Current Fashion Trends — A Century in the Making


Lukas Werner

Design labels weren’t sewn onto garments until 1858.

Lucy MacNeela, Staff Reporter

Due to the vastness of the internet and cultures of today, trends are always evolving and recycling. Many trends popular today can be attributed to past decades.

Trends are cycles, and looking back we can see patterns typically coming in and out in waves of twenty years. We see trends, or variations of past trends from all different decades still present today.

Below is an overview of how women’s fashion trends have changed over decades to impact styles today.


Following the end of WWI, the style of the 20s was simple. Coco Chanel, a prominent designer of the time, was an icon in women’s fashion.

Versatility was a common theme of womenswear. Cost-effective fabrics were frequently used to save money.

At this time, flapper-style dresses were very popular among celebrities. This gown style created a glamorous nighttime look, far from the simplicity of most daywear.

Many of the looks from the 2021 annual Met Gala stemmed from 1920s fashion, encapsulating the flapper style. Barbie Ferreira showcased the 1920s flapper style that emerged in the 20s. Her dress was silver and white in color and had fringe, a popular element of the time.

A lot of women’s fashion was very androgynous and had a very boyish flare.

It also became more socially acceptable to wear athletic clothes and sportswear, a style men had been wearing for years, yet was popularized for women by Coco Chanel.

Some influential fashion icons at the time were Louise Brooks, a silent film star, Anna May Wong, the first Asian-American actress in Hollywood, Clara Bow, a 1920s “It Girl,” and Coco Chanel.


The trends of the 1930s were highly influenced by actresses and movies. Women wanted to emulate the style that they saw on film from stylish women in Hollywood.

A more elegant and feminine silhouette emerged at the beginning of this decade, bringing back ankle-length hemlines and natural waistlines. Form-fitting clothes, tailored to women’s curves became a staple, making tighter-fitting fabrics like satin and silk more popular.

Abstract prints like zebra, floral, plaid, and polka dots became popular in the 30s.

Designers like Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli set the trends for the decade. Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis were among the style icons of the generation.


Due to WWII, fashion during the 1940s relied a lot on utility clothing such as uniforms.

Simple yet stylish was the mantra of the decade. Sharp lines, good proportions, padded shoulders, and cinched waists were seen often.

Suits, both for men and women, were trendy. They were versatile and easily made. These suits emerged because of a Mexican-American movement highlighting equality. These suits, often referred to as “zoot suits,” conveyed a sense of power.

Although simplicity was common in clothing at the time, designers like Norman Novell and Claire McCardell wanted a change-up. These influential designers introduced sequins and sparkles to ready-to-wear clothing and brought back the sporty, more casual look originally popularized by Coco Chanel in the 1920s.

Fabrics like silk and wool were very limited so fabrics like denim and jersey were common for clothing.

Following the end of the war, Christian Dior’s launch of “The New Look” took the world by storm. The exaggeration of trends from previous decades and earlier in the 1940s, cinched waists, long skirts, and rounded shoulders made a comeback.

Katharine Hepburn was a fashion icon of the decade. She embodied American style and often wore athletic clothes. Costumes played a big role in Hepburn’s style. Edith Head, a costume designer, once said, “one does not design for Miss Hepburn. One designs with her.” Meaning that Hepburn was heavily involved in the creation of her clothes because of her fashion sense.


Straying from the previous decades’ popularization of androgynous clothing, the 1950s were all about elegance, formality, and accessories for women.

Various prints such as polka dots and stripes and pastel colors became trendy. This was the first time in history where middle-class people were shopping for excess clothes, not just necessities.

Designers played with different styles, structures, and prints. Nipped, tightly corseted waists with full skirts were a staple of the decade. New designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy introduced new silhouettes and design elements. They continued the introduction of sportswear and a very American style.

Wrap dresses and matching sets were seen on many young women who preferred a less formal style. Impeccable hair, outfits, and chunky accessories were also important in the 1950s style.

Leaving the war and rations in the past, this decade excelled in luxury and glamour. Fashion icons of this decade include Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, and many more women who changed fashion forever, by experimenting within the bounds of fashion.


