The Biggest Fashion Trends Of Each Decade And How They Influenced Today’s Styles

They say that history repeats itself, and that’s certainly true when it comes to fashion. Trends go in and out of style, and they even influence the kinds of fashions that surface later on. Keep reading to see the most influential trends of each decade and how they’ve resurfaced in today’s looks.

1900s: The Health Corset

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Getty Images

At the start of the 20th century, health corsets were all the rage. They were also known as s-bend corsets due to their trademark ‘s’ shape. The corsets created an hourglass figure that emphasized curves at the chest and the bottom.

At the time, the phrase “beauty is pain” was still taken very literally. These corsets were terrible for the person wearing them since they were overly restrictive. Fortunately, they were soon phased out as women’s rights transformed fashion expectations.

Some Tops Are Still Modeled After The Health Corset

Street Style In Duesseldorf - March 2017
Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

While health corsets aren’t typically worn today like they were a century ago, they do still influence fashion. Some blouses are modeled after the corsets by featuring a similar style and shape.

By and large, these corsets aren’t nearly as restrictive. They still have an hourglass look, but not to the point of pressing into the wearer. These corsets add a vintage touch to classy pencil skirts or can be dressed down with a pair of jeans.

1910s: Hobble Skirts

Thompson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Thompson/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In the 1910s, traditionally poofy skirts gave way to a revolutionary fashion trend: hobble skirts. These skirts were characterized by being tightly hemmed so that the bottom could not open very wide.

As a result, the person wearing the skirt would practically have to hobble to get around, hence the name. The skirts were typically looser around the legs and tight near the ankles, emphasizing the hourglass shape that was so popular at the time.

Tight Long Skirts Are Still Popular

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Though hobble skirts aren’t exactly in fashion today, they did give way to a kind of skirt that is popular. For example, pencil skirts have a similar design in that they are tight near the bottom.

Longer skirts are sometimes made to be tight from the top to the bottom, showing off the shape of the legs. To prevent the wearer from having to hobble, such skirts are often stretchy, have a slit, or cut just below the knee.

1920s: Flapper Outfits

Flapper Fashion
American Stock/Getty Images
American Stock/Getty Images

Flapper outfits had features that were the complete opposite of the styles that preceded them. Tight corsets were replaced with loose tops and poofy skirts became thinner and simpler.

Instead of trying to force an hourglass shape, flappers created a more comfortable fashion that coincided with early women’s liberation. The style transformed femininity in fashion by proving that elegance and simplicity can go hand in hand. It was also around this time that the little black dress became chic.

Flappers Made Way For Rectangular Dresses

Melodie Jeng/Getty Images
Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

We have flappers to thank for much of today’s fashion, but perhaps the most obvious connection to recent trends is the rectangular dress. These dresses have noticeable flapper influences in their simple design.

Flapper outfits also planted the seed for many other clothing items today, such as loose blouses, cardigans, and casual skirts. Women no longer have to worry about forcing themselves into hourglass-shaped clothes. Fashion and comfort are both priorities thanks to the flapper trendsetters.

1930s: The Bias Cut

bias-cut
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bias-cut is a fancy way of saying that the fabric was cut at a diagonal across the woven threads, rather than following the straight line of the weave. This technique causes the fabric to fall in a way that accentuates body lines.

The slinky look became huge in the 1930s when stars like Bette Davis and Jean Harlow started wearing bias-cut gowns on the silver screen. Ever since, the fashion trend has made dresses look as elegant as possible.

Bias Cut Dresses Are Still As Popular As Ever

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Bias-cut dresses haven’t just remained in style over the years, they’re still one of the classiest articles of clothing out there. Stars appear on the red carpet in these kinds of gowns all the time.

Though the style is retro in terms of its origins, it suits any era and has been popular over the decades. Dresses aren’t the only items that can feature bias cuts, either. Blouses and even pants can also benefit from this design technique.

1940s/50s: Christian Dior’s “New Look”

Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Christian Dior’s “New Look” collection was an instant hit when it came out in 1947, and it set 1950s fashion into motion. After the fabric shortages and civilian uniforms that existed during WWII, Dior’s look was a welcome relief.

His design emphasized a cinched waist and a large skirt, similar to the style that was prevalent at the turn of the century. At the same time, the more professional pieces in the line made it revolutionary.

The New Look Influenced Trends For Decades To Come

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Dior’s “New Look” created the cinched waist that was so prevalent in the ’50s and is still trendy today. The v-shaped top and wide skirt are still common in fancier ensembles you might see at Paris Fashion Week or on the runway.

