Beauty alone can turn heads, but fashion can be contagious and take it to the next level. The elegance of being able to rock the hottest looks helps boost confidence. When talented fashion icons style trends to create high-quality, unique ensembles they can make you unstoppable.
Fashion trends have existed for centuries and are continually passed down from generation to generation. Repeated or reimagined trends are common and tend to cycle every couple of decades or so.
While there were many fashion eras in the past, a few are particularly worth noting. The adoption of these fashion phenomena by well-known dignitaries and celebrities launched them into widespread tendencies.
Read on to learn more about the most influential fashion eras in history.
- The Post-Medieval Era
- The Period of Lights
- The Victorian Compromise Period
- The Arts Décoratifs Period
- The War Era
- The Groovy 60s
- The 2010s
The Post-Medieval Era
Spanning from the 1500s to the 1800s, the post-medieval era is also known as the “reawakening period,” or as we most commonly know it, the Renaissance. Filled with philosophers and authors, this period prioritized light, beauty, and new ways of thinking.
In terms of fashion, the Renaissance held high fashion standards. In fact, the wealthy could be seen wearing more elaborate clothing made from brocade or velvet, while the lower class wore simpler clothes in linen, wool, or flax.
Top trending styles for women included tight-bodiced flare dresses and ankle-length gowns. Free corsets were also rampant during this period.
Men popularly donned collarless and cuffless shirts. They loved doublets and sleeveless jackets. Stockings were also prominent and short trousers which stopped at the knee.
The Period of Lights
The 18th century is often referred to as the period of lights. This is the century which brought us Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and – led by her example – extravagance ruled the fashion world.
The middle class played a significant role, from the use of white wigs to Rococo styles. Art had become more prominent in this period, and culture was highly regarded as central to any refined individual’s life.
Being one of the most influential fashion eras, stylists competed for fame, so they tried several styles, not minding how ridiculous they would look. Women styled outfits with waist-fitting borders and dropping necklines that revealed their décolleté.
Pagoda sleeves with flare ends and silhouettes were the elegance women wore. There were also under-skirt panniers for formal events that projected their tiny waists. These outfits made them look noble.
The Victorian Compromise Period
Named after Queen Victoria of Britain, this period began in 1837 and ended in 1901. Fashion in this period was styled with class and fortune. At the beginning of this era, women were attached to oversized dresses. However, in the 1880s, the trend changed to bustle dresses.
Corsets were still in wide use and were proudly adorned. Women elegantly wore hats and bonnets indoors and outdoors. But years later, women slowly abandoned corsets and opted for freer artistic dresses.
Men during this time extended their trousers from the knees to the ankles. As a prevalent trend in one of the most potent fashion eras, they wore these longer and straight trousers for both daytime and evening occasions. The “gents” loved simple outfits and popularly adopted the use of top hats. Beards were also popular during this time, as were long coats, waistcoats, and shirts with high collars.
The Arts Décoratifs Times
This relatively short period of time, spanning from the 1920s to the 1930s, the Art Décoratifs times took fashion to a while new level.
Stylists, artists, and novelists were vital role players in the affluent nature of designs, making this period one of the most memorable fashion eras in history.
Ladies preferred the use of short hemmed dresses and low-sitting hairstyles. Simplicity was paramount as fashionistas pulled away from middle-age and 18th-century trends. Instead of corsets, women loved partially cut dresses styled with colorful accessories, including gold or silver.
There were prominent designers like Gabrielle Chanel and Paul Poiret. Poiret, a French stylist, was a founding influencer for the fashion styles. Paul drew his inspiration from folk cultures and innovative arts.
Daytime looks for women in the 1920s, involved slim and steep dresses that mostly had needlework and geometric designs. Patterned designs and appliques were also in.
After dusk, ladies wore more extravagant outfits that expressed jazzy feelings. They styled short velvet and silk gowns with pearly and metallic embroidery. Feathers and boas accentuated their steps as they walked or strutted down the street. Looking back, women had a more youthful look in this era than in previous fashion periods.
In the 1930s, Hollywood celebrities like Shirley Temple and British princesses Margaret and Elizabeth were primary drivers for fashion trends among all demographics including women, men, and children.
Outfits were easier to purchase as production costs for clothing lowered, making it easier to imitate the elites. Hollywood idols like Katherine Hepburn trended leisure trousers in the women’s section. They were wide at the legs and high above the waist, just like sailors’ trousers.
Marlene Dietrich, an American actress, was a driver for baggy and casual trousers. Fur coats and Mary Jane heels were widely used during this time as well.
