What decade do you favor most? In my fashion, it fascinates me how different women looked in each decade. In the past century the rate at which the general look of women have changed has been the speediest process of any era in the past. In America fashion changes have mostly been the result of a stance women were taking at the time, each decade more empowering than the next. In the past, the way a women dressed often dictated how that women was treated by others. In the past 100 years women and fashion have taken stances that have freed women from a misogynistic past, where the women of today are able to be more creative than ever, free to explore who they are and what they want to be.
I love thinking about clothes and where they came from; where a certain look originated; what that look stood for. In my fashion, using history as inspiration is the basis for a solid look. Vogue Fashion by Linda Watson is one of the books I had started studying in March. I chose to look at how Vogue saw how women saw themselves, highlighting social movements and more importantly - what was worn during these movements. I was so inspired by how women dressed, I choose to do some sketching myself to illustrate the type of women Vogue highlighted in the magazine, images which shaped the image of a women with style for each decade. In my fashion sketching helps one to understand how a women would feel in a garment. You understand why a women would feel beautiful in a particular look, and why they wear what they wore. I drew twenty sketches, two for each decade from 1900 - 2000. Next to the sketch describes what were the changes in fashion reported by Vogue. Hopefully my sketches burn into your memory so you can use it as inspiration one day when you are getting dressed.
1950-1959: “This is the new figure,” declared Vogue, as it defined the 1950’s bodyline. “You see an exaggerated bosom, a concave middle, a close hip-line, a seemingly long leg. See it in the flesh—and in the fabric. If you weren't born with this figure, you can achieve it.”
- There were new ways to obtain perfect undulations: diet, exercise, massage, posture, brassiere, corset, and finally, “there is the cut of the new fashions themselves, with bulk placed one way or another.”
- Instead of whalebone, there was elastication; propriety had been replaced by poise. Tiny waists and visible curves returned. The elusive beauty was back…Fashion was once more about illusion.
- Women no longer aspired to be 30 years old. ‘Young as you Are’ started in March 1950, the 1st time a series of Vogue fashion items had been aimed specifically at the younger reader.
- The approach to beauty became other worldly.
- March 1952 Vogue reported the launch of Givenchy. Actress Aubrey Hepburn—who later became his muse—was heralded as a combination of “ultra fashion plate and a ballet dancer.”
- September 1952 Vogue noted, “The little black dress, deceptively simple, is the core of every collection.”
- Photographer Irving Penn was to play key role in creating the illusion of absolute assurance. Haughty and unsmiling, hands on hips, and one foot in front of the other. Penn’s visionary woman was in control.
- February 1954 Coco Chanel reopened her salon at 31 rue Cambon, Paris and her 1st post war collection.
- A glossary of new man-made fibers—each with its own special virtues and designed not as a substitute, but to play a particular role in the textile world.’—included the specific properties of new mixtures of nylon, Terylene, and Orion.
- 1956 Dior passes and Yves Saint Laurent replaces his reign in March 1957.
- Space travel began, and The Futuristic movement was born.
- ‘The Teenager Thing’ in December 1959 asked, “What does fashion represent? Decoration? Armor? Disguise? A mood of society? For millions of working teenagers now, clothes like these are the biggest past time in life: a symbol of independence and the fraternity mark of an age-group. Not—repeat not—the sign of a delinquent.
- DEFINING PIECES: trumpet skirt, ‘oblique’ overskirt, little black dress, slopped shoulders, cowl neckline, small hair concealing hats
1960-1969: The 1960s instigated the catsuit, the topless swimsuit and the supermodels with 'The Shrimp' at the beginning, Twiggy in the middle and a startling creature called Penelope Tree at the end.
- Vogue said in 1960, "Charm and an ingenue look are in tune with 1960s fashion." Vogue also asked, "Couture Clothes: are they Worth the Money?"
- The teenager began to have options and pulling power.
- Make-up turned from haughty to baby doll looks.
- Models played gauche, boutiques mixed genders and unisex made an entrance.
- Thrifting, once associated with charity and poverty, were chic and eclectic.
- America's First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, who had won American Vogue's Prix de Paris in 1951, instinctively understood the power of clothes as political weapons, working with designer Oleg Cassini to create a style that wouldn't upset the moral majority but had youth and vitality on its side.
- Fashion direction came from a new angle. Men started dressing up and discovered color.
- The mini-skirt was one of the first fashions to filter through from the streets. It was a Zeitgeist of mammoth proportions, worn by Mancunian art students, Andy Warhol protégé Edie Sedgewick in New York and pushed to new limits by the mods. Mary Quant marketed the mini for the masses and produced a collection of clothes called 'The Ginger Group'.
- Men were turning Wildean, imitating Edwardian and Victorian eras by wearing frills and furbelows and allowing their hair to grow below the collar.
- Couture was becoming passe and irrelevant.
- Class barriers broke down. Pre-1960s models were aristocratic decorations with elongated family trees.
- Rise of 'Black is Beautiful'. Whites wore Afro hair for the first time.
- Dresses were made from every conceivable material - from paper to plastic discs, leather to PVC - all cut along baby doll lines.
- DEFINING PIECES: Hats became helmets, mini-skirts, secondhand clothing, baby doll looks, berets, trench coats, catsuits, Le Smoking jacket, shift dresses, tights
1970-1979: Anarchy arrived after a process of wild experimentation, the shock of glam rock, the rise of platforms, the plummeting of skirts and the ultimate role reversal: men wearing make-up. The 1970s opened with a celebration of decoration and ended in a sinuous bodyline.
- The fusion between fashion and rock music, which started in the 1960s, was cemented in the 1970s.
- Orientalism was the new preoccupation. Kansai Yamamoto showed his first collection in 1971 with Vogue raving about his theatrical powers. In February 1972, Vogue's spotlight was on China.
