The Transformation of Women’s Fashion During The 1900's

Fashion trends have changed drastically over time. What women wore in the 1960s is different from what they wear now, and what was considered stylish back then is outdated now. It was not until the 1920s when women’s styles began to transform significantly, and it was the catalyst for women’s fashion styles now.

The “Roaring Twenties” can be considered the Golden Age of fashion. After the devastation of World War I, many women shifted their attitudes in desiring simple and comfortable clothes. More specifically, the younger generation disregarded the tight corsets and dresses that covered their legs in exchange for clothing that was looser and exposed more skin. One transformation was the bob, which was a short hairstyle in which the hair curved towards the face. The term “flappers” came into use after women began wearing evening loose dresses that would flap when they danced. Simpler “boyish” clothing included casual golf knickers, argyle socks, blouses and ties. Women also began to invest more in accessories such as fur coats, shawls, bead and feather headbands, pearl necklaces and drop earrings. Thus, the 1920s was a change from the more conservative style of previous decades, allowing women to break away from the traditional norms. 

While the style of the 1920s was more boyish, the style of the 1930s was softer and more natural. Although loose clothing of the 1920s persisted into the next decade, natural waistlines and curves also had a strong emphasis. As such, the long, slim look of clothing from the 1920s was combined with graceful and soft lines from women’s figures. Overall, the 1930s focused on sophistication and the female figure. Despite the softer look of the 1930s, fashion from the 1940s receded into a simpler and sharper style. With the ongoing war, women’s styles were a result of the utility clothes produced during rationing for World War II. Thus, the style that dominated included squared shoulder pads, skirts and dresses that narrowed at the hips and skirts that were just below knee length. Moreover, tailored suits were popular during this period as well. Because of war rationing, new materials were used to create clothes with slimmer and plain appearances. However, after the Second World War was over, materials were available again for use, and the age of the New Look appeared. Trends of the New Look included narrow waists, soft, sloping shoulder pads, fuller skirts, fuller busts and skirts that were tight over the hips. Though the 1940s was occupied with World War II, women’s fashion trends changed from sharp and simple looks to fuller styles. 

The 1960s are known as the “Swinging Sixties” because it was a period of self-expression and breakaways from tradition. Fashion of the '60s transformed from the sophisticated and proper looks of previous trends into a style that symbolized the color, free spirit and energy of the time. Thus, the 1960s was a boom of different styles all in the duration of a decade. The beginning of the decade was inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy, the former First Lady, who was iconic for her well-fitted, simple and clean style. This style entailed dresses without collars, jackets that only buttoned at the top and low heels. However, Brigitte Bardot was the next fashion icon, whose style was the opposite of Jacqueline Kennedy’s clean and simple look. Instead, her style was bold and bizarre. For example, her wedding dress had a pink gingham pattern with white lace. Mary Quant was another fashion icon who introduced more youthful styles. This paved the way for shorter dresses with colorful swirls and bold patterns. Other clothing that defined this decade were button-down shirts, turtlenecks and knit sweaters, plaid pencil and mini skirts, pantsuits, low heels, stockings, pop art jewelry and blue jeans. As the 1960s was a period of self-expression, it created a framework for the 1970s, which was not defined by any single fashion style. Thus, this idea of self-expression followed, with women mixing and matching clothes to match their personalities. 

The Lalastack Of ClothingThe '80s was a decade of statement. Styles were made to be excessive with bold, eye-catching and glamorous outfits. Women wore power suits with large shoulder pads, which represented their confidence and strength. Dresses came in one-shoulder styles and were designed with sequin. Big perms, shoulder pads and bright neon colors and patterns were the trends of the 1980s. Many celebrities of the time influenced fashion trends in the sense that there was a gravitation toward designer brands. Because magazines and advertisements were the main sources of information for the average consumer, a narrow group of celebrities, bands and brands heavily influenced fashion of the eighties.

The Lalaplaid Shirt JeansAlthough styles of the '90s were not as bold as those of the '80s, fashion of the 1990s had a classy feel. Common clothing items were black leggings with sweaters, low heels, flannels, denim jackets and jeans, t-shirts, skirts and turtlenecks. By the middle of the '90s, the bold and flashy styles of the '80s had largely transformed into more humble and simple styles. Instead of the bright swirled patterns of the 1980s, women of the nineties preferred solid colors. Leather pants, tight shirts, halter and cropped tops, and platform shoes were popular during this time. 

2 women making the word love with their handsOverall, the fashion trends of the 20th century provided a foundation for the current trends of the 21st century. Women’s styles that are popular now are part of an embedded framework of the progression of the trends from previous decades until now. Although fashion has changed in the sense of clothing, the progression of women’s fashion through time also represents their changing attitudes. Moving from the conservative limitations brought upon them, women of the past decades have used fashion as a way to embody their true personalities. In this way, the bold patterns and bright colors of some of the styles represent the confidence that women gained and their determination to express themselves freely. Thus, the transformations in fashion trends illustrate that fashion is not only an expression of style but also an expression of power and strength.