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History of fashion trends Print E-mail

Monday, 09 January 2012 00:00

Written by Kimberley Heit

During ancient times people wore limited clothing made from animal skins and grasses. Then for hundreds of years during Greek and Roman times, cloth was merely draped over the body in various ways. By the Renaissance period in the 15th century, the fashions were elaborately constructed and women wore up to five layers of clothing. However, fashion changes still occurred slowly, sometimes hundreds of years apart.

It wasn't really until the 1900's that fashion trends began to emerge more rapidly. A brief overview of these trends is outlined below:


This period is frequently referred to as the Edwardian period. The trend was for women to wear clothing that created an S shape silhouette. Corsets and padding pushed the bust upright, held the waist tightly in and created a high protruding bottom. It was rather torturous for women.


World War I heralded a fashion trend which would go on to become a classic unisex fashion-the trench coat. Thomas Burberry designed the trench coat to keep soldiers dry and warm in the trenches. However, perhaps the most notable trend is women wearing pants. War time work meant women needed to wear more practical clothing and many chose to wear pants.

The 1920's

During this decade the desired silhouette was the boyish figure with flat breasts. Women typically wore straight up and down dresses with dropped waists. Hemlines began to creep up calves and women were able to enjoy newfound comfort wearing slip on dresses and no waist tightening corsets.

The 1930's

During the 1930's there was a return to glamour with Hollywood films influencing fashion. Think elegant bias cut gowns, worn with feather boas. Chanel introduces costume jewelry that is just as attractive as the real thing.

The 1940's

In the first part of this decade fabric was rationed due to World War II. Therefore fashions were understated, colors were dull and styles often had a military influence. However, in 1947 Christian Dior released a thoroughly feminine look called "The New Look". This was a dress with a tight bodice and extremely full skirt, sometimes requiring as much as 25 yards of fabric.

The 1950's

The tiny waist and full skirt remained a popular look during the 1950's. Levis Strauss began selling denim jeans to workers and when Elvis wears them on stage they start to become a youth coveted look. Chanel continued to market an elegant look which saw women wearing braid trim suits, hats, gloves and pearl necklaces.

The 1960's

Colors, prints and silhouettes went wild during the 1960's. Young women wore a wide variety of trends like; the mini skirt, pucci prints, go go boots, babydoll dresses and even wearable art style creations. Older women tried to emulate the American Presidents wife, Jacqueline Kennedy.

The 1970's

One of the key trends during the 1970's were bell bottom pants. They were worn by men and women and even extended into office attire. Mini skirts, maxi dresses and hot pants were also a big hit, along with jeans. The television show Charlie's Angels inspired women to get the "Farrah Fawcett flick" hairstyle.

The 1980's

With women entering the workforce in droves the power suit is one of the most dominant fashions. This extended into all aspects of life with women wearing shoulder pads in every style of clothing including t-shirts. When Madonna wore ice-cream cone inspired lingerie on stage, intimates began to be worn as outer wear. Wedding dresses were inspired by Diana Princess of Wales, wedding to Prince Charles.

The 1990's

During the 1990's fashion was quite minimalist. Cardigans began to replace heavily padded jackets at the office and women wore stretch leggings everywhere. Elizabeth Hurley set a trend for daring evening attire when she wore a Versace dress held together by safety pins.

Today, fashions change very rapidly and they are not just dictated to people from above. Many trends have emerged because people have worn them on the street. One of the new developments during this millennium has been the emergence of eco friendly fashion as a mainstream trend.


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