I can honestly say I am grateful to have been born in 20th century. The face of fashion has drastically changed since the 1900s. While women of the past were constricted and limited to only a few fashionable options, women of the 21st century have freedom of expression. Women are now, more than ever, allowed to create art and express themselves through their personal style transforming from street style to evening style to future style icons. No longer are we forced to endure petticoats or hoop skirts and risk being burned to death when we got too close to the blazing fires to keep warm. We are able to bare all or keep a modest profile. All women have a unique style that adds color to the world. Here is a look at how fashion has changed over the course of time.
1900s: Women were required to have morning dresses, afternoon dresses, simple dresses, and evening dresses. Women were expected to dress according to the nature of each social gathering they attended. During the second half of the 1900s, rich and exotic patterns were introduced while skirt hems were shortened, skimming above the ankle.
1920s: Known as the time when modern fashion took form, women were liberated from the constricted clothing of the past and were introduced to pleated skirts, gathers and slits which allowed women to move more freely. These trends would also appear later in the future and be reintroduced to the public. Other sought after fashion items included flapper dresses, low cut necklines, lingerie (as opposed to the corset), below the ankle skirts, and conservative dresses.
1930s: Because of the Great Depression, thrifting was considered the rage and many women converted their old clothing items into new styles. Women gravitated toward flowing hemlines at the hips and natural hemlines. Nylon stockings became all the rage as more women were baring more leg.
1940s: Many women wore padded shoulders (I seriously never got the point of these. I recently purchased a Topshop dress which had shoulder pads. I wasted no time in taking some shears and ripping those suckers out) and knee length skirts while sportswear became popular as well, adding a sense of diversity in a woman’s wardrobe. Clothing resembled simple styles and the emergence of pants on women began. During the late 40s, Christian Dior pioneered the nipped waist, longer lengths, and fuller skirts. This, in turn, created a drastic feminine look.
1950s: The age of the baby boomers (when my father was born). The age where poodle skirts (sad to say I actually used to own one) and glamorous outfits, making their début on actresses Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, ruled. European designers made it their goal to present glamorous, more feminine fabrics and cuts to women all around the world. Emphasis was placed on a narrow waist as pencil and full skirts were worn during this decade.
1960s: Because of the sexual revolution, drastic changes were made to women’s wear. The early 60s heralded in the mod look which included shorter hems above the knee and fitted fabrics. Geometrical shapes and patterns became all the rage. During the late 60s (Woodstock era), those who opposed the Vietnam War and conveyed a sense of free love began displaying fashion pieces such as tie dyed items, bell bottoms, loose shirts and flowing hemlines.
1970: Home of the disco era (Yay?). The hippie looked continued, however, as bell bottoms and hip huggers remained popular. Maxi skirts blossomed onto the scene but only for a brief moment (funny how it made a comeback and today we are mad about maxi skirts and dresses). Miniskirts and hot pants rose to fame during this era as well. During the mid 70s rock glam heralds such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, contributed to the rise of glam fashion (Twisted Sister anyone?). Rock glam mainly consisted of glitter and high waisted pants made from various materials. The late 70s brought about the disco era as well as new wave.
1980s (my generation): An array of fashion styles were introduced such as gothic, pretty and the ever continuing disco wear. Madonna became a fashion icon as girls channeled her style through tulle skirts, lingerie, leather gloves and gobs of jewelry. Lycra became popular along with skin tight jeans, ripped sweatshirts, and leggings.
1990s-Today: Birth of the grunge look which originated in Seattle, Washington. The grunge uniform consisted of ripped pants, Doc Martins/combat boots, and flannel shirts. The 1960s and 70s experienced a revival as it made a comeback under the guise of the Alternative look. Hip hop culture became popular as women wore tighter clothes in the hopes of accentuating their curves.
Today, it is a free for all as women as allowed to wear whatever they want when they want to. We no longer have to endure the pain of wear bone crushing corsets, clothes that were not designed to keep in warmth or spend all our time donning 50 million things. I’m sure, however, that we all have endured a certain amount of pain whether it be through heel pinching shoes or too skinny jeans. We all have also gone through embarrassing clothing eras ourselves (I know I have). But luckily modern fashion has come to save us as there is a vast array of choices and options. Sometimes the selection is too vast and you get a brain cramp just trying to choose between one or the other. Women are now, more than ever entitled to freedom of expression which we convey through our clothes and personalities.