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Cabarrus Magazine

Fashion Statements

Apr 01, 2018 08:30AM ● By Jason Huddle

Fashion Statements

If you keep your clothes and shoes for 20 years or so, they’ll come back into style.

That’s a piece of advice often shared – especially among women – when a new fashion trend makes the scene. It can be accurate when you take into account that bell sleeves and cowl necks have been reincarnated from 1970s women’s dresses and tops, and today’s harem rompers resemble parachute pants of the 80s/’90s.

Trends in fashion have been categorized by decade for about 100 years, but fashion design – and dressmakers to the elite – go back 300 years when the likes of Marie Antoinette relied on a designer named Rose Bertin.

“Marie Antoinette’s unique fashion preferences, such as masculine riding breeches or simple muslin shift dresses, contrasted sharply with her elaborate gowns as the queen attempted to create a persona that would allow the citizens of France to connect with her and her lifestyle,” according to Wikipedia. “Although Marie Antoinette’s attempts were largely unsuccessful, the ways Bertin helped the queen articulate herself through fashion were groundbreaking and set a precedent for monarchs who followed.”

By the start of the 20th century, Paris was the leader in high fashion design. “Fashion magazines from other countries sent editors to the Paris fashion shows. Department stores also sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy (and openly stole the style lines and trim details of others). Both made-to-measure salons and ready-to-wear departments featured the latest Paris trends,” Wikipedia says.

In the U.S., euphoria over seeing the end of World War I spurred a wave of creativity in fashion. Since clothing was also sewn in the home, everyone could share in the trends being introduced. Popular fabrics included silk and wool.

Likely the most iconic look of the 1920s was the flapper dress. With the suffrage movement, women felt more independent and daring. The hemline of the dress, which was made in various colors, went up to about knee-level while the fit became very straight and loose fitting. The neckline was typically square and the front panel embroidered.

Long hair was bobbed and topped with the all-important hat, whether it be a tight-fitting Felt Helmet or an opulent larger brimmed hat. Embellishments included silk flowers, ribbon, buckles, pins and feathers.

Wool sweaters in popular burgundy or navy were button-down, belted, in a cardigan style or with a wide collar. “The all-wool shaker knit-coat sweater had pockets knitted in. The less expensive versions had pockets that were sewn on. It buttoned up bust-high, with a double-knit shawl collar. The more expensive version had a fur collar sewn on,” according to

Women of the period typically wore brown or black shoes, a sort of boot style with a heel, that came above the ankle and was laced up. “One popular style was the buckle pump,” says. “Made over a stylish medium-round toe in black patent leather, the shoe had a silver finished buckle, which concealed an elastic gore, making adjustment easy.”

Men of the 1920s wore cuffed trousers and flannel jackets instead of jackets with lapels. They also wore fur coats, made in what was called the collegiate style, double-breasted and lined with either fur or sateen. The popular leather jacket called the Horsehide Windbreaker was later renamed the bomber jacket.

Knickers were introduced and paired with sweaters and button-down shirts often made of pastel greens, blues and yellows, with a white collar and bow tie. Two-toned shoes were the rage, usually black and white or brown and white.

“Their hats were typically made of felt and were the same collegiate style in every 1920s period movie you’ve ever seen,” says. “If it wasn’t a fedora-style hat, then it was a wool, snap-front newsboy hat.”

Fashion trends were eclipsed by the Great Depression and World War II before regaining popularity in the 1950s. A strong post-war economy saw Americans spending on clothes made of linen, cotton,

wool and silk, as well as synthetics like polyester, rayon, acrylic, spandex and nylon. Floral prints, western motifs and bright solids dominated.

The stay-at-home June Cleaver type wore a dress whose hemline had dropped to mid-calf or longer. But unlike the 1920s, it had a cinched waist and full skirt. Girdles helped define a woman’s figure, especially for the working woman who typically wore a form-fitting knee-length pencil skirt. Wool and cashmere sweaters were also popular, as were gloves and veiled hats. In casualwear, pedal pushers were introduced in the late ‘50s.

Menswear deviated little, with the exception of solid colors over patterns. The Korean War created a sense of gloom, and men’s suits in gray, and maybe brown and blue, reflected that. In the latter half of the decade and the end of the war, more colors and textures were introduced. Suits were cut narrower and straighter. Shoulder pads, pleats and belt loops were used less.

Tweed, corduroy and wool were among the different fabrics showing up in downtown department stores where fabric was now more easily accessed than during the preceding wars, and at better prices.

The 1960s was a tumultuous decade that began with both men and women wearing fashion reminiscent of the ‘50s. By mid-decade, however, there was a lot of denim made into unisex clothing. Then the Mod look arrived from London and the American fashion scene exploded. Bold fabric colors and geometric patterns were designed into mini-skirts and tunics.

“The Hippie counterculture movement emerged in California during the late 1960s, spreading quickly to the East Coast,” says. “Long maxi-skirts and bell-bottomed jeans gained popularity along with floral patterns, bright tie-dyes and paisley patterns.”

Men’s pants became tighter at the top and wider at the bottom, reflecting women’s. And it wasn’t uncommon to see a man wear a silk scarf tied loosely around his neck.

While thin-heeled, pointy-toed pumps moved into the 1960s from the ‘50s, they were soon replaced with chunky heels in a rainbow of colors, or the very popular go-go boots. Men often wore pointy-toed ankle-high shoes (picture the Beatles).

The synthetic fabrics used in the ‘60s overshadowed natural fibers. Polyester, nylon and acrylic topped the list while rayon – so popular in the ‘50s – was used little.

