The timeline of our current fashions are often buried in some bygone era and then resurrected for yet another brief period, like skinny jeans from the punk era of the 80s, or perhaps our girly side comes to life with yet another Disney Princess, or we have the timeless selections like the Little Black Dress created by Coco Chanel in the 30s. Or if you are a lover of vintage fashion, then choose your era. Favorites go back to the Victorian and Renaissance eras and then move forward to the 50s and 60s. It’s fun to watch the changes. Learn the roots of some of your favorite styles.
So here we briefly chase the fashions of the last 200 years by each decade, written by the Vintage Fashion Guild. Watch as they change. We will continue to expand this section with more links and videos as time permits.
1800 to 1810
The fashion canvas of the 18th century changed radically as the 19th century began and simpler, lighter brushstrokes were applied. Fashion in the first two decades mimicked classical Grecian drapery with its fluid lines. Bodices were minimal, cut to end under the bust thereby achieving a high waist that defined the silhouette. Necklines were predominantly low. Sleeves could be long or short.
The fiddle-back bodice, with side, back and shoulder seams that were placed to form a diamond shape, was typical of this period.
The use of tiny piping to finish seams began in this decade.
Dresses generally opened in the front, with pins or drawstrings as the closures, while the skirts of the dresses had side openings, if any at all. The desired effect was one of simplicity. White was the most popular color and any applied trimming was used sparingly.
Fabrics were lightweight, with embroidery and details that did not interrupt the aesthetic flow. Outerwear consisted of Spencer jackets (waist-length jackets named after Lord Spencer), pelisses (a type of sleeved cloak) and the ubiquitous long shawl.
1810 to 1820
From 1810 to 1820 dresses became slightly more structured with padded hems and firmer fabrics, such as twills and even some taffeta. Soft colors returned to fashion after a 10-year absence. Sleeves began to grow fuller at the shoulder and high waists endured throughout this period but lowered slightly as the years went by.
Skirt hems widened ever so slightly. Fabric trimmings (often in the same fabric as the dress) were used extensively.
1820 to 1830
As the Romantic era arrived, clothing became more complex and increasingly structured. The previous design simplicity was replaced with decorative excess. Horizontal hem treatments added focus to skirts. Wide lapels created shoulder emphasis and the sleeves and shoulders were further emphasized with extended wings.
Surface ornamentation, color and print positively abounded. Three-dimensional effects in trimmings were achieved with padding. The waistline dropped much closer to its natural spot and was often accentuated by a wide belt. Pelisses and Spencer jackets continued to be worn for warmth.
1830 to 1840
In the 1830s, the first cross cut Gigot or Leg O’ mMtton sleeves appeared. The previous shoulder fullness dropped toward the elbow and sleeves became enormous. The waist resumed its natural position while necklines became very wide and bodice lines took on a highly distinctive V-shape. Ankle length skirts became quite full and needed several petticoats beneath for support. This produced the 19th century’s first version of an hourglass silhouette.
As so often happens, when one fashion change occurs, the rationale for another is created. The very full sleeves that were the rage created the need for alternative outerwear. It was difficult to force these large sleeves into coats and so cloaks were worn. Short capes with longer front ends called pelerines become quite popular as did chemisettes (under-bodices of net or lace) for low-necked gowns. The focus was clearly on femininity. Aprons were popular accessories.
1840 to 1850
The Gothic era arrived on the scene and fashion lines wilted into drooping ringlets and dragging skirts. Sleeves lost their fullness and became fitted; shoulders were extended below their natural line and skirt hems lowered to the floor. Generally necklines were worn high during the day and wide in the evening. The skirt became very domed in silhouette, requiring yet more petticoats to achieve the desired shape. Trimmings of tucks and pleats were used to emphasize this new line. Colors shifted to darker tones and solid color fabrics were more in tune with the new solemnity.
In mid-century, skirts become even fuller with horizontal flounces or tucks added to the base skirt to give it even greater width and volume. Lines shifted from the vertical to the horizontal assisted by shorter, wider bodices. A new triangular, cone-shaped silhouette emerged featuring new pagoda sleeves.
Prints and patterns came to the fore for obvious reasons. The substantial expanses of fabric were crying out for visual interest which large plaids and border prints provided.
