12 Obscure Fashion Facts To Casually Drop (& Impress Everyone)

We all know that Coco Chanel designed the Little Black Dress, and Hermès named a bag after British waif Jane Birkin. But, there are so many good fashion tidbits out there beyond this pub-level trivia.

Like, the fact that Anna Wintour's legendary first Vogue cover was actually a complete mistake. Or, that New York Fashion Week used to go last, not first, until one designer said "nah" to second-banana status. How about this one: The bra you're wearing right now was invented by the author of classics you slogged through in fifth grade.


Click ahead for these, and nine more weird morsels about the clothes on your back and the designers you love. Mind blown in three, two, one...

Photo: Courtesy of Journelle.
Mark Twain invented the clasp on the back of your bra.
Yes, Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain. The patent for "improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments" was granted to one Samuel L. Clemens in 1871, and called for an elastic band with small hook-and-eye closures to create adjustable widths.

Twain's patent stated that his invention was intended for use on "vests, pantaloons, or other garments requiring straps," but most of us know it from those essential items we've been harnessing into since middle school. Think of this mustache next time you clasp yourself in, ladies.
Photo: Courtesy of Vogue.
Anna Wintour's legendary first Vogue cover was an accident.
Anna Wintour's first issue with American Vogue in November 1988 was shockingly casual-looking for its time — makeup-free faces, candid smiles, and the high-low mix of a Christian Lacroix jacket with jeans were so uncommon on newsstands in the big '80s that the magazine's printers actually thought it was a mistake. Indeed, this forward-thinking cover was never Anna's intention.

The Lacroix jacket was supposed to be worn as part of a skirt suit, but model Michaela Bercu had just come back from holiday, where she'd gained a little weight. When the skirt didn't fit, she wore her own jeans, and history was made.
Photo: Courtesy of Christian Louboutin.
Christian Louboutin's red soles are inspired by Andy Warhol, not Louis XIV.
Yes, the Sun King also famously wore red-soled shoes (and forbade anyone but monarchs from doing the same). But, Louboutin decided to use red soles when dissatisfied with a shoe he designed, inspired by Andy Warhol's "Flowers:"

“The drawing still was stronger [than the shoe] and I could not understand why,” Louboutin told The New Yorker. “There was this big black sole, and then, thank God, there was this girl painting her nails at the time.”

Louboutin grabbed his assistant's red polish, lacquered the shoe's sole, and "then it popped." Voilá: An icon was born.
Photo: Courtesy of Forever 21
Activewear is a very recent invention — because people used to exercise naked.
No, really. The word "gymnasium" is Greek for "place to be naked” or “place to exercise” — which, in ancient Greece were synonymous anyway. (We bet naked discus was super fun to watch.)

Kind of puts the transparent yoga-pant problem into perspective, doesn't it?
Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
New York wasn't always the first Fashion Week.
Dedicated fashion followers know that the "big four" Fashion Weeks take place in this order: New York, London, Milan, then Paris. It wasn't always so; New York held its fashion week after the European shows until 1998. So, what changed? Well, Helmut Lang.

When the legendary designer moved himself and his company's headquarters from Vienna to New York in 1998, he announced plans to show his collection in September — before the European shows — instead of in November, when New York collections traditionally walked. Calvin Klein followed his lead, announcing that he'd show the day after Lang. Donna Karan followed suit — and just like that, the fourth fiddle became first.
Photo: Courtesy of Matches.
Platforms are for drama queens, literally.
Flatform sandals may have been heralded as a new fashion trend in the spring of '12, but they actually date back to 450 BCE. Then called "Cothurnus," these leather and cork-soled shoes were up to 6 inches tall, and were worn by Greek dramatic actors in order to achieve added height and presence over comic actors (who wore socks on stage: womp).

The sandals were considered so ugly, they were always hidden by the actors' floor-length robes. We like flatforms, but we know some naysayers who wish that were still the case.
Photo: Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Christy Turlington is the reason some mannequins look familiar.
In 1993, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art needed new mannequins. Those mannequins needed a face that was timeless, beautiful, and — trickiest of all — versatile enough to represent a male, female, or child of either sex. To fit this near-impossible bill, the museum chose Christy Turlington.

You can see the mannequins, created by sculptor Ralph Pucci, here. She truly has a face for the ages.
Photo: Courtesy of A.P.C.
High heels were originally worn by men.
According to Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum, "The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the Near East as a form of riding footwear." The heels helped secure a man's foot in his stirrups, so he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively — which is almost as adventurous as hobbling to a cab!

It wasn't until the 1600s that women began sporting heels, as part of a masculine fashion trend that also had women cutting their hair, smoking pipes, and wearing hats, Semmelhack says. By the mid-1700s, heels were so associated with women, men stopped wearing them. Rude.
Photo: REX USA.
Shapewear was invented by Catwoman.
In 1975, actress Julie Newmar — yes, the pun-loving feline-woman from the original Batman show — was awarded a patent for "pantyhose with shaping band for cheeky derriere relief." Hers included an "elastic waist-encircling band" designed to minimise the stomach, and a specially shaped back to "delineate the wearer's derriere in cheeky relief," rather than give it a "board-like flatness."

The actress later marketed her invention under the brand name Nudemar (cute), but her innovations live on in the shaping tights we wear today.
Photo: Courtesy of AG Jeans.
These weren't always called "jeans."
When Levi Strauss & Co. patented its riveted denim pants in 1873, it called them "waist-high overalls," which is adorable, and sort of like calling shorts "knee-length pants."

That name persisted for decades until the baby boomer generation took to calling them "blue jeans" — after the Italian city of Genoa, where sailors wore similar pants.
Photo: Courtesy of J.Crew.
The other person behind J.Crew's chic revival is a man named Stubs.
Industry followers know that, along with Jenna Lyons, CEO Mickey Drexler is the driving force behind J.Crew's fashion-y revival. What you might not know is that Drexler earned the nickname "Stubs" at his first merchandising gig at Bloomingdales. Every day after the store closed, Drexler stayed behind counting merchandise tags to figure out what was selling, and what wasn't. As Drexler said in an interview with The Business of Fashion, “That was my computer, you know?”

It was also an early education in learning and responding, in real time, to what customers want. We'd say it's served him well.
Photo: Anthony Devlin/REX USA.
Kate Moss saved Hunter boots.
Hunter boots used to be best known for outfitting the British Army, the royal family, and sniffy society types on their weekends in the country. Kate Moss singlehandedly changed its stodgy rep in 2005, when she wore her mud-caked Hunter wellies at Glastonbury with — what else? — an extremely brief gold tunic and hot pants. The pic was in tabloids everywhere, and the next year was Hunter's most successful ever. We hope the brand sent her a fresh pair.
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