During the 1940’s fashion fell to the background as the majority of the decade was overshadowed by WWII. Though most of society was preoccupied with the impending war and instability of world power, some trends were seen even in this dark era. “Because of the war, European fashion was no longer available in the United States. Therefore, American designers, who were often overlooked, became more popular. Another result of the inaccessibility of European designers was that American designers were able to make improvements to sizing standards and began to use fiber content and care labels in clothing.”

As noted, one major factor to impact fashion was the accessibility of fabrics. Most fabrics were not available due to the war, which limited the production of new clothes. “For instance, starting in 1942 there was a limited supply of wool; so, instead artificial fibers such as viscose and rayon were used, which were derived from wood pulp.” Nylon, the fabric used to make stockings, was also part of the synthetic fabrics that were popular during the 1940’s. However, as WWII progressed, “the use of these fabrics was for military purposes, such as making parachutes.” Most of the colors seen in the 1940’s reflected the darkened wartime atmosphere; colors such as black, navy and other dark colors were mainly used.

Since fabrics and money were limited, most of trends from the 1940’s wartime era represented the practicality and utilitarian way of life. Many magazine and newspaper articles encouraged women to utilize items and clothing that they already owned. Sewing, stitching and knitting, were popular ways to create new clothes from fabrics and items around the house; and, darning was a popular way to mend socks with holes.

Men’s fashion during the 1940’s was also reflective of the ominous tones of the wartime era. For special occasions, “men wore suits made of rationed materials, or V-neck sweater vests or knitted waistcoats over a shirt and tie. An iconic men’s suit to emerge in the 1940’s was the illicit zoot suit. This suit was usually worn at nightclubs and consisted of an oversized jacket, wide lapels, broad shoulders, low crotches, and the pants narrowed toward the ankles.” The darkness looming over the wartime 1940’s fashion persists until the end of the war. Then, once the war ended, new fashion trends emerged, such as Christian Dior’s “New Look,” which became popular in America during the 1950’s.


The origins of the 1950’s fashion began with Christian Dior’s “New Look,” in 1947. The “New Look” consisted of a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, pointed bust, small waist, and rounded shoulder line. The look became popular post WWII. At first, the style was not well received by Americans; however, that quickly changed as the trend dominated fashion magazines. Other styles that became popular during the post-war period were “a tailored, feminine look with gloves and pearls, tailored suits with fitted jackets with peplums, with a pencil skirt. Day dresses had fitted bodices and full skirts, with jewel or low-cut necklines or Peter Pan collars. Shirt-dresses and halter-top sundresses were also popular. Skirts were narrow or very full, held out with petticoats, while poodle skirts were a brief fad. Gowns were often the same length as day dresses with full, frothy skirts, and cocktail dresses were worn for early-evening parties. Short shrugs and bolero jackets were often made to match low-cut dresses.

Other trends seen in the 1950’s are a result of the development of new synthetic and easy-care fabrics. Some of these fabrics are drip-dry nylon, orlon, and dacron, which could retain heat-set pleats after washing, acrylic, polyester, triacetate, and spandex. These new fabrics worked well with the increasingly popular ease of the suburban lifestyle. Another lifestyle trend that emerged during the post-war era was defining the teenage years as a true stage of development. As a result of this new development, and for the first time in American history, teenage and young adult fashions became a new marketing niche.

As society moved to the suburbs and adapted to a relaxed lifestyle, fashion followed suit. During this decade, casual sportswear was an increasingly large component of women's wardrobes. Casual skirts were narrow or very full; pants became very narrow, and were worn ankle-length. Pants cropped to mid-calf called houseboy pants, while shorter pants, below the knee, were called pedal pushers. Shorts were very short in the early '50s, and mid-thigh length Bermuda shorts appeared around 1954 and remained fashionable through the remainder of the decade. Loose printed or knit tops were fashionable with pants or shorts. Also seen during this decade was the swimsuit, which was one- or two-piece. Some swimsuits had loose bottoms like shorts with short skirts.

