Contrary to what we may have heard, “Prostitution is one of the world’s oldest professions,” this is simply not true; it’s more like hunting and gathering. Although there does not seem to be an exact date when “ladies of the night,” also known as prostitute, were first seen on the streets. I think it is safe to say that once money, goods and services began being trading, that sex for some sort of payment came into the picture. There are provisions in the Code of Hammurabi about protection the rights of prostitutes and that dates back to the 18th century BCE, so that could possibly be the earliest known date.
So what does this have to do with fashion you ask? Well if anyone has heard of the Trickle Up, Trickle Down or Trickle Across theory then you may already know… The triangle-ish diagram I have created below is an example of the Trickle Up Theory dealing with the style leaderships by prostitutes. The Ladies of the Night, were the first women to start a darling lifestyle by dressing in a shocking and rebellious manner. They were the first ladies to wear the striking red lipstick along with rouge makeup. They could also be credited as being the first females to start smoking cigarettes because for the longest time cigarettes were only sold to soldiers at the end of the Civil War. Prostitutes were also a bit fashion forward during their time, and were the first to wear high heels to merely stroll the streets. Women who worked the streets were some of the first women seen drinking alcohol when it was still a “man’s” activity.
Now let’s look at how these Ladies of the Night have trickled their fashion to the upper class. Can anyone honestly say they have never seen bold red lipstick on a least one celebrity or model? Red lipstick is seen everywhere, it gives women the feel and look of a sexy vixen. The rouge makeup is also popular among the higher class, makeup in general is much more accepted now and it has given us the flexibly to do a lot of wild things with, just look at Nicki Minaji, YIKES! Now the dreaded cigarettes, people of every class smoke these cancer sticks. Models have even been professional photographed while smoking a cigarette; expecting it to look sexy… (like prostitute sexy?) High heels are also a duh factor. I’m pretty sure every high fashion model, upper class career women and even the First Lady, own multiple pairs of high heels, those trickled way up. Up until the 1960’s, fishnets were only seen on prostitutes and pin-up girls like Bettie Page. Next the punks of the 1970’s took hold of fishnets, ripped ones mostly! Eventually fishnets have made their way up to the runway where we now see models and celebrities wearing all sorts of fishnets.
“You can take the girl off the streets, but you can’t take the streets off the girl.”