The 1970s was a sea of polyester shirts, polyester pantsuits, polyester gauchos... Yes, the decade

started out carrying over the tight, bell-bottomed pants and bright fabrics, but that morphed into shirts with butterfly collars, men’s leisure suits and women’s cowl neck sweaters. Dress hems were both mini and maxi, but gender roles were becoming blurred so unisex clothing grew; women wore pants everywhere. And chunky shoes transitioned into earth shoes and clogs.

Menswear got even tighter. Double-knit, patterned slacks and sweater vests were worn with wide ties and belts, and shorts were short. When the disco craze hit, the hip-hugger waistline gave way to the higher-waist pant. Hairy chests under unbuttoned shirts were considered sexy. Velour tracksuits were sported by both genders.

Designers liked velvet, satin, leather, polyester, velour and knits. The bright colors of the early ‘70s moved toward muted earth tones and shades of blue in the latter half of the decade.

Big hair, big shoulders, big earrings and big sweaters – the 1980s saw a little bit of everything. Like the ‘70s, the early part of the decade carried over from its predecessor. By the mid-’80s, though, the sky was the limit. People like Cyndi Lauper creatively dressed in neons, layered tulle over fishnets or leggings, teased hair in ever-changing colors, wore wild make-up, bangles and belts didn’t matter.

Stirrup pants worn with an oversized sweater, shoulder pads, off-the-shoulder tops, trench coats, brand clothing, skinny ties, parachute pants or tight, ripped, skinny jeans (Jordache, anyone?), this was a decade of self-expression.

Activewear was huge. Loose-fitting nylon tracksuits (shellsuits) or bodysuits cut high on the hip and worn with tights and legwarmers – the look was completed with a headband and high-top sneakers. Shorts remained short and sideburns disappeared into the mullet.

Other trends included the preppy look. According to Wikipedia, “Popular preppy clothing for men included oxford shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks, polo shirts with popped collars, khaki slacks, argyle socks, Hush Puppies shoes, suspenders, linen suits and cable knit sweaters that were often worn tied around the shoulders.”

The TV show, Miami Vice, ushered in another. “This resulted in trends such as t-shirts underneath expensive suit jackets with broad, padded shoulders, Hawaiian shirts complemented with sport coats, often with top-stitched lapels and jackets that were often gray, tan, rust or white.”

Footwear included boat shoes, penny loafers, espadrilles, slouchy ankle boots, jelly shoes and lots of sneakers. Nylon/ripstop, spandex, cotton, knits, silk and leather were favorite fabrics of the decade.

The fluorescent colors of the early 1990s soon gave way to shades like coral, turquoise and lilac. MC Hammer wore exaggerated parachute pants and women wore shorts suits (top and jacket worn with dress shorts, tights and ballet flats). Then Seattle grunge music replaced big-hair bands and the fashion scene did a 180.

Darker colors, plaid flannel shirts, stonewashed denim, long underwear under camouflage shorts, and black boots were worn by those embracing the change in music. Hair got long.

“By 1995, wide-leg jeans of the 1970s were revived along with the advent of chunky black boots and the baby doll t-shirt,” according to Wikipedia. “Punk and alternative styles became a part of mainstream fashion in 1996, bringing with it short, spiky hair, black clothing and skater shoes.”

When the grunge look faded into the background, floral print dresses, tapered slacks paired with a vest, miniskirts worn with tights, spaghetti strap tank tops, skorts (half skirt, half shorts), turtle-neck sweaters and the like dominated. Men wore shorts that had gotten longer, suspenders with tapered slacks and shirts buttoned up to the top.

With the increasing popularity of hip-hop, urban clothing went mainstream in the ‘90s. Baggy was

the catchphrase: basketball shorts, baseball jackets, jeans, t-shirts and tracksuits. Add unlaced sneakers, baseball caps and goggles, and you had the look.

The decade’s footwear included Mary Janes, boots and platform sneakers for women. Men wore platform loafers, Timberland boots and sneakers of all kinds. Birkenstock sandals were worn by both. Linen, silk, cashmere, velvet, Lycra and fleece were some of the fabrics of the 1990s.

The 2000s may not have a label…yet. Thus far, trends from several prior decades have been reborn. Take hip-hugger jeans, tube tops, cowl necks and capris (formerly pedal pushers). Retro, vintage or boho is a label that’s been attached to cuffed jeans, disco halter tops, peasant tops and maxi-skirts.

While it can probably be agreed upon that 21st century fashion is casual and comfortable, there are exceptions. Men’s suits are tighter than ever – both jacket, slacks and button-down shirts. Corset tops for women are another.

Still, men can be seen wearing jeans, t-shirts, leather jackets and sneakers – even in some work environments. Dress shirts now come in pastel shades and can be worn untucked with jeans. Women are enjoying tunic tops, handkerchief and asymmetrical hems, yoga pants and skinny jeans worn with nearly dress-length tops. Shorts are both short and long, colors and patterns run the gamut and all can be combined with retro looks.

Shoes made popular in the 2000s are Crocs, platform sandals, ballet flats, and a great variety of sneakers, flip-flops and Sketchers. Fabrics include rayon, silk, knits, chiffon, leather and the ever-resilient cotton.

New York Spring Fashion Week 2018 brought us sheer, transparent fabrics; embellished jeans paired with eveningwear; anorak jackets (windbreaker parkas); and bright, saturated colors in pink, orange, green and yellow.

So, take a look in your closet. You may find you’re your own trend-setter. In any case, enjoy the upcoming spring and summer seasons of lighter-weight, skin-baring, foot-freeing fashions.

Article by: Kim Cassell


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