1850 to 1860
By 1855, the cage crinoline or hoop had swayed on to the scene and skirts expanded to their maximum size. Women were delighted to wear the cage as it provided relief from the weight of numerous petticoats and the plethora of undergarments that needed to be washed.
The hoop was worn almost universally and could be seen on ladies, maids, the middle class and shop girls. Women working hard in fields and those scrubbing floors were some of the few exceptions.
Cloaks and mantlelets remained fashionable for practical reasons – they were the only outerwear capable of covering the triangular silhouette. Shawls worked wonderfully spread out over the width of the hoop and were popular for their ornamental possibilities as well as their functional role.
1860 to 1870
So began the era of the skirt and it was to be 30 years before skirts were worn unhindered by support structures. The round hoop of 1860 evolved into an oval hoop by 1864. As the skirt developed, the back emphasis saw the creation of the first bustle, which had appeared by 1868. The big, soft, high and very draped bustle skirt enjoyed its popularity for 8 years.
In the 1860s, the bodice waist became slightly short but the dropped shoulders remained. Sleeves narrowed and although fitted at the wrist, a little width was available at the elbow. Square yoke lines were often seen for day. These were created with braid, fringe or even developed as a separate piece that could be removed for evening wear, leaving a lower, square neckline.
To emphasize the wide neckline on evening dresses, Bertha collars following the décolleté were made of pleated fabric, ruffles, or lace. In fact fringe, braid and lace were in their element and widely used. Fabric stayed lightweight with lawn, taffeta and silk and wool blends popular. Dresses tended to be made of one fabric but with lace or trim for interest.
1870 to 1880
In the early 1870s the shoulders were allowed to return to the position nature intended. In 1876-78 the long line cuirass bodice appeared. This reached to the hips in all its molded, whale-boned glory. Day bodices had high necklines and fitted sleeves with pleated or ruffled cuffs at the wrists. The new look for evening was three-quarter length sleeves with a square neckline.
In 1876, although the amount of skirt drapery remained constant (if not even more complex), the bustle foundation disappeared and a very small hoop was worn, primarily to keep the mass of fabric away from the feet.
Fabrics were light in color and weight with favored fabrics being cotton, silk-taffeta and light wool. The problem of fitting outerwear over bustles was solved as three-quarter length cloaks and Dolman mantles (a short capelet with wide sleeves that were quite restrictive) began to make an appearance.
1880 to 1890
Popular demand brought back the bustle in 1883, but with changes. It was now worn at a lower placement with a narrower width. Dresses worn over this new frame were sturdier, being constructed in heavier fabrics such as velvet, satin and wool. Colors were darker with bottle green, deep wine, navy blue and black coming to the fore. Mercifully cotton and linen were used for summer. Drapery was harder and considerably more rigid than in the 1870s.
1880 was a decade of severely tight and restrictive corsetry that was worn (or endured) under dresses with long boned bodices, tight sleeves and high necks. On the surface a very modest and even prudish look, this line was so torso defining that a woman’s shape could hardly go unnoticed. Dresses could weigh 15 – 20 pounds. Skirts were almost always layered and draped, often with an apron front and a trained back. Pleating was everywhere, both in skirt construction and in trimming.
1890 to 1900
In 1889 the bustle began to fade, possibly joined by its wearers! By 1891 just a tiny pad remained. The gathers at the back of the skirt remained until 1900. With the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to grow and the 1830s hourglass revival was well underway. Sleeves ballooned to proportions never seen before or indeed since – reaching their height in 1895-96. Leg O’ Mutton, Melon, Gigot and Balloon were a few of the names given to this sleeve. Skirts became flared and gored, even circular. Tiny boned bodice waists were emphasized with a point in front. Evening dresses often sported elbow length sleeves.
Silhouette slimmed and elongated considerably in 1897. Sleeves began to reduce in size and skirts were fashioned to be slim over the hips. Bodices began to have fullness at the front, which developed into the pigeon breast or monobosom shape of the early 20th century. Necklines rose even higher, supported by very high boned collars.
