The Evolution of Fashion Throughout the Decades

A scale of trends, fabrics and styles flooded the fashion world after the end of the Great Depression and World War II in the 1930s. These conditions resulted in a subsequent rise in population, paving the way for designers to spread their ideas internationally from the early ‘50s to two decades into the 21st century.


“I have always been fascinated by the movies such as Grease and other movies that take place in the 1950s with the whole style and aesthetic,” stated Brianna Green, a sophomore at Vanden High School.


Starting with the fifties, a generational transition called ‘youth culture’ was initiated between the older generation who grew up during the Great Depression and their children who grew up during the Great Boom. 


“Teens were marginalized by the adults, who didn’t want to be bothered with the very different values of teenagers,” writes Richard Powers, an instructor at Stanford University on teen life during the 1950s.


For starters, the introduction of tightly fit polo shirts and greased back hair were put out into the world as a choice for young consumers such as the dressers ‘Untamed Youth,’ a film not notably known for their plot, but displays visuals of greased back hair, tight button-ups, and loose fit dresses–all relating to styles of icons during that time; Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The characters would be dressed in loose clothing, jeans, and sleeveless tops made suitable for the parts in the film where they would be directed to dance. 


John C. Higgins and Stephen Longstreet ‘Untamed Youth,’ 1957.


Well into the ‘60s, the European designs of Mary Quant and André Courrèges grew in popularity.


“Mini skirts. Lots and lots of mini skirts,” says Ellen Porter, a staff member at the Vacaville Cultural Center Library. 


In previous decades, hemlines would reach below the knee to portray styles of modesty since the 18th century when European styles remained well-integrated into the U.S. fashion culture. 


It was not until 1963, when Mary Quant’s designs were released at the display of the Bazaar boutique in London and higher hemlines became a hit. They would mainly be displayed in bright colors, another quality that became a part of trends in the 1960s. 


A minidress of Mary Quant’s ‘Ginger Group’ collection, photographed by Lisa Stonehouse at Lotherton Hall.


Mary Quant’s use of brightly colored clothing also attracted the attention of fashion moguls such as the Duchess of Windsor and previous first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, both exemplifying knee-length dresses, feathered berets, and gloves in colorful hues that were once limited in color variety in prior decades.


First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in an A-line dress in Pakistan. Photographed by Cecil Straughton.


Around the influence of Quant’s designs, André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin, two French designers, released the Space Age Collection in 1963. This collection would include mini skirts, similar to the designs of Mary Quant, as well as low-heeled gogo boots. 


The Fashion History Timeline, an online platform created by the Fashion Institute of Technology exemplifies Ungaro’s work “Ensemble,” a silk suit accessorized with ribbons and a chest-sized necklace. The vision Ungaro coined was the term “power-dressing,” a new style of fashion for women to represent their authority in office settings and to celebrate the start of the women’s liberation movement. 


In the ‘90s came the influence of minimalistic, grunge, and the recreation of styles rooted in hip-hop culture. Clothing of dull variations in color would be paired with jeans and a belt to mimic streetwear styles and grunge. trends included thin long-sleeves and shirts. The movie Clueless also brought back knee-high socks from the 60s and pantsuits from the 80s. 


During the early 2000’s,  various selections of denim; bootcut, skinny, low rise, and denim jackets were articles of clothing were displayed on Red Carpet runways and . More styles included bohemian, hand-crafted dresses, and tank tops. Menswear developed into leather jackets with thin sunglasses.


“I definitely own jeans and pants more than anything,” says Abigail Castilo, another sophomore at Vanden High School, “Jeans can get boring really quickly, so I feel the need to get a funkier and loud pair of jeans each time I head to the store.”


As for the 2010s, denim and jean jackets turned into an era of hipster and comfort clothing. Shelby Comroe of the Marie Claire magazine writes that “the rise in wellness culture” resulted in the popularity of yoga and Adidas sweatpants. Then came the comeback of crop tops, hoodies, and the popularization of crocs when designer Christopher Kane decided to include them in his 2017 runway show for the spring and summer.


“I see fashion as a way to express yourself and to stand out,” says Green,  “I love seeing all types of styles from everyone as you can really learn a lot about someone and especially yourself.”