Fashion Through The Decades – Staples That Defined History

Fashion Through The Decades – Staples That Defined History

Throughout the decades, there have been significant changes in technology, cultural and societal norms, and fashion. Fashion has reflected these critical developments in its ever-changing cycle of trends. Fashion through the decades has served as a significant source of inspiration for present-day designers, inspiring them to come up with new designs and trends that are a part of our evolution. Below, we will look at the most prominent fashion trends through the decades.

Fashion through the decades – 1990 

The S-bend corset

The S-bend corset became prominent in this era, called the Edwardian period. This corset was usually referred to as the “health” corset, which was, frankly speaking, not helpful in improving one’s health. Towards the end of this decade, fashion shifted away from the exaggerated hourglass silhouettes with tiny waists achieved through corsets and started to feature girdles. 


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bustles became a part of women’s dresses. Used primarily to add fullness and support to the drapery of women’s dresses, women wore bustles under the skirt, just below the waist, to prevent presses from dragging on the floor. Sometimes, women wore bustles with crinolines, steel frames positioned under the skirt towards the rear to support bustles and distend the rear section.


In the early 20th century, gloves became ubiquitous regardless of the occasion. During the day, women wore leather and suede gloves around the house. On evenings or special events, women wore silk-lined gloves, which were generally longer. During winter, women wore gloves lined with wool or fur to keep warm.

Fashion through the decades – 1910 

Jupe Culotte 

French designer Paul Poiret was the first couturier to break away from the Edwardian style by introducing vibrant colors and looser silhouettes in his designs. Poiret rose to fame in Paris to become one of the most famous couture houses before World War I and created the Jupe Culotte. Poiret introduced the Jupe Culotte in 1911, heavily inspired by the harem pant style prevalent in many Middle Eastern countries.  

The Lampshade tunic

During the 1910s, Poiret also invented the lampshade tunic. The protruding silhouette featured a worn hoop that created a circular shape at the bottom, earning it the “lampshade” name. This style was one of Poiret’s contemporary designs meant to be worn without corsets, as Poiret was looking for a way for women to wear clothing without corsets. This style eventually influenced fashion in this era.

The hobble skirt

In this decade, hemlines, usually at floor-sweeping lengths, were raised a little over the ankle, making it less of a chore for ladies when walking. However, the “hobble skirt” became a trend and was popularised by designer Paul Poiret. The hobble skirt was an ankle-length skirt that was narrow through the ankles and sometimes banded across the knee. The design of the hobble skirt significantly reduced ease of movement and led to injuries.

Fashion through the decades – 1920s 

Flapper style

The flapper style was a note-worthy fashion trend in the 1920s. Flapper ensembles consisted of relaxed drop waists, ornately beaded designs, feathered accessories, and other embellishments. 

In the 1929s, societal changes after the first world war caused women to feel empowered because women were now allowed to vote. The prevalence of Jazz also created recklessness in youths’ behavior. These societal changes made perfect timing for the flapper dress to make a stylish, unconventional statement, along with the then-popular Bob hairstyle.

The Cloche hat

The Cloche hat became popular in the 1920s due to its unique bell shape. The Cloche hat was an accessory found in every woman’s wardrobe. The Cloche hat had a small crown and small and low brim accentuated by a bow, flower, or other decorative materials. Women often had to tip back their heads while wearing the hat, as the low-brimmed had made it somewhat difficult to see.

Fashion through the decades – 1930s 

Black evening gowns

The 1930s are regarded as “The Golden Age of Glamour” because of the socio-economic context following the great depression. This decade was all about accessible extravagance. The “little black dress” made by Coco Chanel became popular in the 1930s. The dress was simple but sophisticated, and people began to see black as a chic and elegant color, not just as a color used to identify servants and widows.

Bias-cut gowns caused the U.S ready-to-wear market to take off dramatically.

In this decade, film icons like Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, and Joan Crawford dazzled in glamorous gowns and tailored skirt suits. The Madeleine Vionnet bias cut inspired the silhouette of this era. This cut is a technique that allows fabrics to drape over the body. Due to the popularisation of the Madeleine Vionnet bias cut, the silhouette was long and lean.

Fur stole

By the 1930s, fur in fashion became a prominent trend and was seen daily. Fur coats were popular at the beginning of the 1920s, but the styles began to shrink and shorten as they became acceptable to wear during the daytime. In the 1930s, fur began to be seen as a luxury item as its prices began to climb. 

Fashion through the decades – 1940s 

Boiler suits

In the U.S, during the early 1940s, men got drafted for war. A considerable need arose for more women to be brought into the workforce. From the office to factory work, women began to take over repositions previously held by men. Some of these occupations required work-wear clothing that was specifically designed for women.

Hence, women began wearing boiler suits or coveralls for more physically demanding work. These boiler suits were typically denim or heavyweight cotton canvas, with buttons down the front. They were generally loose-fitting throughout, making them easy to wear and remove.

The industrial look of this boiler suit changed the course of womenswear over the next decade, proving that women could work men’s jobs perfectly fine and that the women’s wardrobe didn’t have to be so constricting.

