Being an item of clothing worn not just for practical reasons but for formal occasions, work and generally occasions where you want to look your best the dress shirt’s accepted design and choice of designs regularly changes as fashions move fast.
Dress shirts have their origin as undergarments worn under doublets, jackets and waistcoats in Europe. As early as 1300 shirts seem to have been popular and spread wide as they feature in many paintings of the time, still though their main function was for hygiene. While fine clothes, especially those of many colors, would often be worn many times without washing, plain linen shirts were easy to wash. Shirts therefore worn against the skin kept other clothes fresh but it wasn’t long until shirts started to become popular as a top layer or single layer for those wanting something functional more than those wanting something elegant.
Those of the middle classes of early Renaissance Europe wore shirts for jobs such as painting and in rural areas they later began to replace smocks along with trousers. In around 1500 custom dress shirts with fantastic designs became popular with the nobility, probably first in Italy and certainly foremost there. Towns such as Venice became famous for their production of custom dress shirts and the materials they were made from.
Dress shirts in the 16th century were quite different and had a lot of material used in them to create ruffles and frills, these were often custom dress shirt designs made to the latest fashions or to set the latest fashions that were forever changing.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that designs of shirts for different occasions really started to be set in stone for any period of time. Dress shirts for formal occasions developed first but more types of shirts developed as the industrial revolution moved on and textile mills were able to produce off the peg shirts in large numbers; custom dress shirts were still popular among both the nobility and middle classes though.
It was only relatively late in the 19th century that dress shirts became work wear, as people came off of the land and into factories increasingly dress shirts started to become popular for being practical and easy to fit into without having trialing material, which was important. The term blue collar is originally from the 19th century as most workers wore blue dress shirts, which was often prescribed by their employers: white collar is a later term to describe office workers and clerical staff though and dates from the 1930s.
Shirts remained popular throughout the 20th century and became accepted wear for many jobs. In America casual dress shirts based on often hard wearing materials designed for work shirts became popular, in part perhaps because of the checked and colored shirts seen in western movies.
Dress shirts collars have developed as neck wear has developed with cravats and bowties being replaced in most situations and certainly for work by a necktie. In the late 20th sand early 21st century less companies insist on employees wearing shirts and where they do ties are less common as well, shirts are again more for formal use. Custom dress shirts made to measure or tailor made are also becoming more popular as people tend to wear dress shirts less but want something more unique and impressive for when they do wear a dress shirt.
Source: Epic Shirtmakers Blog