In the 1950’s men’s styles were based in conservatism. Most men wore suits for work and the Ivy League style for a relaxed occasion. Suits consisted of dark blue, dark brown, and charcoal; the ties were also uniform and dark. The Ivy League style consisted of cardigan sweaters, which was used for the letter sweater and cherished among athletes. Pink also became a color seen on men, which was a result of the 1950’s casual menswear. Also popular are cowboy inspired shirts, and hats became a trendy accoutrement.


The 1960’s fashion was an evolving scene, as a number of emblematic styles came out of this decade. Many of the influences on the 60’s fashion reflected the social atmosphere of the time. Women’s trends early in the decade maintained the refined femininity of the previous decade. Jacqueline Kennedy, one of fashions iconic legends, popularized many of the elegant styles seen in the beginning of the decade. Some of those styles were pillbox hats, pastel suits with short boxy jackets and oversized buttons, simple, geometric dresses or shifts. Also for formal attire, full-skirted formal gowns were worn with low necklines and close-fitting waists. Capri trousers were the main choice for women and girls casual wear. Another fashion trend seen in the beginning of the 1960’s is stiletto heels, which were a perfect complement to the classic elegance worn in the first part of the decade. For men, suits were bright and colorful as opposed to the pale, toned shades of the previous decade. Men’s styles included frills and cravats, wide ties with crazy prints, stripes and patterns and trouser straps, leather boots and collarless jackets.

The advent of Mary Quant’s mini-shirt changed everything in the world of 1960’s fashion. This mid-decade mini was a must-have, especially amongst young adults. Following the mini-skirt is the mini-dress with an A-line shape, or sleeveless shift. Another iconic style to emerge during this decade came in “1964, when French designer Andre Courreges introduced the ‘space look’, with trouser suits, white boots, goggles, and box-shaped dresses whose skirts soared three inches above the knee.” Many of the influences seen in the mid-1960’s have its origins in Britain as they were the trendsetters of these iconic fashions. The young group branded themselves as the Mods, which was short for modernists, and catered to the younger generation. The styles seen on the Mods represented the popular culture overtaking this young generation, and marked a divergence from the refinement seen earlier in the decade. For men, some of these mod styles were double-breasted suits of crushed velvet or striped patterns, brocade waistcoats, shirts with frilled collars, and their hair worn below the collarbone and a ‘dandified look.’ For women, velvet mini dresses with lace-collars and matching cuffs, wide tent dresses and false eyelashes were in vogue, as was pale lipstick. Hemlines rose above mid-thigh, naming the new micro-minis, and bell-bottom pants came into fashion. These trends were donned by legendary icons Twiggy and Rolling Stone’s guitarist, Brian Jones, and could be seen in areas such Carnaby Street and Chelsea’s Kings Road.

Towards the end of the decade, influenced by the Vietnam War, emerged the androgynous hippie style. Both men and women wore “frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts, work shirts, and headbands and sandals. At times, women would go barefoot, and some went braless. Some other hippie-styles were fringed buckskin vests, flowing caftans, Mexican peasant blouses, gypsy-style skirts, scarves, bangles, and Indian prints. For the conservative hippie style, there were the ‘lounging’ or ‘hostess’ pajamas, which consisted of a tunic top over floor-length culottes, and were usually made of polyester or chiffon.”


The 1970’s fashion began as a continuation of the 1960’s hippie styles, however this soon changed as popular culture became increasingly influential on the fashion trends of this unique decade. Hot pants, platform shoes, and wide leg pants and jeans known as bell-bottoms are a few of the fashions to come out of the 1970’s. One of the main influences on the fashion of this decade is from the movie Saturday Night Fever, with John Travolta. From the Fever, the “disco look,” emerged, complete with three-piece suits for men and rayon or jersey wrap dresses for women.

