Fashion History

The Most Influential Fashion Trends in The Last 100 Years

Looking back even only at 10 years ago, a lot of things are completely different. And that is just 10 years ago, what about 20? Or 30 years? Especially in the ever changing fashion world. There are major shifts in technology, politics, culture, and social norms in the intervening years coming up to 2019.

Fashion are reflected from these shifts and it grows with them over the years, from the disco pop in the ‘80s, greasy rock style in the ‘90s and even the sky-high platforms from the ‘70s. Imagine what it was like 100 years ago, or might I say, almost 110 years ago. That might not be a big number but we know how different it was back then. So let’s take a look.

1900s: The S-Bend Corset

In the Edwardian period, the S-bend or ‘health’ corset was introduced. This style alters the wearer’s posture and actually it was no more ‘healthful’ that its predecessors. But towards the end of the decade, the fashion shifted to girdles and away from the excruciatingly painful hourglass figure and silhouettes that were so demanding for women to follow for decades. With leisure apparels also introduced, women’s wardrobes were full of options such as blazers, long skirts and wool sweaters.

1910s: The Hobble Skirt

In this decade, hemlines finally go slightly past the ankle. And that means that walking is less of a chore, but unfortunately it coincided with a trend of the ‘hobble skirt’. This style was popularised by Paul Poiret, and it was narrow through the ankle and sometimes banded below the knee, constricting women’s movement and led to injury. It didn’t stick long though, a more practical duster coats and lace-up boots came into light during the ‘10s and still echoed in fashion trend today.

1920s: Flapper Style

Flapper ensembles are instantly recognisable as the look of the ‘20s, and here’s why: It’s relaxed drop waists, ornately beaded designs, and feathered accessories just screams ‘flapper’ that was all the hype back then. But it’s not the most influential one, a subtler style from this era is the most influential. It was said that in this decade, Coco Chanel introduced the little black dress. Which offered simplicity and elegance, and instead of being a colour associated with widows or servant, black became a chic colour choice.

1930s: Bias-Cut Gowns

In this era, the silver screen became the site for escapism because the American public was reeling from the Great Depression. During that time, film icons like Bette Davis, Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford were dazzled in glamorous gowns and tailored skirt suits. The long, lean and skinny silhouette was shown thanks to the popularisation of Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut, a style which allows the fabric to drape over the body with grace.

1940s: The Bikini

Whomever would’ve thought that two-piece swimsuits would rose to popularity during the wartime? This was a result of fabric rationing (yes it’s a real thing) enforced by the U.S. government that begun in 1943. Around 1946, a French designer, Louis Réard introduced the two-piece bikini that we know until today. He named it after the site of an American nuclear tests and daring to cut it below the belly button. Talk about controversial (at least during that time) am I right?

1950s: The “New Look”

During the late years of the ‘40s, Christian Dior debuted the ‘New Look’ silhouette that would the next decade with its nipped-in waist, structured bust, and voluminous taffeta layered skirt. This was the contrast of wartime outfits. And then the lighter outfits eventually became a common fare among middle-class women stateside that retained much of the femininity – cinch-waist, full mid-calf skirts and sweater sets.

1960s: The Miniskirt

Mary Quant, a designer that came up with the miniskirt trend told The New York Times, “If I didn’t make them short enough, the Chelsea girls, who had wonderful legs, would get out the scissors and shorten the skirts themselves.” During the time, it was very controversial, but clearly the fans of miniskirts overpowered the naysayers. And additionally, during the Space Age, the most popular hues were–appropriately–white and silver. These colour trends were the result of advancements in fabric technology and were the most sought after colours of miniskirts.

1970s: Platform Heels

In the ‘70s, jeans got wider and heels got taller, really, really tall. Synthetic fabrics flooded the fashion stores during these times. The disco pop trends were everywhere, Lurex halter tops and palazzo pants are the mainstream fashion that everyone was involved with. Whilst on the other side of the Atlantic, the punk scene was thriving, led by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in tattered t-shirts and safety-pinned plaid.

1980s: Leggings

If we’re to pick one item that was as ubiquitous in the ‘80s as it is today, it’s legging, undeniably. Came with the aerobics craze, spandex was the bona fide fashion trend – though back then it was worn with leg warmers, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and scrunchies. For the more professionally minded women, the broad-shouldered suit became their staple. And as stated by Bonnie English, “Women in professional careers used fashion as a political language to illustrate their expectations of power and position in the management structures of large corporations.” So if you’re going to conquer the world, you might as well be wearing shoulder pads.

1990s: Minimalism

The ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit” decade was really youth-oriented and was a fertile ground for grunge to take a hold of. Following Marc Jacob’s ground breaking S/S 93 collection, teens and young adults embraced baggy flannels and floral prints – which are coming back these days. And apart from that, minimalism became another humongous trend in fashion, with slip dresses, sheer fabrics and a palette of black, grey, and white ruling the runways of the ‘90s.

2000s: The Tracksuit

Here comes the decade of either tracksuits of denims. But tracksuits were beloved by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears throughout the early-to-mid ‘00s. Couture’s terry cloth and velour sweatsuits were the hype with the celebrities back in the day. And today, it seems a tad bit awkward, considering how our fashion trends have evolved. I’m sure this was nostalgic to a lot of us, but some might cringe looking back at the bright-coloured sweatsuits worn to big events back in the day.

2010s: Athleisure

This decade is almost over, we’re already in the ninth year of the 2010s. And the predictions as to which trends that will endure most over time, it’s skinny jeans. They came into their own this decade, gradually making their way into the mainstreams and despite endless things heralding their death, skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But not forgetting athleisure, we’ve experienced the joys of walking around in sneakers, tees and hoodies all day while still looking absolutely stylish, why go back?

Yours,
S.A.

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