This is a vastly broad topic, so I thought I’d google it and see what I thought were the best, most informing pieces (since I don’t seem to have any on my main page already), but there was just so much good stuff, surprisingly enough, so I really just recommend going to check out what Google has to offer.
This isn’t a historical influential piece, but I do remember reading this piece a while back on Greta Christina’s blog over at the Free Thoughts Blog. It was the first piece I really remembered that argued fashion as a feminist issue generally speaking, and relating to present day specifically. Definitely interesting and worthwhile to read.
This piece from Ms. Magazine addresses some of the historical contextual influences that you seek.
I don’t have any resources off hand, but something really interesting is to look (perhaps anthropologically) at the relating results of beauty standards/body image expectations and how they manifest throughout history in different parts of the world (ie. binding of feet, rings to elongate the neck).
One more thing to definitely consider, that here in the states, the fashion industry is huge and filled with a lot of women, however most of the CEOs are still men. And these men have a lot, if not most of the influence.