American Fashion Trends Through the Decades

It always amazes us how fashion trends from the past never vanish for good but rather resurrect here and there decades after to be accepted as something chic and exclusive. Read more...

Category: Lifestyle     Written By: Eva William

American Fashion Trends Through the Decades

It always amazes us how fashion trends from the past never vanish for good but rather resurrect here and there decades after to be accepted as something chic and exclusive. This is why it is always a must to learn about the trends, understanding prevailing patterns of every decade, what they actually were dominated by, and how they reflected contemporary political and cultural situations. So, let's dive into the progression of American fashion through the decades to decide for ourselves what ten years we’d give our preferences to.

The Roaring Twenties (1920s)

This period was in the grip of the post-war era and triggered the feelings of freedom to American fashion styles. Before 1920, ladies of the states were attempting to look much older than their age: cosmetics and clothes were the primer things to help them in their endeavors. From now on, that changed. No more restrictive sketches and patterns of the past: females started giving their preferences to loose-fitting or flapper dresses of knee length. They wore tight-fit or cloche that hid their amazing chopped/bobbed hair under them and covered their foreheads and ears. During this new turn of American fashion, a man could choose less formal clothing: shirts were available in shades of pastel, sometimes even striped, and always with white collars.

The Great Depression Era (1930s)

Wide-shoulder dresses came in public. The sleeves were predominantly puffy, and the waistlines were always belted. Alongside puffy sleeves and wide shoulders, the neckline was always modest. Such dresses were frequently decorated with buttons and ruffles. At home, ladies chose practical but colorful cotton clothing, changing it to more elegant and well-tailored outfits accessorized with gloves, furs, or jewelry in public. The 1930s were the period of innovative women's fashion trends: Hollywood celebrities started appearing in wide-legged trousers on screen. Regarding the hairdos, they were short or middy and curly.

The War-Time Forties (1940s)

During war times, both females and males used repurposed/older outfits instead of purchasing something brand-new. More women appeared in trousers and special female suits with tucked-in blouses, as this outfit seemed to be more practical and matched the time when both sexes worked side by side. In terms of female dresses of that time, trending ladies’ fashion was very simple and fitted, shoulders were boxy, and the length covered knees - very uniform-like. The designer Claire McCardell introduced comfortable and sporty female dresses made from denim or jersey fabrics. 

The Fabulous Fifties (1950s)

When researchers are getting back into the history of American fashion, it’s the 50s that they think of with great love. This is the decennial of real fashion affected predominantly by Hollywood, in general, and Merilyn Monroe, in particular. This is the Hourglass shape age when wrists were supposed to be teeny-tiny and hips and breasts - very pronounced. In the post-war years, designers like Dior were known for conceptualizing female forms. And this new direction was totally favored by American women. 

Marilyn Monroe became the idol for her sensuality and femininity: she helped lots of women in the US and far beyond to enjoy their voluptuous and curvaceous bodies. To date, Marilyn and the style she chose remain adored and widespread by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Dita von Teese.

The Swinging Sixties (1960s)

In the years after a fabulous decade, youth movements managed to revolutionize most social norms. The new culture erased distinct operations between outfits for females and males. In the face of America, the whole world witnessed a totally new approach - unisex clothing (leather jackets, denim jeans, etc.) that could be chosen by anyone. To this day, they call this period student fashion. A bit later, during the same 60s, the new fashion trend was emphasized by the use of geometric shapes in accessories and bright colors in clothes. The Hippie culture and the Summer of Love were the inspiration for handmade accessories and clothes, paisley and floral patterns. Back-then-styles were the reflection of the Black Americans’ African heritage, too. 

The Eclectic Seventies (1970s)

Following the trends of the previous decade, street fashion brought the Hippie style to the pages of Vogue, but it didn't last long enough. The 1970s bear The Disco Era, The Polyester Decade, The Wrap Dress Time.For one thing, the looks became more glamorous thanks to the disco focus. Collections by Norma Kamali (Parachute and hooded or not women’s Sleeping Bag Coat), Yves Saint Laurent (his scandalous Liberation reflected the wartime trends), Halston (the Disco Darling), and iconic DVF (Wrap dress) became timeless. In contrast, it’s the first time in fashion history that sportswear became a breakthrough. 

The Bold Eighties (1980s)

Another cultural transformation, another turn in the history of American fashion. The 80s trends were all about how to express one’s individuality. Colors became bold, styles grew in their extravagance, and decorations became a must-wear. These were the years of neon and designers who quickly responded to this trend in their collections: Versace, Chanel, Christian Lacroix, and Jean-Paul Gautier. Movies like Dirty Dances brought popularity to sports and fitness in particular, thus continuing to develop the popularity of sportswear. Also, this decade was known for giving women higher career chances. Eventually, women were looking for more ways to express themselves through clothes: padded-shoulders jackets, high heels, bold accessories, and any power-style suits worn by Princess Diana or Margarett Thatcher.

The Grunge Nineties (1990s)

The same as Merilyn’s age brought a revolution with, the 1990s are regarded as another decade featuring the best fashion moments throughout the whole history of American culture outfits. This was the time of pop, grunge, and supermodels Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Claudia Shiffer, who soon started setting the trends. Modern fashion has taken a lot from the 90s: ripped jeans, oversized sweaters and jackets, flannel shirts, crop tops, platform shoes, slinky slip dresses, or the blue steel mirror pose. This time is always remembered with so much love and nostalgia, as well as a huge desire to go back there and have another chance to look like Cindy or Naomi. 

The 2000s and Beyond

Starting with the 2000s and till now, the fashion industry has collected top popular trends throughout the years and brought them together. The early 00s vibe was all about tracksuits and bold logos, skinny brows, chokers, velour sweatsuits, and tunic dresses, of course. At some period, everyone switched from high heels to ballet flats.

The 2010 era came with skinny jeans that were part of the basic look together with cardigans, Uggs, and a scarf over an oversized jacket or sweater. And though there were lots of not-that-obvious trends, they all came predominantly from previous decades or were commonly known under the name of tight-fitting.

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Now, at the very start of the 2020s, designers from America are again going back to trends of the 2000s and 2010s: Every girl enjoys her tight jeans with an oversized pullover and Uggs. We’ll never refuse to wear sportswear and still have a little black dress for special occasions. But still, it is worth mentioning that the 2020s have their own trend - body positivity, which is a combination of fashion, lifestyle, mental health, and self-acceptance. The age of size norms is slowly going away and is being substituted by comfortable shapes. 

Fashion is no longer an unattainable matter. It’s no longer isolated, either. On the example of American fashion trends through the decades, we understand that fashion has evolved into a live substance that changes, assimilates, and even acts in response to external factors. Models are no longer skinny, sizes are no longer S to M, and fashion houses are no longer discreet towers accessed by a special VIP pass. Hopefully, more is to come.