1900 to 1910
As the Victorian era drew to its close, skirts for both day and evening were elongated at the back to form a train. The skirt’s silhouette was slim at the hip, achieved with pleating and smocking. Any fullness in the skirt was confined to below the knee. Decoration was applied using large and small tucks, hem ruffles, buttons and lace insertions. For day, ladies wore very high necks and the bosom was undefined with fullness over the boned bodice that would often drop to below the waist. These pigeon breast or monobosom bodices often featured wide cape type collars that dropped off the shoulders. Sleeves were generally fitted from shoulder to elbow from where fullness would extend to the wrist. It was not unusual to see a double-sleeved effect, which featured a small, gathered under sleeve revealed at the wrist.
Evening dresses were more daring and were worn off the shoulder, with or without sleeves. The Edwardian era began mid-decade and initially took a retro step, delighting in small balloon sleeves and very nipped-in waists last seen in 1895. Skirts, although full, were rounded and fabrics were soft and allowed to drape. It was de rigueur to wear a wide sash or cummerbund.
The retro look quickly faded in favor of the revolutionary designs of Paul Poiret. He quickly became the most prominent fashion designer in Paris. He showed slim, straight skirts and insisted on fewer undergarments. Due to his decrees, the high boned collar disappeared and women’s corsets were loosened, allowing them literally to breathe a sigh of relief. This new freedom made it possible to sport a higher-waisted look and Poiret’s empire line was popular. Most representative of the period were the amazingly detailed and superbly constructed gowns. These gowns featured lace, cord work, appliqué, soutache, beading, tucking and insertion – very often on the same gown! The great Haute Couture houses of this golden era include Worth, Doucet, Lanvin, Boue Souers, Callot Souers, Paquin, Lucile, and Fortuny.
1910 to 1920
Shape and silhouette constantly evolved. More radical styles like the hobble skirt and the lampshade skirt each enjoyed their moment in the sun. The Edwardians became more playful and innovative, taking an interest in asymmetrical draping techniques. Considerably less boning was used in bodices and boning was now solely for supporting the shape as opposed to changing it. Suits were fashionable for daywear and walking was eased due to a really big fashion happening – the skirt hem rose to the ankle!
The First World War provoked yet another fashion – skirts that rose to well above the ankle. Bodices tended to lean towards the higher waist and skirts were full and tiered. Other popular fancies were bat-wing sleeves, over-drapes and flying panel skirts.
Wool and linen walking suits were appreciated for their practicality. Asymmetrical designs were featured in bodices and skirts and preferred fabrics were satin, taffeta, chiffon and lightweight silks, with washable cottons to ease hot summers. Early Art Deco inspired prints were seen in the post war years. The automobile achieved status, so driving clothes were developed to protect against dust, including the aptly named duster, a long, lightweight coat. Hats were veiled to keep the complexion smudge free.
1920 to 1930
World War I ended and euphoria was the order of the day. Fashion responded by dropping waists to high hip levels and dresses became unfitted. While some gowns retained the design complexity of the Teens, the trend was toward Simplicity. Simple bodices, shaped using only a few tucks or shirring at the shoulders, or a little gather at the side seam reflected this new freedom. As the decade began hems lines perched above the ankle but in only three years skirt lengths had risen to unprecedented and – to some – shocking heights!
Necklines were usually a simple scoop or “V” but when collars were used they emphasized the long line. Sleeves were either long and straight or with bell shaping. Chiffons, light silks, soft velvets, lamés, lightweight wools and soft cottons made up the fabrics. Sometimes a sash was applied to the hip but dresses also fell in a straight line. Although dresses were simple in construction, detail was apparent in surface ornamentation such as embroidery, soft braid, and beading for evening; or fabric manipulation such as pin tucking or pulled threadwork. Tabard style sheer or semi-sheer dresses were worn over matching slips.
As the “flapper era” became established, hemlines continued their scandalous ascent and had reached the knee by 1926. The drop waist continued its popularity but skirts and bodices became more complex with seaming, circular flounces and floating panels. Decorative seaming, contrasting fabrics, and overlays began to appear. Quality, previously apparent by means of complicated fit and construction was now expressing itself through fabric and by manipulating a single layer of material. Time-consuming and costly beading was immensely popular, especially for dance dresses.
