Whether a shift in the political landscape, culture or technology, fashion is constantly evolving and adapting to trends, reflecting the history of the time. Here’s a look back at fashion trends from the 1900s until the 2010s.
1900s: Bustle Dress and Gloves
First, it’s the 1900s, the time of bustles and gloves. Bustles were added to dresses as padded undergarments in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. Their purpose was to add fullness and support the drapery of the dress, as many were made from heavy fabric. They were worn just below the waist beneath the skirt to prevent it from dragging on the floor.
Gloves were also a popular fashion staple that were worn virtually everywhere regardless of the occasion. Leather and suede gloves were typically worn around the house to be switched to lace or silk in the evening or for special events. In winter, gloves were lined with wool or fur for warmth.
1910s: The Hobble Skirt
By the 1910s, hemlines had started to creep up slightly past the ankle to make walking less of a chore, coinciding with the trend of hobble skirts. Designer Paul Poiret popularised these skirts; they were narrow through the ankle and sometimes banded below the knee to impede a woman’s stride. Fortunately, this trend did not stick around for long, though long pencil skirts are considered the modern variation of the hobbled style.
1920s: The Flapper Style
The flapper ensemble is a recognisable trend from the 1920s. With drop waists, beaded designs, fringe and feathered accessories, it was an influential style that reflected the exuberance of the decade. Post-WWI social change empowered women after they gained the right to vote, and the prevalence of jazz music and prohibition inspired recklessness in the youth. All of this combined into perfect timing for the flapper dress to make a stylish statement.
1930s: The Bias Cut
During the Great Depression, films became a welcome distraction in people’s lives as a form of escapism. The icons of the day like Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow dazzled in glamourous gowns. Their silhouettes were long and lean thanks to the popularisation of Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut, a design technique that allows the fabric to drape over the body.
1940s: Skirt Suits
When the male population were drafted to fight in WWII, clothes in the 1940s took on a more military, utilitarian feel, partly due to rationing. Skirt suits were a popular choice, with their squared shoulders, narrow waist and tailored skirts that finished just below the knee. It was a less fussy time for fashion, demonstrated in the absence of embroidery or patterns.
1950s: New Look and Jeans
In 1947, Christian Dior debuted “New Look”, a silhouette that would shape the decade – a flouncy hyperfeminine counter to the post-war dressing. With a wasp waist, structured bust and layered skirt, it repelled the wartime restraint.
The 50s was also when we saw jeans cross over into the mainstream. Formally a part of the uniform for manual work, the rise of teenage rock ‘n’ roll culture saw jeans brought into the fashion fold.
1960s: The Miniskirt and Babydoll Dress
As time went on, hemlines crept ever further upwards into the 60s with the iconic miniskirt. They were controversial at the time but were brought into the spotlight by designer Mary Quant, who claimed that Chelsea girls would shorten their skirts with scissors if she did not make them short enough.
We also saw the babydoll dress, a demonstration of women’s newfound liberation with second-wave feminism. Women wanted clothes that weren’t restrictive, and the high empire waistline and short hem made this dress the ultimate statement piece.
1970s: Bell-Bottom Jeans and Platform Heels
Bell-bottoms are synonymous with the 70s. Originally worn by sailors during the war of 1812, they were re-envisioned for fashion purposes. They were worn causally in the form of flared denim or found on the disco scene in bright floral patterns.
The 70s also popularised the platform heel, though these can be traced back to 15th century Venice. With the height of disco culture, the footwear began to match the outfits associated with the dance. Jeans got wider, so heels got taller, and platforms followed.
1980s: Leather Jackets and Shoulder Pads
Disco faded, and metal came on the scene, bringing with it a stark contrast to the bright florals of the decade past. We saw the rise of leather jackets paired with band t-shirts. Popular artists like Madonna brought the punk style into the mainstream.
But the 80s wouldn’t have been the 80s without exaggerated shoulder pads. Women began entering the workforce in huge numbers, and this sparked the phenomena known as power dressing, where women adopted menswear styles. Shoulder pads were a big part of this, worked into every kind of blazer, jacket and even dresses.
1990s: Minimalism and Grunge
The 90s saw a minimalist resurgence in fashion, contrasting the elaborate and flashy trends from the 80s. Grunge style took hold, bringing the simple, unkempt look into the mainstream. The anti-conformist approach to fashion brought the casual chic look of t-shirts, jeans, hoodies and trainers into the forefront. Elsewhere, minimalism still prevailed with the likes of sheer fabrics, slip dresses and neutral colour palettes like black and whites.
2000s: The Tracksuit
The 2000s became the decade of the tracksuit, with many celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britany Spears sporting a Juicy Couture two-piece tracksuit, often with midriff showing and the word “Juicy” printed across the back. This colourful look could be worn for virtually any occasion despite its casual appearance.
More broadly, the 2000s were thought of as a global mash-up of fashions, due in part to the rise of digital technology and influences from across the world.
The 2010s saw the rise of athletic wear as causal fashion for us non-athletes. It is a type of hybrid clothing made from fabrics typically for athletic activities worn at the workplace, school, or other casual occasions. Athleisure wear includes yoga pants, trainers, leggings and shorts. This decade also saw the growing importance of social media influencers promoting fashions online.
The world of fashion is ever-changing, and it will be interesting to discover what trends the 2020s become known for. If you own and operate a clothing business, make sure your tech is up to date with the latest industrial sewing machines
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