Prince Edward of Windsor was a prominent idol in this era for men’s fashion. He regularly styled the London cut, a suit that gained global acceptance which was a modernized version of the classic drape cut suit. Prince Edward loved shoulder-soft jackets with full-chested vertical drapes.
Other contemporary icons were actors Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. Apart from the London cut, dark-colored (gray and dark blue) and bright-colored suits were styled for different weather conditions. Many were striped, checked, or plaid as longer jackets were popular in wardrobes.
As simplicity also dominated men’s fashion, golf shorts and argyle socks were very commonly worn.
The War Era
During the 1940s, women fought for acceptable use of trousers. Up until this point it was unusual and in some cases not allowed for women to wear trousers as they were confined to skirts and dresses.
The dynamics of men and women during the war shifted this way of thinking. As more and more men were sent on military assignments, women flooded the workforce for the first time in history. As many of the jobs women took were in factories, the acceptance of trousers on women grew, since skirts were not comfortable to work in.
Time passed, and trousers regardless of gener became mainstream. Women started incorporating men’s fashion styles in their outfits, including coats, hats, and dresses. Stim silhouettes, sweaters, military jackets, and short tight skirts were trendy.
These more masculine looks were striking for the time, but quickly became mainstream as women continued to take over both roles – working in and outside the home – with grace and determination.
Years later, the Dior fashion brand surfaced, and women took a while tol adjust and return to overly feminine designs.
The Groovy 60s
Seen as a radical era of fashion, the 1960s saw a huge leap in different and somewhat outrageous looks for the time. Chic styles also started during this period and have continued to trend today.
Mostly seen as something for younger demographics, fashion during this time had a different energy from previous generations. American styles were the kings of the decade and were heavily influenced.
Women no longer wanted knee-length or flared skirts. Instead, mini skirts introduced by Mary Quant were the new styles because they seemed more fashionable and tended to embody womanhood.
Black fashion was also on the rise as the civil rights movement started to challenge entrenched racism that had – until that point – seemed to force white appearance and style as the “norm,” excluding other definitions of beauty from the mainstream. This included everything from mini-skirts which helped women proudly show of their skin tones to natural hairstyles of African Americans, known at the time as “Afros.”
The women were not the only ones caught in this fashion revival. Men were more casual and also stylish. They wore patterned and colorful outfits that proudly revealed their masculinity. Men like the Beatles and Mick Jagger were huge fashion influencers, driving futurism into fashion. Jimi Hendrix was also a notable fashion figure.
The 1960s were turnaround moments for fashion, but the 2010s is quickly ranking among the most influential fashion eras. Women’s hairstyles varied, although many from all over – including Russia, Ireland, Britain, Australia, Korea, and other European areas – preferred naturally colored, simple, long, and straight hairstyles like in the 2000s.
Extensions became popular to mimic fuller and lengthier locks. In places like the United States and Israel, big curly hairstyles, perms, and kinky hair were trendy in the first two years of the decade.
In the mid-2019s, some American ladies with curly hair resorted to using wigs and weaves to imitate music stars like Ellie Goulding, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus. The changes helped them avoid relaxers that damaged their hair like in the 2000s. Box braids were also fashionable in the 2010s.
Hairstyles which were once only used within communities of color, like cornrows or box braids, began getting adopted and appropriated by white celebrities. This, in turn made the style explode, even though this appropriation was problematic.
Man buns were prevalent among young men and teenagers in 2014. Similar to Chinese and Samurai styles, they were made popular by American and British notables like Gareth Bale, Orlando Bloom, David Beckham, Bradley Cooper, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
It was common among British fashionistas to allow their undercuts to stay unstyled, like the Beatles and the Britpop groups of the 90s. This and Buzzcut styles were popular in Egypt, Algeria, Brazil, and Paraguay. This continued from 2010 till the beginning of the 2020s.
Tattoos were also a go-for trend as they were popularized by icons like Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Cardi B, Justin Bieber, and Post Malone. Tattoo designer Kat Von D organized a tattoo tour for celebrities in 2010. Her tattoo designs imitated the pinup icons of the 40s and 50s, reiterating just how cyclical fashion can be.
No matter what new styles come along, there is always a rehash of former fashion trends that make an appearance.
Each fashion era brought distinct, fresh ideas with it. Like mini-revolutions, each period introduced new styles while preserving remnants of past trends. Celebrities did an excellent job of showcasing their fashion tastes and making them go-to fashions for everyone.
While the eras listed here were the most influential, subsequent ones might have more significant influence than we’ve ever seen before.