Because "the topic of fashion shows remains to find its historian", the earliest history of fashion shows remains obscure.
In the 1800s, "fashion parades" periodically took place in Paris couture salons.
American retailers imported the concept of the fashion show in the early 1900s. The first American fashion show likely took place in 1903 in the New York City store Ehrlich Brothers. By 1910, large department stores such as Wanamaker's in New York City and Philadelphia were also staging fashion shows. These events showed couture gowns from Paris or the store's copies of them; they aimed to demonstrate the owners' good taste and capture the attention of female shoppers.
By the 1920s, retailers across the United States held fashion shows. Often, these shows were theatrical, presented with narratives, and organized around a theme (e.g. Parisian, Chinese, or Russian). These shows enjoyed huge popularity through mid-century, sometimes attracting thousands of customers and gawkers.
In the 1970s and 1980s, American designers began to hold their own fashion shows in private spaces apart from such retailers. In the early 1990s, however, many in the fashion world began to rethink this strategy. After several mishaps during shows in small, unsafe locations, "he general sentiment was, 'We love fashion but we don't want to die for it,'" recalls Fern Mallis, then executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In response to these shows, the New York shows were centralized in Bryant Park during fashion week in late 1993. Lately from the 2000 to today, fashion shows are usually also filmed and appear on specially assigned television channels or even in documentaries.
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