Fashion in the 1960s became increasingly more casual. “Hippie” style was all the rage.

1960s styles continued experimenting with more elaborate patterns, following the new influence of Space Age style and youth influence.

Skirt suits became very popular at the time, a staple style for First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Matching sets, put together with many matching accessories, were very stylish during this decade.

‘Swinging London’ was the term coined for the decade. Mary Quant, a designer leading the phenomenon, spotlighted fashion and music in a way that attracted youth. It was a playful, childlike style that differed from the more formal trends of older Americans.

The miniskirt — a staple of this era of fashion and every decade after — was popularized at this time. This garment took a much more youthful spin on longer, below-the-knee skirts that had been worn by women for many decades.

These designs were simple yet creative, and classy yet playful. Boutiques had a groovy atmosphere that drew in young people, helping to mainstream these designs. The Beatles, The Who, and Twiggy were all influential in fashion during this time.

Sixties styles also paid tribute to scientific progress. Both fashion and interior design took on a more futuristic look, and began exploring new fabrics like polyester, PVC, and acrylic. Catsuits, patent leather, gogo boots, and undefined waistlines were all popular styles of the decade. “Mod” design and hippie styles were considered street styles.

This decade was a new dawn of fashion, completely changing the trends of previous decades that changed fashion culture. Fashion icons of the time include Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Diana Ross, and Jackie Kennedy.


The 1970s is an iconic decade for hippie styles, and fashion in general. This was a continuation of the 60s, making fashion even more accessible to everyone, at various price points.

Synthetic fabrics were popularized at the time, making the 70s known as the “Polyester Decade.” 

The fashion of the 1970s was an exploration of different styles while also looking back and taking inspiration from other decades.

Hippie fashion, extravagant disco outfits, and prairie dresses were all trendy styles during this time. This style became a way of rejecting mainstream fashion through handmade materials and design, but was still adopted to runways by high fashion designers. Elements such as patchwork, quilting, beading, crochet, and embroidery became popular.

The prairie style was a look back in history, incorporating midi-length skirts and dresses and floral patterns, a mix of both Victorian and hippie trends.

Through the popularization of the disco in the 70s, satin, sequins, polyester, and velvet were staples of increasingly glamourous nightwear.

Miniskirts, dresses, and shorts, also referred to as “hot pants,” could be found in any closet.

There was also a shift from heels to sandals because of the uproar of dance at the time.

Womenswear became simultaneously more influenced by menswear and feminine styles. Some style icons of the time include Bianca Jagger, Farrah Fawcett, Iman Abdulmajid, Debby Harry, and Liza Minnelli. The 1970s influenced fashion for the coming decades and will continue in the future. It was the boom of trends that set the stage for both high fashion and everyday wear.


The 1980s style was dominated by stylish sportswear.

Women wore dance-inspired clothes like off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, leg warmers, and leggings, which were both comfortable and trendy. Jersey materials and tight-fitting clothes were commonly seen in both the runway and everyday life.

This decade brought about the “New Romantic” style.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood helped to popularize the trends of puffed sleeves, huge accessories like belts and necklaces, overall a very bold and extravagant style. Princess Dianna’s wedding dress reflects a lot of the popular styles of the 1980s.

As women gained their role in society at this time, a pant and blazer or blazer and skirt combination became common, often referred to as “power dressing” became a thing. Women rose in ranks and had to reflect their positions of dominance using padded shoulders and bold accessories.

Leather was a fabric heavily used in the 1980s and hit the runway by Christian Lacroix, a new designer.

Daywear at this time assumed the title of “preppy,” a look popular to this day. It was a spin on traditional menswear: blazers, knit sweaters, and button-downs. This was a collegiate style mostly worn by wealthy teens.

The most legendary style icon of this decade was Princess Diana. She is the embodiment of 1980s fashion trends.


The 1990s were by far the most casual decade from any other previous decade.

Grunge clothing took center stage, and loose, baggy clothing was extremely popular.

Supermodels set the standard for trends and influenced the fashion industry. Iconic fashionistas like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington shaped this decade’s clothing.