The Bikini

The 1960s saw the increasing popularity of the two-piece swimsuit. This two-piece swimsuit was a less predictable result of wartime due to the fabric rationing enforced by the U.S government beginning in 1943. Three years later, Louis Réard introduced the bikini we know today, daring to cut it below the belly button. People didn’t fully accept the style until decades later.

Fashion through the decades – 1950s 

Dior’s new look

Although Christian Dior’s new look designs debuted in 1947, they became popular immediately after their debut but were more popular through the 1950s. In women’s fashion, the new look silhouette was a significant break from the long and flowing utilitarian designs of women’s clothes. The look had a nipped-in waist, an accentuated bust, and a voluminous taffeta-layered skirt. The new look enhanced femininity and was an antithesis of wartime outfits. The designs were so different from the then-present designs that they were named “The New Look.” This new look became very popular with the middle-class, elites, and even celebrities.

Pearl Jewelry

Due to the baby boom generation post World War II, the 1950s brought about domestic refinement for women in western culture. Women were expected to stay home, do chores, and look beautiful while performing household chores. During this time, pearl jewelry became popular, and pearl necklaces were closely related to women’s elegance in this era.

Peter Pan collar

In the 1950s, women commonly wore swinging circle skirts, often paired with an elegant Peter Pan collar. The collar had a flat design with rounded collars. The collar was explicitly made for a Peter and Wendy Disney movie and was worn by Peter pan. The name Peter Pan collar soon stuck.

Fashion through the decades.- the 1960s 

The pillbox hat

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of elegance and was known for famously wearing her pillbox hat. Because she was one of the most prominent American fashion icons then, the style soon caught on as part of a woman’s everyday outfit both in and outside America.

Baby doll dresses

The babydoll dress, which had a high empire waistline combined with an Ultra-short hem length, was the ultimate articulation of the modern feminist statement that women wanted to make. Women were generally seeking out styles that weren’t restricting.

The miniskirt

In this decade, hemlines skyrocketed northwards. Although initially controversial, the miniskirt became popular in the 1960s when British Designer Mary Quaint began to make them. She claimed that if the skirts weren’t short enough, “the Chelsea girls” with incredible legs would cut them short.

Due to advancements in fabric technology, two hues became popular, two of which are white and silver. A particular shade of white, called “optical white,” was achieved by introducing a new bleach in the 1960s.

Fashion through the decades – 1970s

Bell-bottom trousers 

Bell bottom trousers became popular at the end of the 1960s and began to get less trendy towards the end of the 1970s. Sailors initially wore bell bottoms in the early 19th century, but they became a fashion trend in the 1970s.  

Platform heels

Platform heels are said to have originated in 15th-century Venice, but they became popular during the decade of the disco. With the increased popularity of the disco culture, platform heels began to match the excessiveness that accompanied outfits associated with the dance. Heels got higher, and platforms followed.

Synthetic fabric clothes were in trend, heels got taller, and jeans got wider. The punk scene also thrived, led by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in tattered t-shirts and plaid designs.

Fashion through the decades – 1980s 

Leather Jacket

As disco faded and metal rose to be the trend, another drastic aesthetic shift occurred in fashion. The rise of black leather jackets over a band t-shirt starkly contrasted the loose styles and floral of decades past. Madonna’s “papa don’t preach” 1986 musical video was instrumental in bringing the punk style and leather jackets more into the mainstream.

Shoulder Pads

In the 1980s, many women entered the workforce, leading to what’s now known as power dressing. This power dressing was about wearing professional menswear styles integrated into female designs to look professional. Shoulder pads were a big part of the design and integrated into women’s blazers and even some dresses.


Throughout the 1980s, leggings were ubiquitous. Spandex, worn with leg-warmers, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, and scrunches, also became a fashion trend in its own right. 

Fashion through the decades – 1990s

Plaid set

The all-plaid trend of matching blazers and skirts became trendy in the 1990s. The look was inspired by high fashion designers, including Vivienne Westwood, who debuted a plaid skirt on the runway s year before her fall/winter 1994 Collection worn by ‘90s supermodel Kate Moss.

Minimalist Fashion

During this decade, youths and teenagers embraced baggy flannels and floral prints. Also, with the rise of grunge, minimalism became a huge fashion trend in the 1990s. Slip dresses, sheer fabrics, and a black, grey, and white palette began to rule the runway. People began dressing like artists like TLC, Aaliyah, and Salt-N-Pepa when hip-hop went mainstream.

Fashion staples in the 2000s 

The tracksuit, trucker hats, and tiny sunglasses

The tracksuit was a popular fashion trend in the first decade of the 21st century, beloved by the likes of J.Lo, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears. Graphic T-shirts, bare midriffs, and logo-heavy “it” bags also reigned supreme. The velour tracksuit is one that gained popularity.

Trucker hats were also a major fashion trend in the early 2000s, and tiny sunglasses soon came into fashion and became a trend.

Final Thoughts

Fashion through the decades has evolved into various trends and styles. Some of the most prominent fashion trends throughout the 20th century have already been listed for you above. We hope you now have insight into how fashion has evolved through the decades.

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