Skirt levels, that some believed were indecent, were tamed in the 1928/29 fashion collections and asymmetrical hemlines (knee length in the front, longer in the back) made their appearance to forecast the longer hemlines of the 1930s. Waistlines gradually rose to resume the position nature had intended.
Designers of the 1920s included: Patou, Molyneux, Chanel, Boue Souers, Louiseboulanger, Augustabernard and Vionnet.
1930 to 1940
Great innovations in fashion were seen during the Depression despite the economic hardships of the time. The abbreviated, linear forms of the 1920s quickly gave way to sinuous shapes and longer hemlines. Waistlines returned to the natural position, while remaining relaxed in fit. Designers experimented with new cuts and new materials. For evening, the bias cut gown was favored (as created by Madeleine Vionnet) in silk velvet or silk satin. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and nylon were in common use for everyday garments.
After 1935, zippers were employed as a more efficient alternative to labor-intensive hook-and-eye closures. Indeed, in the hands of prestigious houses such as Schiaparelli they became design elements. Costume jewelry, popularized by Chanel’s signature faux pearl strands, became an accessory staple. By 1938, small shoulder pads had become fashionable, heralding the shoulder emphasis of the 1940s. This, in spite of the Depression, was another grand era for Haute Couture. Lanvin, Molyneux, Mainbocher, Patou and Maggy Rouff all had active fashion houses as did Vionnet, Chanel and Schiaparelli.
The movies influenced how women dressed and what they thought about fashion.
It was not uncommon for designers such as Gilbert Adrian and Irene to make their names in Hollywood’s film industry. Women clamoured to look like their screen idols. This desire prompted many Hollywood couturiers to produce clothing for the mass market via department stores or their own collections. The Hollywood phenomenon also spread to Europe. Exemplified by the white satin bias cut dresses as worn by Jean Harlow, the Hollywood look featured dramatic lines that played best to camera. The full length garden party dress with picture hat, the striking wool suit with portrait fur collar, the grand negligee – these were all part of the Hollywood in the 1930s look as well.
1940 to 1950
By the time the United States emerged from the Depression, Europe and much of Asia were already at war. Paris under Nazi occupation was a disaster for Haute Couture and one that gave great opportunity to the growing fashion industry in the United States.
Women who were deprived of the latest fashions from Paris began to look to homegrown talent. Designers such as Norman Norell and Claire McCardell soon built a following. Mainbocher and Molyneux fled Europe and set up shop in the United States. This development profoundly changed America’s fashion profile and the market continued to gain momentum after the war ended.
Wartime regulations such as L-85, which regulated how much fabric and what garment types could be manufactured, were applied to both men’s and women’s clothing. Materials that were needed for military purposes were restricted for civilian use. Though the restrictions were not difficult to heed, manufacturers over-complied in support of the war effort. Utility and practicality became more fashionable and “Rosie the Riveter” was created as a role model. Frivolity and extravagance were put on hold. The emblematic wide-shouldered, slim-waisted, narrow-hipped silhouette of the 1940s was established.
The war also brought social and cultural change as greater numbers of women entered the workplace. Slacks, once considered scandalous and fit only for the boudoir, gained popularity. For many years however, even into the 1960s, it was to be a subject of debate as to whether they were appropriate in the workplace or not!
February 1947 brought one of fashion history’s most dramatic events – Christian Dior’s explosive first collection hit the runway. He called it the Corolle line but the American press, which referred to the collection as “New Look”, ignored this. The media’s chosen name stuck and so did the fashion.
The New Look called for rounded shoulders, exaggerated bust lines, wasp waists and padded hips and long, often extravagantly full skirts that required an exorbitant amount of fabric. This was a strident comment on the end of wartime asceticism.
While fashion writers loved the New Look, initially it met with public resistance. Many viewed it as frivolous and wasteful after the rationing and deprivation of World War II – especially when the economic hardships of war were still very much a reality in Europe. But ultimately, the New Look became a symbol of the return of prosperity, femininity, and glamour. Women who had for years worn the more austere fashions of the 1940s (and were fatigued at reading endless articles on how to extend the life of old garments) began to see a distinct appeal in the swish of long skirts and the allure of curvaceous shapes. The “New Look” was essential in restoring the French couture industry and was the cornerstone of the following decade’s predominant fashion aesthetic.