Some of the other trends seen in the 1970’s are “high-waisted, flared satin trousers or denims decorated with rhinestones, tight lurex halter tops, metallic-colored lamé and antique velvet dresses, satin hot pants, sequined bra tops, and occasionally ostrich- feather boas draped over shoulders, and turbans for headwear. Thrift shopping became popular, with the reemergence of the 1930s and 1940s look. Short imitation rabbit-fur jacket became fashionable, and make-up was garish and glittery, with eyebrows thinly plucked.”

A few of the other fashion donned in the 1970’s include: baseball jerseys and custom t-shirts, leotards, one piece swimsuits, zippered jumpsuit for both men and women, wrap skirts and dresses of rayon or , neck-scarves, polyester, double knitting, skin-tight, trousers, tube tops, and slit skirts, silk blouses, spaghetti-strapped tank tops and shirt-waist dresses were also worn. In addition to platforms, “women's shoes echoed the 1940s, with high-heeled lower-platform mules—"Candies" made of molded plastic with a single leather strap over the ball of the foot or "BareTraps" made of wood becoming very popular.” Disco began to decline late in the decade and replaced with designer jeans styled by straight, cigarette-legs, and painters' pants.

Disco’s ultimate replacement was punk fashion. Vivenne Westwood was one of the original designers who began the punk fashion movement. It began in the United Kingdom and quickly spread to Europe. “Punk’s manifesto is creation through disorder. Safety pins became nose and ear jewelry, rubber fetish wear was subverted to become daywear, and images of mass murderers, rapists, and criminals were elevated to iconographic status.” Some other influences of punk fashion are the Sex Pistols and Andy Warhol, and brands such as Velvet Underground. Key elements of punk are ripped jeans, torn t-shirts, scrappy haircuts, worn and torn leather jackets, filthy tennis-shoes, or pointy beatle boots. Ultimately, to be punk you should have a “thrown together poverty look.”


The 1980’s was a decade of styles. With the influence of hit television shows, and a booming market, the 80’s burgeoned designer branding and coined the concept “power dressing,” in conjunction with a number of truly unforgettable fashion trends. It was also a decade heavily influenced by musician and television icons. Some of the dominant trends to come out of the 1980’s are the new romantic, valley girl, and power dressing. The new romantic was a style mostly influenced by the United Kingdom’s nightlife. This style can be defined by “heavy, bold and streaky make-up, spiky hair, outrageous and exuberant clothing inspired by punk and Goth.” Some of the designers of the new romantic are Vivienne Westwood, Colin Swift, Stevie Stewart, and David Holah. The valley girl trend came from the west, in California. Some of the main trends to come out of the valley are headbands, leg warmers with miniskirts, and cheerleader inspired skirts.

During the 1980’s more and more women entered the workforce. Due to this influx of women in the office, a new genre of clothing was born. The 1980’s was a decade of power dressing. Power dressing emulated the popular 80’s television show, Dynasty. Some of the main elements of power dressing are various sized shoulder pads, Velcro, glitzy jewelry, silk, wool and cotton, and bright colored spiked heels. For men, the power suit became popular. Narrow pinstripes, four button vests, skinny and narrow neckties, and button down collars were key elements of the power dressed man.

In addition to the new emergent fashion trends of the 1980’s, two music icons defined their own fashion trends that became legendary. Madonna “first emerged on the dance music scene with her ‘street urchin’ look consisting of short skirts worn over leggings, necklaces, rubber bracelets, fishnet gloves, hairbows, long layered strings of beads, bleached, untidy hair with dark roots, head bands, and lace ribbons.” Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” era “included brassieres worn as outerwear, oversized crucifix jewelry, lace gloves, tulle skirts, and boytoy belts. Madonna also popularized gloves that were lace and/or fingerless, fishnet stockings, short, tight lycra or leather miniskirts and tubular dresses with bolero-style jackets.”