More commonplace ensemble features that relate to the New Look include dress belts, blazers, stylish trenchcoats, and more. The line was a perfect example of elite fashion being embraced by the upper middle-class.

1960s: Miniskirts

Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The ’60s were a time of liberation, and few fashion trends better embody that message than the miniskirt. Before the ’60s, skirts and dresses would typically fall well past the knee. Miniskirts stopped several inches above the knee, making them a bold fashion statement for the time.

Some ladies would wear miniskirts with tights underneath, but the hippies were more likely to rock them over bare legs. Though the style was initially met with some resistance, it wasn’t long before the miniskirt was a fashion staple.

Miniskirts Are Still Commonplace

miniskirt
Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Miniskirts are a fashion craze that never left the mainstream. They are still commonplace as ever, though they never quite broke into the older women crowd. A sign of youthfulness, miniskirts have become more popular among adolescents.

Schools have had to develop strict rules regarding miniskirts for that reason. This dilemma gave rise to the skort, which is a miniskirt with shorts built into it. Wearing miniskirts with leggings underneath was also a big trend.

1970s: Platform Heels

Gunnar Larsen/Evening Standard/Getty Images
Gunnar Larsen/Evening Standard/Getty Images

In the age of bell-bottom jeans, it only made sense to have clunky heels that could stand out beneath all of that fabric. Enter platform heels. These shoes boasted thick heels that ran along the entire length of the foot for ample height and comfort.

Platform heels made a loud statement that matched the party atmosphere and vibrant colors of the ’70s. In case the heels weren’t enough of a standout, you could pair them with funky socks to make them really pop.

Platform Heels Preceded Wedges

wedges
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

While platform heels aren’t quite as commonplace as they once were, there is a variation that’s popular as ever. Wedge sandals have a similar feel to platform heels in that they both have thick soles.

Wedges are like a toned-down version of platform heels. The woven material gives them a beachy vibe that isn’t quite as loud as the platform heels of yesteryear. At the same time, it’s clear where the influence comes from.

1980s: Leggings

leggings
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Spandex became a huge part of everyone’s closet in the 1980s thanks due to the aerobics workout trend. They were typically paired with a one-piece and leg warmers, which gave way to the idea of wearing tights as pants.

It wasn’t long before leggings became a thing. They were essentially tights that didn’t cover your feet and were thick enough to wear as pants. In the ’80s, you could expect to see leggings paired with a classic off-the-shoulder sweater.

Leggings Are Still A Closet Staple

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Leggings have become such a popular part of fashion that they’re even more commonplace than tights. Nowadays, there are plenty of variations to leggings that suit different needs.

For example, more heavily patterned leggings are perfect for casual outings, whereas solid leggings can be easily dressed up with a nice sweater or a long blouse. There are also workout leggings made of a more durable material that are hugely popular at gyms these days.

1990s: Minimalist Fashion

Trevor Gillespie/Getty Images
Trevor Gillespie/Getty Images

When many people think of the ’90s, they think of grunge-era plaid and ripped jeans. While that was popular among many adolescents and rock bands at the time, the runway had a different approach.

Many models were wearing minimalist fashion, as were celebrities on the red carpet. This style emphasized slip dresses and sheer fabric. It also stuck to a mostly neutral color palette with white, black, and gray dominating runway shows and other events.

Minimalist Fashion Is Still Trendy

Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images
Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

There’s a kind of sophistication that comes with simplicity, which may explain why minimalist fashion never really left. While the ’80s would have you believe that vibrant colors and bold patterns are always the better option, the ’90s proved this isn’t the case.

Nowadays, many fashion trends tend to air more on the neutral side. Plain t-shirts, mono-color dresses, understated jewelry, and natural makeup are highly valued in today’s fashion world. When in doubt, go simple.

2000s: Tracksuits

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Stars like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and J Lo made tracksuits fashionable in the early 2000s. These weren’t just any tracksuits, though. They typically were one color and made of terrycloth that would be just as comfortable to lounge in as to work out in.

Celebrities may have made tracksuits popular, but Juicy Couture is the brand that made them a fashion staple. Don’t forget those rhinestone words that would be sewn into the bottom!

Tracksuits Are Still Considered Stylish

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Tracksuits are still popular nowadays, though the terrycloth craze of the early 2000s has mostly come to a close. Today’s tracksuits are a little more toned down and play on the baggy boyfriend look.

A spinoff of the tracksuit, the jogger pant, is so trendy nowadays that the look is even sometimes worn with high heels! Who would have guessed that sweats could be dressed up like that? Fashion certainly has come a long way.