1950 to 1960
Dior’s 1947 New Look had symbolized a new hope and by the 1950s both the hope and the style were fully embraced.
Hems fell and hems rose but the hourglass silhouette remained. In addition to the full skirt, slender pencil skirts were worn too. The emphasis on silhouette and form created a dependency on foundation garments – bullet bras, corselets, waist-cinchers and girdles pulled in, pushed out and persuaded while crinolines lifted and shaped full-circle skirts.
The 1950s saw the birth of pret-a-porter (ready-to-wear), at first seen as a necessary evil but eventually gaining respect. The US War Production Board sponsored a measurements survey of 100,000 women, using the data to standardize sizing for the garment industry.
Led by Dior, Paris couture retained its popularity but the private couturier was being supplanted by pret-a-porter and mass production. Design houses such as the USA’s Suzy Perette and Lilli Ann and Horrockses in the UK, as well as American designers such as Ceil Chapman and Tina Leser, were proving that off-the-rack garments of quality could be made. America led the way with ready-to-wear, and high fashion, once restricted to the wealthy, was available to the general population.
1950s fashion was regulated by three C’s – code, conformity and consumerism. Women’s focus was on rearing children and keeping house as they had largely left the war years’ workplace. Both men’s and women’s activities centered around family and home and clothing changed as a result. Emphasis was on practical but attractive housedresses, not only for household chores but suitable for quick errands or the school run. Women dressed for ‘wifely’ roles!
A female function was to entertain or attend social gatherings – all to promote and further their spouse’s career. Cocktail dresses – short versions of ball gowns – were essential. A woman was expected to wear a hat outside of the house (except for the most formal evening occasions) and gloves at all times – short for day, long for evening. Men tended almost to universally wear suits. The practice of dressing young people like their elders was still common, with the ‘mother/daughter’ look particularly in vogue.
The second half of the 1950s still emphasized women dressing for ‘their man.’ Structural garments (such as stiletto heels, girdles and bullet bras) were designed to highlight the natural appeal of a woman’s figure, instead it virtually characterized it. American designer Anne Fogarty even wrote a book called “Wife-Dressing”, where she emphasized that a woman is never properly attired without her girdle.
The economy boomed and travel became affordable, encouraging worldwide ethnic influences on fashion. Hawaiian textiles were popular for summer wear and Asian brocades for formal wear. A correlation was seen between fashion and other consumer goods (such as cars) and popular annual colors were mirrored in both. Strong design elements echoed across the board, an example being the aggressive fin-tailed, streamlined car designs that echoed women’s bullet bras.
In the latter 1950s two new looks arrived on the scene. Dior was not the sole practitioner of the fashionable silhouette. Balenciaga was also influential and in the mid-1950s he created flawlessly cut clothing with loose, stand-away backs with fitted fronts and shorter sleeves. He also introduced the sack dress, a shapeless shift, which was far removed from the hourglass silhouette that had endured for a decade. In 1958, Yves Saint Laurent successfully presented the Trapeze Dress for the house of Dior. More structured than the sack dress, but still offering comfort and freedom, its look eventually evolved into the mid-1960s babydoll style.
1960 to 1970
he 1960s were greatly transitional. The decade opened with a continuation of the 1950s silhouette but ten years later the look was the virtual opposite.
In the U.S. in 1961 John F. Kennedy took office as President, bringing with him a beautiful, young and fashion-inspiring wife as First Lady. Jackie Kennedy’s innate sense of style and dress soon made her ‘Queen’ of American fashion. The American designed short-jacketed sheath suits (at which U.S. based designer Oleg Cassini excelled) captured her passion for French couture style.
As the first wave of baby boomers came of age, the market shifted towards a more youthful silhouette. Teens dominated the fashion scene and in time adults adopted some of the looks of their offspring. The French ‘baby doll’ look personified by Brigitte Bardot comprised shorter skirts and big hair. Eventually this gave way to the ‘British Invasion’ or ‘Youthquake’ movement, with teens embracing the free and fun fashions of their London contemporaries. The “It” girl Twiggy was seen on the covers of most fashion magazines, slinking about in colorful shifts and space-age prints. This helped convince the majority of women in the mid 1960s to try the new styles.