The other icon to come out of the 1980’s is Michael Jackson. Jackson created the “Thriller” look. Some of the key elements are “matching red/black leather pants and jackets, one glove, sunglasses, and the jheri curl.” Other fashion trends inspired by Jackson are over sized faded leather jackets with puffy sleeves accompanied by gloves, which at times were fingerless, and aviator sunglasses.


Fashion of the 1990’s has been quoted as “The decade fashion has forgotten.” Trends that peppered the 1990’s were an eclectic mix of influences from the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, and the combination of styles from the three decades can be seen throughout. The late 1980’s fashion trends carried over into the new decade, as women continued to wear aerobic leggings and stir-ups in bright florescent colors, blue jeans with matching denim jackets in acid wash, baby doll dresses, over sized t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters, with slouch socks over high-tops sneakers and keds. The 1960’s and 1970’s styles were revived in the mid-90’s with fashion taking on hippie style floral dresses, flowered floor length skirts, lace blouses, Gypsy tops and wedge heeled shoes. Another trend that began in the 80’s is the Z Cavaricci pants, or parachute pants, which were worn by both men and women.

At the same time mainstream fashion looked back to previous decades for inspiration, another alternative trend developed. In the middle of the decade, with the influence of rock band Nirvana and their lead singer, the iconic Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love, the new grunge era began. Cobain and Love were the antithesis of conservative and inspired fashion trends to adopt what is known as the 90’s grunge.

The new grunge was an amalgamation of punk, which began in the 1970’s, and gothic (Goth). Some of the key elements of the 90’s grunge are jeans that are ripped, patched with fabric, and/or drawn on with a permanent marker, long sleeved flannels, long sleeved cotton shirts with a rock band t-shirt over it, doc martens, skate shoes, chuck taylors, or any other type of boot. The main influences driving grunge fashion are comfort and creativity; your attire should reflect a desire to break away from conservatism and be free. In conjunction with grunge, another fashion trend that was seen in the 1990’s was inspired by the influx of hip-hop artists as the sagging-jeans era began in the early 90’s and carried through into the 2000’s.


Brief Description and History: The fashion trend that dominated 2000-2009 is “Boho-chic”. Boho-chic is a combination of nontraditional, eclectic styles influenced by gypsies, hippies, and artistic clothing of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The style is one of balance between messy and feminine, while establishing a sense of uniqueness and individuality. Being boho-chic is versatile in itself, as the trend can be on a range from artsy to exquisite. Boho-chic is derived from the traditional gypsy or bohemian styles of India and Pakistan. Some of the original designs of gypsy clothing are tunics, peasent tops, sarongs, caftans, salwar suits, and kurtas. Additional elements are handmade fringe, patchwork, beading, and tiny mirrors. Many of these traditional elements are seen in the bohemian styles of today.

Key Elements: Some key elements of the modern boho-chic is loose and flowing, with a mix of colors and prints, often with layers. Fabrics used are natural, and at times, organic cotton, silk, and linen, while the colors are muted and earthy. Other defining elements of boho-chic are: short and long flowing skirts, especially in white; furry gilets ( a sleeveless jacket or vest); embroidered and flowing tunics; cropped jackets; large faux-coin belts; sheepskin boots (mainly UGGS); cowboy boots with intricate stitching; baggy cardigans; scarves with paisley prints; uneven hems, and tights or leggings. Some noted designers of boho-chic are Stella McCartney and Zarmina.

The Trendsetters: Boho-chic was first donned by actress Sienna Miller and model Kate Moss at the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K., in 2004. At the same time, the American version of the modern bohemian was popularized by the Olson Twins (Mary Kate and Ashley), and became fashionable in areas of New York City, specifically Greenwich Village and Soho. The trend caught on quickly, in the post-9-1-1 era, because of its emphasis on creating a personalized, eclectic look. Boho-chic influenced the resurgence of vintage shops, especially in New York City, as many celebrities have been seen scouring the racks for individualized jewels.

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