Then and Now: A History and Timeline of Women’s Fashion – Susanhayrethelwell

Meryl Streep plays the iconic Miranda Priesly in The Devil Wears Prada and drops wisdom on all girls who love or hate women’s fashion. When Andy the intern (Anne Hathaway) giggles at how seriously Miranda (Meryl Streep) and her team take “this stuff”, referring to clothes, Miranda delivers an iconic speech on fashion replying,

"’This...Stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select , I don't know that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you are trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It's not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent - wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact you're wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of ‘stuff.’

BOOM.
Can you imagine? There’s a group of people out there that have already predetermined that YOU would pick out the outfit you’ve picked out today. Crazy right? It’s kind of like the time you thought about a swimsuit and then it suddenly popped up on your Facebook newsfeed. Scary? Maybe. That’s something you’ll have to take up with Mark Zuckerberg.

But...
whether you take fashion seriously or not seriously at all, every morning when you wake up, you do wear something. And your choices have likely evolved over time. You aren’t wearing t-shirts under your strapped dresses anymore and you thought chokers were a thing of the past until suddenly, they were “in” again.

Miranda Priesly revealed how influential people, culture, politics, time, and even economics are on American women’s fashion. Watch the styles, fabrics, and designs in this timeline of women’s fashion transform and see what was trending then and now.



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graphic of the 20's flapper girl

The Roaring Twenties gave rise to growth and optimism as America became prosperous after WWI. 1920’s and 1930’s fashion often looked like the outfits featured in The Great Gatsby a broadway musical, Chicago Flapper girls wore shorter, shapeless, shift dresses, and flappers were most luxurious when covered in sequins. These trends showed how women were ready to unlock the shackles of the Victorian era with looser and shorter fits.

The more androgynous, masculine look for women became common in contrast to the former strict, corset-wearing era of the 1910s. Popular fashion phrases included the “boyish bob” and the “garconne frock."


Still Trending Today:
  • Wide Legged Pants
  • Strands of Pearls
  • Sequin Dresses
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graphic of fashion in the 40's and 50's

Regardless of the difficulties of WWII, that didn’t stop fashion from fighting its way through the 40s. Often referred to as the “utility clothing era,” women were forced to get more creative. In 1942, the U.S. restricted certain fabrics, banned cuffs, hoods, and limited the circumference of a women’s skirt. The two piece swimsuit became more popular than ever because cutting out the midriff saved fabric. Styles reflected the environment of war. Shoulder pads in blouses and women’s suits or the “bomber jacket” and “military jacket” became items worth fighting for.

In contrast, the 1950s were all about consumerism and excess. Post-war meant post-celebrations. Designers used more fabric and colors to make pleats, collars, and gloves from previously rationed materials. The Baby Boomer era officially began as men returned home from the war. Women’s clothes became advertised as something that would make them more appealing to a husband or “baby daddy.”


Still Trending Today:
  • Hobble skirt: known today as a pencil skirt.
  • Ballet skirt
  • Varsity Wear
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graphic of what fashion was like in the 60's

For 1960s inspo think Hairspray, Twiggy, the birth of “mod,” and the famous fashion icon, first lady Jackie Kennedy. She helped to introduce leopard prints to the world and both real and faux versions became hot commodities in coats, hats and dresses.

Surprisingly, highlighting waistlines seemed to become a thing of the past and baggier, boxier dresses were more popular in the early 60s. Painted on lower eyelashes, the jumper dress, big bows, large round collars, checkered prints or color blocks, pastels, and polka dots were all dress details that were inspired by major pop and modern art movements. As miniskirts became more and more popular, so did the item that would protect the legs in them, patterned tights!


Still Trending Today:
  • Mod Style Boots: known today as knee high or go-go boots
  • Waist Free Dress
  • Patterned Tights
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a 70's fashion example

The variety that accompanied this decade mixed hippie/Bohemian, punk rock, and sporty-chic styles and gave rise to the “make love, not war” era. Icons like Joni Mitchell and Cher lead the country in fringe and natural hair. Lots of hair was involved for both sexes and gave the 70s an androgynous appeal. Platform shoes appeared for both men and women and both sexes started wearing high waisted pants too. The mid-to-late 1970s saw a suits trend emerge. Leisure suits, pant suits, jump suits and even track suits became popular from coast to coast.Some say the 70s was the birth of “athleisure” wear.


Still Trending Today:
  • Fringe
  • High Waisted Pants
  • Suede
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What fashion looked like in the 80's.

The 1980s was a time for walkmans, rubix cubes, and ABC afterschool specials. The fashion reflected the relaxed air of the nation with oversized knit sweaters and denim jackets galore.

Perms and big hair, spandex, and graphic tees became 80s staples. You could generally spot 80s fashion from miles away because the young kids started wearing neon EVERYTHING.

Rock bands made acid-washed jeans (which weren’t actually washed in acid) popular and purses were totally unnecessary when you had a good ole’ handy fanny pack.


Still Trending Today:
  • Oversized Tops, Sweaters, Jackets
  • Fanny Packs
  • Spandex: known today as yoga pants
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 A fashion example from the 90's

Less was more in the 1990s with backless tops, halter tops, and the beginning of babydoll slip dresses. They often came in satin and to make them more modest, would wear a white shirt over the top because you could see them through it, no problem.

Any 90s sitcom featured at the very least one person in overalls. Girls studied Cher from the 90s hit, Clueless, and rocked the knee-high socks, plaid, cinched belts, and hats in all varieties.

While no one understood the science behind mood rings, everyone wore it at least one with a choker to match. From Jennifer Aniston to Britney Spears, the packs of butterfly clips styled into hair or a zig-zag hair band was a must and sunglasses were coolest if they were square-shaped.


Still Trending Today:
  • Denim Jumpers
  • Chokers
  • Plaid
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Three different women representing fashion of the 2000's to now.

While popcorn shirts and bedazzled jeans are unlikely to make a comeback in the 2000s, the time seems to be an explosion of every decade. Current trends have been inspired by the best of our past, and we love it. Women throughout time have worn their emotions on their sleeves, legs, and everything else. Fashion is ever changing but there’s some trends that have withstood the test of time. Next time you shop, see what decade is inspiring your current OOTD.



Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
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