The movement towards modernity was conscious and international. Italian designers like Pucci created psychedelic palettes of color, transforming wearers of simple silk knit gowns into walking works of art. American designers excelled in casual, uncomplicated sportswear chic. French couture (mostly under the influence of Yves Saint Laurent) explored other ideas; one of these borrowed pants and tuxedo jackets from menswear for the hip, liberated fashion-conscious woman. Some British designers even attempted to borrow the new mini skirt from women’s fashion for menswear. This met with considerably less success, if not a stony silence.
The times “they were a-changing” and fashion needed to follow suit. By 1967 the new fashion was scandalously baring more of the body than ever before – less is more, the modernist’s creed, was now true. Even the most conservative suits were cut above the knee. The old etiquette (remember gloves and hats?) was out the door. Balenciaga even gave up his house in 1967, proclaiming “Fashion is dead”.
1970 to 1980
The 1970s can be called Decade of Decadence, the ‘Me’ decade and the decade of excess and androgyny. Women emerged in the work place tenfold. Pantsuits, day wear, and separates with a sense of masculine style as echoed in the film ‘Annie Hall’ created a sensation with Diane Keaton wearing a fitted vest with a collared white shirt and men’s neckties. Skirts could be seen in a variety of lengths, mini midi or maxi! The maxi dress was worn throughout the decade in a multitude of styles and shapes. Rich earthy tones dominated in popular colors; warm browns, burgundy, rust, mustard, and avocado green. Television shows such as Charlie’s Angels featured the smart and liberated but sexy woman. The California sun-kissed blondes Cheryl Tiegs and Farrah Fawcett represented the new sporty and physically fit ideal.
The Woodstock festival of peace and music was the end of the 1960s hippie movement, with the U.S. still at war. The hippie flower child look from the late 1960s carried over into the first half of the decade in a nonrestrictive bohemian silhouette with a heavy folksy influence. Thea Porter celebrated ethnic styles in Indian style prints, free flowing breezy gauzy tent dresses and wide legged pants. Arts and crafts elements such as tie-dye, batik, knitwear, crochet and macramé were also very popular. There was a great sense of ease and comfort to early 1970s clothing. Designers like Laura Ashley and Jessica McClintock for Gunne Sax popularized the prairie dress phenomenon.
Blue jeans emerged in the 1970s as everyday wear. Denim was being mass consumed by all ages and seen as the ultimate American garment. Jeans were flared, bell bottom, wide legged, hip huggers, high waist, embroidered, embellished, studded – you name it! Denim was was not just limited to pants: jean skirts, suits, vests, jackets, hats and accessories were omnipresent. Designer jeans were seen as a status symbol and the more expensive, the more desirable! A tighter, second skin fit with designer names such as Gloria Vanderbilt, Calvin Klein, Jordache, and Sasson were branded across the backsides of men and women everywhere. A far cry from the dungarees of years past!
Glam or glitter rock brought on to the scene flamboyant boldly colored clothes in lux fabrics like satins, velvets and lurex. Emblazoned with sequins, bedazzled, gemmed and worn with feathered boas! Nothing was too outrageous. Super high stacked platform shoes or boots were the favored footwear. Pop star David Bowie, as alter ego Ziggy Stardust, sported over-the-top androgynous outfits both on and off the stage. Avant garde designer Kensai Yamamoto was responsible for the otherworldly costumes for the 1973 ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour. Glitter rock stars of the the time such as Kiss, Marc Bolan, The Sweet and the New York Dolls were dandy dressers in chiffon, spandex and satin. Glitter trends in makeup were worn on the face by both men and women. Stores such as Granny Takes a Trip and Biba had multiple locations in the U.S. and the U.K that catered to the teenage audience and rock stars alike.
