How Fashion Has Changed Over the Years
Fashion is on a never-ending cycle of change. Let's look back at how fashion has changed over the years.
If there is anything that we can all agree on in the fashion world, it's that fashion always recycles, whether we like it or not. Over the course of 100 years, fashion has changed dramatically but has also kept trends from the past very much alive.
Beginning with old-school trends back in the 1950s and later being revived into a more modern style in the late 2000s, fashion is on a never-ending tidal wave of change and revival.
For both men and women, fashion is tied to identity. You are what you wear. There are many different ways to dress and style yourself that could be inspired by media, print, or anything from the past. As we are looking forward to the year 2018, we can assume a shift in fashion and fashion choices in general.
For someone to understand fashion in its current state, one must know and appreciate the history of fashion trends over the decades. Dive into history as we discover how fashion has changed over the years from the most trend-setting styles to the most unforgettable.
The 1950s were an indication of economic growth. Post World War II, conformity and conservatism characterized the social norms during this time. However, with a conservative ideology running the United States, there was room for rebellion—and that was expressed through fashion.
This was a time of fashion evolution for both men and women. Among the most popular pieces of clothing were fitted blouses, shoulder pads, round collars for women and high-waisted pants and ties for men. Most printed patterns were hand decorated with paint and beads which made them unique.
One of the biggest trends of this time was wearing hats. Women usually took after Audrey Hepburn and were inspired by her short hair hiding underneath a small hat. On the contrary, men wore hats as an every day occurrence. Felt hats, to be exact. As we often see in early films, men were seen running in the streets wearing buttoned-up shirts, ties, high-waisted pants, and felt hats.
As far as accessories go, a pack of cigarettes and its case were all a person needed to be on trend. Before discovering the cons of smoking cigarettes for smokers, like getting cancer, it was the fad for an entire generation. Smoking cigarettes was cool; everybody did it.
The 60s were a prominent moment in American history. People most notably remember this time for its counterculture and change in social norms using clothing, drugs, sexuality, and education to name a few. Quite frankly, people wanted their individual freedom, and the only way to get that was to rebel both socially and artistically.
Among the most notable events during this time was Martin Luther King’s, "I Have A Dream" speech, Kennedy’s assassination, the inauguration of Richard Nixon, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco, which ushered in the hippie movement.
The Hippie Movement
Following Beatlemania, Woodstock, and the ongoing conflict with Vietnam was the hippie movement of the 1960s. To display opposition and freedom, tie-dye became very popular. And I mean tye-dyeing everything—headbands, shirts, pants, and even shoes.
As much as tye-dye would seem universal and allow for personal freedom in fashion, women were still discouraged from wearing trousers. Jeans were perceived as inappropriate and therefore women wore skirts and flowy dresses.
During this rebellious period, 1967 was also proclaimed as the year of the turtleneck. In today’s fashion world, turtle necks would be extremely conservative. However, this moment in time was quite the opposite. Men were used to wearing neck ties and scarves, but part of the rebellion was ignoring that and wearing turtle necks instead.
Bell bottoms, fur coats, and flower prints, oh my! The 70s were a decade full of change economically and progressively. Women were receiving more freedom and economic liberty, Presidents were falling victim to scandals, and space exploration was more exciting than ever.
In regards to the fashion world, clothes were often inspired by music and Hollywood films. The popular musicians of that time were The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, which lead fashion getting stuck in the hippie movement.
The bell bottom was still the top trend associated with “free love” movement. In addition to the highly recognizable fashion staple, hair was getting bigger and the colors were getting brighter.
Checkered and Floral Print
Checkered printed pants and mini skirts and flower printed anything was found in everyone's closet. If it was a bit colder that day, you could see people wearing fur coats up and down the street.
If there was a moment in time where technology started to change society, it was the 80s. The IBM personal computer was released, the first Space Shuttle lifted off, and music was taking off in another direction with the development of music videos and synthesizers.
The popular culture of that time revolved around MTV as it was the first time music videos were released. Some of the best music videos of the 80s came from pop artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince. They were seen everywhere and their style influenced an entire culture.
The beginning of this decade continued the clothing styles of the late 70s, and by the end of the decade, heavy metal fashion was in. Some significant clothing trends were shoulder pads, jean jackets, Member’s Only jackets, leather pants, and jumpsuits.
Most memorably was the iconic Zubaz. In the 80s, if you weren’t one of the millions of people wearing Zubaz, chances were that your style was outdated.
Also in the eighties was the arrival of the parachute pants, also known as “Hammer Pants” thanks to MC Hammer’s musical influence in the 80s and the iconic fanny pack, which people still use today.
The 90s paved the way for the fashion world undeniably. Movements such as grunge, the rave scene, and hip-hop spread around the world and influenced fashion choices among young people. In addition to these new movements was the introduction of cable television and the world wide web.
Popular culture had a considerable influence on fashion, especially in the 90s. People were constantly consuming media because of the new-found internet and stayed on trend by watching bands such as Nirvana and Green Day on MTV.
Because of this influence, Grunge became a fashion statement. A typical outfit would be ripped blue jeans, an untucked flannel, and Doc Martin boots. Being involved in the grunge scene (and listening to the best grunge bands) was a statement onto itself, but to be fully thrown into the fashion world of grunge was a whole other entity.
The nineties were also a time men experimented with the idea of length, specifically when it came to shorts. Shorts will always be sensible in any era of fashion, but during this time men wore shorts past their knees that almost touched the ground. Michael Jackson and the NBA both caused the popularity of these trends.
The new millennium. Mostly everything at this point in time was influenced by the emergence of the internet. Communication was at an all-time high with smartphones, social networking sites, cameras, and other electronic devices. With television shows such as American Idol earning extremely high ratings, fashionistas gathered their inspiration from singers such as Kelly Clarkson.
The decade started with a more futuristic appeal of Y2K fashion which was built around the hype of the new millennium. Baggy cargo pants for men and bell-bottoms for women were the on-going trend. The 2000s also saw a return of the tracksuits from the 80s and skinny jeans were also a fad.
Also among the fashion trends of the 2000s was hip-hop influenced clothing. Clothing brands such as Rocawear, Phat Farm, G-Unit Clothing, and Billionaire Boys Club took over storefronts and you couldn’t live a single day without seeing these branded tee-shirts.
Fashion today is redefining of the 1980s and 1990s. Many fashion trends stayed popular such as alternative fashion and grunge look. Hipster culture has also dipped into the fashion world with denim blue jeans, cardigans, rounded glasses, and printed tee-shirts.
This decade is about the representation of different subcultures. Everything from hip-hop streetwear to contemporary fashion can be seen worn by everyone in the streets.
2010s fashion is including everyone. It stands as another indication of how fashion has changed over the years. As we continue to grow as a society and economy, fashion also evolves and changes. Hold on to your best pieces because, for all you know, they can be the hottest trend in the next couple of years.
About the author
Is a practicing Wiccan who applies her spiritualism to real life situations and advice, but also dabbles in dark fantasy. She lives in Oregon and spends most of her time casting spells in the woods.