The History of Women’s Fashion: A Look at 100 Years of What was in Style

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If you have looked at a Cosmopolitan Magazine or have watched famous movie stars prance around in the latest styles, you would know that women’s fashion has changed a lot over the last 100 years. Whether it’s a whole new look or visiting old fashioned favorites, women’s fashion has made a brutal impact around the world. Designers and fashion experts have created and critiqued the good, the bad, and the god awful that graced such stars as Madonna, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and even First Lady Michelle Obama. Here are some of the styles that have begun, changed, evolved, and or have made a huge comeback over the last 100 years.

1900’s through1920’s:

Fashionable women during the first decade of the 20th century needed morning dresses, afternoon dresses, simple dresses that didn’t fit in a specific occasion, and evening dresses. This was due to social gatherings in which women needed different dresses to fit each occasion. The second decade of the early 1900’s brought rich and exotic patterns and fabrics, skirt lines began to skim well above the ankle. This had prepared the most fashionable women for the radical changes that were about to occur during the roaring twenties.

Known as the beginnings of modern fashion, the 1920’s liberated women from constricting fashion such as shorter pleated skirts, gathers, and even slits to give women some motion that eventually ruled the fashion trends of the future. This lead into such trends as the flapper dresses, low cut necklines, and lingerie were more sought after than their corset, below the ankle style skirts, and the conservative dresses that were worn for centuries before.

1930’s through 1950’s:

The Great Depression of the late 1920’s throughout the 1930’s influenced women’s fashion of that era. Thrift was the rage and more women were taking their old clothes and making them into new ones. The more sophisticated Garbo look was in with a more flowing hemline at the hips and natural hemlines were in style. The nylon stockings became a new trend during the late 30’s right after the time they were created.

The 19040’s had two separate styles that women wore. This look involved padded shoulders and knee length skirts. Sportswear had become more popular then and gave women a sense of diversity in their wardrobe. Clothing was made simpler and women began wearing more pants due to World War II. In the late 40’s Christian Dior had pioneered the New Look which consisted of a nipped waist, longer lengths, and fuller skirts. This created a more drastic feminine look that would move into the 1950’s.

During the age of the baby boomers, the 1950’s brought poodle skirts and the glamorous outfit’s worm by screen legends such as Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, and Liz Taylor. The Europeans worked hard to bring glamorous, more feminine fabrics and cuts to women all over the world. The emphasis of a narrow waist became popular by designing a pencil and full skirts for women to wear during this decade.  

1960’s through 1980’s:

Women’s fashion of the 1960’s dramatically changed due to the sexual revolution. The mod look became popular during the early 60’s with shorter hems above the knee and fabrics that are more fitted against the body. Geometrical shapes and patterns were the rage with women’s fashion. By the late 60’s and the Woodstock era, many of those who were against the Vietnam war and into the attitude of free love sported such things as tie dye clothing, bell bottoms, looser shirts, and more flowing hemlines. The look of the late 60’s stayed on until the mid to late 70’s when the disco era became popular.

The 1970’s started out with the hippie look that continued on from the late 1960’s. Bell bottoms and hip huggers were still popular. Skirts called maxis or ankle length skirts were popular for a brief moment. Miniskirts were the most popular during this decade and very short shorts called hot pants. By the mid 70’s glam rockers such as David Bowie and Roxy Music were the pioneers of glam fashion. Glitter and high waisted pants made of various fabrics became the in thing during those years. By the late 70’s the disco era and new wave became popular and would move through the 1980’s fashion scene.

There were many trends during the 1980’s that ranged from the disco era early into the decade to the gothic and preppy look during the late 80’s. Madonna was considered a fashion icon and several young girls and women were following her trend of Tule skirts and lingerie with leather gloves and lots of jewellery. Shows such as Dynasty and Dallas influenced women in the way they dress to show off their wealth. Lycra was big during this time and skin tight jeans with loose ripped sweatshirts and leggings. The 80’s hair band and hip hop look crossed over from the late 1980’s into the early 90’s in women’s fashion.

1990’s through today:

Seattle Washington became the fashion and music scene with the grunge look during the early 1990’s. This consists of ripped up pants, Dr Martens or combat boots, and flannel shirts. As time went on, the revival of the looks from the 60’s and 70’s made a comeback known as the Alternative look. Hip Hop was also a popular style where women wore tighter clothes to accentuate their curves. Women’s fashion became a free for all during this era, which would lead into the next millennium.

Today’s fashion during the second millennium consists of many different eras of fashion. Women now dress in what they are most comfortable in, whether it’s wearing clothing of the 70’s or making a revival of styles of the 40’s and 50’s. Many fashion designers are evolving several of the styles of the past that flatter women of all shapes and sizes. Many high school girls are wearing bell bottoms and hip huggers with a hint of glamour from the 40’s and 50’s. Our style shows off our individuality and there isn’t one set fashion that you need to follow.

Women’s fashion has begun anew and has evolved over the last decade. Whether you are looking forward to buying Gucci or purchasing an outfit at Target, the latest trends are freer spirited than ever. Back then, there was one set style and the world followed the trend to look as beautiful as possible in what we wore. Women of this era believe that being in style is how we view as being fashionable, and in the evolving world of today’s fashion, our personalities and individuality has begun to shine.


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