style evolution: how fashion has evolved over the years

Style Evolution: How Fashion Has Evolved Over The Years

Over the past century, fashion has seen a vast number of transformations. From the bone-cinching girdles and ankle-length skirts of yesteryear to today’s Nike leggings and Vans sneakers, it’s incredible how much technology, politics, culture, and social norms have shaped fashion trends

And although we look to the past for inspiration – from ’70s platforms to high-waisted bikinis in the ’40s – many of these styles remain popular today. So take a stroll down memory lane with us to explore some of the most prominent style influences throughout history; who knows which looks you’ll bring back into your wardrobe!

1. The S-Bend Corset In The 1900s

The “S-bend” or “health” corset, which altered the wearer’s posture and (spoiler) wasn’t any healthier than its predecessors, was first developed in the Edwardian era. The dramatic hourglass silhouettes that women had been expected to wear for decades gave way toward the end of the decade to girdles. Wool sweaters, skirts, and blazers were commonplace in the leisure wear worn by women.

2. The 1910s: The Hobble Skirt

Finally, hemlines began to creep up a little past the ankle, which made walking less of a chore. Unfortunately, this development co-occurred with the “hobble skirt” trend, popularised by designer Paul Poiret and made women feel constrained and occasionally hurt. Although this fad did not last long, its more practical duster coats and lace-up boots are echoed in fashion today.

Hobble Skirt

3. The 1920s: Flapper Style

Flapper outfits are easily distinguished as the style of the ’20s due to their loose drop waists decorated with beads and feathers. However, perhaps the most influential trend was a more discreet one: Coco Chanel popularized the little black dress in that decade. This simplified yet classy garment attracted attention as it shifted black from being a color associated with servants and widows to representing chicness.

4. The 1930s: Bias-Cut Gowns

When the American public suffered from the Great Depression, the silver screen offered a welcome escape. Movie legends like Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Bette Davis shone in elegant gowns and well-tailored skirt suits. As a result of Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut, which allowed the fabric to drape over the body, the silhouette was long and lean.

5. The 1940s: The Bikini

Due to fabric rationing enforced by the U.S. government beginning in 1943, one of the less predictable consequences of war was the increasing popularity of two-piece swimsuits. Movie legends like Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Bette Davis shone in elegant gowns and well-tailored skirt suits. This style would only be fully embraced for a while to come.

6. The 1950s: The “New Look”

Christian Dior introduced the “New Look” silhouette in 1947, the antithesis of wartime garb with its nipped-in waist, structured bust, and voluminous taffeta layered skirt. Women’s lighter garments in the states maintained this femininity, including cinch-waist dresses, full mid-calf skirts, and sweater sets.

New Look

7. The 1960s: The Miniskirt

Mary Quant’s London Bazaar boutique is widely acknowledged as the origin of the hemlines moving northward in the 1960s. Quant revealed to The New York Times that if she didn’t make them short enough, Chelsea girls—who had great legs—would modify them themselves. While initially controversial, this shift became widely accepted. 

To embrace the Space Age aesthetic, white and silver were two popular colors, thanks to advancements in fabric technology. Historian Valérie Guillaume has suggested that André Courrèges’s signature optical white is likely due to a new bleach introduced in the late ’60s.

8. The 1970s: Platform Heels

In the ’70s, jeans got wider, heels got taller, and synthetic fabrics flooded fashion stores. Halston’s Studio 54-dwelling cool girls popularised disco trends like halter tops made of urex and palazzo pants in New York. The tattered disco trends reached the mainstream while punk flourished on the other side of the Atlantic, led by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in torn T-shirts and safety-pinned plaid.

9. The 1980s: Leggings

The ’80s saw leggings become as popular then as they are now. Due to the era’s aerobics craze, Spandex became a genuine fashion trend paired with leg warmers, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, and scrunchies. In addition, professionals hoping to make their mark in the corporate world coveted the broad-shouldered power suit. 

In her book A Cultural History of Fashion in the 20th and 21st Centuries, Bonnie English claims that women emphasized their positions of power within significant corporations through their choice of clothing. If you were determined to break through that glass ceiling, what better way than with flattering shoulder pads?


10. The 1990s: Minimalism

The 90s was a time of excellent youth culture, which saw the triumphant rise of grunge due to Marc Jacobs’s S/S 93 collection for Perry Ellis, featured in Vogue. Teens and young adults followed the trend of wearing baggy flannels and floral prints- still seen in vintage stores. 

Minimalism also affected fashion trends, with slip dresses, sheer fabrics, and a color scheme of black, grey, and white popularised on the runway. MTV had a powerful influence on generations who took inspiration from artists such as TLC, Aaliyah, and Salt-N-Pepa when creating their looks.

11. The 2000s: The Tracksuit

Ah, yes, the decade of the tracksuit. Juicy Couture’s terry cloth and velour sweatsuits, adored by stars like J.Lo, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears in the early to mid-aughts, have become a beloved item that some celebrities – and even the brand itself – are trying to revive. 

Graphic T-shirts were worn too (“Team Aniston” versus “Team Jolie,” anyone?), as were bare midriffs and logo-heavy It bags. Hopefully, the trucker-hat trend will remain in 2004, although some attempts to bring it back.

12. The 2010s: Athleisure

Skin skinny jeans have become firmly accepted as mainstream fashion evolution as we approach the decade’s end. Despite many articles proclaiming their demise, these jeans are here to stay. The same is true for athleisure and, to a lesser extent, normcore. 

We’ve fallen in love with the comfort and style associated with wearing trainers, tees, and hoodies throughout our daily lives, and nobody wants to return to the pre-trend era.

You can also check: Statement Accessories To Make You Look More Fashionable


In A Nutshell

Many people speak and understand it, but they do so differently. One of the most competitive and well-respected industries in the world is fashion. Fashion not only enhances your appearance but also boosts your self-esteem. Isn’t that the only thing that matters?

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