Everyone I know has different decades they are drawn to stylistically. I love the floral, feminine dresses of the 1940’s mixed with the hip hugging, high-waist Levi’s of the 1970’s. Finding the decades that spoke to me took time, and it is ever evolving! This post aims to help you differentiate the styles of each decade from 1920’s to 1990’s, so you too can find what decade you are drawn to.
drop waist dresses – pants – cloche hats – fur coats
There was more to the 1920’s than the iconic flapper girl. The 1920’s were a time of freedom, independence, and movement for women. Women transformed wardrobes from the stuffy corset bodices of the 1910’s to loose-fitting, drop waist dresses, and uh-oh…pants. That’s right, for the first time in U.S. history, women began wearing pants and cutting their hair as short as men’s. Additionally, as the economy soared, fur coats became more accessible. One of the most iconic looks of the 1920’s is the cloche hat. Translating in french to bell, the cloche hat was a transformation from the extreme wide brim hats of the 1910’s.
If you think women such as Josephine Baker, Dolores Del Rio and Coco Chanel are the best dressed, then the 1920’s may be your decade.
liquid satin – bias cut – lounge pant – return of the waist
The 1930’s and the influence of Hollywood. The 1930’s were a time of renewal, progress, and financial improvement. The U.S. had just experienced The Great Depression and were ready for financial gain. New methods of factory produced fabrics emerged, allowing anyone the opportunity to look glamorous. Liquid satin, champagne gowns quickly began emerging as stars such as Jean Harlow effortlessly moved down the red carpet in silky material. New discoveries such as the bias cut transformed fashion as designers found a new method in which fabric hugs the body naturally. As the 1920’s rejected the femininity of waist hugging garments, the 1930’s accepted and ran with this style in both dresses and lounge pants.
If you think women such as Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, and Jean Harlow are the best dressed, then the 1930’s may be your decade.
boxy shoulders – peter pan collars – midi length skirts
Sophistication emerges from difficulties of World War II. The 1940’s were a time of conservation, sophistication, and advancement. It was time to move away from the glamorous styles of the 1930’s, such as bias cut gowns. World War II impacted half of the decade and designers and fashionistas alike were told not to be wasteful in their garments. While the men were away at war, the women worked industrial jobs. Boxy shoulders and collars, such as the peter pan collar, were born from this gender fluid time. Women began pushing boundaries with midi – length skirts and pants gained popularity once again. The 1940’s proved that femininity comes in many forms.
If you think women such as Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lauren Bacall are the best dressed then the 1940’s may be your decade.
pencil skirt – scarves – sweaters – cigarette pants
It was more than just the poodle skirt. The 1950’s were conservative and affluent times. World War II was officially over and the economy was booming. Technological advancements included speedier manufacturing of textiles and fabrics, making glamour much more accessible to the masses. Women returned to domesticated lifestyles while men were the primary breadwinners, freeing up more time for shopping in new fashion catalogs that supplied the latest trends. Conservative ideologies were the norm, making full length skirts and sweaters popular. The 1950’s were also the return of the waist. Women began wearing high waist cigarette pants, pencil skirts, and full skirts cinched in the waist to fully show their curvaceous figures.
If you think women such as Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe are the best dressed, then the 1950’s may be your decade.
bright patterns – shapeless dresses – mini skirts
The birth of the mini skirt. The 1960’s was an interesting decade for fashion in that they seem to be two decades in one. The early 1960’s were still under the influence of the 1950’s. Jackie Onassis was a fashion icon and women aspired to look as classy in business suits and pillbox hats as she did – and then everything changed. After the death of President Kennedy, Jackie O. fell out of the spotlight and women no longer had her to look to for fashion trends. They began to rebel against the conservative ideologies instilled in them from the 1950’s. Skirts began to inch a little higher, thus the birth of the mini skirt. Women began pushing boundaries with shorter skirts and showing more skin – in fact, this is the most skin ever before shown in fashion. Additionally, Beatlemania began spreading like wildfire and with it came the Mod style from across the pond. Women and men alike began embracing bright, unique patterns in their clothing.
If you think women such as Twiggy, Jackie Onassis, and Brigitte Bardot are the best dressed, then the 1960’s may be your decade.
crop tops – denim flares – butterfly collars
The time of the fashion revolution. Just as its predecessor the 1960’s, the 1970’s were a time of nonconformity and freedom. With the 1970’s came the birth of many culture movements such as disco, hippies, and punks, which pushed for the rise of personal style. People began to reject fashion trends that their parents had once accepted. They felt free to try new styles and push fashion norms. Many modern day trends were born from the stylistic freedom of the 1970’s, such as the popular crop top. Women and men’s fashion began to coincide and become fluid with one another. Denim flare pants, track suits, crop tops, and butterfly collars are just some of the trends born in the 1970’s.
If you think women such as Anjelica Huston, Pam Grier, and Cher are the best dressed, then the 1970’s may be your decade.
shoulder pads – bodysuits – leggings
To over do it, or not to over do it – that is the question. The 1980’s was the golden age of experimental fashion. Just as the 1970’s, the 1980’s told women and men to step out of their comfort zones and try something new, only on a much grander scale. The economy was booming, leaving designers to try all sorts of styles with no consequences. It was a time of grandiosity and flash, which is mirrored in the fashion. Large, excessive shoulder pads made their way into every blazer, large and shiny costume jewelry became the norm, and teased hair and loud make-up were seen on all different people. Whether you were a punk or a prep, your hair was big and your make-up was loud. The 1980’s also introduced the fitness boom, making leggings and bodysuits popular in everyday wear. Love it or hate it, you have to admit some 1980’s trends are here to stay.
If you think women such as Madonna, Debbie Harry, and Mollie Ringwald are the best dressed, then the 1980’s may be your decade.
denim – flannels – crop top – halterneck
Denim over everything. The 1980’s left the 1990’s with the freedom of expression and in the inspiration to try new looks. The 1990’s took many fashion trends of the 1980’s and toned them down, making them appear more sophisticated, such as the blazer. In the early 1990’s, a new cultural movement called “grunge” gained popularity. With it, came the movement of “anti-fashion”. Women began wearing oversize flannels, baggy T-Shirts and ripped boyfriend jeans. Men and woman also wore high waist jeans, just as their parents had done in the 1970’s.
If you think women such as Lisa Bonet, Winona Ryder, and Jennifer Aniston are the best dressed, then the 1990’s may be your decade.
I hope you enjoyed this quick summary but most importantly I hope you found the decade that speaks to you! When I was searching for my decade I wished I had had a guide, so hopefully this was useful to you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself dipping your likes into multiple decades or if it changes in a couple of years. That’s the fun thing about fashion, its always changing! So leave a comment telling me which decade you’re drawn to and why. Thanks for reading ~