It goes without saying that what’s “in” in the world of fashion has changed drastically throughout the years. Fashion trends come and fashion trends go… and then vintage fashion trends come back in again.
For people with a passion for fashion, taking a look back at the fashion trends of years past can be fun and interesting. And for people who collect and wear vintage fashion, it can provide great inspiration for pieces to add to their collection the next time they find an estate sale.
Whether you love vintage fashion, wear vintage fashion, or just want a good laugh at what people were wearing in the 80s (what were we thinking with those shoulder pads?!), let’s take a look at fashion trends throughout the ages:
20s fashion trends
The “Roaring 20s” marked a significant change in fashion in the US. Societal and cultural norms were changing; women were able to vote, they were entering the workplace, and – as a result – women’s fashion became more practical and accessible than it had been in the past.
The biggest 20s fashion trend was without question the “flapper” look. Women, empowered by the shift in culture, started bobbing their hair, wearing more prominent and flashy makeup, bobbing their hair, and wearing short skirts and menswear-inspired pieces. But the most famous of the flapper looks is the flapper dress. These dresses, which were popular at the jazz and prohibition clubs that flappers frequented, were straight-cut, loose-fitting, and were designed to hide the female form rather than accentuate it (which played into the more masculine trends of the time). Flapper dresses had a hem that hit at the hip, a length that hit between the knee and calf, and were often adorned with sequins or tassles.
This trend died out when the roaring 20s come to an end, but the flapper dress is still a popular Halloween costume and vintage fashion collectible.
50s fashion trends
The 50s were a period where glamour and femininity were all the rage in fashion. In contrast to the 20s, when a more masculine look was embraced to match the changing social norms, more traditional values were emphasized in the 50s – and, as such, were reflected in popular fashion styles.
During the 50s, women dressed almost exclusively in dresses. The most popular dress shape in the 50s was a tea-length, full-skirted dress. This dress style had a fitted top; high, cinched-in waist; and a full-skirted bottom which often required a hoop skirt to be worn underneath to keep its shape. This dress accentuated a woman’s shape in what was considered a tasteful and appropriate way.
The 1950s also saw what’s known considered the first teenage fashion trend with the poodle skirt. These felt skirts were not only fashionable, but were long enough to allow teenagers to dance in the popular styles of the 50s, which only increased their popularity.
60s fashion trends
The 60s was an interesting era for vintage fashion. The fashions that were popular and on trend at the beginning of the decade were completely different from the fashions that dominated popular culture towards the end.
In the early 60s, fashion’s biggest icon was the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie was known for wearing suit dresses, tailored jackets, simple dresses without collars, classic pearls, and – her trademark – a pillbox hat. All of her outfits were impeccably tailored, well accessorized, and pulled together, inspiring women across the country to mirror the look in their own closets.
But after President Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie retreated out of the public eye, making way for new fashion icons – and a complete shift in women’s fashion trends.
The later part of the 60s was dominated by the “mod” fashion trend. The most popular fashion model of the 60s, Twiggy, was the poster child for the mod look, which included mini skirts, bell bottoms, bold colors, color blocking, and loud prints.
You also can’t talk about 60s fashion trends without talking about hippie culture. The hippies embraced an alternative, natural lifestyle, which was reflected in their clothing. Hippies clothing was typically loose and flowing and including pieces like denim bell bottoms, peasant blouses, vests, and clothing made out of natural fibers (like hemp).
70s fashion trends
The 70s was the era of disco. The glamorous disco clubs of the decade, like Studio 54, inspired over-the-top fashion that was bright, loud, and unapologetic. Women wore a variety of clubwear like halters, jumpsuits, and dresses in bright colors and adorned with sequins and glitter. Platform shoes – often so high they were nearly impossible to walk in – were inexplicably all the rage in the disco clubs.
But not everyone embraced the disco trend – and even for those who did, those styles weren’t the most practical for day-to-day life. Bell bottoms continued to be a daily staple for women along with cowl neck sweaters, graphic tees, and jean jackets.
80s fashion trends
The 80s were one of the most interesting and diverse decades in the history of fashion. There are almost too many fashion trends to name!
One of the biggest style icons of the 80s was Madonna. Her 1984 performance of “Like A Virgin” at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards became one of the most iconic looks of all time. Teenagers and young adults around the world sought to emulate the look, which included lingerie-inspired clothing, lace gloves, and the iconic “Boy Toy” belt buckle. Many of Madonna’s other looks – including creative layering, crop tops, and bows – became staples in 80s fashion.
Another huge (and arguably questionable) trend in the 80s was shoulder pads. Shoulder pads were EVERYTHING in women’s fashion. Jackets, blouses, and dresses all featured prominent shoulder pads throughout the 80s.
A fashion trend embraced by both men and women throughout the 80s was the Members Only jacket. 80s celebrities popularized these jackets, which were featured prominently in film, television, and other media throughout the decade.
And perhaps the most bizarre trend of the 80s? Leg warmers. Essentially scarves for your calves, women wore leg warmers with almost everything in their closet, including leggings, miniskirts, and activewear.
As you can see, vintage fashion trends have evolved throughout the years. And vintage fashion has a way of coming back into style years later; hippie-inspired fashion and pin-up looks from the 50s are just a few trends that have found their way back into fashionistas’ closets in recent years. So whether you’re a vintage fashion collector or you’re just looking for fashion inspiration, scoping out estate sales and online auctions for one-of-a-kind pieces is a great way to update your wardrobe and embrace fashion trends from the past!
Special thanks to the following for the images in this post: