The History of Women's Fashion

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The History of Women's Fashion
The History of Women's Fashion (Image: Stock.xchng Photo, Wikimedia Commons Photos)

Just by glancing at the covers of old magazines, it's easy to see what styles were popular women's fashions during various decades of American history. What's fashionable today may not be in style a year from now. On the other hand, fashion trends also tend to come back in style. Rather than women giving away their entire wardrobe just because styles have changed, it's better that they keep some outfits just in case those old clothes become stylish again in a few years.

The Early 1900s: The First Two Decades

Women's fashion during the first years of the 20th century focused on dresses for full-figured and mature bodies. Skirts were full and long, generally containing a small train resembling a contemporary wedding gown. Fashion from the second decade of the 1900s was typified by dresses of exotic patterns and skirt lines. Hemlines rose just above the ankle, preparing the way for more radical fashion changes in the roaring '20s.

The Roaring '20s

The 1920s, also known as the roaring '20s, marked the beginning of modern fashion. Women, who had recently received their voting rights with the passage of the 19th Amendment in August of 1920, expressed their independence in their fashions. Women of the roaring '20s were known for their flapper skirts. Gathered and pleated skirts were popular.The hemlines climbed higher, while necklines became more low-cut. The influence of the 1920s is still seen in today's fashion such as in costume jewelry and cardigan jackets.

Flapper Skirt
Flapper Skirt

Depression and War Years: The 1930s and 1940s

Fashion for women in the 1930s was influenced by the Great Depression, which started in the late 1920s. Because of economical hard times women remade their old clothes into new outfits. The era was known for the sophisticated Garbo look of natural flowing hemlines. Nylon stockings had just been created and were trendy. The 1940s, which were war years for the first half of the decade, were known for knee-length skirts and padded shoulders. Because of World War II, women started wearing more pants. The "New Look," created by Christian Dior in the late 1940s, was typified by longer and fuller skirts with a nipped waist.

Fashion Trends of the 1950s and 60s

The 1950s were known for a tailored look and immaculate grooming. One of the most notable fashion trends was the poodle skirt, as worn by teenage girls dancing on the popular television show "American Bandstand." The glamorous styles of actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor influenced women's fashion. Because of the the sexual revolution of the 1960s, drastic changes were made in fashion styles. The 1960s were greatly influenced by the British invasion of rock-'n'-roll from groups such as the Beatles. The decade was characterized by bell buttons, printed fabrics and miniskirts. It was known for both the Mod look of shorter hems, as well as more fitted fabrics. Fashion views were also influenced by the hippie culture.

Poodle Skirt
Poodle Skirt

The 1970s and 80s

In the 1970s polyester knitted fabrics and denim blue jeans were fashionable. During this decade skirts came in mini, midi and maxi lengths. The disco music of rock-'n'-roll greatly impacted women's fashion. Besides music, women were also influenced by styles seen in popular television series such as "Dallas" and by celebrities as the late Diana, Princess of Wales. On the other hand, the 1980s were also a decade of individualism with fashions varying from one extreme to the other. While some women preferred the Madonna look of off-the-shoulder tops, more modest women chose classic Laura Ashley designs.

The 1990s

The early 1990s featured the grunge look, which consisted of ripped pants and flannel shirts. As time passed, fashions popular from the 1960s and 70s returned, creating what was called the alternative look. Tight-fitting clothes were stylish, accentuating a woman's curves. The latter half of the 1990s featured women choosing chunkier footwear. While jeans were larger, tops became shorter and more fitted. The last decade of the 20th century was also known for Goth styles and women wearing black. Besides clothing, black was popular in eye makeup, in addition to nails with shades as dark as midnight.

21st-Century Fashion Trends

Women of the 21st century dress mostly for comfort, returning to earlier styles. The new millennium doesn't focus on any one style, but offers individuality as there isn't a certain fashion that dictates what women should follow. Hoop earrings, which had been popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, returned in popularity. Gel bracelets became the rage in 2004. Women of the first decade of the 21st century are considered more fashionable going casual rather having a formal look, with the exception of going to church, business functions and special events.

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