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Women’s Fashion in the Last Five Decades

Updated on October 30, 2015

Women’s fashion changes decade after decade, with each new style coming out getting bolder than the last. Some trends have also been recycled and brought back, with only a few minor changes made to adapt to the times. But despite the fast pace at which these looks change, women everywhere never get tired of keeping up, always changing their wardrobe faster than you realize. After all, fashion is one thing that gives a woman her character and the way she shows her fashion sense will always be a direct representation of her personality and ideals.

The past five decades have made so much contribution to what fashion has become today. With fashion icons that have come and gone, each of them has made their mark in fashion history and has become a basis on how design after design is innovated.

The 1960s

Fashion in the 1960s gave a lot of emphasis to what everyone was wearing in the streets of London, serving as inspiration to designers and women all over the world. All of a sudden, high fashion became threatened as pop culture took over and the retro theme was suddenly ablaze. Everything revolved around music and the way popular artists and their crew dressed, with the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, taking the spotlight not only because of the way they played their music but also because of the way they appeared on and off the stage.

Skirts were becoming shorter as this era progressed with Mary Quant, Andre Courreges and John Bates being the top designers at the time. Bikinis were also introduced in 1963, making way for a more modern and more liberated look. A lot of love went out to women’s lashes as false eyelashes became extremely popular, and Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat became an instant craze.

Everything in the 60s was a few notches bolder than the previous decade with bright, highlighter colors and psychedelic prints seen everywhere. Unlike previous conservative looks, this season also brought in mismatched patterns, with tie-dyes, paisley and bell bottoms becoming popular when the hippie movement started getting bigger and bigger towards the end of the decade.

The 1970s

The hippie culture continued towards the start of the 70s, with bell bottoms then being paired with platform shoes. During the mid until late 70s, the disco look became big with John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever setting the trend. Jersey wrap dresses became the in thing for women, and platform shoes were eventually replaced by ankle-strapped shoes. Because of the emphasis on dancing, leotards were also a hot item as it allowed girls to move freely on the dance floor.

Hot pants also became a trend, as well as crop tops and halter necks. Although hip huggers were a thing in the late 60s to the early 70s, they were eventually replaced by high-waist trousers and jeans by the mid-70s.

Glam rock was slowly being popularized by the likes of David Bowie, and glitters, sequins, and other similar décor were everywhere. Aviator sunglasses were the popular accessories.

The 1980s

Things became even more colorful when the 80s came in. This was also an era where fashion trends became out of control, with women showing an even bolder fashion sense than ever before. One of the most memorable trends of this season were the shoulder pads, with the belief that the wider your shoulders were, the trendier. Miniskirts also became even shorter than before, with denim and leather among the most popular materials used and usually worn with leggings underneath.

Parachute pants became popular as well, starting out as skin tight but eventually getting bigger and baggier as the decade progressed. Stretch stirrup pants were also a thing and these were often paired with oversized tops accessorized with low slung belts.

Leg warmers became very trendy in the 80s probably as part of the aerobics craze. Fingerless gloves also became part of everyone’s fashion statement. Accessories became even bolder as well, with dangling earrings becoming larger and longer.

The 1990s

The 90s introduced a crazy mix of fashion trends all in a single decade, with a big spotlight directed on supermodels and their fashion sense. Topping the list were Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, and a lot more.

This decade saw the continuation of late 80s fashion with neon colors, exercise wear and leggings often worn with oversized shirts and sweaters. There were also a lot of 60s and 70s inspiration found in the 90s fashion, with maxi dresses, gypsy tops and turtlenecks becoming fashion must-haves.

The film Clueless was released in 1995 and spawned the return of the preppy look. With plaid blazers and short skirts worn with knee high socks and collared shirts, the movie’s lead character Cher Horowitz became an icon. This was also the same period when 50s fashion was slowly coming back to life. Among those that were revived were pencil skirts, fitted suits and cardigans, and white gloves, sheer stockings, sequins and bright red lipstick were among the favorite picks for accessorizing.

Designer clothes were mostly Italian or French, with brands like Armani, Gucci, Lacoste and Chanel becoming the staple wear for those who can afford them. It was also considered fashionable to wear all black and berets. Knee-high boots and go-go boots were considered essential for the chic European look.

The late 90s was a little tamer with colors, with pastels like baby blue and pink coming into style again. Tank tops, flak jackets and cargo pants were also fast becoming popular. Flared pants and platform shoes were coming back, and the little black dress was the go-to item.

A surge in different musical genres was also felt in the 90s, affecting the differences in fashion statements. With hiphop, grunge, rave, Britpop and punk becoming extremely popular, each person’s fashion sense followed exactly what their ears listen to.

The 2000s

The year 2000 and onwards saw a lot of trends that are versatile and can easily be worn everywhere. Skinny jeans, for example, became such a big hit when 2000 came in, completely taking out the flared pants that went with the 90s. Boyfriend blazers were also a must-have in every wardrobe, as it can easily make your old pair of jeans look trendier and your party dress a little bit tamer. Statement necklaces also became favorite accessories as they glammed up any casual look. Skyscraper platform shoes got higher and higher, with heights that challenge your balance and emphasize those calf muscles.

Miniskirts stayed in the scene while mixing and matching prints reminiscent of the bold hippie era also came back. Balancing out the height that platform shoes gave were ballet flats, as they look great with everything from street wear to work clothes.

As decade after decade passed, the transition between one look to another were all quite so different but reminiscent of the past looks at the same time. It also showed a lot of innovation and creativity and showed bolder and stronger looks for women as more emphasis is given on their power to make their own choices in so many different aspects. Truly, fashion has gone beyond what women wear and what looks good. It has become an ultimate statement of how women evolve as people, with their mental and emotional growth inspiring a whole new set of trends each and every time. In the next few decades, we will hopefully see bolder approaches to how women continue to take control, not just through their wardrobe, but in everything else that they embody.

What period in the history of women's fashion interests you the most?

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  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    So true, @sangre! :)

  • sangre profile image

    Sp Greaney 3 years ago from Ireland

    It's always unique to see the evolution of fashion trends and to see the comparison between the many eras.

  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    Point taken, @creativearts2009. :) It's true that today women have more social freedom and comfort, more than anything else, is of the essence when it comes to fashion--generally, that is. That's why it was mentioned in the article towards the end that women may take control over things other than their wardrobe, and that practically includes things like family, work, home, etc. But nevertheless, that was a good point you raised! Thanks!

  • creativearts2009 profile image

    Cecelia 3 years ago from Australia

    I disagree with the hypothesis that women take control nowadays. I think self actualisation and self expression were at their peak in the 1970s... with a little left over for power-dressing and big hair in the 1980s. There was also more social freedom. Now women are too busy to glam up, and most know they could look nicer, but why bother when leggings and some sort of top are more comfortable and perfectly socially acceptable? Between family, work and the home, women don't have the time or energy left for themselves and their clothes!

  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    Hey thanks, @Dolores! We're glad you loved it. You must be into fashion yourself! :)

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

    I enjoyed your fashion overview and just love the video!