Take A Walk Down Fashion Through The Decades With FTC
The pieces we wear and love today have a rich history that can be traced to decades past. Social, political and environmental context has always influenced what we wear and how we wear it, and even as we grapple with the negative impact of having 52 seasons in a fashion year, the rise and fall of particular styles is inevitable. Whether you follow trends or actively steer clear of them, turning to fashion through the decades can be insightful.
We start our sartorial journey in the 1960s, when the world was witnessing major socio-political movements and end at the cusp of 2020, another year that will go down in history for a lot of reasons. It is important to keep in mind here that the dominant trends of each era were majorly influenced by Western media, and many other styles, influenced by diverse cultures and subcultures were also popular on the ground. This little walk through yore is by no means a universal representation.
With all that out of the way, let’s dive right in.
What’s in: mini skirts, babydoll dresses and space age
As seen on: Hemlines’ steady climb up the leg culminated in Brit designer Mary Quant’s iconic miniskirt. While baring this much leg was still pretty scandalous, proponents of mod fashion had nary a bother- and the miniskirt has indeed stood the test of time. Mod as a subculture took off, first in London and then worldwide. Supermodel Twiggy wore her miniskirts with menswear-inspired waistcoats and hats. She also had an affinity for babydoll dresses, which concealed rather than highlighted the figure with their A-line silhouette.
The development of new technology and materials heralded the ‘space age’, which now seems a tad contrived. Designers like Paco Rabbane and Thiery Mugler were the leaders in this era of exploration. Shiny silver PVC boots, nay, shiny silver everything, anyone?
Honourable mention: Eye-catching prints and loose, free flowing maxi skirts courtesy of the free-loving hippies.
What’s in: bell bottoms, platform heels and disco
As seen on: Bell bottoms, arguably one of the most recognizable ‘retro’ styles, grew in popularity in the 1970s. Big names like Sonny and Cher embraced these flared pants, as did the avid disco-goer. Floral printed, embroidered and peace-sign stamped flares certainly had a crossover with the hippies. More stereotypical disco fashion included sequined dresses and velvet jumpsuits, with platform heels to match. These towering shoes were a physical embodiment of this decade of hedonism and excess. Flashy, maximalist style was the way to go, complete with accessories that were just as in-your-face. The exclusive uber-cool club that was New York’s Studio 54 was the place for debuting more experimental disco styles, a la Elton John and Grace Jones.
Honourable mention: As more women joined the workplace, they sought to emulate masculinity and men’s authority by the way of power dressing. Pantsuits and shoulder pads with feminine takes became commonplace, and were even spotlighted by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977).
What’s in: leather jackets, high-waist jeans and spandex
As seen on: The punks and the metalheads helped make leather jackets mainstream. For over the decade past, Dame Vivienne Westwood’s iconic London store SEX had already served as a disruptive force, increasing acceptance of street style on the high fashion runway. Now, across the pond too, leather jackets became a sign of rebellion and coolness.
Spandex was the material innovation that defined this decade, propelling leggings to unprecedented levels of popularity. Workout video stars like Jane Fonda became forever etched in the public memory wearing stretchy leotards and leg warmers.
High-waisted jeans were favoured by all the cool girls, Princess Diana included, and the fact that they’ve come circling back in the merry-go-round of trends all these years later is testament to their versatility.
Honourable mention: Neons might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in the 80s people didn’t seem to mind eye bleeds as much. Everything got a neon revamp, and to those who embraced it, I say, good for you.
What’s in: preppy plaid, chokers and the LBD
As seen on: Cher Horowitz. Need I say more? The protagonist of Clueless gave us the extremely (and I mean extremely) iconic blazer-and-miniskirt plaid set. This was also the era of the supermodel, and Kate Moss herself walked the runway for Vivienne Westwood in a plaid skirt from the Fall/Winter 1994 collection, just one year prior to the release of Clueless.
Chokers were super popular, from spiked to dainty, there was an option for everyone.
The LBD or little black dress will always be a timeless staple but the 1990s was truly its golden years. All the A-listers from Naomi Campbell to Jennifer Aniston wore it to death on the red carpet. The mass-market followed, flooding its shelves with the LBD in many different materials, necklines and variations.
Honourable mention: Grunge fashion was huge during the 90s, thanks in no small part to Kurt Cobain and his signature unkempt mane and loose flannel shirts.
What’s in: tracksuits, low rise jeans and logomania
As seen on: The 2000s really weren’t as sunshine & roses (or lip gloss & butterfly clips) as current Y2K fashion wants you to believe. A lot of us might be able to recall with great regret and nausea the horror that was low-rise jeans. Christina Aguilera really took to low rise cuts, pairing them with tube tops to show off her belly chain.
Another celeb favourite was the velour tracksuit, synonymous with Juicy Couture. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez were regularly seen out and about with their backsides branded as juicy. All-branded everything was far from tacky- in fact designer logos were meant to be flaunted, especially on bank-breaking accessories like handbags.
Honourable mention: The dresses over jeans trend was absolutely dishonourable, but that didn’t stop teenagers in the US and elsewhere from wearing the combination to the mall or school or literally everywhere.
What’s in: athleisure, dad sneakers and streetwear
As seen on: We’ve lived it, so it might not be too exciting or novel for us but 2010s was the decade for athleisure. With fitness becoming more and more essential to modern lifestyle, athleisure’s emphasis on comfort and functionality means that even while adhering to trends it takes on an indispensable quality. From instagram influencers to the street style star, everyone loves themselves a slice of athleisure. As an extension, the dad sneaker trend also took fashion by storm. Chunky kicks like the Fila Disruptor and Balenciaga’s Triple S led the charge in the takeover by dad sneakers as the footwear of choice, being spotted on the Kardashian-Jenner clan and many more.
This decade also saw streetwear flourishing as not just a style but as an identity and community of its own. Powered by hypebeast culture and the drop model adopted by popular streetwear brands, graphic hoodies, comfy joggers and oversized silhouettes have reigned Supreme.
Honourable mention: Matrix-inspired tiny sunglasses became the accessory de riguer. With the return of bigger sized sunglasses, some might argue that it was a fad. But no one can deny that all the stylish peeps sported a pair or ten, experimenting with shapes, colours and even embellishments.