Following the introduction of sportswear, biker shorts, leggings, oversized sweatshirts, and Keds shoes were still popular style choices.

The 1990s saw fashion influence from the 1960s and 1970s with punk styles such as plaids, miniskirts, and flares that originated in Seattle but were popularized everywhere by the 90s.

Vintage and thrift shopping became prominent throughout the decade.

A classic 90s look would either include super baggy jeans, an oversized flannel shirt of some kind, and a pair of Doc Martens, or a delicate slip dress and a chunky pair of boots to match.

Towards the close of the decade, with an influence from Britney Spears and the hit movie “Clueless,” a schoolgirl-like look emerged; this consisted of cropped tops and sweaters, baby doll t-shirts, mini-skirts, and knee-high socks.

Pulling from the 1940s, a utility look became mainstream again, making cargo pants and heavy branding trendy.

Some style icons of the decade include Destiny’s Child, JLo, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Moss, Winona Ryder, Drew Barrymore, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Julia Roberts, and many more influential women of the decade.


Fashion often follows culture.

2000s fashion carried on a lot of trends from the 90s, but with the boom of technology and the internet, trends were spreading like wildfires.

This decade introduced a color palette of a lot of black and metallics.

Low-waisted jeans are a staple trend of the decade. Jeans were accepted in all capacities during this decade, soaring to the most iconic trend of the decade. Brands like “True Religion” and “7 for all Mankind” crushed in the denim department. The early 2000s popularized low-waisted flare jeans, moving toward a more tapered fit referred to as “skinny jeans” in 2005.

Straying slightly from the messy grunge look of the 1990s, the 2000s look took a more sophisticated grunge look.

A lot of 2000s trends revolved around being freer; mini-skirts, ultra-low rise jeans and cropped tops were all the rage. Small slip tops and dresses were seen on various celebrities such as Nicole Richie and Kim Kardashian.

Ugg boots also were coveted by many.

A lot of designer styles on the runway showcased very flattering pieces, feminine silhouettes, square necklines, and corseted waists.

Taking from the 1970s, velvet, specifically on tracksuits, was in.

Unfortunately, though, the 2000s is when the boom of fast fashion began.

Celebrities wielded a massive amount of style power at the time. Paris Hilton, an icon of the generation, set the standard for fashion during the decade. Some other style icons of the decade include Britney Spears, Avril Lavinge, Lindsay Lohan, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Richie, the Olsen twins, and so many more prominent women.


From 2010-2019, the quickly spread information and outfit pictures ratified trends overnight. Social media influencers were able to influence the way that people dress.

High fashion became a lot more inventive than ever before, pushing the limits and causing eye rolls from the masses.

There was a surge in high-waisted jeans, heavily differing from the previous decade. The preppy look that emerged in the 1980s was still heavily prevalent.

Unlike the 1990s, shoes became flatter, less chunky, and as a whole, less grunge.

Jeans continued to be widely accepted on more occasions.

There was also nostalgia for past decades during this time. Further into the decade, there was a rise in the 1990s and 2000s trends. Some of the style icons of this decade were Rihanna, Billie Eilish, Bella Hadid, the Kardashian sisters, Tyler, the Creator, Harry Styles, Zendaya, and many others.

How have these decade’s trends turned into the trends we are seeing currently?  

In 2021, we see a more androgynous style coming from the 1920s. From the 1930s we see a more form-fitting style and silk dresses like slips, also very popular in the 1990s.

The 1940s introduced denim as a common fabric and a utility/cargo style. The 1950s brought about corseted waists and a heavy amount of accessories, which are both popular in today’s style standards.

The 1960s and 1970s introduced miniskirts and hippie styles and playful patterns. The 1980s popularized sportswear and athletic style.

The 1990s and 2000s normalized sweats and jeans for every occasion. High-waisted jeans also continue to be popular among many people, a trend brought back in the 2010s.

Fashion is about choice, about being yourself, and representing yourself the way that you want, so although trends are fun to follow and interesting to look back on, how you dress is always up to you.