- Ethnic bending was everywhere.
- Ralph Lauren learnt his trade in retail and was one of the first fashion designers to understand the importance of sartorial storytelling, building a brand around an image.
- The lifestyle concept arose.
- Manhatten was the center of social activity with club Studio 54, the celebrity magnet.
- 1975, Vogue noted: "Seventy-five, the hinge of the decade, when we start to realize what we look like. Oh, those loon-pants and smocks! Clothes that looked best with a high wind blowing through them, free-form clothes hinting only vaguely and almost deprecatingly at the earthly reality of limbs beneath them."
- 1977: Britain celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, punk ran riot and Vogue assessed the importance of royal fashion. Vogue noted: “Queen Elizabeth II, her dressmakers and milliners agree, regards fashion as a duty.”
- Punk was a product of disaffected youth, whose bondage trousers, ripped t-shirts and upstanding fluorescent hair were a rude salute to conformity.
- Propriety and subversiveness could and would exist side-by-side: “1977, the year hair stood on end with fluorescent dyes, the year war paint…Punks deliberately seek to create a style that looks cheap, scruffy, and trashy.”
- 1978 became the year of cults and computers. Vogue analyzed the former and was fascinated with the latter.
- Punk made uniformity redundant. Style—an obsession that peaked in the 1980s—was the elusive quality that everyone wanted. The question was how to acquire it without looking contrived.
- The body, no longer hidden beneath the voluminous shapes of the 1970s, was fashionable—a supple body became the ultimate accessory.
- DEFINING PIECES: Long skirts, Jean Muir’s midi, superfit leotard, roller disco beading, the Lycra revolution, onion dressing
1980-1989: The decade that worshiped status symbols and courted conspicuous dressing was rooted in romantic fantasy. Royalty and soap opera lived in parallel universes. In style and content, the line between television and tabloid newspaper became blurred.
- Britain’s new ambassador for fashion, at 19 years old, Lady Diana Spenser possessed a shy smile and firm grip on the public imagination—key ingredients that made her the most photographed women in the world.
- Photographer, Bruce Weber, pioneered the idea of a fashion shoot as stylish news reel, seducing the customer with a mix of nostalgia, beauty, and wide, open spaces.
- Vogue pre-empted the royal engagement in its ‘Portrait Portfolio’ by Snowdon in February 1981 (Diana’s 1st official sitting). The royal romance coincided with the arrival of the New Romantics (aka ‘The New Elegant’ by Vogue in 1982).
- The Princess of Wales was to be scrutinized from every angle; each minute detail—hat shape, heel height, color, cut—dissected and analyzed. The new wardrobe was British (designers: Bruce Oldfield, Victor Edelstein, Belville Sassoon, Zandra Rhodes, Catherine Walker, Bodymap)
- Karl Lagerfeld becomes creative director for Chanel in 1983. Chanel kept a low profile since 1971.
- Mid-way through the decade, American designers were talking concept, sensing the Zeigeist and formulating collections that were flexible in more ways than one. The working wardrobe required effective subliminal messages. The power suit, the short skirt, the heel—which said sexy, but could also walk the length and breadth of the boardroom—all required a dress code that wouldn’t cause alarm in the office, the bank, and the stock exchange.
- Some designers looked to the past for inspiration (Romeo Gigli, John Galliano, Christian LaCroix), some looked forward in time (Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, and Geoffrey Beene), and some found middle ground (Calvin Klien, Donna Karan, Versace). Going into the 1990s, Geoffrey Beene predicted, “There will be a backlash against overdressing and ostentation. Economic conditions will change things, clothes will have to work for life.” Women were going from 80’s office clone, to the 90s woman of feeling.
- DEFINING PIECES: shoulder pads, radical cutting, origami pattern cutting, glamour, pirate smocks, pantaloons, BLACK, wool jersey body suit, puffball skirt, soap opera style
1990-1999: The 1900s became the decade of the mixed message. In the space of 10 years, the power shoulder was exterminated, accessories escalated, the classic cardigan hit the office, big hair was cut to the quick, matt glamour disappeared, slip dresses came out of the closet and just when supermodels were hitting their stride, their fascination expired.
- Just as the 1970s had resurrected the 1920s and 30s, so the 1990s reinvigorated the 1960s and 70s with flares and platform shoes.
- 1992, Vogue noted, “Autumn 1992 is the season of the quite revolution. By unanimous international vote, long skirts and trousers are already faits accomplish. The change starts with a fixed idea of elegant, elongated line from which everything else flows.”
- The 1990s fashion designer no longer created clothes with complementary cosmetics and scent; customers wanted to buy into a lifestyle.
- November 1991, Calvin Klein said: “There’s going to be a big change in the 90s and its just beginning. The 80s were a very conservative period, sexually and in so many ways. There's a restructuring of priorities. Its less about flash and more about people in the streets, the environment. People are becoming more real."
- Princess Diana divorces and free to dress as she pleased in lower necklines, shorter skirts, and higher heels
- London was on the brink of a fashion renaissance not seen since the 1960s (i.e.Alexander McQueen, grunge)
- November 1995, John Galliano makes history as 1st British designer to be appointed head of a French couture house when he wen to Givenchy. Two years later he joins Dior.
- Belgium brings new designers, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester who were on par with the Japanese.
- During the 1990s, style switched seasonally, from Prada's nylon bag to Fendi's baguette. Designers logos no longer shouted conspicuous consumption, but whispered subliminal messages.
- 1997, Death of Princess Diana.
- Towards end of the decade, women began searching for something more meaningful than designer labels and desirable logos - antique clothes with a sense of history.
- DEFINING PIECES: bootleg flares, platform shoes, stretch leggings, long skirts, bumster trousers, grunge