the Arab world," because people put so much of their talent into art that it generated an explosion of expressive culture. The 2017 Spring line featured an array of colors and dazzling accessories and embellishments, harking back to an older age.

Much like the Greeks, the Egyptians dressed to adapt to their climate, resulting in pleats, transparent clothing and a mix of full length dresses and short skirts. Makeup served as a multipurpose staple for the upper class, which protected the eyes from the sun's reflection, as well as flies and other bugs. Metallics, made from blended powders, were often worn. Though metallic makeup wasn't particularly featured in Saab's newest collection, the metallic accents on the clothing were enough to ignite a fantastical Egyptian daydream. Kohl, a more ancient type of eyeliner, is perhaps one of the ancient Egyptian's most well-known traditional looks. Saab's models at Fashion Week were all made-up with iconic cat eyes as tribute. Another aspect that was borrowed were the pleated designs, which were originally invented by the Egyptians somewhere between 2055-1650 B.C.

Designers are truly masters of recycling. Smart designers know how to pick out the codes of times past and innovative new ways to relate them to the styles of today. Therefore, it isn't history that's repeating itself, but reinventing itself to help the artistic world of fashion progress and continue to flourish.