Disco brought excess and decadence. Designers and celebrities partied with the beautiful people at the infamous nightclub Studio 54 in New York City known for its overt drug use and bacchanalian carousing. Bob Mackie was often called the ‘Sultan of Sequins’ and dressed Cher and other stars in body-baring glamorous costumes. Designer Roy Halston’s draped jersey goddess dresses, kaftans and Ultrasuede were the perfect party clothes for a glamorous night of sin. Quiana polyester was wildly popular and was used in day dresses, shirts, blouses and evening wear. Cheaply made tight fitting body conscious clothing could be seen in any discotheque. Wrap-around skirts, leotards, tube tops, dance wear inspired dresses and separates with ease and movement were made in Lurex, miliskin and spandex. Film star John Travolta wore a white 3-piece suit with black shirt in the blockbuster movie “Saturday Night Fever”. Diane Von Fursternberg popularized the uber flattering jersey wrap dress, which became a staple in every woman’s wardrobe.
Punk fashion evolved alongside the musical genre out of open disgust for the status quo, the modern political agenda and the slick overproduced overtly commercial mainstream that rock music had become. Punk rock stripped rock and roll down to basics. Punk was gritty, dangerous and offensive. The clothing represented a darker and harsher view of reality and dissatisfaction with the ideals of conformity.
English punk visionaries Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren opened the infamous shop SEX/ Seditionaries on Kings Road and ultimately deconstructed British fashion, mixing X-rated silk screens, bondage gear, vinyl, rubber and the ubiquitous safety pin with iconic English fashions such as plaid kilts and tight stovepipe trousers.
Across the pond the American punk look was stripped down to basics, exemplified by bands like the Ramones, Blondie, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids preferring a more laid back look with tight jeans,
leather motorcycle jackets, sneakers, and ripped t-shirts.
1980 to 1990
One word comes to mind when you think of the 1980s: BIG. Overconsumption, oversized and just plain over-the-top were cornerstone features in this decade of excess and materialism. It was a time of abundance, optimism and unabashed greed.
Shoulder pads returned to fashion in a super-sized version, and the “power suit” reflected women’s emerging status in the workplace. The term “Yuppie” was coined as an acronym for the Young Urban Professional who was a career driven, 20-30 something male or female, obsessed with upward mobility, money and the pursuit of personal fulfillment. Casual wear for the Yuppie set was collegiate or preppy with khaki pants, traditional blue blazers, crisp white shirts, polos by Izod Lacoste and Ralph Lauren and cotton cardigans draped over one’s shoulders, loosely tied in front. Designers boldly emblazoned their logos on the exterior of their designs and their clothing became elite status symbols.
Glamour in the 1980s, as depicted in the popular TV shows Dallas and Dynasty, translated to bedazzled evening wear studded with sequins and beads. Hair was permed, teased and coiffed to ever larger proportions and extravagance. Makeup was bold and colorful, as was jewelry of the era which featured large statement necklaces and long, dangling earrings which grazed the shoulders.
In contrast to the more conservative and affluent set, youthful counterculture was defining their own style. Music continued to have a strong influence on fashion, particularly with the emergence of MTV which brought music fashion to the masses. Numerous pop music stars became style icons as well. Underwear as outer wear, popularized by Madonna, infused street fashion with women donning crinolines and lacy bustiers. New Wave music and the corresponding New Romantics style trend was further popularized by London designer Vivienne Westwood, who embraced historical fashion with the use of corsets and bustles and later created the mini-crini. Music legends like Annie Lenox, Boy George, David Bowie and Grace Jones blurred the lines of androgyny in fashion. Japanese fashion designers continued to push fashion barriers exploring gender-bending, sculptural, avant-garde silhouettes.
The fitness boom of the 1980s, as part of this self-conscious and self indulgent decade, spawned a fashion trend that took dance and exercise wear from the studio and gym to the runway and the street. Jane Fonda sported neon leotards and leg warmers in her exercise videos and women soon embraced them as functional fashion. The aerobics craze influenced designer fashion with Lycra and other body conscious fabrics and styles infusing the dress designs of Azzedine Alaia and bodysuits by Donna Karan. The movie Flashdance inspired women to wear tight leggings paired with oversized, baggy sweatshirts with the necklines cut to drape casually off one shoulder. Designer Norma Kamali created an entire collection fashioned of sweatshirt fabric. Jogging or track suits became socially acceptable as casual day wear.
1980s style with its juxtaposition of trends, variety and influences created a unique legacy of fashion and anti-fashion. It is emerging as an era of sought-after vintage for its unique characteristics and lasting impact.