The knowledge and art of tailoring, of cutting and sewing cloth -- the two basic aspects of constructing clothes from a pattern -- developed slowly and gradually in Europe between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary's first reference to the word "tailor" gives the specific date of 1297; and certainty by that date tailoring guilds, as well as those of weavers, and cloth merchants were well established in Europe.
During the Middle Ages clothing had been regarded as a means of concealing the body. But with the Renaissance came the accentuation of the human form. The loose robe, that standard uniform of the medieval period so easily constructed from a single piece or two of cloth, was shortened and tightened, and eventually cut, pieced, and sewn together in attempts to bring into prominence the contours of the human form. This was the birth of tailoring and, in fact, of fashion.
These attempts at re-constructing the human body in fabric called for a growing expert skill and division of labor. Soon the cutter (the one who makes the pattern) and tailor (the one who does the sewing) joined other craftsmen as important members of the community.
Until this time the cloth had been the distinguishing feature of garments, and the wearer took most of the responsibility for the design ~ and, in most cases, the actual production ~ of his own clothes. But little by little, the tailor took on equal importance with the weaver, and gradually came to overshadow him. Master tailors in the growing towns eventually became responsible for the clothing needs of society, and the art and science of tailoring became a highly specialized, complex, and jealously guarded craft.
As towns became cities, then city states, and finally empires of power, fashion followed. First Italy, then Spain and France became the center for fashionable dress in concert with the power, wealth, and influence of those empires. Italy reached its great flowering during the age of Michaelangelo, followed by Spain early in the 17th century. France reached its fashionable peak for tailoring during the long reign of Louis XIV (1643 - 1715), when foppish young men from all over Europe flocked to Paris for their wardrobes. Almost every comic play written in the second half of the 17th century includes the character of a Paris-dressed fop, perfumed and beribboned, with powdered wig and silver-buckled shoe in the latest French mode. But by the time of the French king's death in 1715, there had already begun a shift in power, and influence -- and fashion.