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  • Writer's pictureKaeli Renee

200 Years of Fashion: What Trends Have Stayed the Same and What Has Evolved?


collage of fashion through the decades

A couple of years in the grand scheme of things doesn’t seem like such a long time, but when you put it into a fashion history perspective, it's a lifetime. Fashion is ever-changing. Within a year we have new trends emerging and exiting, people expressing their styles in different ways, and coming up with new lines of clothing. A few decades in fashions the difference between wearing corsets and bell shades dresses to low rise jeans and a mini scarf with a tank…


In the 1800s, fashion was all about layers and structure. Women's fashion had tight corsets, wide hoop skirts in the early part, and moving to bustles at the back later on. Men were all about tailcoats, formal vests, and cravats.


Jump to the 1900s, and the silhouette becomes slimmer for women, thanks to the "Gibson Girl" look. By the 1920s, it's flapper time – shorter hemlines, drop waist dresses, and lots of beads and sequins. Men's suits slimmed down and got jazzier with pinstripes and bowler hats.


Today we are going through the most influential fashion trend of each decade beginning in the 1850’s:


1850s: The crinoline became the it-thing. It's a structured petticoat that created those huge, bell-shaped skirts. It was all about volume and making that waist look tiny! For the men, everything was always very formal


1860s: The crinoline evolved into the elliptical hoop skirt, shifting the volume to the back, leading to the bustle in the late 1860s. This era was about emphasizing the backside.


1870s: Bustles were the rage, with the silhouette becoming more exaggerated at the back. Skirts had a train, and the overall look was very dramatic.

1880s: The bustle reached its peak and then fell out of favor for a more natural silhouette. The focus shifted to the bodice with lots of ruffles and embellishments.


1890s: The hourglass figure was in vogue, with leg o' mutton sleeves ballooning at the shoulder and tapering down. It was a softer look compared to the previous decade.


1900s: The S-bend corset made waves, creating a shape that pushed the chest forward and the hips back. Fashion was all about those flowing lines. Towards the end of the decade, we strayed away from that harsh hourglass figure. Leisurewear was also introduced including long skirts, sweaters, and blazers. 


1910s: World War I impacted fashion significantly. Hemlines rose, and corsets were out. The silhouette became more relaxed and practical. For those that were in the fashion world “hobble skirts” became a trend that was opposite of the practical outlook and cinched in at the ankles, and sometimes knees, which prevented movement from women. 


1920s: the era that we know and love: The flapper era! Women opted for drop-waist dresses with shorter hemlines and lots of embellishments. This was a huge jump from the extremely modest designs that were still being produced not even two years ago.  It was a time of liberation and this was reflected in the looser fashion (and higher hemlines). Simplicity and elegance were brought in that differed from prior years. 

1930s: The Great Depression meant fashion had to be more economical. Bias-cut gowns that clung to the body were popular, and Hollywood glamor influenced style greatly. The silhouettes focused on maintaining a long and lean look allowing fabric to drape over the body. 


1940s: With WWII, fashion was utilitarian. Women wore trousers for work, and the "New Look" by Dior emerged post-war, with nipped waists and full skirts, marking a return to femininity. Oh! And the bikini! This was actually created because of the fabric shortage and the look would not be embraced until years down the line. 


1950s: The "New Look" continued with cinched waists and voluminous skirts. It was all about looking polished and put together. It became common wear with women of the middle class and was the epitome of wartime looks. 


1960s: Youth culture took over with mods and rockers. The mini skirt debuted, and fashion became more about self-expression.


1970s: The hippie movement brought in bell-bottoms, tie-dye, and ethnic prints. Disco later influenced fashion with its glitter and satins.


1980s: Power dressing! Women's suits had big shoulder pads, and men's fashion was equally bold with loud prints and colors. Of course, you couldn’t forget any statement accessories to add to the chaos!


1990s: The 90s brought a more relaxed and grunge-inspired style. Flannel shirts, ripped jeans, Doc Martens, chokers, and baggy clothing were popular. The rise of hip-hop fashion heavily influenced this streetwear look.


2000s: The early 2000s saw a mix of styles, from low-rise jeans and crop tops to velour tracksuits and trucker hats. This decade also embraced logo-centric fashion, with brands like Juicy Couture and Von Dutch making a splash.

2010s: The 2010s were marked by a blend of vintage-inspired and modern fashion. High-waisted jeans, crop tops, athleisure wear, statement sneakers, and minimalist aesthetics gained popularity. The rise of social media also influenced fashion trends.


2020s (so far): The 2020s have seen a mix of fashion influences from previous decades. Sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism have become more prominent. Oversized clothing, gender-neutral fashion, and a focus on comfort and versatility have also emerged.


Fashion is ever-evolving, reflecting changes in culture, technology, and societal norms. Isn't it amazing how fashion mirrors society's changes? Each decade builds upon the previous one while adding its own unique twist. Keep in mind that while there are societal trends, at the end of the day it's about wearing what speaks to you individually. So if you're not loving the "mob wife" aesthetic don't feel pressured to wear it!


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